The Weekly Wrapup is an analysis of the week's insurance tech news from the editors of Digital Insurance.
Ask people in the insurance industry to describe digital disruption, and you'll get a wide range of answers. Some think of it from a short-term perspective: Customers expect to be able to buy and service their products digitally, and that means it’s time to implement mobile portals and automated chatbots to serve policyholders around the clock – to augment existing processes and thinking with technology.
However, some take a longer view that digital disruption is about more than just service channels. These players believe the industry will be fundamentally reshaped, not just because of customers’ expectations – but due to its own insight into the nature of risk management in an evolving world. Insurance companies have always had a lot of data, and have always been looking to use it to gain edges on the competition. But the big data revolution, with its volume and variety of sources, and the velocity and veracity of analytical tools – the commonly cited “four ‘V’s” of big data – are revealing new truths about insurance that were hidden in the old world.
From a strategic perspective, carriers have to take both views into account. There’s a certain amount of bridge work on the first level that’s required to get to the next one. And after several years of digital transformation investment, we’re starting to get some looks at what the future of insurance will look like.
This week, Allstate’s Arity and Answer Financial units launched a mobile ad network, in which the former’s telematics-powered driving scores can be collected through a software development kit in any mobile app. From there, Answer Financial, an online agency division, will allow other insurance companies to bid on score tranches and serve ads to interested customers who meet certain driving criteria in order to acquire those customers.
Put another way: The Allstate divisions are willing to give other insurers access to their driving score in order to help them acquire customers. That news came at the same time that MassMutual’s LifeScore Labs division announced that it was partnering with insurance tech vendor iPipeline to distribute a life insurance underwriting score it had developed in its data science lab so that other carriers can use it as well.
Conversations with the principals behind both moves reveal a changing view of intellectual property and competitive advantage in the insurance industry. Both Arity’s Gary Hallgren and MassMutual’s Sears Merritt indicate that letting other insurance companies have access to their data-driving scores is about taking a leadership position in their transforming lines of business.
“There is no competitive issue in having the SDK out for everyone to use – I want [our score] to be universally usable,” Hallgren says. Arity and Answer Financial see the score as something valuable not just to other insurance companies, but shared-mobility services, travel and roadside assistance and other industries, he says.
Similarly, MassMutual’s Merritt likens his company’s offering to a credit score, with a number of positive effects downstream. Consumers will value portability of their good score over their lifetime, he says.
“We’re trying to introduce a standards-based way to identify life insurance risk, so that we at an industry scale optimize the customer experience,” he says. “Knowing that a standard risk score is inevitable in the marketplace, we can get ahead” by putting one out there.
Arity and MassMutual’s LifeScore Labs both grew out of work that was going to happen anyway on data science and innovation in the larger parent companies. The common thread that’s emerging is that these units are not just coming up with innovative solutions for existing problems, but the cultural changes they are driving are causing insurance companies to think differently about the value of their digital intellectual property than they have in the past. The future of insurance could be more open-source, with companies working from a common higher level of insight, and looking to gain advantage elsewhere.
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