While giving a talk on his company's digital transformation, Kishore Ponnavolu, CEO of MetLife Auto & Home, refers to some traditional markers: video rental and travel agents. He says that though it is clearly understood that these kinds of companies have been disrupted, there isn't enough time spent "thinking of what caused the disruption to happen."

"You had these [video rental] companies celebrating the fact that they were making a lot of money on late fees," Ponnavolu said in his speech at Guidewire's Connections conference in Las Vegas. Once companies came along with a way to monetize the business without relying on those fees, traditional players were left holding the bag.

"For P&C, that means we have to think about transparency," Ponnavolu added. "When you have an industry running at a combined ratio ov 107.8 and customers think we're fat cats, there's a problem. We aren't being transparent enough and helping them understand how our business works."

With disruption to the P&C industry clearly coming, MetLife Auto & Home set out to change the way it does business to reflect the digital expectations of customers, but also to change their underlying views about insurance. That began with the selection of Guidewire InsuranceSuite as its new core platform to underpin the work.

"To get into the digital space we needed a real-time platform," Barb Furr, VP of MetLife Auto & Home, said in an interview following up Kishore's talk. "Guidewire's commitment to the digital portal lined up very well with what we wanted to do in the market."

Both of the company's major lines -- auto and home -- are now on the digital platform, but MetLife decided to start with homeowners insurance because it noted a lack of competitive offerings in the marketplace. Guidewire's ability to incorporate both internal and external data, and process it quickly enough to produce a quote while a customer waits at the other end of the computer, was key to the project.

"These are customers with their most important asset. We want to make insurance feel simple to them and provide them with an experience that left them confident that they selected the right coverages," Furr adds. By using as much third-party data as possible, MetLife was able to reduce the overwhelming amount of work that had been needed to write a homeowners policy.

"There can be up to 100 data elements that we collect through agents," Furr says. "We wanted to make them simple and not make a customer go through that process. They can validate a lot of information, but won't have to key a lot of it."

That required some creativity on the team's part. Knowing that many customers wouldn't necessarily know their roof type, for example, MetLife would reveal pictures of different roofs and let the customer click which one matches theirs, rather than relying on just words. The platform also allows MetLife to share data between channels -- something that became important as the company found many customers looking to call an agent to confirm that they had done everything correctly.

"One of the things we learned is that there are many consumers who want to have an offline conversation to finalize," Furr says, "So we adopted start anywhere, end anywhere -- not to have a disjointed process, but rather a single channel view that brings that customer to us."

The digital future for MetLife Auto & Home will also manifest in new interaction opportunities around claims and value-added services, Furr concludes.

"We have this digital relationship, and I think we can look beyond just covering the loss now," she says.

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