The ITC + DIA World Tour stopped in Hartford, CT on Thursday, September 10. Well-known for being “The Insurance Capital of The World,” Hartford is also globally recognized for its innovative InsurTech ecosystem—making it an ideal stop for the tour.
Connecticut Insurance and Financial Services (CT IFS) Vice President and Executive Director Susan Winkler moderated a panel with community leaders, who discussed the importance of innovation and the insurance industry.
- George Castineiras, Partner, Brewer Lane Ventures
- Beth Maerz, Senior Vice President, Customer, Strategy, and Innovation, Travelers
- Chris Paradiso, Broker, Paradiso Insurance
- Anurag Shah, CEO, Aureus Analytics
- Paul Tyler, Chief Marketing Officer, Nassau
Winkler had plenty to discuss with panelists. She began with a broad question about what’s driving acceleration and innovation in the insurance industry.
George Castineiras, Partner at Brewer Lane Ventures, highlighted several things he felt are accelerating the pace. First, he noted we’re in decade two of super-low interest rate environments. Second, the Earth is on pause with COVID-19 and the industry needs changes now. Finally, he said, there is a shift in workplace perspective, with more people working remotely, which creates an excess of commercial real estate—and insurance companies are large shareholders.
In terms of the impact of COVID-19, Winkler brought up the topic of new risks that require new innovation and new solutions.
It’s also about new ways of acquiring new customers, added Nassau Chief Marketing Officer Paul Tyler. He talked about how face-to-face sales have been conducted for years, but now everyone is working from home, which adds a challenge to gaining new customers. “It requires reimagining our future,” he said. “From a consumer perspective, a lot has changed [and] there’s more need for data-driven underwriting.”
According to Beth Maerz, Senior Vice President, Customer, Strategy, and Innovation at Travelers, even before COVID-19, the core issue involved changing customers’ expectations. What’s been driving that innovation, she said, is “that our customers are expecting more from us than they ever were before—those expectations are driven by every other company they do business with.” Moving forward, this industry needs to rethink all interactions to meet customers’ needs she summarized.
Chris Paradiso, Broker at Paradiso Insurance, underscored the importance of data in relation to technology and innovation. “The technology to succeed through these times was already here,” he said. The problem is it wasn’t being used. With regard to COVID-19, he added, “What’s driving me is data.”
Both Paradiso and Tyler gave props to Aureus Analytics for their data-driven tools. CEO Anurag Shah discussed how his company is using data to build efficiency, drive innovation, and enhance the customer experience.
Connection and Building Trust
With regard to Winkler’s question about building digital trust, “Trust is vitally important. Nobody buys insurance if they don’t trust us,” acknowledged Paradiso. He also pointed out that data and digital interactions don’t replace people, rather they enable us to be better.
Expectations have changed, said Shah, explaining that technology needs to be used to help understand customers’ sentiment. Being proactive builds trust, he emphasized, and there’s a big difference between automating an existing process and being proactive.
“Finding ways to connect with customers digitally is an opportunity to create proactive relationships with clients,” agreed Maerz.
Tyler talked about the difference between maintaining trust with current customers and building trust with customers you don’t have. The rules are changing, he added. “What was nice to have before—Cloud-based, data-driven—suddenly was a must have after COVID-19.”
According to Castineiras, the experience is as important as the product. Maerz agreed, saying it takes rethinking what it means to deliver a solution.
The Future of InsurTech
Winkler asked the group about how InsurTech has changed the insurance model.
“I like to think we matured the model [and] we’ve learned a lot from one another,” said Maerz. “It took the carriers working with the startups to appreciate that it was a different model and we could learn from one another.” There is continued opportunity, she underscored. Startups are willing to engage with the insurance carrier community.
Winkler pointed out that there is a strong startup ecosystem in Hartford, to which Maerz agreed, noting, “There is a passion around bringing new ideas to Hartford.”
Shah also emphasized the value of the insurance/InsurTech ecosystem in Hartford. “Our ecosystem is working,” he said, adding that there’s a big shift in discussions about possibilities.
In terms of possibilities, Paradiso questioned, “How do we all come together?” He noted that more carriers in Hartford embracing and investing in our InsurTechs is part of what makes Hartford special. “I think Hartford is extremely bright,” he added.
In closing, Castineiras said he’s proud of what he’s witnessed over the past few years. “Acceptance and inclusion are on a good trajectory,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunities.”