Society of Insurance Research LogoThe Society of Insurance Research’s (SIR) annual conference focused on the theme of “Reimagining Research to Recognize Emerging Insurance Industry Trends.” Sessions touched on a range of topics, including the role of competitive intelligence in traditional insurance firms. As firms aim to take a more consumer-centric approach to their digital and customer experiences, research plays a more important part. The conference brought together ideas from incumbent and startup firms alike, fostering a conversation around the role of research in developing competitive approaches to the evolving landscape of insurance and user experience.

The leading session in the conference discussed the dedicated research teams within these firms, and how they felt their roles are being used. Overwhelmingly, research teams struggle to disseminate information and establish their value in terms of return on investment. Unused research presents an opportunity for firms, as most do feel that the research that gets through is used effectively for tactical decisions. Having this background perspective helped frame the following sessions of the conference, focused largely on capitalizing on the resources these positions have access to, and on reframing their approaches to value resources otherwise not thought of.

Insurtech firms presented on their abilities to pivot research approaches to better understand their consumers and directly address their needs. While smaller startups may have more capacity to shift gears quickly, long-established insurers may use similar tactics to understand the ever-changing consumers that they serve. Optimity, a Canada-based wellness startup that likens itself to Vitality, works with existing firms to encourage their policyholders to live healthier lives, collecting data to produce more personalized marketing strategies.

  • The software asks leading health questions to gain life event information so that the firm can then suggest reaching out to a financial professional or considering a term conversion.
  • While this offers a different way of researching customer needs, the startup also shifts traditional mindsets around data gathering. Optimity has a right to a customer’s data but will not share it directly with a firm, instead producing aggregate reports, aiming to ease a consumer’s mind about potential premium adjustments based on their activities. This is a large difference in the leading wellness platform, Vitality, which uses health information inputted by the policyholder to either increase or decrease premium amounts.

Life by Spot offers a different form of adjusted research use. The startup, launched in March, originally targeted daredevils who could not get life insurance coverage for their risky hobbies. The temporary coverage aimed to allow sky divers, bachelor party attendees and lawn mower racers alike some peace of mind.

  • As Maria Miller, cofounder and COO of Life by Spot, noted during her presentation at SIR, this model was fixing an industry problem and not a consumer problem.
  • Survey research indicated their target market didn’t want to think about dying but living their lives to the fullest. They made a switch to focus on accident and injury insurance, providing the same temporary coverage model they initially dreamt up, with a more consumer-friendly perspective.
  • Larger-scale insurers may not have the ability to completely adjust their product focus in such a manner, but Life by Spot’s reimagining of what its research should focus on and who it should consider allowed the company to reignite its business.

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Two long-standing life insurance providers offered clear examples of new approaches to research for better understanding their current and future policy holders and prospects.

In a session about user experience abilities, Guardian was raised as an example for reevaluating the claims experience, a particularly sensitive and high-touch area for individuals interacting with firms.

  • To understand the beneficiary’s perspective, the organization went through internal research, using names of their loved ones and walking through the processes themselves. Shifting from statistics and adding the human touch to the research immediately inspired the firm to overhaul their claims process.

Prudential's The 80 Year Old Millennial StudyPrudential focused on a future area of research, surveying Millennials to better understand their viewpoints and worries. As the firm recognizes the growth of the Millennial population in the workplace and in wealth accumulation, it wants to know their wants and needs.

  • When surveyed on their feelings about the likelihood of potential scenarios, such as another financial crisis, Millennials indicated they are considering use cases for products that don’t exist in today’s insurance climate. For instance, 83% of respondents believe that, in the future, purchasing personal data insurance will become essential.
  • This level of forward-thinking may place Prudential in a space to answer concerns that have yet to become a serious consideration within the current insurance field.

Consumer needs and expectations are constantly evolving. As insurers try to relate to their policyholders and prospects, research continues to drive the understanding behind how to do so. The SIR conference offered insight into the many ways in which insurtech organizations and traditional insurance firms can adjust their thinking to provide better experiences for their current and future customers.