Hope springs eternal- did ITC 2019 foster a ‘customer first’ future for InsurTech?


Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

It’s a week since ITC 2019 wrapped up for the 7,000 attendees; debriefs and observations abound- kind of. McKinsey & Co. posted a follow-up on the themes that were observed, kudos were conveyed to Jay Weintraub and Caribou Honig. Matteo Carbone mentioned 70 meetings he enjoyed. What say the customers? If it’s akin to daily perspective of the InsurTech concept then customers yawned.

The greatest annual collocated meeting of insurance executives, vendors, advocates, innovators, movers and shakers occurred last week in Las Vegas.  From all reports it was a well-run conference (outside of registration lines 😊 ) with scores of sessions, panels, and hosted soirees.  It is certain that TBs of selfies were filed and transmitted from the event (Nigel Walsh and Robin Kiera!)  7,000 insurance persons focusing on a common theme- connecting and customers. Sort of.

Let’s look at some ITC feedback (and some other related stuff), and place an arbitrary Insurance Elephant #innovatefromthecustomerfirst   grade on how the industry (on average) focused on the topic:

McKinsey sees Five Themes from InsureTech Connect 2019 :

  • Leveraging digital and analytics to reduce costs and streamline current operations. This reads like Captain Obvious stuff- InsurTech efforts have been focused on the expense portion of the combined ratio since the initiative’s inception.  What the authors do identify is a need to apply cost savings into customer and agency experience (not simply a bottom line booster.)  In addition and as is practical, analytics solutions should also be focused on the big dog of insurance- claim cost. This may not mean simply digitizing claim handling, even if the tech exists, as customers may not be willing to embrace it yet.  Grade- C+, copied last year’s homework.


  • Using data to enhance customer experience. “Customer experience begins with knowing your customer.”  A good premise; the summary’s position is that data is a key determinant in understanding and supporting customers.  Let’s look at your data, customers, and we’ll know you well; “maintaining and organizing data, and making decisions using data are the best ways to enhance and customize customer experience.”   Or, we could simply watch your habits, surveys, and ask you what is important to you.  Data and analysis thereof can help us fine tune underwriting, sales and service once we have listened to your expression of needs.   Grade- B, customer experience was noted, but you needed to show your work.


  • Insuring and managing risk. This bullet focuses on new types of risk becoming more common- cyber, cloud computing (risk and operation), autonomous vehicles.  Then the reader sees this bullet is focused inward, for the carriers’ purpose in protecting operations and underwriting risk. Of course there is prudence in using the best tools and data analysis to ensure underwriting new risks is operationally palatable, but what would be wrong with a perspective of using innovation to better understand risks in order to better serve customers who have evolving needs due to emerging risks?  One can’t blame the messenger for the message, but the authors might have turned this concept toward the insured population.  Grade- C.  Good form but the conclusion needed work.


  • Finding growth outside the core. This section got off on too narrow of a perspective. Sure the P&C and Life markets are bumping into saturation issues in the U.S. and Europe and new products are needed, but there are new products emerging (pet, travel, etc.) and new approaches to SME business lines.  Oh, and then there are three billion potential customers in Africa, LatAm, and Asia (outside of China) that are significantly under-served and eager for attention.  Incumbents working with continuous improvement, digital upskilling (SIC) and adopting VC style approaches to looking at opportunities is a common refrain of the past few years.  What about collaborating with new staff in training initiatives to merge perspective and insurance skills?  And lastly- what about the efforts being made by reinsurers to become mainstream players in first-line products?  Grade- C-.  Missed most of a hemisphere and industry cousins.


  • Securing top-tier digital talent. The insurance industry in the U.S. alone employs several hundred thousand agents, admin, claim, and managerial staff, and many data scientists, technologists, coders, programmers, hardware operators, etc.  Having top-tier EVERYONE is the real goal.  Training is the competitive advantage that can be employed as firms chase solid digital talent; everyone in an insurance company is a customer service person first, and a technical expert second.  Grade- B.  A core skill that most try hard to perfect.

(Thanks to authors David Hamilton and Matt Leo of McKinsey & Company)

Concurrent with the aforementioned summary and ITC there were other folks speaking up this week about what the future may hold for insurance, its operators and its customers.

Not focusing solely on insurance but in the perspective of changes Lloyd’s is undertaking, Paul Lucas of Insurance Business Asia cited observations made by UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) CEO, Peter Cheese in light of challenges all firms face going forward.  Mr. Cheese responded to “what’s the future” by reminding all, “The best way to predict the future is to help change it.”  Continuing,

“There is a saying that there’s a changing nature of jobs- young people don’t have a job for life they have a life for jobs.” 

Insurance carriers are wise to not only see the challenges for engaging staff, but in how customers’ insurance needs will remain in flux as opposed to how their parents had the same insurance products for decades.  Among other cool observations in the interview the CEO suggested, it’s about “putting human back into the heart of the business” as that will drive creation and innovation.  I keep checking my ITC 2019 notes and can’t find that perspective in feedback.

Not wanting to rely solely on summaries of others I conducted a review of more than fifty social media posts that contained the hashtag ITC2019, to gauge attendees outlook on how the conference touched on CX.  Here are my anecdotal data:

  • Post count- 54
  • Keywords noted and frequency-
    • CX -1
    • Customer- 8
    • Insured- 1
    • Policyholder-1
    • Beneficiary- 1

24% mention percentage.  Underwhelming.

The review prompts a special shout out to Brent Haley and Sathyanarayanan Sethuraman of UiPath, who co-hosted a CX discussion video from the conference.  Sathy was a ubiquitous presence within social media.

Additional encouragement to Bobbie Shrivastav and team of Benekiva (#beneficiaryfirst) and Geoff Tetrault of InsureLife who have been on the customer-first train since the early days of InsurTech and were also present at ITC 2019.  Well, that’s about 6995 attendees to go in ensuring it’s ‘customer first’ focus for ITC2020, and for innovation efforts ongoing.


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