This is my introduction to that edition of ‘Inclusive Insurance Bulletin’. It's an overview of the different ways in which innovation can build inclusivity, drawing on the key themes in the six articles . You can read all of these articles here.
Our insurance sector is a great success. It plays a vital role in so many facets of our daily lives, to the extent that we might sometimes wonder what we would do without it!
That however is a question around which is wrapped a challenge. How do we ensure that as many people as possible have access to the insurance they need? How does the sector keep pushing forward on this? Are there opportunities to really make a difference?
One way of going about this is to think differently, to use our creative skills to find new ways of tackling issues around the availability and accessibility of insurance. Innovation is of course a very popular word around the insurance market at the moment. Is the time now ripe for a new era of inclusive insurance?
The digital transformation going on in insurance at the moment is being talked about in very positive terms. Yet it also has the potential to have negative impacts on inclusivity. This points to innovation being complex and in need of careful thought and planning. How best to do this then?
The challenge with innovation designed to enhance the inclusivity of insurance is that it cannot be done by actuaries and insurance people alone. They can bring many skills and much experience to the table, but that often tends to be more orientated around where insurance is working for mainstream society. What about those parts where it has not been reaching as well as it could have?
This points to innovation to improve the availability and accessibility of insurance being something that cannot be done by the sector alone. Ideas that look great on paper or whiteboards can sometimes just not work in practice. Sometimes we can drift into the habit of innovation in insurance being something more easily done ‘to the customer’, rather than something done ‘with the customer’.
This tells us that how we innovate is just as important as what that innovation is. As a result, this makes innovation just as much a people thing as it is a technology thing, if not more so. Bringing people together, sharing ideas and fashioning something out of this can generate inclusive innovation for inclusive insurance.
Doesn’t the complexity of innovation undermine this though? It shouldn’t, for innovation need not be complex. After all, what could be simpler than one of the most impactful innovations in insurance history – the industrial life agent’s account book. It was at the heart of one of the biggest revolutions in insurance, in which millions of consumers had their first experience of the value that insurance can bring.
In the hands of the many agents embedded in their markets, the account book became the data intelligence tool par excellence. It was at the heart of a distribution structure that revolutionised access to the market by focussing on relationships that built trust with people. Liz McFall’s article introduces us to the significance of this early innovation.
Innovation need not be about creating something new. After all, account books had been around for a while in Victorian society. The innovation can just as much be about connecting existing things together, to build new potentials by ‘joining the dots’ and making ‘one plus one’ equal more than two. Cat Divers shows us how this can happen, to help tackle problems around inclusivity.
Of course if you connecting things together, the ingredient that then causes something magic to happen is that age old skill called listening. It sounds simple of course, but it still needs care to be done right. And a little bit of daring too, for listening to people in ways that get to the heart of how you do business can really challenge ‘business as usual’ thinking.
This moves the business from the typical ‘done to the customer’ through the emerging ‘done with the customer’ and into the innovative ‘done by the customer’. In other words, what we do is determined by those we serve. Rob Moore’s article sets out what needs to be done to embrace this way of working.
How then can these new ways of working permeate out from a few firms into the wider market? It won’t happen overnight of course, but there are ways in which it can be encouraged, even accelerated. Change comes from both moving forwards and avoiding going backwards.
One hurdle that firms need to address is making sure people are properly equipped to think and do things in new ways. This means empowering them to experiment and to break out of ‘this is how we have always done things’ mentalities. Hugh Terry’ article explores how firms need to prepare their culture to be more innovative around inclusive insurance.
We need to remember though that not all innovations start from within insurance. Sometimes developments within the market can be driven, for better and for worse, by events outside of the market. This is again a cultural issue, in that we shouldn’t be tempted by ‘they did well with it so we must copy that’ type thinking. Chris Dolman’s article gives us an example of how to critique the emerging trend of open finance and identify the issues that could emerge for inclusive insurance.
What this all points to is that innovating to address the availability and accessibility of insurance is not a technology thing, but a people thing. It succeeds when partnerships help people work together, delivering the sought after outcomes through relationships and trust. This can be both something actioned locally and something actioned on a much wider scale.
Peter Hamilton looks at the global Access to Insurance Initiative and how its principles can be used to shape an innovation challenge. He weaves through this the story of an early policyholder, Charles Dickens. In his iconic story of Christmas, Dickens has Scrooge see a bleak future ahead, but one that, through listening and trusting others, he then understands to be not set in stone.
Current problems around inclusivity and insurance are not set in stone either. The future can be different. Innovation is an important way in which that difference can be achieved.