Get Comfortable Living in the Fog

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I had the pleasure of attending Celent’s 2016 Innovation and Insight Day on Wednesday at the historic Museum of American Finance on Wall Street. The sold-out event gathered Banking and Insurance executives from more than 30 countries to learn from each other and from an impressive group of speakers how to consider and prepare for the future of their industries. Not surprisingly, Digital ruled the day.

Again, the lineup of speakers was impressive all around. For me, however, there were two in particular who shared stories and concepts that triggered intriguing possibilities, challenges and questions about the future of selling and servicing P&C Insurance.

The event’s Keynote speaker was Nadeem Shaikh, Co-Founder and CEO of Anthemis Group, a global venture investment and advisory firm for financial startups and institutions dedicated to “reinventing financial services for the digital world.” Shaikh began with a single word projected on the screen behind him: inevitability. Not if, but when. We’ve all heard the word before in reference to the digital transformation of insurance, but the starkness of its delivery by Shaikh, as well as his painting of the economic and profitability forces behind it and the enormity of opportunity it presents were new and powerful. After highlighting some extraordinary stories about several of his portfolio companies (treat yourself to two great videos: Jumo and Trov), Shaikh offered some advice to the assembled crowd. “Get comfortable living in the fog.” The speed with which change is happening makes it impossible to predict where it will lead our industry. Get comfortable with that unknown. Use it as an opportunity to rethink everything, to experiment and to iterate. While the fog may be disconcerting, “…the opportunity landscape has never been brighter.”

Another outstanding presentation was made by Yaron Ben-Zvi, Co-Founder of Haven Life, an online Life Insurance agency. The seeds of Haven Life were sowed when Ben-Zvi and his wife were expecting their first child and began to research Life Insurance. In standard genX fashion, Ben-Zvi began online, expecting to find a simple, informative, research-rate-quote-bind life insurance solution a la Geico or Progressive. His eventual disappointment led to the creation of his next company. What was most compelling about the Haven Life story were the degrees to which its creators developed the solution from the customer’s perspective. Virtually every aspect of the product and the experience was engineered (or reengineered) with the single goal of offering customers the ability to research, compare, quote and bind a life insurance policy entirely online in 20 minutes or less. Simple. Except that nothing about insurance is simple.

The loftiness of the goal combined with the potential complexity of life insurance policies drove Ben-Zvi and his team to focus, a lot. They narrowed their offering solely to 18-45 year olds, term only, with few options to choose from, and a maximum of $1M coverage. They also pared down traditional processes: no commissions, real time underwriting, and a single provider, Massachusetts Mutual. Rather than starting with a product and creating a process and experience to fit that product, Haven Life did the whole thing in reverse. They began with the experience and tailored everything else, including the product itself, to that experience.

The thought process behind Haven Life reflects exactly the kind of shift in mindset that will be required of any company to succeed down the road. And when we all emerge from the fog (or at least some of it), we will be, in the words of Celent Analyst Donald Light, “leaner, smarter, faster, and better.”

Thanks for a great day, Celent.


Julie HoweGet Comfortable Living in the Fog

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