(Teresa Scharn. Image source: Nationwide.)
This week Nationwide (Columbus, Ohio) announced a new smart home program in partnership with Notion (Denver). The new offering is the latest output from the insurers Personal Lines Product Development team, led by Teresa Scharn. Other innovative solutions the team has worked on include the SmartRide and SmartMiles usage-based auto insurance products and a rideshare insurance program undertaken in partnership with Slice Labs (New York). We had the opportunity to speak with Scharn about the smart home program, the work of the team in general, and the future of IoT-based products and services at Nationwide.
Insurance Innovation Reporter: You’ve said that the new smart home offering in partnership with Notion is just the beginning of what is likely to be a rapidly evolving program.
Teresa Scharn, AVP, Nationwide: Yes, there’s a lot of consumer need in this space that we can enable with a smart home solution. People want to protect their homes, they want to know what devices they need and where to put them. They want to know what to do in the event of a claim/loss and they might want a recommendation for a plumber. Those are solutions I think we can provide to our customer to not only protect their home but also to give them additional peace of mind. I believe smart home will be as much about services and features as about discounts and pricing because of its ability to protect the home and make policyholders’ lives better.
IIR: Does the new smart home offering fit in with SmartMiles and other “connected” or IoT-related innovations your team has worked on seek to develop a new kind of customer relationship? Where is it all going?
TS: I don’t think anybody knows where it’s all going, ultimately. Our view is that customers will tell us. There’s no doubt that with all these solutions we have a tremendous opportunity to prevent losses, whether in the home or in the case of helping people become safer drivers and avoid auto accidents. We take that potential very seriously, and these new technologies and solutions enhance our ability to provide the Nationwide “on your side” promise, with the extraordinary care that is part of our vision as a company.
IIR: And your team is specifically tasked with exploring that potential?
TS: Well, I guess one way of answering is to say that Nationwide takes this potential seriously enough that that there is a personal lines team solely focused on these kinds of solutions. We’re thinking about this holistically and from a customer perspective—not necessarily just auto and home, but the whole policy relationship. That eventually could include commercial coverage as well if, for example, the policyholder owned a restaurant or other small business.
That was the vision behind the creation of the Personal Lines Product Development Team about three years ago. We’re expanding what we do because of our belief in the opportunities this provides not only from an insurance rating perspective, but also from a customer experience perspective.
IIR: How do you think of the team’s mission, since it’s dedicated to IoT- or smart technology-related products, rather than product in general?
TS: We’re in the process of further defining our mission. It’s all about the connection and ongoing experience we have with our customers. It’s more of a long-term, personalized experience, not just six months, but over the whole life of the home or vehicle.
IIR: Do you see an opportunity for enriching the experience through a more comprehensive kind of risk management advice to personal lines customers? Insurance companies understand risk and are perhaps in a position to communicate with customers about a range of risks that touch their lives.
TS: Well, we agree that insurance companies are very good at gathering information and understanding what does and doesn’t drive risk. It’s what we’ve done for hundreds of years, and it’s what we do every day. We are certainly working to help our customers protect their homes, families and businesses in very proactive way. In the end, though, the questions is: ‘What do they really want from their insurance carrier?’ Do they want traffic alerts from Nationwide or some other source? We’ll listen, and we’ll strive to find solutions that they might never have expected an insurance company to provide.