Remember Pearl Insurance? If you are of a certain age in the UK, then you probably will recall a brand that was once a household name, and perhaps a man in a suit calling round every few weeks to collect a life insurance premium in cash. Yes, that sort of thing happened!
But times change and that means that every insurance brand, no matter how long its heritage, has to earn its place in the modern digital economy. New products must come to market quicker and utilise consumer data to offer personalised policies.
IE wanted to find out more about the transformation of the Sara Assicurazioni brand and spoke to Luigi Vassalo, COO to learn how a multi-cloud enterprise application solution re-booted this Italian giant for the 21st century.
IE; Having a heritage that goes back over 75 years is a huge asset, but how did Sara Assicurazioni tackle the problem of modernising its software systems, where do you start?
LV; We looked at our business in 2017 and in many ways, it was quite traditional. We knew where we needed to get to and selected a partner in the shape of TIBCO – a leading data management and integration specialist, who has also worked with Brembo, Three UK, DBS Bank and Equifax – to help us refine our brief.
In short, we wanted to address the symptoms of an aging, rigid infrastructure. We were keen to run everything on the cloud, to make it low-code, and accessible across Sara, so that everyone can effectively plug into a network. We needed a solution that connects all our data together, allowing us to transform how we develop and deliver insurance solutions to customers. And of course, does all this much faster than before and makes the entire system future-proof, so that we can customise it and continue to develop our capabilities over time. Scalability was also very important in the long term.
IE; Since implementing the new system with TIBCO how has that improved new product development?
LV; Firstly, it is much faster. To give you just one example, at the start of the pandemic we had some TV advertising slots already booked, but the situation regarding everyday life had changed with the lockdown, of course. We started to design a new cyber security insurance product, suitable for home or business, to offer a better service for people just getting used to doing everything online – perhaps for the very first time.
While all businesses were faced with making rapid changes last year, we managed to develop a cyber product that was very much smartphone accessible, easy-to-use and we did all this in just seven days, to meet the TV advertising deadline. That could not have happened with our previous legacy system.
IE; That is amazing, just seven days. I can recall doing an interview a few years ago when building a new product in 90 days seemed like rocket science. Let me ask you about personalised cover, because this is becoming the standard in car insurance as people drive fewer miles, and own more advanced cars which can gather data.
LV; For Sara, the rise of ADAS systems in cars has offered a new challenge. We already have a telematics product, which operates by utilising a black box, and will soon be able to gather information via a windscreen tag and synchronisation to the policyholder’s smartphone.
The smartphone data policies are good in terms of insights, but one factor has become more noticeable for us at Sara in the last few years. It is this; distraction leads to accidents. Now we have data from smartphones, but sometimes it can be a passenger in the car who is using the phone, or perhaps the driver – we don’t know.
There will be more tech-based solutions in the car insurance market in the future, we can see that coming. Understanding more about driver behaviour is the key to pricing and selling car insurance.
IE; Do you see voice technology changing the home insurance market in the future, people being able to ask Alexa or Google devices, or perhaps a smart TV, for the best insurance deals?
LV; This is interesting for us because we have a product called Alexa Skill. This allows the policyholders to sync their policy to Alexa and then they may ask questions such as what is covered exactly, when the policy renews and so on. Now whether this interaction will lead to consumers asking devices for quotes, or taking out policies is another matter. For one thing you have GDPR and data privacy issues surrounding voice activated insurance products.
Maybe in the future people will connect to internet of things devices in a variety of new ways. Perhaps the answer is to let policyholders manage their cover much more through voice technology, we shall see.
IE; What other trends have Sara noticed during the pandemic which affect the future of insurance in Italy?
LV; One thing that became clear very quickly is that many older people live alone and need medicines or food to be delivered. This prompted us to look into refining an existing product we had and make it much more of a Concierge service.
Very soon, we will enrich the offer with new services such as the delivery of drugs and video consultations. This Concierge service could even be linked to smart devices like doorbells, or fridges and the insurer or property management company can see when the last time the fridge door opened, or someone visited the door. I believe that these are going to be increasingly important policies that offer wraparound healthcare and wellbeing in the future.
One other interesting aspect is the ability to monitor air quality within the building. Of course, this has a benefit within healthcare, not just during a pandemic. Nor is it restricted to home use, for it also offers Commercial building managers the chance to monitor the structure for sudden changes.
If you are storing food, or a vaccine, then of course you need to know that the temperature of the building remains steady. So, this is how technology can offer all kinds of solutions, depending upon the needs of the policyholder. This is the future, seeing the opportunity to
offer a new product that can be refined, and personalised, for the end user. That has been the biggest win since Sara transformed the business with the help of TIBCO. You become free to write a new script, design a new policy, within a matter of days.
IE; Fascinating insight Luigi, thank you.