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Insurance 2020: Bold moves, turning concepts upside down!

In the last few weeks, I’ve done a number of insurance oriented keynotes, including one for a meeting with the CEO and top leadership team of one of the largest insurers in the world, as well as a top insurance association.

We are quickly moving into an era of "performance oriented insurance" with policies / pricing based on performance. There will be huge opportunities for disruptive business model change as this trend unfolds.

And I’ve been busy speaking to the trends and opportunities for innovation that are going to come into this often-slow-to-react industry at lightning speed.

In an era in which everything around is plugging together,  there are tremendous new opportunities for some pretty massive business model change. I often make a joke on stage that perhaps one day my weigh scale might send an email to my fridge one day if I’m not living up to the terms of my life insurance wellness clause.

Yet, is such thinking far fetched?

Maybe not!

One of the biggest trends which is going to hit the world of insurance like a tidal wave is performance based insurance policies. If you live up to or exceed some performance standard, you’ll get a rebate or reduction on your insurance  policy rate.

It’s going to happen extremely quickly in the field of automotive insurance. A flood of GPS enabled performance measuring devices will soon come to inhabit most automobiles throughout the industrialized world. Insurance companies will set a policy price, and then give you a rebate if you exhibit better than average behavior.

Consider a program already underway in the UK:

Insure The Box measures drivers’ mileage, when they drive, and how they drive. Excessive G-forces, sudden braking or cornering and long periods of driving without a break are monitored.

Policyholders are charged by the mile and motorists initially pay for 6,000 miles. Once these are used up they can buy more miles as they need them. Policyholders are rewarded with “free” miles if they drive safely.

Money: A spy in the car that could cut cost of cover for young drivers
The Guardian, UK, April 2011

You can expect most North American insurance companies to roll out similar technology and performance. Or maybe not — some organizations won’t have the speed, agility and flexibility to do this at the pace that the market, competitive and customer pressure will require.

The result is a classic opportunity for big business model disruption.

The same type of thing is going to occur in the world of life insurance.

It has long been the assumption that despite the rapid emergence of genomic, preventative medicine, that it would never be desirable, ethical or even fair to underwrite policies based on a DNA test.

I’m a believer that this is a pretty big assumption to make. History shows that assumptions that underlie a business model barely last. When I speak about innovation, I advise people it’s often best to challenge assumptions — those who don’t often miss the biggest opportunities.

Clearly, we know that there are some powerful trends at work:

  • the cost for a DNA test that can be used to predict with a high degree of accuracy the disesases and conditions you will inherit in your lifetime is set to collapse, as Moore’s law comes to drive the cost of DNA sequencing machines that do the test
  • hence, greater numbers of people will have the opportunity to gain such insight (whether it be good or bad)
  • those who have a test that shows a life that will be relatively disease and condition free would likely be able to offer themselves up to a group of speciality insurers and get a policy discount compared to the average population

Again, there’s opportunity for big business model change and upheaval as this happens.

So too is the concept of a rebate of your life, medical or disability insurance, if you can prove that you are taking regular, active steps to ensure that you are in good health. Certainly there are those in the the health care system, who know that with the massive challenges in front of, the system, a lot of big, bold transformative thinking is necessary.

A federal grant program authorized in the health overhaul law is offering states $100 million to reward Medicaid recipients who make an effort to quit smoking or keep their weight, blood pressure or cholesterol levels in check. The grant program is meant to encourage states to experiment with an uncertain approach to wellness: offering incentives for healthy behavior.

Healthy behaviors pay off; Medicaid recipients who commit to improving their health will be eligible for financial rewards, Los Angeles Times, April 2011

Extend this type of thinking into what comes next in our hyperconnected world — individuals who monitor their blood pressure, glucose levels and other vitals that they are willing to share with their insurer. Exercise and wellness apps on their iPhone that they can use to demonstrate the commitment to a regular series of workouts. Adherence to a personalized lifestyle plan — with insurance cost reductions based on performance.

This type of stuff isn’t far-fetched at all. And it’s going to hit the insurance world quicker than it thinks.

Then there’s the issue of the underwriting of insurance risk. Today, in the life insurance industry, you must undergo a battery of medical and blood tests so that they can make an assessment as to whether you are insurable.

Tomorrow will be completely different, and it will be here before the industry knows it:

“Assuming privacy regulations require it, by 2020 underwriting will consist of one question: ‘Can I look up everything about you?’”

The Next Decade in Innovation, Insurance & Technology, May 2011

Tomorrow? They might simply look you up on Facebook, and based on what they see, come to a decision as to whether they will insure you or not.

Farfetched? Not at all!  In fact, some in the insurance industry are already talking about it:

“Insurers are preparing to use people’s Facebook profiles and online spending habits as a way of setting premiums based on their lifestyle. The Sunday Times, December 2010

The article goes on to note:

“Studies for the insurers suggest that people’s online data detailing their food purchases, activities and social groups can be as good an indicator of their life expectancy as conventional medical examinations.

The trials were conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP and showed that consumer data, based on a sample of 60,000 people, was as effective in identifying potential health risks as if the applicant for insurance had gone for a blood and urine test

Aviva, one of Britain’s largest insurers, is planning to introduce the new “predictive modelling” in Britain next year after studying the results of trials in America. Swiss Re is also working on a similar scheme.

The Sunday Times, December 2010

The bottom line is that in the next several years, at a very fast paced, the world of insurance is going to be challenged through innovation involving analytics and predictive modelling, performance based policies, and a whole series of other opportunity.

The future will belong to those who are fast!

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