Empathy and the Evolving Digital Journey: 2019 SMA Summit Recap

More than 100 insurers, insurance technology providers, partners, members of the media, analysts, and other experts met at the 2019 Strategy Meets Action (SMA) Summit on December 4 to discuss 2019’s hits and misses and what’s coming next. It was, as always, a full and enlightening day. Two clear themes emerged early this time around and stuck with me throughout the day:

  • Insurance is a people industry, and empathy for policyholders will always be a critical part of what insurers provide.
  • While challenges and opportunities are changing rapidly, the goal remains the same—to become a modern, digital, and fast-moving industry.

One of the highlights of the conference was a narrative that blends these two ideas into an inspiring success story. Larry Brown, Claims Innovation Officer at Amica, took the stage to discuss the company’s Road Day app, developed in conjunction with IBM and Apple. The app allows field claims adjusters to access Guidewire ClaimCenter and other resources from an iPad while they’re in the field, enabling both a new level of customer service and tremendously increased efficiency for adjusters.

Larry shared an anecdote about an adjuster who was able to help a distraught homeowner assemble a list of items from a home that had been completely lost to fire by pulling up photos from the home’s inspection and asking questions, while delivering genuine empathy and patience. This kind of care and customer service is what Amica is known for, and with this new tool, it is raising the bar even higher.

From the other side of the situation, Larry highlighted a testimonial from an Amica adjuster who shared how the improvement in his ability to help his customers changed the way he views his own home—the rooms within it and the importance of what they contain. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room when the session concluded, proving that the focus on empathy and the human side of insurance remains at the heart of the industry. Technology simply allows us to use it more effectively. (Bravo, Amica!)

Guidewire’s own Neil Betteridge spoke on a panel, “Enabling Transformation Throughout the Ecosystem,” which was moderated by SMA’s Mark Breading and included leaders from ValueMomentum, Duck Creek Technologies, and IVANS. The panel took a hard look at the idea of an ecosystem and what it really means to have, and be a part of, one in the insurance industry.

While the term ecosystem seems somewhat trendy and new for now, partly because most technology providers have their own definitions for it, the foundational need that it serves is familiar. Insurers want to innovate—and are willing to invest time and finances into new technology to do so—but they need to be able to trust that these new additions won’t pull their business backward or disrupt day-to-day operations to a detrimental level while they’re being implemented.

A major theme that emerged from the conversation was a need for a rock-solid, easy-to-integrate technology platform from which to build new offerings and tools—much like Amica built its Road Day app with ClaimCenter as the core system.

Neil also pointed out the need for solid, experienced implementation partners and services professionals to help insurers get the technology right. Particularly for more complex lines, some configuration and detailed integration work will almost always be necessary—and that’s not a bad thing if the team doing it brings value to the insurer and helps to ensure the success of the end product. When all of these entities work together for the benefit of the insurer, an effective ecosystem is created and everybody wins.

That theme also applies to the people in the room for this summit. Sharing information, best practices, successes, and learnings among experts in the industry is a great way to move the needle faster. SMA does a great job of bringing us together for just that purpose each year, and they do the industry a great service with this event.