IBM and Apple Announce First Wave of MobileFirst applications

Tom Benton

In July, IBM and Apple announced a partnership to combine their strengths to “transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps—bringing IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone® and iPad®.”

Last week they announced the first wave of MobileFirst for iOS apps, including one for insurance, Retention.

The Retention app provides tools to agents for access to customer records, analytics-driven retention risk scoring and customer interactions such as e-signature and collection of premiums. Apple also announced AppleCare for Business, providing 24/7 support for business users of the apps and their iPads and iPhones, and additional services for integration and leveraging IBM’s cloud and analytics capabilities.

While some insurers may find the initial app release of interest for agents in their distribution networks, the underlying improvement to enterprise-level capabilities is a key to further adoption of iOS apps and devices for insurance business users. Smartphones and tablets have typically been deployed using BYOD models, with support managed on a limited basis by internal IT. The IBM support services could take on that burden, freeing up IT resources.

We’ll keep monitoring the progress of the partnership and future MobileFirst app releases. As always, feel free to contact me at email if you are interested in talking about using mobile and other digital channels for customer engagement.

Related Reports

Wearables Update: the Apple Watch

Tom Benton

The tech world has been waiting in anticipation the last few weeks to find out what Apple’s latest offerings will be. While everyone expected a new iPhone model (and got two actually – the iPhone 6 and a larger screen version, the iPhone 6 Plus) and the next version of the iOS operating system (iOS 8), the key question was whether the long-rumored iWatch would be presented at the fall product announcement event on 9/9.

Apple did announce their new Watch offering at the event, and found ways to differentiate their offering through providing various editions for specific markets/purposes, and providing ways to use watch functionality beyond telling time without a phone connection, such as heartrate monitoring and ability to respond to gestures, etc. Also, the Apple Watch will leverage Apple’s new Apple Pay service to allow wearers to pay for items at such retailers as Whole Foods and Macy’s.

However, the device is not yet available (probably shipping early next year) and will be at a price point higher than competing devices – starting at $349. Apple device users expect a premium price, but may be confused by the three “editions” of the watch: a standard smartwatch (“Apple Watch”), a rugged sport version (“Apple Watch Sport”) and a fancier fashion-focused edition (“Apple Watch Edition”). Also, by not shipping until next year, Apple may lose significant ground to other smartwatch offerings – the Pebble, which has been generally available for over a year, Samsung’s many offerings and new Android-wear devices such as the Moto 360 which became available late last week and sold out in a few hours.

So what will the impact be on insurers? In my report on wearables, I mentioned that smartwatches can be used for customer engagement and collecting information about the wearer’s activity, useful for determining their level of fitness and general health. Apple’s Watch offerings will fuel the growing consumer interest in wearables, leading to a critical mass of users who will demand they are supported by all businesses they work for and purchase from, including insurers. Wearables are becoming another important communication and engagement channel for insurers, and need to be considered in digital and customer experience strategies as well as considered in IT application and architecture roadmaps. As current systems struggle to support mobile channels, future systems should be planned with wearables taken into consideration.

By the way, after Apple’s announcement I asked around to various demographic groups at the Insurance CIO Summit, which I am attending this week in Atlanta. Few said they would be interested in buying the Apple Watch – some were not yet interested in wearables, others felt there were other offerings that were available that they would consider and others took more of a “wait and see” approach. One interesting response was from a younger Gen-Xer who continues to wear a fashion watch, and said she would not be interested in the Apple Watch because she expected it not to look as fashionable (for instance, she found my Pebble “unattractive”). Clearly people choose what they wear on their wrists for many purposes, so Apple’s approach of multiple offerings may prove to be a good strategy. However, they will need to provide relevant apps and educate consumers on why their smartwatch provides capabilities that wearers can’t live without. (Is my Pebble watch really that unattractive? Hmm.)

New Brief: Wearable Technology and Insurance

Tom Benton

Over the last two years, fitness tracking bands, smartwatches and Google Glass have fueled the next wave of consumer electronics:  wearable technology. Financial services firms and insurers are already starting to find innovative ways to use wearables. In my new brief, Wearable Technology and Insurance , I outline three key capabilities and some examples of how these enable innovative applications for insurers and financial services firms. 

In some respects, “wearables” are not new – after all, the Dick Tracy comic strip introduced their iconic “wrist radio” just after World War II.  What is new is that smartphone adoption and more efficient smaller batteries are enabling new devices and applications.

I currently have two wearables on my wrist – a fitness tracking band (the Fitbit Flex that I have been wearing since June 2013) and a smartwatch (a Pebble – I was one of the 69,000 or so who backed the project on Kickstarter back in May 2012, but I started wearing it regularly earlier this year).  I am seeing more and more people wearing these devices and with the recent introduction of Android Wear, Google’s extension to the Android operating system for wearable devices, we can expect 2014 to be the “year of the wearable”.

As wearables gain adoption by consumers, innovative insurers will find ways to use them in engaging customers.  Others should consider how wearables will fit into mobile and customer communication strategies.  Wearables are on the way – how can you leverage them for customer interactions?  Read the brief and let me know your ideas.

Mobile Matters

Rob McIsaac

It was fifty years ago that the Beatles arrived in America and changed the world. When it was happening, you knew it was somehow big, but even the most prophetic among us could not have imagined just how important it was. As a wee lad, I remember watching the Ed Sullivan show with my grandparents that night, somewhat transfixed. It was a different world on Monday.

Some years later, when Team Apple rolled out the iPhone and iPad, I recall thinking that this was interesting … but didn’t seem to solve a problem I had. My PC, laptop, TV, Blackberry, camera and stereo were all state of the art. Why would I need a new thing? Visions of another Newton danced in my head.

Boy, was I wrong.

While I still have all that other stuff, it is used far less often than it once was. And I now plug the iPhone into the stereo and control the TV from my iPad. I plug the iPhone into my PC in order to suck off the pictures.

Regardless of whose device is used now, mobile devices matter. A lot.

In fact, they have changed the world. I knew it had reached a tipping point when my wife, also a Baby Boomer, albeit one who doesn’t fancy technology, was peering over my shoulder while I was checking for flights on a laptop. In a gentle arc, her index finger gracefully touched the screen and gave it a gentle swoosh. Nothing happened.

Well, something happened. I doubled up in laughter … and realized that it is “game over”. The device is headed the way of my grandparent’s 78 rpm records and the rotary phone. They still work, but who cares?

Last week, my Greatest Generation mother announced that she was tired of going to the computer room to use the PC. What tablet should she get? Confirmation: put a fork in it.

And then I thought about other things in the last year. When I rent a car now, I get checked out on a tablet. When I went to a restaurant in China, the menu was on a tablet. When I took a helicopter ride at a local air show, the GPS hanging in front of me was on a Smartphone. When I had a chance to fly on a WWII bomber to commemorate the Doolittle Raiders, I checked in on an app … and the crew chief’s pre-flight checklist was running on a tablet as he prepared a plane built in 1942. And of course I can now pay bills, trade stocks, get my flight boarding pass and ride on Amtrak based on things I do or keep on a mobile device.

And my favorite recent experience: we recently went to see a Symphony performance. After warming up and while waiting for the conductor to arrive, a lead violinist pulled out his Smartphone and deftly flicked through some work. I wondered if he was updating his Facebook profile.

Which then gets me back to insurance which feels a bit like stepping through a time warp. I recently needed to replace a 10 year term life policy which had naturally and happily run its course. I was stunned to find just how arcane, antiquated, wasteful and expensive the whole process was. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw no technology in use that hadn’t been invented before 1980. Heck, back then I was still buying Beatles albums. On vinyl.

I was truly astonished at the lack of progress that has been made (probably since John, Paul, George and Ringo landed) in this area. For insurers this should be a wakeup call. I’ve probably bought my last Beatles album (this Internet thing looks like it might work out …) and I’ve probably bought my last life insurance policy. When I describe the Beatles landing my kids can’t quite figure out what to make of all the screaming … but they are consumed by spasms of laughter when I describe current life carrier processes and (lack of) consumer technology.

For carriers, the time to start thinking about mobile capabilities is now. Mobile matters. And cassette decks, VCRs, reel to reel tape and the Beatles aren’t coming back. Save nostalgia for another day.

Oh, and the Beatles record label was … Apple. Imagine that.

New Report: IT Security Update

Tom Benton

IT security has been a hot media topic during the past year;  NSA program revelations, retailer credit card breaches and password hacking at popular websites, just to name a few. These high-profile news stories are just the tip of the iceberg - the Identity Theft Research Center recorded over 600 data breaches, including mandated reporting from healthcare entities.

Novarica recenty completed a survey of 95 Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council member CIOs with questions about top security concerns, mobile device security, frequency of external audits and budget/spending levels.  The results are available in a new report, IT Security Update.  Among the key findings:
  • Most insurers plan to increase spending on IT security in 2014
  • External threats are the primary concern
  • Some insurers still don’t do annual external security audits
For more information on the survey results and the report, please contact me at

New Article: Direct Banks Are Winning Mobile-Centric Consumers

Rob Rubin

In my latest article on, I discuss why direct banks are winning over mobile-centric consumers. Moving forward, more consumers will adopt mobile banking and more will insist that the next institution they switch to also provide this service. In Q1 2011, under 12% of shoppers on FindABetterBank indicated they “must have” mobile banking. Today, that number is 23%.

In Q3 2013, direct banks were 38% more likely to be selected when shoppers indicated mobile banking was a must-have feature than when shoppers indicated they “don’t care” about mobile banking. The top reason that “must-have” mobile shoppers cited for choosing their online-only account was low fees. Shoppers who “don’t care” about mobile banking were 28% more likely to choose an institution because of their convenient branch locations than “must-have” mobile banking shoppers. It’s becoming evident that mobile-centric shoppers aren’t as interested in paying for convenient branch locations.

As people continue to adopt mobile banking apps for their everyday banking activities, direct banks’ lower costs, technology-oriented services, and higher deposit rates will appeal to a larger share of consumers. Does this mean that fewer consumers will choose institutions based on the convenience of their branch locations? How will network banks and credit unions respond to this disparity in order to maintain their market and deposit share over direct banks?

See full article here:

Lessons Learned from China: A Look Into a Mobile Future

Rob McIsaac

I recently had the chance to spend a truly remarkable time visiting China. The trip was pure pleasure … an opportunity to spend time with our son and daughter in law, a Chinese national, and her family. The trip spanned the ultra-modern and “Westernized” city of Shanghai, the inland manufacturing hub of Hefei, the ancient villages of Anhui province and a lot of ground in-between.

This is in many ways a country of contrasts. It is concurrently an ancient land with a clear fix on tradition with functional technology thousands of years old and a land that has embraced leading edge technology to support explosive growth. With 1.3 billion people, 24 million of them living in Shanghai alone, it is easy to see why finding “better” or more efficient ways of doing things is top of mind. The congestion and traffic are truly impressive, making time a commodity that is highly valued and the much vaunted “drive for education” is very much in clear evidence.

American and German brands are very much present too, with traffic jams full of Buicks and Fords, going bumper to bumper with VW’s and Audis.

But what may be the most striking thing of all is the absolute degree to which mobile technology dominates daily life. In every village and city, in every train station and traffic jam, wireless devices are at the fingertips of every generation one sees. Young children and grandparents alike are doing the business of daily life on mobile devices that appear in a dizzying array of form factors and colors. Heads down on trains or, perhaps at once both humorously and frighteningly, while weaving through downtown traffic on scooters, the devices are a way to simply get things done.

The other interesting feature was surprisingly fast and omnipresent Wi-Fi access. Even at the chalet once used by Chairman Mao as a retreat in the peaks of the Yellow Mountains, I was able to jump online and check on email (so I didn’t completely disconnect from life back in America!).

Are there lessons learned from all this? Absolutely. While mobile capabilities may be of varying importance to different insurance lines of business today, there’s little doubt that this is the future. Once “spoiled” by the ability to do anything (and everything) on a piece technology customers can slip into a pocket, it seems that going back to fixed position desktop devices is an unwelcome step into the Way Back machine.

While it may not represent the same kind of risk as a burning PAS platform or responding to an avalanche of regulatory changes, it should nevertheless be top of mind for CIO’s and their IT organizations as they participate in business strategy developments. There may be a reasonable runway in front of some carriers now to consider options and approaches … but there’s little doubt that mobility is the future. In some parts of the broader financial services world, IT organizations are already considering the notion of deploying mobile platforms first (or at the very least, concurrently with other form factors). Time is a terrible thing to waste!

February New Research Round-Up: Mobile, CIO Best Practices, ACE Rankings

  • Mobile in Insurance Beyond Personal Lines: Current Trend and Expectations. Mobile has spread far beyond personal lines, with significant growth projected for this year and beyond for policyholder and agent/broker capabilities across the industry. Based on a survey of 75+ CIOs.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Insurance. BYOD is growing in insurance, but large and midsize insurers are taking different approaches. Based on a survey of 75+ CIOs.
  • Moving Into Mobile. 3-page interview with Novarica partner Chad Hersh from this month’s Best’s Review on mobile trends in insurance. Clients and non-clients may download the full article for free.
  • Contract Development Planning Checklist. The latest in our CIO best practices checklist series.
  • Novarica ACE (Average Customer Experience) Rankings of 37 insurance software solutions, including solutions from Agencyport, Cincom, ECCA, FirstBest, Guidwire, Hyland Software, Innovation Group, Insuresoft, Intuitive Web Solutions, iPartners, Maximum Processing, MULTICO, Napersoft, NxTech, Oceanwide, OneShield, Optical Image Tech, Perceptive Software, Silanis, StoneRiver, SunGard, Thunderhead, Vertex, and Vertafore.

If I had five million dollars, I’d buy you much better data and analytics capabilities…

Matthew Josefowicz

Ever wonder what insurer CIOs would do with an extra $5 M in next year’s IT budget? So did we. So we asked 120 of them. Here’s what they said:


  • Despite the intense focus on data and analytics in insurance IT spending and project prioritization, more than 30% of insurer CIOs would spend more in this area if they had the budget. Clearly, this will be an area of continued high investment across the industry for the next few years.
  • There is a huge backlog of demand for core systems projects at insurers under $1 billion in annual premium, and a general belief that these projects can be accomplished for investments in the single-digit millions. If business conditions improve and budgets can be made available, we expect continued high volumes of activity in this area.
  • 1 in 5 insurers would invest in improved mobile capabilities, to improve both customer and agent experience.
  • Many CIOs have ideas on how to use technology to move the business forward that may not be captured in the traditional governance and prioritization process. Business leaders should make sure they are asking the question and incorporating the answers into deepening their understanding of their companies’ challenges.
  • Money is not the only scarce resource CIOs need – in many cases, business time and attention is even more scarce than cash. As one respondent put it: “No matter how much more money we had, the organization could not support the delivery of any more services. The capacity for the business support of IT projects is all but tapped out at this point.”

Check out our new report, which contains over 100 verbatim responses from insurer CIOs to this question.

Re-Imagination of Nearly Everything

Matthew Josefowicz

Mary Meeker of KPCB put out her annual “State of the Internet” presentation yesterday. If you haven’t already checked it out, it’s online here.

The most compelling section for me starts on slide 29, “Re-Imagination of Nearly Everything – Powered by New Devices + Connectivity + UI + Beauty – Where we are now…” Most of the slides in this section focus on media & content businesses, personal content management (photos, notes, scrapbooking), and similar areas that have been transformed by the ubiquity of the internet and mobile connectivity, but there are also slides on business collaboration, payments, and other areas.

For example, slide 68 is the re-imagining of personal borrowing and lending, comparing the bureaucratic bank lending process to the streamlined and flexible technology-enabled peer-to-peer lending process.

While Ms. Meeker doesn’t offer a slide on insurance, many of the slides in the Re-Imagining section spoke to coming changes in the insurance market, and resonated (for me) with my recent post on simplifying the customer experience and preparing to manage new levels of complexity in data and operations.

Slide 85 is titled “Magnitude of Upcoming Change Will be Stunning – We are Still in Spring Training.” While the focus is on info tech and internet businesses, many of the points Meeker raises here will have a game-changing impact for insurers, including

  • “Fearless and Connected Consumers”
  • “Unprecedented combo of Focus on Technology AND Design,”
  • “Beautiful/Relevant/Personalized Content for Consumers”

Insurers need to be actively planning for how they will adapt to this rapidly changing world.