This time of year lends itself to evaluating your place in the world. For many, that means a New Year’s resolution. For others, it’s a chance to evaluate competitive positioning in the marketplace in an effort to identify places to grow. For many, new technology is the answer, but with technology is evolving so quickly, a roadmap may be useful.

Insurance always has been a very process-oriented business that generates a huge amount of information. What’s new, however, is the volume of externally available information and the transparency created by insurers’ new-found ability to digest that information and use it to predict risk. Whether you are a carrier or an agent, the aptitude to leverage that information is a key to success.

Analytics and Transparency

The driving interest in data analytics is “Finding correlations across multiple, disparate data sources, such as Internet clickstreams, geospatial data, transactions, etc.,” according to 48 percent of all respondents to a recent survey from Forrester Research. “Predicting customer behavior” placed a close second with 46 percent; and “Predicting sales,” with 40 percent. Other motivations included predicting fraud and financial risk, analyzing customer sentiment and identifying security risks.   

Data is also important and valuable to agents. In addition to the insight and transparency offered by their own systems, a majority of agents are looking to forge partnerships with their carriers to leverage predictive analytics capabilities and build more targeted prospect lists, according to “How Independent P&C Insurance Agencies Are Thriving in Today’s Competitive Marketplace,” a survey conducted by Aite Group.

The Aite survey also illustrated the importance of supporting modern coverage needs, such as cyber liability insurance. This clearly shows the correlation between embracing the digital marketplace and maintaining relevance in a rapidly changing economy.

Driverless Cars

At first blush, driverless cars may not yet seem relevant, but Google has been experimenting with driverless technology for years and they are not alone. Most major auto manufacturers have some sort of driverless offerings in the works. On a recent CNBC interview, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Division Dieter Zetsche told CNBC's Phil LeBeau they are simply waiting on regulators. According to Zetsche, their latest “working” concept car has the ability to operate completely autonomously, even allowing the front-seat passengers to swivel their seats around to face those in the back. He went on to remind the interviewer that Mercedes had cars in dealerships today able to operate autonomously at up to 18 mph. Most pundits agree, if not regulated out of existence, driverless cars will likely be commonplace within the next decade.


A large portion of today’s $2.6 trillion health care spending is driven by behavior, in particular, bad-diet decisions that lead to obesity and diabetes. Insurers historically have been forced to make decisions based on aggregate profiles, which are limited to data elements like gender, age, family history or the applicant’s honesty while filling out an application. Wearable devices could help create more insightful profiles, as sensors have the ability to pick up details like activity, heart rate and stress levels. It also is common for these devices to be linked to applications that also track variables like diet and sleep patterns.

As wearables get more sophisticated, the information available could prove game changing. It is predicted that by 2018, 65 percent of interactions with healthcare organizations will be done via mobile devices, and by 2018, 70 percent of them will have apps, offer wearables, do remote health monitoring, and even offer virtual care. We are actually starting to see employers providing wearable devices to their employees. In an article on the subject, Forbes recently report that Fitbit cited sales to employers among the fastest growing segments of their business.

Sharing Economy

With the rise of services like Uber, Lyft, VRBO and Airbnb, the sharing economy is rapidly becoming mainstream and consequently more relevant to our industry. Uber alone is valued at roughly $41 billion, so this is clearly an issue that is not going away anytime soon.

In response to increasing customer concerns about renting out their homes on the service, Airbnb recently rolled out a million-dollar liability insurance program for hosts. Ridesharing companies often do have some coverage for drivers when they are picking up fares, but the assumption is that the drivers’ personal policies are supposed to cover the times when they are waiting for customers. Most standard auto policies are clear that, as a business, ride sharing would not be covered at any time. There are clearly similar issues with regards to homeowner’s policies.

There is great opportunity to grow in this sharing market, and technology is the way to do it for many. While some technologies are on the horizon, waiting to burst onto the scene, others are available right now to those who seize and harness their power.

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