Ever heard of buying insurance, or sorting out a claim in the Metaverse? Nope, neither did we at IE mag. But one broker who is ahead of the curve is Ed Halsey, COO at hubb. Ed is already taking the virtual plunge, because if you’re not embracing the future then you have little chance of understanding the opportunities.
Let’s find out more.
IE: What is your reasoning for establishing hubb in the metaverse so quickly?
Inevitably, the metaverse is going to transition from ‘buzzword of the moment’ to a completely ubiquitous way of communicating and interacting, just as ‘Google’ is now as much a verb as it is a noun. That means the biggest gains are made from rapid adoption, in this crucial early stage before the metaverse goes entirely mainstream.
On top of that, I’d say that – speaking more generally – a ‘fail fast’ mentality is of particular importance when you’re dealing with technologies and phenomena that are largely unprecedented: the lessons we’re learning now are lessons that slower organisations don’t know they need at all. But it’s not all about leaping onto a new business trend – we’re also motivated to adopt the metaverse quickly because we sincerely believe it’s the best way to keep our team connected and able to collaborate in a world of remote and hybrid working.
IE; What are the challenges of setting up in the metaverse and what benefits have you secured from doing so?
As you can imagine, the cost outlay at a company-wide scale was obviously a challenge. There was also an understandable degree of early scepticism among some of our team (as there will be in many organisations, I suspect, until the metaverse is more fully established). The other side of that coin, though, is that everyone found the tech quite intuitive, and their readiness to get stuck in with a minimum of onboarding or training did much to assuage some of that initial hesitancy.
We’ve already secured plenty of benefits as a result, chiefly revolving – as they should be – around human connection. We co-work in the same virtual space for two hours per day, allowing team members to raise queries and chat without the hassle of setting up a Zoom or Teams call for every minor comment. We’ve also found the virtual space useful for presentations and whiteboard sessions – not to mention the more social events like games and watch parties, which are obviously vital for remote workers. And, of course, the fact that the metaverse enhances remote working has allowed us to double down on our commitment to hiring the very best talent in the world – rather than the best talent in a ten-mile radius.
IE: Are many of your clients interacting with hubb via the metaverse and what is their feedback on the experience?
Well, this was never the short-term (or even medium-term) goal for our early metaverse adoption. In fact, by definition, customer interactions can’t really play a part in early adoption – because none of them have bought into the metaverse themselves! So, naturally, this kind of route to market will require mass adoption. We’re confident this will happen in the fullness of time – just look at the big firms that are banking on that happening.
Actually, that phrase is pretty apt, bearing in mind that big banks like JPMorgan have opened “lounges” in the metaverse – and many firms are opening similar “virtual shop fronts.” Clearly, they think it’s going to stick around. So, as I say, we’ll eventually have customer interactions in the metaverse – though this may be one or two iterations down the line.
IE: How are staff finding their new hybrid working environment and will you be using it for such things as training or even the discussion of HR matters?
There was, as I’ve mentioned, some initial awkwardness, but this soon gave way to feeling like second nature. As you suggest, training has absolutely been one of the main gains for us – the limitless environments of our virtual space have allowed us to greatly enhance the classroom-style approach to training and development.
After all, if you’re going to learn about insurance, wouldn’t you rather do so on a beach than at a desk? It’s not just the look and feel of the setting, either – the physics of the metaverse are entirely malleable, so we’re at liberty to have a 60-foot screen hovering atop the ocean at sunset if we feel it’ll ease things along.
IE: How do you see the Metaverse changing commercial insurance?
It’s going to create new exposures for businesses, many of which we’ve yet to see or understand. In terms of customer interactions, meanwhile, we can’t force customers into the metaverse or guarantee they’ll all take to it – this isn’t a “build it and they will come” moment à la Field of Dreams.
What we can say, however, is “if they do embrace the metaverse, we’ll be there to greet them. If not, we’ll still enjoy the teambuilding, collaboration, and co-working benefits.” As customer demand rises, though, insurers and brokers who fail to adapt will struggle to win new business and retain existing clients. They’ll make a saving on a £300 helmet, but that pales in comparison to a BMW on lease (especially with rising fuel costs!). Even putting customer demand to one side, such insurance firms will also be pouring money into London offices they don’t need to house staff who would rather be working from home – which surely isn’t a sustainable approach.
IE: Do you think the insurance industry is taking the metaverse seriously and are the old guard of insurers able to adapt to this new frontier of business?
No, of course not. By trade, we’re the most risk averse industry in the world – our catchphrase is “we’ve always done it that way.”
New stuff scares us, because we don’t have the data to allow actuaries to tell us whether it will or won’t work. We take very few leaps of faith – and that, of course, is why we’re so antiquated, and why insurance firms rely on weaponizing compliance and regulation to bend customers to their will rather than looking to adapt, grow, and differentiate.
Ultimately, though, insurance is going to have to change, or it’ll lose its customer base. It might be the metaverse, it might be the need for greater transparency on pricing, or a desire for usage-based models – who knows what straw will break the customer’s back? What we do know is that we’re willing to pick our bets, fail fast, and demonstrate that – through moves like adopting the metaverse – there might just be a genuine alternative to traditional insurance.