Bolder Thinking Blog

Key Takeaways from the 2019 Society of Insurance Research Annual Conference

November 26th, 2019 | Tara Clemens

This year, the Society of Insurance Research met for the 49th Annual Conference in Charlotte, NC with a focus on “Reimagining Research to Recognize Emerging Insurance Industry Trends.” During the three-day conference, researchers across sectors and business functions convened to share on topics ranging from trends in research, consumer-centricity best practices and holistic industry innovation. Conversations and sessions with tenured industry leaders, authors and newcomers created a slew of insights for attendees to take back home to their teams. 

Here, Comperemedia experts share three takeaways from the conference.

Can brand strategy outshine insurance expertise?

Introduced by a session with injury insurer Life by Spot, the idea of brand strategy surpassing insurance expertise for success is a thought-provoking concept. Maria Miller, Co-Founder and COO at Life by Spot, shared the company’s vision for reimagining the health and life insurance landscape. Fundamentally, Life by Spot is targeting consumers that the industry previously considered unreachable by repositioning existing life and accident insurance products to meet customer needs that have been left unserved for years.

“Imagine if Red Bull and GoPro created an insurance company,” stated Miller when describing Life by Spot. The insurtech employs a heavy share of marketing and eCommerce experts over insurance experts. In fact, Miller claimed that only “2.5” of Life by Spot’s current employees have an insurance background. The intention of the employee make-up is to inspire the company to think differently than a traditional insurer. With success metrics like “inspiring people to live differently” and “taking risks,” the brand conveys more of a lifestyle feel than an insurance company.

As shown in Life by Spot’s Instagram post (right), much of the company’s strategic initiatives revolve around a certain lifestyle. The company’s mission is to connect with active adventurers and provide them with accessible and affordable accident insurance, protecting them while they do what they love. Currently, there is no brand comparable in the industry that is doing the same thing, with the same goals. Life by Spot is a prime example of an insurance company thinking outside of the industry’s four walls to truly reimagine insurance.

Insurance is the original Big Data industry

Professor at the University of South Carolina, Rob Hartwig, Ph.D., CPCU, challenged attendees to re-imagine the rules of research during his morning keynote session. Hartwig gave a stimulating lesson on the roles of positive and normative analysis in insurance research. Put simply, positive analysis describes how insurance markets work, while normative analysis describes how insurance should work. Which looks like insurance research today? The answer, ideally, is a combination of both.

The scale and scope of insurance research is already vast, but as is the case in most data-driven industries, an exponential expansion is underway. According to research conducted by Swiss Re, by the early 2030s, Real Time Data creation will exceed Non-Real Time for the first time ever –  automatic, inexpensive and non-intrusive via sensors, transaction records and social media platforms. Will insurers drown in this data? Industry leaders have undoubtedly asked themselves this question, and are making strides to get on the right side of that answer. Swiss Re also reported that in 2019, data and analytics projects account for an estimated 15% of P&C insurer IT spend.

The pace of change in the industry is only heating up.

During the anticipated final keynote presentation from Rob Galbraith, author of “The End of Insurance as We Know It,” the Director of Innovation at AF Group elaborated on his belief that technology has been improving and will continue to improve faster than enterprises can keep up. In fact, he believes the next decade will see more change than the last three decades combined. On the flip side, Galbraith indicated that insurance is one of the most enduring products ever developed, which can be traced back for centuries.

The rise of insurtechs is a palpable example of innovation in the industry that is poised to drive widespread and significant change, quickly. An example of a company seeking to make positive change in the insurance industry by using data is Optimity, whose CEO presented during the annual conference. The Canada-based wellness startup works with firms to encourage policyholders to live healthier lives, while collecting data to produce more personalized marketing strategies. Optimity has a different way of using consumer data than similar programs in the industry. Essentially, the company has the right to a customer’s data but will not share it directly with an insurance firm. Instead, Optimity produces aggregate reports with the intention of easing the consumer’s mind about potential premium adjustments based on their activities. This is a stark difference than the leading wellness program, Vitality, which uses health information inputted by the policyholder to adjust premium amounts.

As we envision the future of insurance 5, 10 and 20 years from now – the SIR 2019 Annual Conference provided attendees with an informed perspective to take back to their respective research teams. A few things are for certain: 

  • Technology and advances in data analytics will continue to mature and align with consumer demand. 
  • There is no historical data for emerging risks, which creates exciting and unknown opportunity in the industry.
  • The idea of what an insurance brand looks like will be re-conceptualized by leaders and newcomers alike as the world around us evolves, quickly.
Tara Clemens

Tara Clemens

Tara Clemens is a Senior Research Analyst at Comperemedia. Tara specializes in insurance, publishing data-driven syndicated and custom reporting based in Comperemedia's consumer data, trends and competitive intelligence.