Tesla Gets a Win from Federal Regulators, But More is Still to Come

Chuck Ruzicka

Federal regulators gave Tesla some good news this week when they cleared the automaker’s “Autopilot” system of responsibility for a fatal crash in 2016. Instead, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the driver of a Tesla car that collided with a truck (the article says the car “drove itself into” the truck) ignored warnings by Tesla to keep control of the car at all times. This is certainly a victory for autonomous driving systems — the opposite finding would have been a major setback for Tesla — but not the end of the war.

Like seat belts, autonomous driving vehicles will reduce accidents and fatalities, not eliminate them. And Americans are litigious. Apple is being sued for not doing enough to prevent texting while driving, even though texting while driving is explicitly against the law. Companies with deep pockets, like Tesla, Apple, and Google, will continue to attract litigators, and insurers who provide product liability coverages to autonomous auto industry should not start cutting prices. However, auto insurers should anticipate reduced frequency and severity of accidents as safety features continue to be improved.

All of that being said, this week’s ruling is an indication that our society accepts this research and technology direction. Autonomous cars offer significant benefits to portions of our society that have disabilities and to the elderly who can become riskier drivers, not to mention the potential large-scale benefits of improving traffic flow and reducing air pollution. Lastly, with this decision as precedent, the profit potential for the winners in this space will continue to drive research and innovation.

Lemonade’s and Haven Life’s Limited Launch Approach Provides Lessons for Incumbent Insurers

Tom Benton

Recently, innovation-focused startup insurers Lemonade and Haven Life both announced expansion beyond their initial states–Lemonade to all but 3 states and Haven Life adding five states and D.C., leaving only California and Montana to add. Both initially launched in limited states (33 for Haven and just New York for Lemonade). Add to this the announcement this week that Ladder has launched in its first market, California. The limited launch approach allows these companies to gather customer data and make the necessary process changes that will be critical to their data-driven approaches going forward.

As these insurance startups build their policy counts, more customer data will be accumulated that will provide better algorithm results. But, scaling up in size will offer different challenges for these “Creative Carriers”. Lemonade faces a transition of showing profitability while continuing to innovate, and Haven Life, backed by Mass Mutual, may face different pressures as they grow. In both cases, customers will continue to expect these startups to continue being innovative in how they approach customer experience.

Lemonade’s approach is centered on transparency to build trust. According to this recent blog post, they intend to soon release information on performance metrics and the impact of their ‘Giveback’ program (in which the company donates leftover money form premiums to causes customers choose). This is consistent with their focus on changing the industry by changing the dynamics of interaction based on behavioral economics principles infused in the organization by Chief Behavioral Officer Dan Ariely.

Haven Life on the other hand stays focused on creating the simplest and fastest possible experience–what they refer to as their “ridiculously easy process” for buying life insurance. Their value proposition also includes transparency, but more by providing a fast quote and enabling easy comparison price shopping.

With their expansion into new state markets, the continuing growth and adjustments at both of these innovators will be important for incumbent insurers and imitators to watch throughout 2017.

Revenge of the Mutuals?

Rob McIsaac

An interesting article came out over the weekend that delves into the consolidation that has taken place among publicly traded life insurance companies, and contrasts this trend with the relatively stable number of mutual carriers that are in the market today. We are now the better part of two decades past the period when there was a significant demutualization effort which included notable, name-brand, national carriers. In that period, we have weathered multiple recessions, one of them the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, and emerged into a world that has experienced persistent low interest rates. Taken as a whole, these factors have produced a series of economic outcomes which were outside of the planning corridors that many carriers executed against. As the article suggests, carriers face some very interesting challenges going forward. For those with long tail liabilities such as life and annuity contracts, the conflicts associated with quarterly earnings reports and maximizing shareholder value appear to be particularly daunting.

There is more to this story, however, which may suggest some additional advantages for mutual carriers. Almost without exception, life carriers are grappling with aging technology platforms which may date as far back as the Kennedy administration. The blocks of business on these platforms are themselves old, and may be closed to new business. But because they were at the heart of these businesses over multiple decades they have become, through the magic of cost accounting, blocks of business which absorb significant overhead for carriers. For many companies, these platforms represent a significant drag in terms of being able to implement new products and services effectively. At the same time, however, these platforms, if they are walled off, can become quite stable and relatively inexpensive to operate. This can meaningfully influence both operational and financial outcomes for carriers.

We recently unearthed a 1995 chronicle from MIT which provides a fascinating view of the first 35 years of policy administration utilization in North America. The fact that many of the systems that were deemed to be aging in that 22-year-old report are still being used by carriers should give cause for concern to some!

In any case, as carriers plot their technology strategy for the future, addressing these old systems and blocks of business running on them will become increasingly critical. The investments and planning horizon required to make them successful may be easier for mutually owned companies to execute than it will be for their publicly traded competitors given their respective focus on long- versus short-term results.

Even as market competitive threats loom large, it is not just a technology challenge that many life insurance carriers face. There is an accounting and a reporting issue which carriers would be well advised to consider as they put their strategic plans in place.

Are Young Insurance Agents Too Optimistic About the Future?

Rob McIsaac

A recent survey of younger agents highlighted a generally optimistic view of the future. In addition to reflecting positive sentiments about economic prospects, they also appear to feel good about the security of their positions, given the significant number of current producers that are expected to retire from the labor force. The average age of an agent in the United States is greater than 59 and there are forecasts of up to 25% of the current population of agents planning to retire by the end of 2018.

While there may well be room for optimism for those who properly frame a career in insurance distribution, the likely reality is that carriers will need far fewer agent relationships in the future. Increasing focus on self service capabilities, desires from consumers to be able to have direct interaction with the companies they do business with and greater commoditization will all put pressure on the industry to do things in a more efficient, less labor intensive, fashion. Distribution will hardly be the only function to experience this pressure. More automated underwriting and automated claims adjudication are two other examples.

This also ties to research Novarica recently competed on Millennial consumers. As a generation, Millennials will represent half of the US labor force by 2020. As a group, they have a strong preference for DIY capabilities.

This doesn’t mean that the agent role will become extinct but rather that it will morph and evolve. There are likely to be far fewer, but on average more highly skilled, producers in the future. They will be experts on dealing with complex and difficult situations which don’t lend themselves to a do it yourself model. That could be a very good place for producers to be, albeit with a substantially different business model, than is currently the norm. Carriers will want to be preparing for these changes sooner rather than later, given the speed with which consumer preferences can be influenced by the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

News and Views: Lemonade’s Instant Claims, NYS Cyber Regulations Delay, UnitedHealthcare Motion, and BMW’s Self-Driving Cars

Matthew Josefowicz

Matthew Josefowicz on why Lemonade’s instant claims processing is most impressive when looked at from a user experience standpoint.





Mitch Wein

Mitch Wein on the delayed implementation of New York State’s new cybersecurity regulations.





Tom Benton

Tom Benton on UnitedHealthcare Motion and the future of wearables in wellness programs.





Chuck Ruzicka

Chuck Ruzicka on BMW’s entry into the self-driving car market and the importance of learning in innovation.





Instant Lemonade Impressive for Flavor more than Ingredients

lemonade

Matthew Josefowicz

Lemonade got some great press this week with their instant claims payment for a small property loss on a renters policy.

While Lemonade is spinning this a miracle of AI, it’s really more a miracle of intelligently-designed processes. Many insurers do rules-based, auto-adjudication for small property losses, but few have the ability to translate those automated decisions into real time payments.

The other thing that Lemonade has done successfully here is focus on the desired customer experience, and exploit the industry’s lack of willingness to do so.

Now if Lemonade can do the same thing with a $25,000 liability claim on a small renters policy, that’s a different story…

J.D. Power Study Shows Digital is About Customer Service, Not Just Cost-Saving

Chuck Ruzicka

In today’s environment where retention is critical, the quality of a carrier’s claims service and handling is a major source of competitive advantage. Other than the bill, claims are often the only contact that a customer may have with an insurance company. A new study from J.D. Power found that while the majority of claimants would prefer to check the status of their claims online, consumers would also like the option to call a representative for first notice of loss. This study highlights that digital service is a complement to call-center service, not a replacement for it. Early business strategies around what used to be called e-business focused on the cost savings of “self-service.” But digital is about engaging customers where they are, not pushing them to lower-cost channels.

News and Views Roundup: Zenefits, Drone Use, Workers’ Comp Profitability, Customer Experience, Plans for DC Products

Tom Benton


Tom Benton on DC plan advisors planning to adjust products in the wake of the DOL Ruling





Rob McIsaac


Rob McIsaac on Zenefits launching new products for small business





Mitch Wein


Mitch Wein on consumers’ increasing interest in customer experience, and not just price





Steven Kaye


Steve Kaye on recent profitability in workers’ compensation





Jeff Goldberg


Jeff Goldberg on Travelers’ use of drones during Hurricane Matthew

Consumers are Increasingly Interested in Experience, not just Price

Mitch Wein

A recent piece from Wharton highlights the growing importance of carrier providing a “delightful experience” to the insured and/or the beneficiaries as well as acting as a trusted advisor throughout the customers’ lifetime, providing continuing value. Novarica has written about how millennials are not just interested in the price and risk transfer characteristics but in the lifetime value of the carrier and the experience the carrier provides. Millennials are much more likely to switch carriers if they have a poor experience. Analytics can help carrier gather metrics around how well carriers are doing and what they need to improve. In particular, on claims an intelligent process facilitate through analytics and workflow and differentiate claims between simple and complex, providing an optimized experience.

Case Study Highlight: Enabling One-Day Health Claims Payments at Aflac

Matthew Josefowicz

As we approach the announcement of the Novarica Impact Awards in the fall, we will be highlighting one Impact Award nominee each week on our blog. The Novarica Impact Awards are voted on by over 300 members of the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council, making them the only purely peer-reviewed awards program in insurance technology.

Many of this year’s impact award nominees share some common characteristics – the use of Agile methodology, a focus on communication, strong executive support, and planning for substantial user training as a key part of unlocking value creation.

This week, we look at an Aflac project to enable one-day health claims payments.

The One Day PaySM initiative was a response to a direct challenge from Aflac’s CEO to create a unique claims payment process. Aflac’s goal was to reduce average claims processing time from four days to one. Over the course of the 12 month project, Aflac used Agile methodology to ensure delivery and quality, which they credited with enabling their speedy delivery and enhancing collaboration between IT and business teams, especially when supported by co-location of IT and other business units. The lessons learned have since been applied to a full restructuring of the IT organization. The project has resulted in 87% of online claims meeting One Day Pay requirements—a year-over-year increase of 43%. Customers submitting claims online reported a satisfaction rate of 91%. The direct deposit capability also reduced the company’s carbon footprint, saving an estimated 16,000lb of paper.

For more detail on this project and more than 30 others, including cases from MetLife, Prudential, The Hartford, and Trustmark, see Novarica’s Best Practices Case Study Compendium 2016.