Caitlin Moling
Caitlin Moling is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Insurance, focused on consumer and industry trends and competitive intelligence for insurance clients.

The DigIn (Digital Insurance) Conference was held in Austin last month, offering a glimpse of the future as well as the current state of the insurance market. One word buzzed through the halls with stunning regularity. Friction. As many presenters challenged, how can insurance companies update—perhaps, even reinvent–their slow, often analog processes to eliminate as much consumer friction as possible?

They all pointed to one answer: big data.

In the age of Uber, Amazon and Netflix, consumers expect instant gratification. Insurers must understand that this expectation is industry agnostic. To catch up with the digital revolution, they need to examine their customer journey to identify core pain points. For many carriers, they don’t have to look far. Clunky websites? Long, confusing policies? Difficult claims process? All present undue friction that cost brokers and carriers leads, sales, and possibly, even long term loyalty.

Over the duration of the conference, countless insurance companies and vendors spoke of new technology to harness data with the promise of streamlined experiences. This included customer engagement portals, smart home sensors, and aerial imagery supplied by drones. While all of these tools were impressive — there was one other, albeit less flashy, capability that was also discussed: insurers gaining the ability to import and synthesize a plethora of public and proprietary databases into real-time quotes and claims processing. By enabling the nearly instantaneous infusion of data, carriers are able to deliver a dramatically more convenient front-end experience for customers.

British multinational insurance company, Aviva, was a pioneer in this space launching their “Ask It Never” concept just over a year ago. Created as a way for customers to buy policies without filling out endless forms, Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson, has described this technology as a game-changing concept. “I can insure your house now without asking any questions because I use big data. If I want to know what your house is made of, I can get that from council records. I’ll know if you are in a flood plain because I’ve mapped all the flood areas of the UK. We want to get to the stage where we don’t ask customers any questions,” Wilson noted in UK publication, The Sun.

“I can insure your house now without asking any questions because I use big data. We want to get to the stage where we don’t ask customers any questions.” – Aviva CEO, Mark Wilson

It was clear that this idea was gaining momentum throughout the conference. Richard McCathron, Head of Insurance at Insurtech Hippo, dedicated his entire presentation to big data. Along with incorporating information with IoT smart device partners, McCathron shared that Hippo sources data from over 15 external data providers at any one time allowing for highly accurate home insurance quotes in less than 60 seconds. It had not yet been revealed, but less than a week later, Hippo was in the news announcing a seismic partnership with telecom giant, Comcast. The two companies will pilot a program in Houston that ties together home insurance with Xfinity Home services and devices. While Hippo was already making great moves to use big data like Aviva, it has shifted to knock down other friction-rich barriers.

Among the many takeaways gleaned from the DigIn conference, one insight was hard to miss: the role and scope of insurance is rapidly changing. Carriers are using new devices, harnessing valuable data and expanding their footprint with creative, unexpected partnerships. While the insightful conference has come to a close, the Insurance team at Mintel is already looking ahead to what’s next.