The automotive industry is in a period of rapid disruption and innovation, and it’s bringing auto insurers along for the ride. Increased distracted driving, urbanization and autonomy are pulling long-held assumptions about transportation risk in different directions, and questions of liability are becoming increasingly murky.
Ginger Purgatorio, VP of vehicle project management and product operations for Allstate, is in charge of navigating this quickly changing sector for the second-largest auto insurer by market share in the U.S. Her charge is to identify the technological and product solutions that the insurer needs to provide in the short and long terms so it can survive the upheaval.
In 2014, Purgatorio was asked to lead the Drivewise group — Allstate’s usage-based insurance program — which is a leading component of the carrier’s connected-car strategy. One of her first projects was to develop a Drivewise mobile application that the company could use to collect driving data, rather than depending on customers installing OBD-2 devices. She says that UBI and telematics are being forced to evolve in order to reach desired policyholder adoption levels. Allstate has been all in, she says, because it’s “really about learning from the data to inform future product design.”
Now that the data piece is in place, Purgatorio and her team are thinking about the next level for these products. She is also responsible for the Allstate Rewards program, which allows safer drivers to earn points toward merchandise or gift cards. She says that value-added services and options like rewards and roadside assistance are crucial toward demonstrating UBI’s value proposition.
“The customer experience and the customer perception [of UBI] have changed so radically over the past three years,” she explains. “We see UBI as a reason for customers to have ongoing, regular engagement with the brand. When you establish a more frequent positive interaction, there’s a lot of value.”
Purgatorio says that insurers should heed lessons from other industries that customer-led digital innovations can happen quickly. That’s led the development of Milewise, Allstate’s first foray into pay-per-mile insurance. Insurers can learn from examples like the music industry, which in less than a decade went from selling physical media, to digital albums, to individual songs, to monthly streaming subscriptions, that staying on top of way products are consumed — even ephemeral ones like insurance or music — is important for survival.
“The parallel for insurance is that the construct of a term as defined by the industry today won’t be the same in the future,” she explains. “Let’s think about the increments of risk differently, maybe as a per-mile or per-trip expense for consumers, giving them autonomy to make choices about the trip.”
Learning the ropes
Purgatorio has been with Allstate for nearly two decades, over which she has held several roles throughout the organization that allowed her to get a full view of how the insurance product is created, refined and delivered to policyholders.
“Your exposure to the gamut of the organization, processes and departments becomes a real benefit to determining what you’re interested in,” she says. “I audited agents at their location, which gave me an understanding of the point of sale and underwriting processes. I was assigned to a couple of audits related to product and pricing. From there, I was in compliance and project leadership roles. I became known as someone who could not only help with the strategy of how we solve the goal, but how to tactically implement that into the Allstate tech stack.”
That experience, she says, helped prepare her for this challenging but rewarding role.
“The connected-car space moves at a different pace than Allstate typically does,” she says. “That requires continual product management. We’re shifting the organization from thinking about a portfolio of projects from beginning to end to something that’s going to evolve and mature as the technology changes.”
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