The Innovators: Part One, A Culture of Creativity

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There is innovation everywhere in insurance right now. From automated admin and pricing of risk, to chatbot claims triage and multi-point data analytics to combat fraud. But this is a people business too, where tech needs to have the human touch to work effectively.

Innovation needs to be fostered within your own company, so that you can respond to all those future challenges. IE wanted to find out more on encouraging innovation from within.

HEALING LIVES IS AT THE HEART OF INSURANCE

IE caught up with Reagan Pufall, President and CEO and Founder at Omaha National, who noted that when it comes to sectors like Workers Comp in the USA, you still need the human touch, it can’t all be sorted remotely by chatbots.

“Everyone talks about how tech can improve efficiency. That’s important. But in workers compensation what is even more important is using tech to support high quality staff doing difficult and important work. When someone has just lost a loved one in a workplace fatality, the person calling that individual needs to have genuine empathy and sensitivity. Technology can’t make that call.”

Another interesting approach by Omaha National is software; they designed, built and developed their own. Now that is unusual in an industry where so many software suppliers, from Guidewire to LexisNexis, Genasys Tech to Percayso-Inform, can offer brokers and insurers a range of customisable tools to do all sorts of jobs. But sometimes, innovation means swimming against the tide because that offers you true control and lets you build something that is people-orientated, rather than purely task-focussed.

“We decided a long time ago that developing our own in-house software would actually be a competitive advantage in the long run,” comments Reagan Pufall, “If you’re an insurance company executive, you have to ask yourself: what is your technology objective? If your objective is to avoid falling behind, you can achieve that by selecting good vended software. But if your objective is to get ahead – to use technology to achieve lasting competitive advantage – then you have to develop your own software. You can’t get ahead by using the same vended software that is available to all your competitors.”

That is another aspect to innovation which is often overlooked across insurance. There are always opportunities to grow new markets, cross-sell or simply deliver a better experience within your own customer base. It doesn’t have to be a race for new customers all the time. You see that enhanced customer UX can mean an improved renewal rate, and that can mean a small fortune saved in marketing costs.

THE OFFICE BUZZ: CAN IT SURVIVE WFH?

The response to the pandemic has been swift and fundamental. Many people in the UK just don’t commute anymore, or perhaps visit an office once a week for a meeting. But some say that office `buzz’ is an essential part of innovative thinking and teamwork. How can insurance brands and insurtechs make sure that innovation still happens when the employees are working remotely?

Percayso-Inform CEO Rich Tomlinson notes that innovation starts with the customer;

“We are always having 30-40 conversations every week with customers to find out what problems they are having, or new market trends they’re seeing. That’s how you start thinking of ways to improve. As a company we are now completely on-board with hybrid working and part of that is setting aside time for getting different views on things, right across the teams. If you don’t do that then you can miss out something vital, because everyone looks at a new product from a slightly different angle and it so it’s crucial to get that 360 view.”

Partnerships also offer a base for innovation;

“The other thing that works well as regards innovation is partnerships. You have to accept that you can’t build everything yourself, you need partners who are brilliant at something else to help form a network. You want true partners, companies that are really working closely with you and sharing knowledge. We recently teamed up with Sparkling Logic and the refreshing thing is the way they work really matches our values too. If you want to develop new products then you have to forge the right partnerships.”

SEE IT, BUILD IT, WRAP IT

Wrapper CEO John Garrard is a firm believer in looking for innovation within your company and partnerships;

“Technical or regulatory changes externally are binary; they happen and it’s how you respond to them that matters. Innovation isn’t something that you can force, it has to come from within the company and the best way is not to get too attached to the way you did things in the past. At Wrapper we had no legacy as a new start-up and that’s great, because having that clean sheet is brilliant – it’s fun.”

“Adding to what Rich at Percayso said about partnerships I would say from a broker perspective you need to outsource some of the tech stuff to partners like Percayso or Ignite, who are also excellent at what they do. If you want to scale up then you need to use the best tech and don’t try to invent it all yourself. By using Percayso’s eco-system of partner companies, Wrapper can effectively plug into a network which would take us months to set up, and hours of work every day to monitor.

Ultimately you’re making it easier for both consumers, and yourselves as an insurance brand, to bring new ideas and products to the market.”

new Genasys tech logo

THE FRIDAY FEELING

Co-CEO at Genasys Tech, Andre Symes says that bringing people together virtually on Fridays can really pay off.

“Genasys pushed the hybrid office model from the start of the pandemic, as the best way forward. What we also do on Fridays is have a sort of open-house session, where anyone can reach out to others within the company. You know if you bring good people together then the magic happens, people bounce ideas off each other. It’s important to bring people together in the real world too of course, some of the best new ideas can be dreamed up during a table tennis game, plus you also need a bit of thinking time, some downtime.

In that regard the WFH model frees up people from the daily commute and you will always get a stream of ideas from your own company, if you create those two-way communication channels across all levels.”

Some bigger insurance brands invest in crating Innovation hubs or separate locations, but is that the best way? Andre isn’t sure;

“The Innovation hub or ideas factory etc. is OK up to a point, but you cannot force these things and there’s always a danger that by separating the geeks in a basement, or a penthouse, you miss out on the input from elsewhere in the company. I believe that people like Steve Jobs had it right; 90% of innovation is creative thinking and you need downtime, plus a way of connecting with the right people to refine those ideas.”

With that in mind, let’s end with a quote from Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs, who did pretty well when it came to developing new ideas and products;

“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30pm at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.” 

About alastair walker 9347 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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