April 17, 2015 by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor
The “biggest date” in the insurance industry will be April 24, when Apple Inc. is scheduled to launch its wristwatches, a business professor suggested Thursday to insurance professionals at the CIP Society Symposium in Toronto.
“Starting next week on April 24 we will have an organization that will know what about you? Everything,” said Nick Bontis, the symposium’s breakfast keynote speaker and a professor of strategic management at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton.
Bontis was referring to the fact that the Apple Watch includes a heart rate sensor and accelerometer and collects information about users’ physical activity.
“Think of the health industry – fundamental changes in health that will affect the insurance industry as well,” he said to an audience of about 150 at the symposium. “The biggest date in our industry is April 24, next week.”
Bontis suggested the information gleaned from an Apple Watch (some versions of which cost more than $13,000) on a person’s health could affect the insurance industry.
On April 24, the Apple Watch is scheduled for release in Canada and eight other countries. Its Activity app “provides a simple visual snapshot of your daily activity with three rings that measure active calories burned, brisk activity and how often you’ve stood up to take a break from sitting during the day,” Apple said in a press release last March.
“We need to understand organizations that are not in our industry who potentially could be radical changers of our industry,” Bontis said at the CIP Society Symposium. “I don’t think we have as good a handle on that as we would like.”
The symposium was produced by the Insurance Institute of Ontario, Greater Toronto Area and held at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
A former accountant for KPMG, Bontis has also worked for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He has written several books, including World Congress on Intellectual Capital Readings and Information Bombardment: Rising Above the Digital Onslaught.
With technology, there are “fundamental changes at play” in the insurance industry, Bontis said, citing Desjardins General Insurance Group Inc.’s Ajusto auto offering as an example.
With Ajusto, originally launched two years ago in Ontario and Quebec, DGIG monitors driving behaviour and offers discounts to policyholders whose behaviour indicates lower risk. Ajusto was originally available to policyholders with vehicles made in 1998 or later and used telematics hardware that plugs into diagnostic ports. Then in March, DGIG announced a mobile app, for Apple iOS and Google Inc.’s Android operating systems, so users can now use Ajusto without installing hardware in their vehicles.
During his keynote, Bontis noted that people are having to absorb more amounts of information than in the past.
“Information bombardment is happening faster and faster,” he said. “If you go back in time, we had to share information in very slow ways. Cave people would write with paint on the cave wall with fruit juice. ‘Husband, the river is here, the fruits are to the right, the lion is to the left. Go to the right.'”
While only 4% of people were on the Internet in 1995, he added, Canada now has one of the highest rates of Internet use.
One way of dealing with information overload is to set up alerts for electronic information services, Bontis suggested.
“You need to not only get information but you need to get it faster than everybody else,” he said. “That’s how you can service your client better. Set up alerts for all of your clients, all of their backgrounds, their firms, so you can get their news faster than they do, so that when something comes out, you can reach out to that organization and congratulate them. “
He emphasized the importance “unlearning” in an era of information overload.
“We think learning is the key to getting bigger and stronger and faster and richer, and we keep on bombarding ourselves with all words that end in ‘tion,'” he said. “Acceleration. Innovation. Institutionalization. Collaboration. We are getting ‘tioned’ to death.”
He suggested when computers get overloaded with information, users delete the files and empty the trash.
“That’s what we have to do with our brains and our organizations, in my opinion,” he said. “We are suffering from what is called information bombardment, and in order to even think about doing something different, or smart or productive, you have to lessen the crap.”
His keynote included audience participation.
“How many of you have ever done a strategic planning process where the first chapter of your strategic plan said, ‘Hey, we did these four things last year, it didn’t work out so well, let’s not do them again,'” he asked. “No. You just pile on more and more and more.”
More coverage of the CIP Society Symposium: