Navigating the insuretech roadmap: Destination InsureTech Connect 2017

No matter how you spell it, insuretech is beginning to change the industry, playing a key role in transforming the conservative, legacy-bound business of insurance. While carriers and agents look for innovative ways to respond to the demands of tech-savvy consumers, the opportunities for disrupting business as usual and meeting the expectations of busy, device-driven lifestyles, are abundant.

Enter InsureTech Connect 2017, the largest gathering of insurance leaders and innovators held in early October in Las Vegas. While insuretech startups continue to blossom across the technology landscape, the chance to connect with entrepreneurs, carriers, and agents in one place was indeed an excellent opportunity to chart the innovation roadmap for Grinnell Mutual. Three executives, Kurt Eaves, vice president of Underwriting, Sales, and Service; Jonathan Manatt, vice president of Internal Audit and Strategic Initiatives; and Roby Shay, vice president of Enterprise Solutions and chief information officer, attended the event, each seeking ways to improve the customer experience and capitalize on business efficiencies for customers.

Evaluating ideas from startup companies now available to the property-casualty industry keys upon the opportunity entrepreneurs see within the greenspace that is insurance, according to Manatt. “The P&C industry is behind the tech curve compared to other industries due in large part to regulatory constraints and complexities. Right now, insuretech is focused on disrupting efficiencies either in process improvement meeting consumer expectations.

“A common theme on the property side is using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to learn more about how people use their homes and better ways to provide coverage. American Family uses Ring to not only provide security solutions for policyholders but to gather data points for future in home rating,” he said.

For Shay, looking at opportunities to integrate niche solutions into future phases of the Guidewire system currently under development, is key to future-proofing the business. “Solutions for underwriting, especially on the commercial side, and simplifying the claims process, is important as we look to make it easier for people to do business with us. It’s important to build our systems to work together with new solutions.”

Assessing the strategic advantage provided by insuretech opportunities, companies like Grinnell Mutual make choices about the best fit for their business models. While some carriers seize upon large-scale single solutions, others invest in innovation labs and others still look to accelerators for both investor and technology opportunities.

“The goal with any of this technology is to meet customer expectations and to improve jobs,” said Eaves, “making them better at the carrier and agent level. Disruptive technology is not about replacing jobs, it’s about providing tools to enhance our connections to customers and raising our own skill level.”

“Our investments in the accelerators (Global Insurance Accelerator and Iowa AgriTech Acclerator) will provide us with better ways of distributing our products through agents, making transactions easier and faster, and providing predictive analytics. The agricultural tech opportunities are a sweet spot for us a strategic investor, making improvements to the agricultural industry for the benefit of farmers and their communities. We plan to get more of our staff involved working with accelerator projects so we can leverage what’s in our own backyard.”

While looking to the future and understanding the role technology will play in our lives as carriers, agents, and consumers may seem a daunting task, it boils down to just one thing, according to Manatt. “Focusing on the needs of our current and future customers and what keeps them up at night will be the key to our success. Right now, we’re keeping our fingers on their pulse and on that of the industry.”