Canadian Underwriter

What to consider when tempted by a ‘shiny’ tech tool

November 13, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Before deciding whether to buy the latest and greatest technologies, a broker need to understand what problem that technology is actually going to solve, speakers said during a recent technology conference.

“A lot of people are trying to sprinkle insurtech on to their business to revolutionize it or make it modern or relevant,” said Adam Mitchell, president of Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers Ltd.

As such, brokers are being introduced to a lot of “shiny objects,” said Danish Yusuf, chief executive officer and co-founder of Zensurance, which lets commercial clients shop online for insurance.

“There is an e-signature tool. There is a chat tool. There is this, there is that,” Yusuf said. But some clients may prefer to meet their broker in person and therefore will not benefit from an electronic signature tool.

“A wonderful toolbox of beautiful snap-on tools isn’t going to build itself a beautiful car,” Mitchell said. “Don’t confuse the tools with the craftsman. You need to use some of these tools but you need to evaluate your goals. Are the tools helping you achieve that goal?”

For Mitchell and Whale, automating the sign-up process – making it “quick and smooth” for someone who decides to go ahead and buy insurance – is beneficial, Mitchell suggested.

Mitchell and Yusuf spoke during a panel – Implementing InsurTech Best Practices in Broker Distribution – at InsurTechTO, held Nov. 7 at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto.

One example of a “shiny object” is social media, said Yusuf.

“Just because it works for somebody, doesn’t mean your customers are going to respond to your tweets.”

The third panelist was Michael Loeters, senior vice president of commercial insurance at Prolink Insurance Inc., which has “invested quite heavily” in its digital strategy.

“When we looked at the amount of money we were spending on administration of high-volume, small-premiums accounts, we needed to find a way to streamline that,” said Loeters, who is also co-chair of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada technology committee and past-president of the Toronto Insurance Conference.

Zensurance surveyed about 1,500 small businesses, asking them what their “pain points are,” said Yusuf.

“There was a category of people who said, ‘it’s a $500 policy. We just want to buy it online and make it simple,’” added Yusuf, who made Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine’s Top 10 under 40 list.

When he took over the family business, Mitchell says he wanted to “make decisions that made sense” for the customers.

“I never really sought after a technology angle,” said Mitchell. “I might be the only one up here who does not like the word Insurtech.”

For a while, Mitchell and Whale was using a form of artificial intelligence – natural language processing – to operate chatbots. Internet users could type into a pop-up box on Mitchell and Whale’s website.

The chatbot was “cool and sexy but it did not really create a lot of value for the customers,” Mitchell said at InsurTechTO.

Prolink officials have looked at chatbots but have not implemented the technology for customers, Loeters said.

“We are not sure whether the technology is ready for prime time. The problem is if the chatbot cannot answer the question, then the person gets frustrated and you have to have a live person there that can take over,” said Loeters.