Insurers begin batting their digital eyelashes

Move being made to make insurance digitally attractive investigated by Graham Jarvis.

Traditionally insurance has not been seen as the most innovative and the sexiest profession to embark on a long and promising career but the industry is trying hard to change its image by recruiting people with a keen interest in everything digital, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), connected and autonomous vehicles. With insurers increasingly reliant on technologies such as telematics to offer new products and services, they also want to grow digital talent internally.

David Smith, chief executive of Global Futures and Foresight says the need to grow and attract digital talent in the insurance industry is not really so much about competition between the different players. The competition that is hotting-up is between insurers and other players – typically with those within the Fintech space, whom aren’t from a traditional financial services background.

He explains: “Insurance is not seen as very interesting – not a first-choice place for people with digital technologies as it’s seen as very slow and not very innovative. Insurance companies have been in business for years, and they don’t see the fundamentals changing. They need to make themselves watering holes for digital creativity, invest in start-ups and sandboxes for people to experiment.”

Start-up attraction

“If you want to work in one of the largest mobile objects, the vehicle, then start-ups are far more interesting as they cover LiDAR, radar, artificial intelligence (AI), telemetry, etc.,” he suggests before adding that insurers are cut out of fully automated vehicles for individual insurance. So, what does he mean? Well, at present automotive insurance covers the car, the passengers and the driver. The latter individual potentially holds all the liability but when fully autonomous vehicles arrive, this liability will need to shift because the car will be doing the driving.

“You might need personal injury insurance of third-party liability,” he predicts. “So, there will be some residual insurance. However, for the insurance company, apart from that there isn’t much left for the insurance company. I don’t think insurance is going to fair well unless it creates the right career path and offers the right money and incentives.”

Share stories

Darrell Sansom, chief customer and innovation officer, AXA UK says he company is working hard to make insurance sexy. “We use our own people to share their own stories about what it’s like to work in our organisation and we have  formal relationships with schools, colleges and universities to get on the radar of future employers to show that there are opportunities in insurance.” He says it’s also about connecting with employees at an emotional level, which he believes can be achieved by articulating that digital opportunities do exist with his organisation.

In Smith’s view insurance can become more attractive to those with digital talent through sandboxes and trials. A sandbox is a software-testing technique that is suitable for with one or more simultaneously operating software program. However, there is also a cranial end to insurance that’s good for data scientists, underwriters and analysts. This aspect of the industry isn’t for the digital technologist. He adds: “The more we integrate technology, the smarter our environment, the fewer accidents, the utility drops and so the premium drops. Do other people start to provide protection tools? Insurance has been primed to sell over the last decade on an annual basis.” This may change.

Perhaps telematics will eventually transform the industry and the types of roles on offer? Stephen Johnson-Ramsey, group talent and leadership development partner, Insure The Box, thinks: “Telematics is growing in popularity not only does it insure customers but it ensures safer driving.” He also claims that as a start-up his company, “understands the pace this market moves at and how we can use this to excite the next generation of employees.”

Like AXA, Insure The Box hopes to achieve this by creating a sexy employer brand to “ensure that our benefits are both personal and relevant to those we want to bring into the business and we already use social media to engage with our staff in the digital media arena, as well as our customers.”

He adds: “As technology advances and the advent of AI gains momentum, the next stage is to engage early with the next generation which will grow and develop into roles over the next ten years – some of which won’t have been created as yet. “

Share innovation

So, how can insurers embody the ‘start-up’ concept to enable staff to co-locate on specific projects to generate digital functionality across the business and encourage customer engagement in a fast and agile way? Sansom offers his perspective: “Innovation in a large organisation can be difficult. We are part of a competition called Collaboratory and that’s where staff get the opportunity to share innovative ideas. They then work together to push their ideas forwards to bring the project to a reality. They can then go forward to win the competition.”

He adds: “There are some big innovations in our healthcare business with partnerships to innovate the proposition we have with our customers – such as [email protected] Our investment vehicles are a third way of innovating.”

Cultural change

Smith points out that to attract, recruit and grow digital talent there must be an organisational willingness to change. “Some people at the top are innovative – others find concepts of change risky and unsettling but one insurer said to be me recently that when the risk of change is less than the risk of staying the same, then we have to change. The risk of not changing in insurance is becoming higher and, in contrast to Insure The Box, he claims there is a minor take-up of telematics-based insurance.

Sansom thinks that the industry to needs to work harder to spread its message. “We’ve been waiting for people to find us and Fintech is better at creating roles because they have the soft skills and technology expertise.” He suggests that industry must become better at doing the two tasks to create roles for digital talent where the technology, skills and innovation are available. Another lesson for the insurance industry, emanating from the Fintech start-ups, is that insurance companies should bring in good people at a junior level to train them up.

Create opportunity

He concludes: “We need to look at digital specifically to understand the future employment market and to support education to create more opportunity for people whom are interested in it as a career.” Johnson-Ramsey adds that there is a need to encourage more diversity in technology, to support employees to enable them to have a positive work-life balance, and there is a requirement to create policies to encourage the development of new skills and growth.

He thinks that vocational qualifications and apprenticeships are as important as encouraging employee collaboration, communication and creating partnerships. To help recruit, develop digital talent Insure The Box, he says, is going through a big cultural change within the business to focus on engagement and collaboration which invites open communication and an innovation framework. The creation of co-working spaces in our London office is just one example of how this collaborative approach is cascading throughout the business.”


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