Systems of Engagement, Core, and Analytics are Major Topics at IASA

Our team is just back from the annual IASA conference, which provided the opportunity to meet with dozens of CIOs and solution providers over a couple of days.

In general, insurers and vendors appear to have been investing heavily in technology over the last year or so, with carriers launching major initiatives in core systems and analytics and vendors improving their products both in core engineering and in UI.

In contrast to prior years where technology investments appeared to be focused primarily on cost reduction or mitigation of technology risk, there was one overwhelming theme in the private discussions and panels our team participated in: meeting rapidly changing customer demands.

While we continue to see very strong interest and activity levels in core systems among insurers of all sizes and sectors, there was a notable focus this year on systems of engagement as well. Agent portals, customer portals, responsive technology, and mobile were frequent topics of conversation among the carriers our team met with. Some insurers feel overwhelmed by the problem and lack the expertise to develop a strategic roadmap in an effective way, and there’s a high level of interest in vendor partners that can help them get there.

We found many of the same themes in discussions at the Research Council Meeting. Our report from that meeting is available online and is free to clients and council members.

Turning Insurance Outside-In

Matthew Josefowicz

Across the great formal presentations, panel discussions, and roundtables at our 7th Annual Council Meeting this week, one theme kept jumping out for me: the need for insurance to become more demand-led in market, operational, and technology strategies.

As an industry, we have a tendency to view the world from the inside out. We need to reverse that perspective and look at the our industry and our operations from the outside in. We need to start from market and operational needs as we plan product, service, and technology strategies, rather than starting from our own understanding of capacities.

Our keynote speaker, data and analytics expert Adam Braff, hit on this theme in his opening presentation on “Cooking with Big Data,” with the first of his 5 guidelines: “Figure out what people want to eat before you go shopping.” Too many analytics efforts start with gathering data rather than thinking about how insights might be operationalized to drive better business results. The supply of data and analytical capability is leading in too many cases, rather than the demand for insight.

My presentation on Trends in Information Technology and Insurance focused on how changes in the ability to access, communicate, and analyze information means that buyer and distributor expectations about speed, flexibility, and even value propositions, are diverging from insurers’ own understandings of the world. The supply of risk analysis and distribution is leading in too many cases, rather than the demand for coverage.

In our CIO panel, a common theme of the panelists from AFLAC, The Hartford, Great American, and New York Life Investment Management was re-orienting IT organizations to be more focused on the creation of business value. This involves educating IT staff about business needs and goals as well as educating business leaders about the implications of their requests. The supply (and cost) of technology is leading in too many cases, rather than the demand for capabilities.

This will be a massive shift for the insurance industry, but one that is necessary to undertake. Access to information, communications technology, and analytical capability is democratizing the ability to price and sell risk. Insurers (and insurer operational and IT executives) that focus on the demand for coverage and capabilities will be better positioned to meet that demand. Those that don’t may soon find themselves with much less demand for what they have to offer.

The 7th annual Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council Meeting was held in Providence RI on April 30-May 1, and was attended by more than 70 insurer CIOs and senior IT executives. A report based on the discussions at the meeting will be published shortly.

Other recent Novarica reports on this theme include:

 

Straight Through Chicago

Rob McIsaac

Last week’s LIMRA/ LOMA Retirement Conference in Chicago provided an interesting overview and update for what is happening in the industry today. Jim McCool from Charles Schwab noted the importance of having carriers move to establish trust with consumers, and the need to de-clutter and simplify products and business models. He highlighted the example of Apple as a company that has taken a potentially complex space and made it elegantly simple with a terrific user experience that inspires trust and confidence.

This was a great build on a presentation I had an opportunity to deliver at the conference on Straight Through Processing.

The reality in the United States is that 10,000 Baby Boomers are now reaching retirement every day, something that will persist for the foreseeable future. The opportunity for carriers to prepare for this is now. Further, with low interest rates and continued cost pressure, finding ways to reduce operational expenses while improving customer experience (for both agents and customers) is critical.

Another reality is that customer experiences are increasing being set by companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon. They have perfected ways to make complex things simple, easy to use, innovative and “delightful” to customers. With expectations set there, business practices that are dependent on paper and rooted in the 1950′s are increasing arcane and inaccessible to agents and customers alike. The need to drive toward electronic applications and electronic signatures is crucial for carriers across lines of business. It is both a crucial step toward better customer experience now … and a precursor to bring able to deliver on meaningful mobile capabilities.

This was an opportunity to highlight findings from a recent Electronic Signatures Executive Brief we published.

When asked if there was a potential crisis due to aging in the producer community, the executive panelists at the conference’s main session noted that there is. Allianz, Schwab and Wells Fargo all acknowledged the problem and highlighted approaches they are taking to prepare for a new generation of advisors.

In some places, the agent / advisor community is actually aging faster than the general population at large. This also highlights the importance of creating better and more compelling user experiences for both producers and end clients. Moving to simplify business process, allowing for the electronic execution of transactions and “going mobile” are all key to this. Carriers will continue to need to compete for advisor “mind share” which will require experiences that can be concurrently compelling to multiple generations of users. All of this, of course, ties back to the Hot Topics we see for insurers in the near future.

The Apple analogy continues to resonate, particularly if carriers want to truly remain relevant in a highly competitive environment.

While there are certainly complexities inherent to the life insurance, annuity and retirement plans segments of financial services, the future is clear: STP is moving from being innovative to becoming a “cost of doing business”. Hope is not a strategy and indecision is not a winning game plan.

Of Insurers and Color Separators: Thoughts from I&T’s Elite 8 Event

Matthew Josefowicz

I had the honor of participating on a panel at the I&T Elite 8 Summit last week at a new hotel in downtown NYC just around the corner from where my parents’ printing company used to be, and it reminded me of a story my dad told me recently about the effect of technological change on established industries.

The neighborhood where the event was held used to be home to dozens and dozens of color separators, technical specialists that supported the printing industry. The two years before they were all wiped out by desktop publishing were the most profitable two years they had ever had — because they adopted the new technology and changed their cost structures but not their value propositions or pricing. As soon as the customers got their hands on the technology themselves, the color separators were all gone within a couple of years.

The insurance industry may be at a similar inflection point. Communication and analytical capabilities, as well as the ability to access data, is changing more rapidly than ever before. Insurers are just now learning to embrace these technologies fully in order to radically change the efficiency of the risk protection service they provide. In the short term, these insurers will have a huge advantage over their laggard peers.

But in the long term, access to information, analytical capability, and capital is being democratized. While regulatory frameworks may provide some temporary protection, insurers must prepare to adjust their value propositions to account for a different world – one in which the barriers to entry in pricing risk and accessing capital are much, much lower.

While that world may well still be years or even decades off, what happens when the best retailers can compete with personal lines and individual life insurers? What happens when large businesses can package their own risks efficiently for the capital markets? Insurers need to start thinking about that world, and figuring out what their niche will be where their expertise and capabilities will continue to create customer value.

“Futurecasting” at the Insurance Data Analytics Summit 2013

Rob McIsaac

Tuesday’s Insurance Data Analytics (IDA) Summit in Chicago provided an opportunity for carriers and vendors to showcase some of their progress, and share some of the challenges, associated with deriving greater business value from the explosion of data now at our fingertips. The opportunity afforded by a proliferation of data acquisition points (e.g., Telematics, mobile devices), broad use of social media capabilities and expansion of communications channels creates a target rich environment. New tools supporting analytics and dash boarding clearly peg the “cool” meter. And some carriers are now putting organizational structures, such as a “shared services function”, responsible for managing and sourcing data, in place.

As we pointed out in the analyst’s “Futurecast” segment, carriers are moving in the right direction, albeit at a modest pace that is generally correlated to their size. While recognized as important, funding is frequently crowded out by other pressing issues including regulatory demands and “burning” platform concerns.

CIOs should, in our view, take every opportunity to get resources to focus on the emerging technologies which can facilitate managing the internal “small” data that is already available and in need of attention. This can provide a foundation for the technical, organizational, operational and cultural issues that will be brought into stark relief as carriers look to turn data into actionable information, insight … and ultimately competitive advantage. The future is essentially here now. Time to move.

For more on big data and analytics see:

Big Data Lessons For Insurers from Other Industries
Analytics and Big Data at Insurers 2013

CIO Insurance Summit Highlights Transformation Efforts and Challenges

Matthew Josefowicz

Lots of good discussions this week at the CIO Insurance Summit in Atlanta. More than 50 CIOs joined members of the Novarica team and others for an intense two days of workshop discussions, panels, and informal networking and learning.

Discussion topics ranged from industry and technology trends to management and leadership best practices. Each day concluded with lively moderated discussion panel of CIOs representing a broad range of perspectives.

Panel Discussion with Tom Wolf, SVP at MetLife, Praveen Reddy, CIO at Aon Affinity, and Guru Vasudeva, CTO at Nationwide

Panel Discussion with Tom Wolf, SVP at MetLife, Praveen Reddy, CIO at Aon Affinity, and Guru Vasudeva, CTO at Nationwide

While some of the discussions focused on managing tactical issues, many of the attendees mentioned the benefits of having some time away to think about the bigger picture of the role of information technology in this information industry, and the evolution of the role of the CIO as technology becomes ever more pervasive in every functional area of the company.

It was interesting to see how formerly “stand-alone” topics like mobile, social, cloud, and big data are starting to be assimilated into more holistic discussions about the multi-screen reality, customer and distributor communication strategies; optimizing IT infrastructure, and analytics-driven business practices across product, marketing, distribution, service, and claims.

This is parallel to the assimilation of e-business over the past decade into the standard operating model of every insurer. New information technology capabilities will continue to affect the operating model of the industry, and CIOs will continue to have a key dual role: managing the delivery of new capabilities and educating fellow CXO’s on the transformational potential.

Changes in technology capabilities are also affecting how CIOs run their own organizations. Many are knee deep in the challenge of turning waterfall-based, order-taking, support organizations into more nimble and agile capability-enabling partner organizations. This shift is challenging both inside IT, where it requires new skills and new thinking, and organizationally, where static budget and governance processes inhibit agility and innovation.

In the final panel discussion yesterday, many attendees talked about the benefits of internal cross-pollination between different parts of the business and/or IT organization. My Novarica colleagues and I are proud to be a part of providing this forum for inter-company cross-pollination for so many committed executives who are so focused on addressing major transformational challenges.

My Highlights from IASA 2013

Tom Benton

I just returned from the IASA Annual Meeting at National Harbor near Washington, DC.  The conference was well attended, and Novarica was well represented by Martina and Chad at sessions on Monday and Tuesday, as well as staff at our booth and analyst meetings with various software vendors.
Here are some of my highlights from IASA 2013:
  • Buzz on the Show Floor – from the opening reception to the closing of the show floor, there was a buzz as attendees from carriers and vendors had great discussions.  IASA found great ways to engage attendees in the show, including a twitter contest with an iPad mini giveaway – see entries from my account (@T_Benton) by searching for #IASA2013.
  • Solid Show Logistics – IASA knows how to run a trade show.  I attended their annual meeting (I spent 10 years as a CIO at a non-profit) and IASA shows every sign of a healthy non-profit organization:  solid focus on mission, strong leadership, growing financials and an engaged membership.  Any organization that can get volunteers to do a country-western line dance flash mob at their annual meeting has something going for it!
  • Great Vendor Meetings – Novarica folks met with many software vendors – mine were mainly with vendors providing solutions for Policy Administration and CCM (Customer Communication Management).  Many of these vendors have built systems on modern architectures and are now providing innovation and improved delivery processes as well as maturing SaaS offerings.  Insurance core systems are maturing to the point where the buy-build decision is becoming a buy-subscribe decision.
  • Interesting Sessions – due to all the vendor meetings, I was not able to attend many sessions.  However, I did attend the following:
    • Tuesday keynote, with Peter Diamandis of the XPrize foundation – he encouraged attendees to have a positive view of the future – that exponential knowledge growth means all world problems will be solved in the next few decades and that we are facing a future with a world of “abundance” (title of his new book).  He also predicted that self-driving cars and other technologies will have a huge impact on the insurance industry.
    • Tuesday’s Analyst “Around the Horn” – an annual event where analysts from four major Insurance IT consulting firms comment then get voted off one at a time through three rounds.  Novarica was well represented by Chad, who bowed out in the final round, but made some memorable quotes, like “I spend too much time reading about core systems – and my wife agrees”.
    • Wednesday IT Town Hall – panelists and audience members talked about reducing infrastructure costs, the challenges of staffing for big data/analytics and how to approach mobile strategy.
In all, I, along with my Novarica teammates, left IASA with many new ideas and better knowledge of what is happening with insurance IT solutions.  If you would like to talk about these ideas, please contact me… and look for me next year at IASA 2014 in Indianapolis!

My IASA Pre-conference Checklist

Tom Benton

If you are registered for the IASA Annual Conference, you’re likely gearing up to head to DC soon.  Like me, you probably are getting lots of invitations to visit vendors at the Business Show and making plans to meet with colleagues and friends.  With so many sessions and things to do, it’s important to do a little preparation.  Here’s a checklist of things to consider as you get ready for IASA:

Pack your walking shoes

Though the venue is not as widespread as some others, you will want to be comfortable. To get familiar with the National Harbor and the Gaylord Hotel, take a look at  http://nationalharbor.com/ or  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasgn-gaylord-national/Plan your days – it helps to take a few minutes to look through the sessions and plan what you would like to see. The program is available at the IASA website  http://www.iasa.org/Members/Content/NavigationMenu/2013AnnualConference1/default.htm.

Make sure to check out the Novarica presentations

Martina is leading a session on “Modern Data Conversion Strategies for Policy Migration and More” (Monday at 1:30pm) and she is on a panel discussing ”Mobile Technology & Automation Power Underwriting on the Move” (Tuesday at 11:00am).  Chad is on a panel entitled  “Cloud Success Roadmap – How to Implement Quickly & Demonstrate Tangible Value while Minimizing Risk” (Monday at 3:30pm) and he is involved in the session “Around the Horn: Insurance Analysts Debate” (Tuesday at 3:30pm).

Plan your nights

Although this will be my first IASA event, I’m told that IASA is legendary for having great evening events, mostly sponsored by vendors.  It’s a little late to get invitations for some events (shameless plead:  I&T, please find a way to squeeze me into your Nationals-Phillies game event!), but you should contact vendors you know especially if you are a customer, and watch for event announcements via email and at the event.

Ping your contacts

Get in touch with folks you would like to meet at the conference.  This is an opportunity to see folks face-to-face that you don’t get to see often. Make sure to put some time in your schedule to socialize and meet new contacts.

Plan some extra time to see some of the DC area

It’s a great time to visit DC.  As a DC area native for many years, I always enjoy late spring/early summer visits to the downtown museums and attractions.  It’s a time where summer tourists are not yet crowding the attractions, and it should be cool enough for walking comfortably in the Mall area.  The Smithsonian Institute Museums (http://www.si.edu/) are a favorite, along with the many monuments (my favorite is sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out toward the WWII memorial, Washington Monument and Capitol building).  The Gaylord runs a shuttle service to the Old Post Office (best stop for the Mall) and Union Station (good for their food court and shopping – and easy access to Metro (http://www.wmata.com/).  There is also a water shuttle that can take you to Alexandria – across the Potomac river from the Gaylord (http://www.marriott.com/hotel-info/wasgn-gaylord-national-resort-and-convention-center/gaylord-national-entertainment/fr8e90c/transportation.mi).

Finally, be sure to stop by Novarica’s booth at the Business Show – we are at booth 739, near the big IASA booth in the middle of the floor.  I plan to be there for some of the afternoon on Monday – stop by and say hello!

Evolution and Revolution in Insurance

Matthew Josefowicz

Insurance Networking News has a nice write up of the Analyst Panel from the ACORDLOMA Forum this week.

I was glad that Chris McMahon captured this quote from me on evolution and revolution in the insurance industry, driven by IT changes:

“There is an evolutionary imperative and — closer than some companies think — a revolutionary imperative,” he said. “The evolutionary imperative is about efficiencies and streamlining processes, using third-party data wherever possible to accelerate the underwriting and claims process and companies are looking at their core systems to make sure that they can support those incremental changes that are coming shortly,” he said, including fully-automated underwriting, which is expanding across lines of business.

But he also spoke of structural changes that could occur. “There is a huge potential transformation in terms of the capital markets ability to access risk. The current configuration of reinsurer, broker, primary broker, corporate — all of that structure was designed to solve an information management problem that at its core is not an information management problem any more. Now, that [organizational structure] is held in place by cultural inertia, the regulatory environment, accepted behavior and experience. But it was developed to meet an absolute necessity, and the absolute necessity that it was developed to meet is no longer there.”

The full article is online here, and a my recent INN column has an expansion on some of these ideas.

Reactions Midwest Insurance Conference

Sarah Bogan

I recently attended Reactions’ Midwest Insurance conference in Chicago. The presentations and discussions focused on the rapid change in insurance and reinsurance due to the competitive environment, weather conditions (see Martina’s post from our Research Council meeting) and investment opportunities. A new normal is being created in the wake of the following changes:

  • The reinsurance market is getting very competitive:
  • -PE firms have capital and are figuring out ways to structure deals in ways that overcome the fickleness of a hedge fund.

    -Insurers are retaining more of their book of business.

  • There is no expectation of the hard markets of the 1980s and their 50% rate increases. Instead, rates are increasing gradually, and hard markets are seen as shorter, narrower.
  • The current economic environment and gradual rate increases create a need to earn returns in underwriting. Back to basics!
  • Actuarial models are incomplete and are not thorough for weather events such as tornados and flooding. Historical data no longer is as relevant in a time of 100 year weather patterns, urban sprawl and larger house sizes.
  • Workers Compensation has some of the highest year over year rate increases driven by losses. The aging workforce, a rise in obesity and growing medical costs are impacting workers compensation. One panelist even mentioned that work stations were designed for a fit 25 year-old and they are now experiencing more claims around backs and shoulder are common.

Our recent Business & Technology Trends in Specialty Lines and Reinsurance reports look at some of the IT strategies that these market changes are driving.