7 Key Takeaways from the SMA Summit

My role at EIS Group allows me to attend a lot of industry events throughout the year. Most are focused on technology, innovation, and change, but only a select few deliver the level of value provided by the annual SMA Summit

I left this year’s Summit with new insights and ideas, so I am sharing my “top 7 takeaways” in this blog.

  1. It’s time to redefine “the customer”. There was great dialogue about whoin this digital, customer-centric erais the actual customer. One panelist put it very well: “The agent is the partner, the policyholder is the customer.” Given that perspective, it becomes critical to enable your agents with a complete view of customers via fully integrated core systems so they have the knowledge to provide effective service to their customers (i.e., your policyholders). This definition also brings to light the need to consistently deliver to those policyholders an experience that is on par with other industries serving them such as banking, retail, travel, and media. Consumers are comparing their insurance carrier to their other service providers, so each insurance experience has to be exceptional.
  2. Core is the foundation; build for the future on top of it. This wisdom was shared by an EIS Group customer who has done just that. Industrial Alliance’s CTO, Pascal Lavoie, described how a strong core systems foundation has enabled it to manage the rapid pace of change that is occurring in the industry.
  3. If you’re thinking of developing a mobile app now, it’s already passé. Mobile is so ubiquitous that you can no longer view it as a differentiator or a new channel to support. It should be built into your core enterprise systems and able to deliver the right value to the right stakeholder at the right time.
  4. Simplicity is the ticket with younger, tech-savvy customers. Today’s consumers can educate themselves online about anything they want to buy and in many cases make the purchase online as well. The insurers that are winning in this new era are doing so by simplifying their products, writing them in plain language, and making them easy for the potential customer to assess and make a decision.
  5. The industry is evolving and so must our business models. This topic prompted lively discussion and SMA’s Monique Hesseling shared innovative examples of carriers outside the United States that are capitalizing on today’s digital and share economies by rewriting the way insurance services and products are marketed and how they are distributed.
  6. Support a whole new set of transactions. SMA co-founder Deborah Smallwood shared the insight that most core systems were designed to respond to specific user-initiated transactions such as quotes and endorsements. Now, in our connected world, a whole new set of transactions must be supported if you want to be a “next gen” insurer. For example, a sensor in a home could trigger a loss prevention transaction or interaction. Support for these types of transactions also requires the ability to absorb zettabytes of data that we did not previously consider, but will help us deliver new value for our customers, the policyholders.
  7. The customer needs to be at the center. During the closing of the event, a well-respected former CIO made this keen observation: “We need to be customer centric and forget the fact that we are actuarial, underwriting, and claims. The only way to break the silos is to put the customer in the middle.” I thought he nailed it. We are in a new world where customers are loyal only to themselves and they have lots of options. So treat them like the sun and as you orbit around them, stay connected, offer convenience, and when you interact make sure it addresses their needs. Winning brands use this approach very well.

So there is my list of seven key ideas—and calls to action—from an event that was full of insight and education. What were your takeaways? And how will you put new insights into practice?