A quote at the head of the event did a great job for setting the expectations of the day.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Keys

This and the list of speakers promised some interesting content and the event did not disappoint.

There were three main themes from the day:

  1. Innovation must become part of your company culture
  2. Success depends on a true understanding of your customer
  3. You must be able to develop and change quickly even to “keep up”

1. INNOVATION MUST BECOME PART OF THE COMPANY CULTURE

The Insurance Industry as a whole was identified as falling behind in the quest for innovation, sitting squarely in the bottom 15% of the innovation spectrum – “laggards”.

Innovation does not happen overnight and there was a universal acceptance that progress has to be linked to the right technology. The innovation ‘journey’ was outlined as:

The Insurance Industry as a whole was identified as falling behind in the quest for innovation, sitting squarely in the bottom 15% of the innovation spectrum – “laggards”.

  • Innovation does not work if it is locked away in a little room, it needs to be encouraged across the Organisation from the top down and bottom up. It is important to ‘understand your company audience’ and get people who are perceived as potential ‘barriers to change’ involved from the outset.
  • Ideas do not come from conscripts, or by offering financial rewards which drive the wrong behaviour. Innovation has to become part of the Company DNA. An interesting reminder that generating ideas from inside a business conforms to the ‘long tail’ theory – i.e. a few people will participate very often with new ideas (blue sector), with the majority participating only occasionally (the long tail): 85% of the ideas will come from occasional participants because they are the larger group, so they need to be engaged to share their thoughts and ideas. Those who contribute regularly are engaged anyway!
  • Research by IBM shows that by effectively using insight and data analytics in the area of innovation a company is 36% more likely to outperform their competitors – measured by growth and profitability.
  • A real focus on innovation allows companies to be open to new ides. Salutary true story – Car Hire Company investigated what their customers really wanted a couple of years ago. Insight told them that customers wanted a car where and when they needed it. The business model was based on having fixed car hire centres, so they ignored the insight. New entrants into the market are now delivering exactly what the insight indicated customers wanted – car hire when and where they are needed. The original company that commissioned the insight did not have the culture to accept and try new ideas.
  • Examples of positive innovation in the Insurance market:
  • BNP Paribas Cardif described their innovative Home Insurance approach in Italy. Despite 76% home ownership, only 36% of home owners have home insurance. Problem: Home Owners do not engage with home insurance. Solution: Develop a home insurance service with integrated telematics technology to monitor the house infrastructure and include the insurance as part of the service package.
  • RSA ‘MoreTh>n’– Interesting case study with their ‘Wagglepets’ service. The MoreTh>n team believe “Innovation at it’s best delivers a solution to a problem”. They have identified insurance is broken given low consumer trust and high commoditisation. In the same way as BNP Paribas Cardif, they have developed a proposition that offers a service to their customers. The offer includes a monthly delivery of pet essentials such as food, treats and toys together with telematics tracking technology. Alongside these tangible benefits, the pet insurance is free.
  • In both cases, the Insurers bought the proposition to the market with a limited launch and will focus on learning from the insight to develop the proposition for scalable and economic success.
  • Co-Operative Insurance has started a journey to embed innovation at the core of their business. They are focussed on driving through a cultural change that moves them from ‘can’t’ to ‘why not?’. This change has C.E.O. sponsorship and Main Board engagement. From the top a ‘start up’ approach is encouraged with support for taking calculated risks and being prepared to fail fast.

2. SUCCESS DEPENDS ON A TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR CUSTOMER

Interesting and diverse speakers, but many made the same point. Understanding and delivering what the customer needs is an imperative. This is nothing new, but a recurring message underlined the fact that many Insurers are talking about the customer, but few have really moved away from a product focus to a customer focus. Customers expect a personalised retail experience, whatever the product.

  • Customers look for an emotional resonance and a sense of trust that comes from giving them choice and control all at the right “pace”. Customers want simplicity – Insurers often deliver complexity.
  • Facebook summed up their success by saying “People power our brands”. They make the world as open and connected as possible.
  • Emotion is still critical to any buying decision. Psychology is becoming increasingly important to understand the ‘personalities’ of your customers. Empathy was a frequent buzz word.
  • Visual example of potentially ‘bad practice’. Market segmentation and hence communication and distribution strategy based on age and economic profile. ‘Super rich’; ‘High net worth’ etc…with ‘the masses’ at the end. Thus those over 60 in the ‘super rich’ category could expect the same service and approach. Tongue in cheek perhaps, but the following 63 year old ‘super rich’ males would therefore expect the same treatment with a strategy of segmentation by age and wallet:
  • The IBM presentation underlined the need to know how your customers want to engage. A blanket approach just will not work for everyone, or even 80% (following the 80/20 rule). Seven different ‘personalities’ that affect the way customers want to engage with the buying process were identified, ranging from ‘I know what I want’ to ‘I need personal advice’.
  • The number of marketing messages received by an individual is growing exponentially. From tele and email -marketing and SMS through to television adverts, there are an increasing number of marketing options. Providers can only differentiate their message if they focus on the individual and give the message a personal resonance.
  • Reach the right people. Move away from trying to please everyone. Identify your key audience and make sure the message talks to their needs. Customer Insight either internal or external (for example Facebook) is essential.
  • Move away from ‘you buy, I sell’ – to sharing the right information for the individual. Use knowledge of the customer to build a relationship.

3. YOU MUST BE ABLE TO DEVELOP AND CHANGE QUICKLY EVEN TO “KEEP UP”

Customers can now be reached ‘on the move’ – so brand message communication has to recognise the new opportunities and speak to customers in their busy 24/7 world. Your customers transact across a huge range of companies for a whole variety of products and services. They expect the same excellence from them all.

  • Customers have moved from desk top to mobile. The average person checks their phone over 200 times a day.
  • Customers expect to be able to use different channels and receive consistent messages and service. 60% of people use 2 or more devices a day and nearly 25% use 3 devices daily.
  • Communication has moved from word to picture. Video represents a fundamental shift in marketing, education and communication. Being able to convey important marketing messages using sight/sound and motion in 30 seconds at relatively low cost is effective.
  • 62% of Insurance CEOs admit that they do not have an integrated physical and mobile strategy.
  • You need the infrastructure and internal processes to be able to move quickly when new opportunities arise
  • A real emphasis on having the appetite to take risks in new ways and not be afraid of failure. Great quote “If you succeed in everything you do, you are not trying hard enough”.
  • A lot of talk around ‘big data’ and ‘insight’ – but consensus was that insight was not being translated into actions. Insurers need a process to generate ideas from the insight then quickly prioritise the proposals that will create the greatest impact and launch quickly in a measured way to mitigate risk and allow failure. Many speakers promoted a ‘start small’ strategy.
  • Insurers are benchmarked against ‘best of breed’ companies, not against each other. Companies that were held up as role models included Uber; Amazon; Quirky and airbnb – not one Insurer amongst the list!
  • The excellence in other markets highlights the shortcomings in the insurance sector. Trust levels are low and customer churn rose 13% from 2012 to 2013.
  • Freemium models are disturbing the market. Give away something that the customer wants/needs and worry about revenue later – successful examples are plentiful – LinkedIn; Facebook; Skype; Mailchimp; Spotify… the list could go on and on.

Although many of the messages on the day were not new, the fact that they still need to be made underlines that there is still a long way to go before the Insurance Industry can truly claim to be championing innovation. The recipe to win does not seem hard.

  • Understand the emotions and listen to the needs of individual customers.
  • Identify their problems, develop innovative solutions and implement quickly
  • Be prepared to amend or discard solutions that do not work.
  • Keep clear lines of communication open at all times.

What sounds simple rarely is – but the prizes are worth the effort.