Value creation & charging for it, an elephant in the reinsurance room

Value creation is a huge topic across the insurance and reinsurance industry right now.

Everyone insists they’re creating it for their clients.

But, in a world where the charging structure for insurance and reinsurance protection services and contracts are generally bundled, it’s really hard to identify and measure the value being created.

In a market where not much has changed over decades, the delayed adoption of the technology available to it has in recent years resulted in an urgency surrounding the first part of the value creation conundrum.

Demonstrating value

Demonstrating value was all about sealing the deal, building the tower, closing the book and signing those contracts.

It’s still a massive part of the process of course.

Often completed over lunch, drinks or/and dinner, brokers and underwriters met, agreed on terms and pricing (often with little changing year-to-year) and at the same time unanimously agreed there was value in what they’d achieved.

But now, with the ability to drill down into data and an increasing determination to try and own the customer, parties are wheeling out a raft of tools and services to demonstrate more clearly to clients the value they are adding.

This is a very good thing.

It’s about time reinsurance programs in particular were looked at with more than a cursory glance prior to renewal (I’m generalising, of course, plenty do get the attention they deserve).

Now the data and technology is available to completely remodel the risk tower, should you want to.

There are almost always better ways to slice, dice and transfer towers of risk now than has been achieved historically.

At last, the market has no excuse not to look seriously at the risk tower, to identify the most efficient and effective way to transfer it.

At least you’d think that was the case.

Touch points (there are more of them)

There’s a saying about too many cooks.

That’s not the real problem in risk and reinsurance, it can take a lot of expertise to get a deal done.

Numbers aren’t all-important, but making sure those involved (and getting paid) are adding commensurate value really is.

As expertise levels rise and technology use in reinsurance becomes ubiquitous, the need for more parties to be involved can rise.

It’s resulting in a tower of risk being touched (analysed, assessed, tweaked, tested) many more times and by many more actors than they were in the past, during their life cycle (from renewal to renewal).

These touch points can be actioned by one actor (company/role) or many, from many different companies.

Meaning there are now significantly more opportunities to demonstrate value creation than there used to be.

As well as more competing actors, coming from a growing range of backgrounds and disciplines as well.

Which also means there are a lot of actors adding minimal value and someone’s got to work out how to charge/pay for all of this more effectively.

Which brings challenges and threats to everyone.

Deconstructing the chain (of risk to capital)

The insurance and reinsurance market chain, along which risks travel to find their ultimate home with capital, is breaking apart.

Technology and more efficient business models / capital, as well as an increasingly technical and specialised range of service providers, are driving this break-up of what has often been called a value-chain (despite the questionable value some have brought to it over the years).

As the chain breaks down it creates even more touch points and opportunities to interact with the risk and its owners/holders at specific points in its life cycle.

Which brings us back to demonstrating value creation, as there are now many more opportunities to do so.

But if we’re breaking the chain into many pieces, with many more actors and touch points, the industry has a lot of work to do in defining pricing structures that will work going forwards.

Towards an unbundling

The cost structure of the reinsurance market chain remains one that is largely bundled.

With huge amounts of value creation charged for in one sum, as commission or supposedly near-free services designed to help in client and customer ownership.

Break this apart and nobody really understands how to charge for it, it seems. Or at least no-one is trying to change the game in an obvious way, yet.

An industry used to paying commissions for a bundle of services has so far not worked out how to break it down and apply new cost structures to the market chain and multiple touch points within it.

But it’s going to have to.

As expertise comes in and adds value in the process it needs paying for it.

At the same time, the industry is becoming more efficient and costs and expense need to come down.

More people to pay across the life-cycle of a risk, as it makes its way to capital, doing smaller and increasingly specialised chunks of the work.

Which means more competition for these roles as well, as even the very largest of brokers or underwriters cannot possibly hope to own the entire chain a risk moves along.

Which means unbundling is inevitable and as has been seen in other sectors of finance (or even other industries entirely) getting to grips with a new and unbundled normal is a challenge and requires a different approach to pricing as well.

For simplicities sake, consider the travel sector, an industry where I went through the significant changes in implementing new pricing and product structures to cope with the rapid unbundling caused by the advent of online travel agents, low-cost carriers and price comparison websites.

The end-product, a holiday, tour, or simple city break abroad, didn’t change.

But the players involved in fulfilling it did, the mechanisms used to fulfil it, the way it was purchased, how customer engagement occurred and relationships were formed and sustained. So too did the way it was priced…

The advent of the internet broke down the monopolies, levelled the playing fields of competition, delivered greater choice, enabled the product itself to be more tailored to the customer’s needs, and ultimately all of this needed an entirely new approach to cost, pricing and the related business rules defining all of that.

Sure, re/insurance is a very different industry. But this unbundling is happening and only going to accelerate.

Right now, we seem to be in a phase whereby the major players are undergoing their own internal unbundling, as the emerging service layer of the risk and re/insurance industry forms within the walls of brokers and global underwriting houses.

But eventually this will cause the walls to tumble.

At first we’ll see this as new, focused specialists look to increasingly bite off little chunks of the market chain and offer new products to the industry.

Some of these will find it hard to break through the decade’s old relationships, but eventually they will become viable competitors for chunks of the bundled service brokers and underwriters are used to providing.

Another way we’ll see the walls coming down is through platforms.

As technology focused methods of transferring risk, or managing portfolios, or analysing market-specific data, get so much better at these chunks of the chain than a large, generalist like a global broker or underwriter ever could be.

The result here could be that entire chunks of the process chain move out of the control of the incumbents, forcing them to either try even harder to win it back (often a pointless and costly effort, as other industries like travel saw) or to dive in and use these as part of their own service offering to clients.

However you look at it, risk and re/insurance is ripe for unbundling and the industry has to learn how to charge appropriately and sustainably for the bits it is really good at, while also turning the holistic, bundled service of the past into a more menu-like, fit for the future and unbundled selection of offerings.

Which brings me back to value creation.

As those who can, will, and will get paid commensurately with the value they bring to the market chain.

But no-one’s really talking about this need for a new approach to the cost-structure of the risk and insurance product lifecycle, hence me calling it an elephant in the room.

It needs discussing and it’s almost certain the major players are moving in this direction naturally, via a walled-garden, protect as much of the revenue as you can, transition phase.

It’s another of the really interesting features of the industry right now and I can’t wait to see how the incumbents work it out and the new entrants bring disruption and new offerings to market.

Change is good. But it can be a little challenging and painful…

Why responsive risk transfer (or insurance)? An example…

Insurance and reinsurance, as a product set, are not particularly responsive today.

Yes, it (the product set) can meet the broader expectations of billions of consumers and hundreds of millions of businesses around the globe, as financial tool to transfer risk.

Or at least they think it does, based on what little they often know about it.

But is the insurance or risk transfer product actually serving their needs, when they really need it most?

Following on from my thoughts on rethinking and redesigning re/insurance for the modern age, where I questioned whether insurance, reinsurance and risk transfer really responds to its users needs (at the right time and in the right way).

I thought it might be interesting to dive a bit deeper into the responsive angle.

In that post I wrote:

Given the way our lives and businesses work, in this fast-paced and rapidly changing environment, we need something new and more responsive than this.

Something more responsive to our needs, that dovetails into the cycle of our lives, businesses and communities.

What we need are shock-absorbers: financial and risk protection products that smooth out the bumps in the road that might otherwise have knocked our life or business off course.

Products that respond right when we need it, providing just enough in terms of recovery to push us back on track, helping us to help ourselves right at the point it’s most needed.

Insurance can become this shock-absorber for our lives.

Insurance and reinsurance is often more like a time-delayed source of risk capital, with benefits only coming at the point the pain has already become so significant that it can often prove too late anyway.

But we’re used to this now, particularly in the business world, where insurance can payout after it’s too late and too little to help a firm avoid significant financial impacts and sometimes even bankruptcy.

In the majority of use-cases, insurance and risk transfer should be about responding at precisely the right point in time (when it’s first needed and can be most helpful) and in precisely the right way/amount required (no more, just enough to steer you back on-course).

The right time and right amount/way are both key.

Get that wrong and you’re over-paying (expensive), or over-complicating the product itself (confusing & disappointing for the customer), and likely also over-burdening the insured during its time of recovery (cognitive load is high).

Better to deliver only what is required, but most importantly at precisely the point it can be of most use to the insured.

But how to be this responsive?

To have an almost sixth-sense for when a claim is set to be needed/made and then delivering just what is required to smooth out the volatility (to life or business) that is being experienced?

Of course it largely comes down to data, access to it and the ability to understand/use it.

The more of it (data) the better. The more granular the better. The more real-time it’s delivered, on an ongoing basis throughout the policy term, the better. The more localised and personalised it is to the particular use-case in question, the better.

This is where I get excited (nerd alert) about anything that can provide real-time data insights to inform insurance, reinsurance and risk transfer responsiveness.

Enter the sensor.

Sensors and the data they provide are going to become key tools and inputs that allow for better risk transfer product design and development in the first place.

Insurance and risk transfer products are often created in what seems like the dark, with little visibility of what could or may happen. So decisions on pricing, triggers, responsiveness, are all taken using historical data and information derived from analogues and synthetic models of reality.

But, with sensors and the data they provide, you could be updating underwriting information, risk metrics, pricing, triggers, tweaking the responsiveness of the risk transfer product all in real-time, creating something that really does offer the kind of responsive experience users demand (or should demand) from finance today.

Enter Cloudleaf (, an interesting start-up that I first heard of a while back, but it caught my eye again the other day.

Cloudleaf just raised a $26m round of funding (congrats!) and provides sophisticated digital and analytical solutions for better supply-chain improvement.

Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning, Cloudleaf uses them all.

Buzzword heavy but for the right reasons, as these advanced technologies enable its services to map and understand, even predict or forecast, where the pain points are and how to optimise supply-chains for large organisations.

That’s interesting alone.

But given the IoT angle, which involves sensors and the resulting data that flows from them (don’t you know), Cloudleaf can deliver real-time intelligence into how a supply-chain is performing, for a single organisation but of course (extrapolated out) that could also provide intelligence on an entire industry chain as well.

Which leads me back to the future of insurance and risk transfer, as I strongly believe supply-chain disruption related business interruption coverages can be better designed and made responsive to organisations needs, through the use of sensors and advanced data analytical services + parametric inputs to risk transfer triggers.

Cloudleaf could (should), if it isn’t already, speak to the likes of the world’s largest reinsurance firms in this regards (they may reach out to it anyway after reading this).

As, an integrated data analytics, sensors, AI and risk transfer approach to delivering business insurance coverage for supply-chain related risks could really be a responsive solution fit for the future.

Imagine a system that can forecast where pain is set to emerge in the system, calculate the potential impacts, release capital based on triggers calibrated using the data and supply-chain network health information, releasing just the right amount of insurance payment at just the right time for the customer.

That’s the idea of responsive risk transfer as a volatility-smoother, responding when its needed to even out the cycle of business (or our lives). A shock absorber, even a predictive and preventative one, for our lives and businesses.

That’s of course just one idea on the future responsiveness of insurance, reinsurance and risk transfer. But to me it’s a particularly compelling one that solves a coverage gap that exists today.

It also shows how data can enable responsive risk transfer and insurance product design, to deliver entirely new solutions that better meet client needs.

Thinking laterally similar models can fit to different challenging areas of the business world.

But, taking a step back, it’s the responsive model of delivering the financial protection in the right amount and at the right time (instead of the all or nothing of many re/insurance products) that I find a particularly interesting concept for the future of the industry.

That doesn’t always need sensors or ‘bigs-of-data’ to achieve it, sometimes it just needs someone to go back to basics, look at the user needs, design products appropriately for it.

It means more efficient use of capital for re/insurers, as well as opportunities to open up entirely new sectors and really work on closing gaps in protection.

More responsive re/insurance and risk transfer products can be created today.

In the future responsiveness should be a design tenet of every insurance and risk transfer product this industry creates, as it’s just a more satisfactory delivery model than the ‘claim and pray’ process we see today.

Risk financing based on intelligence, simplicity and user needs, intelligence furnished with data to design products that better meet the demands of our businesses and lives today.

More on the concept of risk transfer and insurance becoming more responsive in posts to come…

The risk transfer relationship: Connections & touch-points (an interface)

Everyone always talks about the importance of the “relationship” in reinsurance and risk transfer.

While it’s often over emphasised as a key market driver, it’s still absolutely the case that relationships really do matter in this industry.

But perhaps a little too much still, while other parts of the risk to capital chain are overlooked and their importance under-emphasised.

Market chains can be thought of like an interface.

Dotted with many and increasing numbers of connections and touch-points, some of which are more effective or important than others.

The relationship is one of the key connections in the world of transferring risk.

But these connections between parties are set to become increasingly abstracted away from the physical, with ownership increasingly fluid as a result (I believe).

Hence, maybe we’re better off thinking about the different connections along the risk-to-capital value chain of the insurance and reinsurance sector as interaction opportunities.

Chances for parties to generate value for their clients and as a result generate some loyalty in return.

Historically, the “relationship” was seen as the all-powerful route to owning a client, especially in the reinsurance or large commercial insurance sector.

Brokers “owned” their client’s placements, which often meant an entire program.

Despite the fact that one broker may be perfectly good for one risk or layer, but another better for the rest. Historically that hasn’t always seemed to matter.

Loyalty generated by years of transacting together has, in some cases, led to less than optimal placement results though.

I regularly speak with ceding companies, insurers or reinsurers and large corporates or sovereign protection buyers, who say they aren’t being given access to the full-range of innovative risk transfer arrangements, or capacity sources, by their brokers.

Sub-optimal placements mean renewing the same old program, at hopefully increasingly favourable terms and that’s often enough for ceding company executives.

But perhaps the placements could be much more highly optimised, if a fresh look at the placement and strategy was taken.

Especially if a fresh look was taken at the many connections along the risk-to-capital-chain and work undertaken to identify how to optimise each touch-point, to transfer risk more efficiently and at lower-cost.

The relationship is just one connection or touch-point that can be optimised in insurance, reinsurance and risk transfer, albeit one that is repeated along the market chain (agent, broker, wholesaler, insurer, MGA, reinsurance & retro placements etc etc).

In some cases the relationships are so numerous that there are clear opportunities to make more direct connections in the chain, to transfer the risk more effectively.

Connecting risk to capital more efficiently and directly is something I write about all the time over at

In fact it’s a bit of a pre-occupation, as when almost any new initiative or start-up (insurtech or otherwise) emerges in reinsurance and risk transfer, one of the first things I ask is “could this be done more efficiently.”

That means efficiency in terms of speed, directness, cost, effort, as well as cognitive load on the client.

That last one is kind of key as well.

Cognitive load is something I’ve worked to reduce for users throughout much of my career, having led large teams of frontend design and development at internet companies, in addition to my work in risk and reinsurance.

Making it easy for people (users/customers) to achieve their goals is absolutely vital in every single industry today, although this is something that risk, insurance and reinsurance is really only just beginning to understand.

Hence, thinking of the connections in the risk-to-capital chain of the insurance and reinsurance industry as interactions, touch-points, opportunities to reduce the cognitive load, while improving the user experience and effectiveness of outcomes, is a good strategy to adopt.

These opportunities are many and varied, given the number of touch-points and interactions along the chain in risk and re/insurance.

This is the interface of the risk transfer market, offering incumbents and start-ups opportunities to target, enhance, speed up, or make more efficient, one or more of the interaction points along this still convoluted interface.

There is a wealth of opportunity for incumbents to do things better, generating greater client loyalty in the process and building relationships that matter and that will be rewarded for the right reasons.

I’ve said it before, companies and brands are interfaces, you’ve got to make them simple to use and interact with to generate the best and longest lasting client relationships.

It’s time to move beyond solely relying on the more traditional kind of relationships that the re/insurance market has been built on.

While still important, we need to think differently about these relationships, accept the fact that ownership is set to change and value generated at each touch-point will be apportioned differently in future.

A good way to do that is to start assessing the value you receive (as a client) at every touch-point and interaction with someone who hands you a bill for services along the risk-to-capital chain.

For those handing out the bills, it’s vital you look at your own services and measure the value you’re providing (if it’s none you’re in dire straits).

Savings and efficiencies are there for the taking for the strategically astute.

Perhaps more importantly, so too are innovation, new ways of doing business, more direct connections in the chain, as well as inspiration that will lead to new product design.

More to come on this in future posts…

Extending the insurance safety net (with responsive parametric product design)

Today’s news that the CCRIF SPC and the World Bank have successfully sold their first parametric insurance products for the fisheries industry got me thinking on a flight back from Zurich.

This product is a first of its kind (at least I think it is).

A parametric insurance product designed to protect an industry as well as those who work in it.

As the CCRIF explained, it’s both livelihood and sovereign risk transfer, in a single product.

Wrapped up beneath a parametric trigger is both tropical cyclone wind coverage for a Caribbean island or Central American nation fishing sector, alongside “bad weather” protection for the fishing communities’ jobs and income.

The trigger therefore will payout to protect assets and infrastructure associated with a country’s fishing industry when a tropical cyclone of a specific severity or greater occurs.

While also paying out when stormy weather impacts fishing communities’ livelihoods.

Alongside the CCRIF’s core tropical cyclone and earthquake parametric products for the sovereign buyers, this new industry-specific cover truly means the Facility is protecting both lives and livelihoods, as well as providing responsive and rapidly paying risk transfer protection.

In the same vein as my recent post on the need for the insurance and reinsurance industry to provide a more responsive, tailored, product design focused offering.

Providing contingent capital in a manner akin to shock absorbers for people’s lives and corporations business cycles.

This CCRIF / World Bank parametric product extends the safety net provided by insurance and risk transfer, something we need to see a lot more of.

It fills gaps in coverage, protects gaps and meets all the mandates of a product that helps at all economic levels (protecting government, industry, tax payers and all those relying on a sector).

This approach provides an almost layered risk transfer and protection product.

An all in one approach to covering a vertical slice of the economy, from top down to the smallest contributing people.

Can the same model work elsewhere?

Definitely. Think of any other industry or sector where there are impacts to productivity from severe weather or natural disasters.

By covering the economic productivity of a specific industry with a responsive parametric insurance product, the government benefits, the industry benefits, the workers benefit, and their communities do too.

Communities that rely on the ability of their fishing fleets (or farmers, or other relevant industry) to provide income, food and broader economic activity can benefit hugely from this approach.

While at the same time the sovereign level means the government can help itself, the industry in question and its people to recover, without needing to borrow, raise taxes, or apply pressure on communities at a time when they’re stressed anyway.

For years I’ve been thinking that the way to really narrow the much-vaunted protection gap is through tiered risk transfer approaches, responsive triggers, data / technology and efficient capital.

One of the issues that’s almost always missed in these discussions is that without some sort of coherent and complementary protection at each of sovereign, capital / investment, industry and community level, you leave key layers in the economy exposed to stresses.

In the event of disaster these stresses at any level cascade through the tiers and can even be amplified (especially when the gaps are from the top down).

When major natural catastrophes strike it can cause capital flows and investment to dry up, hurting the sovereign economy, industry and community layers.

Industry can be damaged and disrupted, affecting sovereign economy and community layers, with the potential to put off capital flows and investment as well.

Impacts to communities destroy lives, homes, businesses and that can affect productivity and all the other layers as well.

Confidence impacts can hurt across the tiers too.

The CCRIF’s new fisheries parametric product solves for some of these issues, by protecting across tiers right down to the economy.

It’s also a form of protection for the essential capital flows and investment that could back a country’s fishing industry as well.

That’s pretty unique to be honest (although I’m sure someone will know some other examples).

How effective it is has yet to be proven, it’s only just launched.

But this responsive parametric protection model has huge potential to be taken, utilised in other ways and means, to the benefit of millions of lives and livelihoods across sectors, continents and specific industries.

It’s intelligent and innovative risk transfer product design in action and for that I applaud the teams behind it.

It’s a sign of the future of risk transfer, a responsive, efficient, direct and highly complementary life and livelihood buffering financial support tool.

Add in real-time and a great deal of extra sophistication, which given the technology available to us now will in time transform the risk transfer sector. As well as the efficient, unbundled, lower-cost, product design focused approach I spelled out recently here. You have a good example of an insurance product (a shock absorber) that is fit for our future.

There’s a model for risk transfer product design emerging and it promises better protection, more closely aligned with user needs.

The old products of indemnity and the like won’t go away and are key here as well.

But, taking a step beyond designing new products alone, designing new systems for risk protection, where traditional and modern product designs dovetail neatly into a single ecosystem of protection, will get us all closer to the answers we seek.

Yes, I’m channelling Nicolas Colin and borrowed ‘safety net’ from his excellent book “Hedge: A greater safety net for the entrepreneurial world” (go buy it).

Rethinking re-insurance: Life belts or shock absorbers?

Insurance and reinsurance needs re-imagining.

For too long the industry has been focused on products that often only provide a limited financial injection when the absolute worst happens.

Of course that’s based on often confusing terms & conditions, only after proof of loss is provided, lengthy loss assessment, and negotiation over how much value was destroyed.

It’s not always clear-cut, or a quick and smooth experience for insurance and risk transfer customers.

For customers, so people, corporations and other end-users, traditional insurance (and reinsurance) operates like a life-belt.

The worst happens, disaster strikes, and the industry throws you a life-belt, to save you from drowning

But you still have to work out how to use it in the most efficient and effective manner, as well as make your own way back to the shore.

Given the way our lives and businesses work, in this fast-paced and rapidly changing environment, we need something new and more responsive than this.

Something more responsive to our needs, that dovetails into the cycle of our lives, businesses and communities.

What we need are shock-absorbers: financial and risk protection products that smooth out the bumps in the road that might otherwise have knocked our life or business off course.

Products that respond right when we need it, providing just enough in terms of recovery to push us back on track, helping us to help ourselves right at the point it’s most needed.

Insurance can become this shock-absorber for our lives.

Think of life or business like a wave-length.


It has its ups and downs, which within tolerances is absolutely fine and expected.

But outside of those tolerances is when we really need help, something to soften the blows of peaks and troughs. Or to put us back on course.

In real-time and in a responsive manner, we need protection and services that kick in not on-demand but automatically (automagically), responding to the changes & challenges that our life or business cycles experience.

A more responsive and real-time, demand driven insurance ecosystem.

Living off the data we all create in our lives and businesses, this can not just better protect us against the bumps in the road, it can provide new product classes we don’t even know we need yet.

It’s about financial protection that offers true risk management, transfer, hedging and real-time protection. Responding to our needs, lives and the way we consume.

Not just a life belt, or ring, that is thrown to us in the hope we can save ourselves.

Financial products suited to our evolving lives, that can work for millennials and octogenarians, small businesses and the largest corporations.

A complete rethink of the insurance and reinsurance market structure could help, as for too long the industry has relied on policy limits and towers of protection, which may not be best suited to delivery of a more responsive set of re/insurance products.

It’s about rethinking the delivery and responsiveness of risk transfer (and insurance generally) to make it fit for the 21st Century and beyond.

This responsive approach to risk transfer and insurance should run through the layers, or tiers, of the market, with reinsurance protection designed to neatly match the exposures and wave-lengths of the real-time risk curves of the future.

It’s a vision of a better kind of financial product.

One that cushions you against the bumps in the road, rather than throwing everything it has at you in one go and then leaving you to work out your own recovery.

Of course the claims process needs to be entirely automated.

Today, the life-belt of insurance is only thrown out to save you after a lengthy and often frustrating interaction with the provider, called making a claim.

That’s got to go away.

It’s not in the slightest bit a user friendly, intuitive experience, and so often ends in a result that was never expected or wanted in the first place.

Insurance is among the only products we buy into based on our understanding of it at the time, but then when we actually need it, the experience often turns out to be something very different.

Ambiguity is rife in most people and businesses experience of interaction with their insurance provider.

Shock absorbers don’t come loaded with such ambiguity.

Yes, there will need to be tolerances set around what makes them respond (triggers), and these should to be as closely calibrated to our lives and businesses as possible, to offer the best protection and cushioning.

As well as being automated, in real-time, responding to the ever growing range of data outputs that our lives and businesses produce.

This will increasingly be augmented through new data sources as well, from sensors to remote sensing, and everything else in between.

Protection should be both “always there” and “always-on”, ready and waiting to respond and smooth out the bumps in our life/business/community cycles.

Backed by capital that represents whatever is most efficient, cheapest & secure.

An efficient and responsive risk pool, that pays its backers not just for bearing the risks but also for their responsiveness in paying out, as well as their willingness to top-up again.

In order to shift to this more responsive risk ecosystem, where risk transfer neatly fits into our lives and business cycles, responding to their needs in real-time, product design is so important.

As too is a focus on the customers needs and the user experience of insurance, reinsurance, risk transfer and hedging products.

Not enough focus has been put on designing risk transfer products that meet client and customer needs, resulting in a poor experience and negative opinions of providers as a result.

The usability of what we have today is, to be frank, shockingly bad in a majority of cases.

It is improving though.

Some are moving into rapid innovation and iteration to drive change in the insurance and reinsurance product.

But many are also overdoing the kool-aid, slurping down too much of the which has been liberally shared around the industry right now, resulting in questionable investments being made and super-expensive programs of work and change, that in too many cases are resulting in write-offs.

At the same time the insurtech world is adding incremental layers of lipstick to the insurance pig.

Not always in ways that will be ultimately successful, as this incremental beauty is often only skin deep, and the write-downs will be significant. But it is making the whole industry rethink itself, which is extremely positive.

There are some really fantastic insurtech start-ups coming through with innovative products and some of the incumbent giants in insurance and reinsurance are truly moving towards transformational change in the way they design and sell their risk product offerings.

Change is coming fast + only a few are truly embracing it in the right way = many incumbents are scared.

But unless the end-result is a radical departure from the insurance and reinsurance marketplace and product-set we see today, we’ll be selling the customer short and purely throwing them a shiny, modified life-belt for some year’s to come.

Brand usability: Your brand is an interface, make it simple to use

This is an old article, just reposting as it’s one that still resonates from my old blog.

Usability refers to the ease with which an interface (be that a screen, device, object or website; basically anything you can interact with) can be used by its intended audience. Usability takes into account how easy or efficient something is to use, how easy it is for a newbie to learn to use it and even how satisfying that experience is for users. I’m passionate about it, anyone working in online industries has to be (in my opinion). The ROI that results from getting usability right is huge and can be the difference between success and failure if you’re designing or creating anything.

Brands as interfaces

Every time a consumer comes into contact with a brand be that online, by walking into a shop, reading about them in a newspaper, receiving a piece of marketing or any one of the myriad other ways you can encounter a brand, an interaction takes place. The places where this contact occurs is the interface, the way that contact manifests itself is the interaction. An interaction can be physical, verbal, mental or social in nature and each interaction can result in success or failure for your brand. What you’re looking for, of course, is for each interaction to be a satisfying experience for the consumer where they go away with a positive impression of your brand. For that impression to be a good one, as a brand you’re going to have to be usable, accessible, communicative and sociable.

Your customers come first

I’m a big fan of getting customer service right. As a consumer myself I get so frustrated when I’m let down by a brand but can easily see how they could have avoided or fixed the issue. As a consumer there’s a journey you embark on with a brand and touchpoints where you interact with them, those touchpoints are the interfaces between you and the brand. Customer journey mapping is a great tool which allows an organisation to document all the touchpoints they have with their customers and audience, measure their success or failure at each touchpoint and then work to improve or optimise the journey. Undertaking this exercise can be eye opening and really shows where you need to focus to make customers interactions with you more enjoyable and successful both for them and for you. In these days where brands are seeking to expose themselves to their audience through social media this seems particularly relevant, it also sounds very much like usability at work to me. Mapping out and optimising a customer journey seems very much like an effort to improve usability.

In this sociable world

We’re seeing a lot of talk about business design lately with a lot of buzz around ‘social business design’ in particular. This new trend of brands trying to be engaging, communicative and open requires the customer (user) experience to be spot on. Given the fact your audience can now discuss you across multiple platforms and media it’s more important than ever that you remove the pain points in your interface to make the customers experience as smooth and hassle free as possible.

Brand usability

So, brand usability. The practice of measuring and optimising a brands user interfaces. It’s a practice that already exists (under many other names) and there are specialists out there who can help you with certain interfaces you want to optimise. However, people who can offer to give a holistic service to help you make your brand more usable are few and far between right now. I think that’ll change. As social becomes the norm and the customer comes back into focus, brands are going to be crying out for help in these areas as they realise they’ve brought all the focus onto their service through trying to run before they can walk in this new sociable world.

Brand usability, social business design or customer relationship optimisation; whatever you want to call it the future seems bright for those who understand these topics and it maybe even brighter for brands who understand the importance of practising them.