Kemper's Jeffrey Ill talks smart home, mobile and insurtech

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Jeffrey Ill joined Kemper Insurance as VP of product management late last year. The former VP of home products for Esurance helped lead the online insurer’s efforts in expanding its offerings to mobile. Esurance launched two smartphone applications in the summer of 2016: a smartphone version of its usage-based insurance program, DriveSense, and a do-it-yourself Home Inspection app for homeowners. The home inspection app enables policyholders to submit photo and video claims in as little as 25 minutes.

Ill was also a big proponent of smart-home insurance use cases while at Esurance, and plans to delve further into the technology at Kemper, he says. The industry veteran, who also has held senior executive roles at Allstate and Nationwide, spoke with Digital Insurance about his latest career move, the growing insurtech wave and his immediate plans at Kemper.

DI: When did you join Kemper, and how would you describe your new role?

Jeffrey Ill: I started in December just before the holiday season. I oversee countrywide product management as part of Kemper’s preferred division, which does not include life, health or non-standard auto, only personal lines.

DI: After the first couple months, how do you feel this position compares to others you’ve held over your career?

Ill: It’s a more collaborative and cross-functional environment. I also have no responsibility for underwriting. That is a different part of the structure. At Esurance, it was all under my umbrella. Now I work with a handful of people outside of my group.

DI: How large is your team?

I’ll: My team is now 11 people. We are working through strategic priorities, and assessing staff for capabilities we may need. There may be a few gaps that require me to hire, but we are working more on structure right now.

DI: Are there any particular technologies you’re looking tailor new products toward?

Ill: Yes, we're looking at a lot of the stuff we talked about when I was at Esurance. We're evaluating tools for underwriting and taking products a step forward to help prevent or mitigate loss. We are going to look at all existing smart-home technologies. If they actually help protect a home, then we should reward customers for adopting them.

DI: What do you make of the ongoing insurtech wave, both the new startups and emerging technologies the industry is deploying?

Ill: If you look at most of startups out there today, they are focused on quoting and customer interaction platforms. Most don’t do the underwriting process. Larger carriers have done an effective job masking that off. New companies don’t know the mechanics and work going on in the background. They figure they can write the coverage and make money. But they have to develop rating and underwriting processes. From my standpoint, most of these startups will go away, but older players will learn from what they are doing and incorporate it in to their business.

DI: Is that the insurtech strategy you’re looking to implement at Kemper?

Ill: We’re always keeping an eye on new companies, in terms of best practices we can incorporate.

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Digital distribution Claims Mobile technology Smartphones Connected home Career moves Kemper Corporation esurance Allstate Nationwide