Disruption Everywhere! Is InsurTech Ready?

By Natali Mohanty, Senior Vice President, Data and Analytics, Pure Insurance

Natali Mohanty, Senior Vice President, Data and Analytics, Pure Insurance

Disruption is not for everyone. But for those of us who find it energizing, this is the right time to work in the insurance sectorWe can now safely assume that the Insurtech boom is not a short-term fad. It was inevitable, and I think it’s worth examining some of the factors that enabled it. One of the causes, of course, is technological advancement, which allowed the industry to tackle greater levels of complexity.

The other factor is culture. There is nothing quite like our industry. With all of its complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity, it is a data scientist’s dream job. And yet, we believe that we have difficulty attracting the best analytical talent. It is a topic of discussion in conference panels and journal articles. However, I believe that we are attracting the best analytical talent now. And we’ve always had them. The proof is in the boom.

"The Insurtech trend has taken off, and we can easily outsource innovation"

Bright minds have figured out that what seems impossible to achieve within an incumbent insurer, can be achieved outside of it. The savvy Insurtech entrepreneur will have plenty of support—incumbent insurers will be eager for their products and services. And since it is difficult to effect cultural change within incumbents, this trend will likely accelerate.

“Maybe we don’t need to worry about culture that much,” the cautious-minded think to themselves. “The Insurtech trend has taken off, and we can easily outsource innovation.”

But if you do want to worry—and you should, because innovating from within is cost-effective and adds unique value to your enterprise—I have a few tips I’d like to pass along.

I have experienced the cultural inertia prevalent in large insurers for the better part of a decade, and here’s what I’ve learned—in highly condensed form, I promise.

We’ll start with the most obvious need—you need a special kind of leadership in the analytics function. The kind who will pave the way for innovation within the organization while inspiring his or her team to explore new possibilities. This kind of leadership requires the humility to learn from the veterans in the organization. It also requires top-down support and a personality that disarms resistance instead of battling it.

Next: Given the pace of progress in technology and analytics, there will always be shiny new things that demand our attention. It’s easy for business leaders to get distracted by the latest tech trends, which are often pitched to them as pure abstractions. Specificity is essential. Leaders should be asked to articulate the specific business problem or idea that needs to be addressed. Analytics teams, for their part, need to serve the business—not simply their own technical brilliance.

Finally, everything your team does is imbued with human agency. So, abstract discussions regarding the “human” aspect of analytics and technology are unnecessary. What is necessary is a focus on whether solutions are designed thoughtfully by talented people— people who can make big-picture associations while managing every detail. The design will dictate the outcome at each level.

I wish all my colleagues in the field a fabulous year of innovation and strong financial results!

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