Four Obstacles Annuity Providers are Facing in 2015

Mitch Wein

Recently Novarica hosted a Special Interest Group Meeting in Boston for Annuity providers. The meeting was well attended with four key themes emerging:

  • Product Time to Market
  • Straight-Through-Processing and Related Issues around NIGO
  • Electronic Signatures
  • Security

The executives in attendance were looking at how technology can solve problems and enable capabilities. What struck me was the paradox of technology providing better and better ways to reach the customer, while at the same time introducing new issues that didn’t exist earlier. One participant noted that “Annuities are sold, not brought”. This comment provided insight into this area of insurance and why it is unlike other area. Clearly the customer and agent experiences are very important. How analytics and mobile can help is still being explored by the carriers.

Another area of keen importance is the product itself and the ability to modify or introduce new products quickly. We talked about innovations that are on the horizon, especially around customized product offerings that can be assembled in real time out of product features that have already received regulatory approval. Yet, today’s existing legacy systems can’t support these types of time to market innovations. A third area of importance is the ease of doing business for the agent & broker. E-app, illustration and e-signature have been deployed to facilitate straight-through-processing but in the non-captive third party distribution channels, the effectiveness has been more limited. Security is the overlay on top of everything. Carriers feel they are in a good position but noted breaches in firms like Target and Home Depot indicated that what they perceive may not be accurate. We talked about ethical hacking and proactive penetration testing as mechanisms to validate assumptions. All-in-all a terrific an interesting session.

Our next special interest group will be taking place June 25th in Boston, MA. This meeting will be geared towards Regional P/C carriers. If you or a colleague would like to attend, please feel free contact me at email.

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Seven Key Findings About the Group Life/Annuity/Voluntary Benefits Sector

Rob McIsaac

With plan sponsors becoming increasingly price-conscious, the group life, annuities and voluntary benefits sector is turning to technology to help them attract, retain and profitably serve clients. Across the industry, insurers continue to make investments spanning the Novarica Insurance Core Systems Map.

Group Life Annuity & Benefits Heat Map

Novarica has identified seven key findings in its Business and Technology Trends: Group Life/Annuity/Voluntary Benefits report. If you’re not familiar with this report, it provides and overview of group benefit providers’ business and technology issues, data about the marketplace and 57 recent examples of technology investments by group benefit providers.

Key Findings

1) Top technology initiatives for group and voluntary insurers include agent and customer portals (including enrollment) and core policy administration, including benefits administration. The need for effective sales and marketing tools across multiple channels is key to drive enrollment, and robust flexible group administration is also vital. Carriers are opting for incremental upgrades over “big bang” core system transformations. Vendors must grow their understanding of individual markets, as well as the linkages between billing and enrollment.

2) True sales growth is a challenge in group business, with much activity consisting of carriers trading business or increases in group term life face amounts rather than cases or lives covered. Group annuities reportedly also saw declining sales. At least one carrier is experimenting with offering cheaper long-term care insurance coverage for lower benefits in an attempt to drive uptake.

3) Private exchanges are emerging as a new distribution channel for voluntary products, though enrollment is modest to date. The need for brokers to make up for caps on commissions and high deductibles for traditional health coverage may lead to more activity in this arena.

4) Group annuity contracts are seeing increased interest as some carriers are offering US employers the chance to offload some or all of their defined benefit plan liabilities in exchange for purchasing group annuity contracts.

5) Lower priority technology initiatives include billing, BI, claims, CRM, distribution management, document creation and management, rating, underwriting workstations, and specialized components. While lower priority, many of these components can contribute both cost savings as well as more efficient handling of transactions and payments. The lower priority of investment in BI should not be read as an indictment of its potential, as plan sponsor reporting and analytics capabilities, the ability to analyze participation, and understanding channel and producer productivity and profitability remain important.

6) Mobile devices continue to make inroads. Both members and plan sponsors see benefits, such as the ability to submit claims or view policy information.

7) Critical success factors for carriers continue to be sound product design; better tools for enrollment, marketing and sales to individuals; powerful and adaptable administration systems; marketing and sales across multiple channels, and continuing improvement of administrative systems to drive cost savings and efficiency.

With customer expectations changing across the industry, driven by changes in the technology ecosystem within the industry and across the economy, insurers need to plan to incorporate these paradigm shifts into their business and technology strategies for 2015. Or else plan to be taken by surprise! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a note at email.

Ten Statistics About Social Media, Mobile, Analytics, Big Data, Cloud and Digital Technologies in Insurance for 2015

Matthew Josefowicz

It can be hard for Property & Casualty and Life/Annuity insurers to sort the hype from reality when it comes to areas like social media, mobile, analytics, big data, cloud, and digital capabilities.

Recently, Novarica released its “Hot Topics” report which is designed to show adoption rates and provide insurance carriers with insights on six “hot topic” areas: social media, mobile, analytics, big data, cloud and digital. This report is based on a snap poll conducted in November 2014 of 90 members of the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council, a moderated knowledge-sharing community of insurer CIOs and senior IT executives.


As you can see from the chart above, deployment rates have grown in the year since Novarica’s last study on these topics. Big data deployment rates, while still under 20%, have more than doubled over the past year, and mobile has increased in every category, with the largest percentage increase in deployment for policyholders. Analytics usage in modeling has increased by nearly a third, but there’s still a persistent gap in analytics usage between large and small insurers. Some other relevant statistics of note include:

1.) 40% of respondents have deployed social media in some areas of marketing

2.) 27% of respondents have active or planned mobile pilot projects for distributers

3.) 44% of respondents have deployed analytics to provide real-time scoring in some areas

4.) 16% of respondents have active or planned pilot big data projects

5.) 18% of respondents have deployed in some areas SaaS for core applications

6.) 72% of respondents said Agent e-business was part of their digital strategy

7.) 67% of respondents have no formal ROI for analytics already deployed but its value is widely recognized

8.) 10% of respondents have well deployed and widely understood mobile plans

9.) 29% of respondents have deployed digital or digital strategy in some areas

10.)36% still trying to understand the value of social media data analysis

The six “hot topics” included in this report share two main characteristics. First, they enable potentially disruptive changes in one of more areas of the insurance value chain or traditional company operating models. Secondly, they are discussed more than they are embraced or understood.

As we noted last year, today’s “Hot Topics” are tomorrow’s basic capabilities. Increased, but still uneven, deployment rates in mobile, social, big data, and other areas indicate this evolution is continuing, and that some companies are evolving faster than others.

For more information about the latest “Hot Topics” download a free preview or contact me via email for a complimentary 30 minute consultation.

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Peer Review: What areas are insurance CIOs focusing on in 2015?

Staying on top of the latest Property/Casualty and Life/Health/Annuity insurance technologies and trends can be a pretty daunting task. In order to provide our clients with more insight into what their peers are focusing on in 2015, Novarica has compiled a list of its top ten most downloaded reports for the year to date.

There are two main benefits of this top ten list: it will save you time by highlighting only the hottest topics, and it allows you to see if your organization is on track with its IT strategy or if something is being overlooked. The top ten list below covers a variety of topics in critical areas, including: digital, reinsurance, policy administration systems, social, mobile, big data, analytics and much more.

Top Ten Most Downloaded Reports

1.) Life/Health/Annuity Policy Administration Systems
2.) Property/Casualty Policy Administration Systems
3.) Preparing for Digital Transformation
4.) Benchmarking the “New Normal”: 50 Advanced Capabilities for P&C Insurers
5.) “Hot Topics” for Insurers: Social, Mobile, Analytics, Big Data, Cloud, and Digital
6.) Report Rationalization: A CIO Checklist Report
7.) Internet of Things Update: An Executive Brief
8.) US Insurer IT Budgets and Projects 2015
9.) Architectural Governance: A CIO Checklist
10.) Business and Technology Trends: Reinsurance

In 2014 alone Novarica released over 30 reports. If you’re a Novarica client, downloading reports from list above is a great way to get up to speed on the latest trends and guidelines. For more information about Novarica’s published research, visit our online library or contact email.

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Finding Gold in a Tough Market

Steven Kaye

An article in points out the benefits to carriers of adopting by-peril rating, which allows carriers to understand the interrelationships of various perils and property-specific risks. Homeowners has traditionally been a notoriously volatile line of business, so anything carriers can do to smooth out profitability and losses is a significant win. By-peril rating can be used to cherry-pick more attractive risks, or to do a better job of weeding out undesirable risks, up front. Carriers can offer lower rates for properties built according to more modern building codes, or with risk mitigation measures in place. They can more precisely target their marketing initiatives as well. ISO research showed carriers using by-peril rating both grew their market share and had lower loss ratios than peers not using by-peril rating. With preliminary financials for 2014 indicating a deterioration in P&C underwriting results, the potential softening of the commercial lines market, and personal lines arguably being a commodity business, carriers must seize on any advantage to grow profitable exposures.

Carriers, particularly smaller ones, should not underestimate the challenge of obtaining data of sufficient volume and granularity. They should line up and verify potential data sources, ensure that data and related services are compatible with their business processes and systems, and compare vendor service levels and check references.

For more of Novarica’s thoughts on the use of master data management and analytics in personal lines insurance, or by insurers generally, check out some of our related research or send us an email.

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2015 Tech Trends: Thoughts for Insurance CIOs

Tom Benton

As I was preparing a blog post on technology trends for 2015, I came across Chris McMahon’s article in INN, “Top 5 Tech Trends for 2015”. The five he chose were: core systems modernization, analytics, mobile computing, the Internet of Things and the digital customer experience. These are certainly great choices, so here are some further thoughts on these trends and their impact on the insurance CIO.

Core Systems
As mentioned in the article, interest in core system modernization remains strong for 2015. A survey of Novarica’s Research Council members last year (with results presented for both P&C and LHA insurers) found that the trend is toward faster deployments via SaaS or hosted solutions using an iterative deployment approach. Vendors are developing track records of implementation completion and are finding ways to reduce the risks of these large implementations. CIOs who are considering core system replacements should get an update on potential vendors and their current offerings, and Novarica’s latest Market Navigator reports will be available in February for LHA and P&C policy admin system vendors. 2015 may be the year to consider a replacement and prepare using lessons learned from previous successful implementations at other insurers.

Analytics continues to be a hot area of discussion at insurers. Novarica’s report “Big Data Technologies for Insurers” notes that insurers should focus on the need first, based on business demands and strategy, before investing in specific technologies. While there have been some initial uses of big data for analytics at insurance carriers, few have integrated analytics into core insurance processes like underwriting and claims. Insurance CIOs should work with business leaders to define a strategy and the “big questions” that need to be answered by improved analytics capabilities.

Mobile Computing
Novarica’s report on “US Insurer IT Budgets and Projects 2015” noted that mobile technology is still considered an “emerging technology” area at many carriers. Insurers are struggling to leverage the “3 C’s” of mobile technology (convenience, camera and coordinates) to provide better engagement with producers and customers. CIOs need to look beyond specific mobile strategy to consider flexibility of their systems for the next wave of mobile technologies, including wearable and Internet of Things, along with the analytic capabilities needed to leverage the data these systems will generate.

Internet of Things
Just as 2014 was the year of wearables as a consumer focus, 2015 promises to be the year of Internet of Things, including connected home products, drones and smart devices. The key for CIOs is considering what data from these devices can be leveraged for improved insurance products and operations. Information governance will be a key capability for 2015 and into the future.

Digital Customer Experience
Interest in engaging customers through digital technologies is driving insurers to reconsider their customer engagement and digital strategies. Novarica’s report “Preparing for Digital Transformation” provides a checklist that includes reviewing current capabilities, strengthening project prioritization and other best practices, and adopting an appropriate culture for transformation. Many customer-focused organizations outside of the insurance industry are creating Chief Digital Officer (CDO) roles to lead these efforts. In essence this move is to provide a focus for meeting the demand for improved customer engagement using technology tools. CIOs should consider taking the lead in efforts that a CDO role would address – CIOs with a good track record of meeting business needs through effective technology deployment should be in good position to do so.

These five technology trends provide a good starting point for discussing your IT strategy for 2015. As always I welcome your feedback. To send me a note or set up a complimentary 1 hour consultation, contact me via email.

Lessons from Peter Drucker

Paul Ptashnick

As I was reading our latest report: Benchmarking the “New Normal” 50 Advanced Capabilities for Property & Casualty insurers, it reminded me of a few famous quotes from management consultant, author and educator Peter Drucker. Below I have highlighted a few of his quotes and how they relate to the insurance industry.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

As technology evolves it’s going to have a revolutionary impact on the insurance industry over the next few years. Some of these areas include the “Internet of Things,” Social Media, Big Data, Cloud, Mobile, Security and Digital. With the rapid changes in technology-enabled capabilities, it’s imperative for organizations to have access to the latest research and subject matter experts to stay on top of the latest trends.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it”.

We’re seeing larger insurers creating their own future by widening their lead in advanced capabilities in analytics, data, digital channels, modern applications and innovative business practices. In addition, some midsize insurers are also creating their own future by deploying more advanced capabilities than their peers.

“What gets measured gets improved”

As saavy insurers start deploying new capabilities in underwriting, product, distribution, analytics, etc., it’s vital for them to be able to track their own progress. Novarica is helping insurers to “measure and improve” their own initiatives with our new benchmarking tool.

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

Technology is playing a vital role for Property & Casualty insurers in creating and keeping customers. Below are a few advanced capabilities being deployed by insurers in 2015 to help with these efforts.

  • Customer: Mobile app to view customer relationship details, balances, key documents, etc.
  • Distribution: Mobile app/mobile optimized web for producers to provide access to customer, book of business, or sales materials
  • Product: Analytics-driven product design
  • Product: Products designed to optimize buying/selling experience through one or more of the following: (a) use of pre-fill data, (b) elimination of unnecessary questions, (c) streamlined underwriting process matched to control of risk/coverage levels
  • Distribution: E-Signature
  • Underwriting: Predictive scoring based on models leveraging internal and third-party data
  • Marketing: CRM-driven campaign management that shares information across distribution, underwriting and service channels
  • Billing: Electronic bill presentment and payment
  • Analytics: Self-Service analytics based on verified and accessible enterprise data
  • Analytics: Use of Big Data tools to mine enterprise data effectively (Hadoop, NoSQL, etc.)
  • Claims: Mobile FNOL with video/GPS data capture and pre-fill

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”

The capabilities listed in our Benchmarking the “New Normal” 50 Advanced Capabilities for P&C Insurers are widely available to insurers and are deployed more or less widely by them today. These advanced capabilities are being driven by a combination of five elements: analytics, data, digital channels, modern applications and innovate business practices. Successful organizations in the future will re-imagine and re-conceptualize their product, service and operation strategies in light of technological changes.

As always I welcome your feedback. Send me a message at email or to learn more about Novarica’s Benchmarking the “New Normal” 50 Advanced Capabilities for P&C insurers, download a preview

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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.

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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.