Google Strikes a Nerve: The Need for an Insurance Innovation Mandate

Persistent and continual disruption necessitates a new way of embracing change and innovation, a culture and model built around ongoing collaboration and ideation that extends outside the traditional insurance organization. Put another way, an innovation mandate is critical.


To say we struck a nerve in the industry with the Google and Insurance: Far Reaching Implications research is an understatement! The SMA Research Brief was picked up by all the major industry media – including two here at Insurance Innovation Reporter, linked below. Our research note has resulted in setting a new record for downloaded and purchased SMA research, generating a torrent of follow-up calls and discussions. It has been shared and used by executive teams for discussion and strategic planning. The companion blog for the research had nearly 10,000 views – and continues to be posted, tweeted and retweeted a month and half after it was published!

So why has there been such a strong interest and reaction in the industry?

Well, one reason might be that there is a fascination and admiration for the competitive drive in Google’s transformation from a search engine to an innovator of new technologies and solutions like Android, Google cars, Google glasses, wearable devices, and others. And then there is the fact that they are securing a strong, growing (and enviable) customer loyalty. Don’t overlook their challenge to other innovators like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft – it’s impossible to ignore, just like their impressive growth and financial results! But the appeal that underpins all of this is Google’s unwavering vision of making information universally accessible and useful. And having a huge imagination that is spearheading innovation in multi-dimensional ways doesn’t hurt either!

(For references to SMA’s Google and Insurance research brief at IIR, see the following:
SMA: What Do Google’s Activities Mean for Insurers
Death-of-Health-Insurers-Prediction May Apply to P&C, Life)

As Google drives innovation, offering an integrated and seamless customer experience and making available the use of their ground-breaking technologies to people in their everyday lives, the levels of customer intimacy and loyalty continue to increase. And in the opposite direction, the vast amount of data becoming available via some of these technologies concerning individuals and their cars, homes, and bodies is breath-taking. And it will be transformative!

This is why the implications for insurance are so great. Google is bringing an outside-in, customer-driven approach to innovation that is causing insurers to rethink, reimagine, and reinvent their visions of a technology enabled future. Google is organizing data, technology, and location around people, creating a new level of customer empowerment and centricity unheralded in any industry, let alone insurance. Not only is this powerful, it is fundamentally changing the business of insurance!

 Innovation Culture is Now a Must-Have

Innovation is no longer just a nice-to-have initiative. It has become a must-have, strategic, core mandate that will define a new era of winners (and losers). Why? Because the increasingly rapid pace of change is challenging decades of business traditions and assumptions and demanding a response. This is unprecedented in the history of the insurance industry. And all the while, the changes just keep coming: new technologies, the mash-up of technologies, and new uses for these technologies.

These changes are highly disruptive but they are also transformational. One industry innovation leader that we recently spoke to about innovation noted that: “There is an outrageous level of individualism – from devices, data, and components that will break the traditional infrastructure, culture and systems of traditional insurers.” Companies like Google, Apple, Uber, Zipcar, and others, as well as next-gen and emerging technologies are intensifying this level of individualism.

Many insurers, large and small, are struggling to get their heads around a comprehensive view or a full understanding of the impact that these influencers will have on the disruption and transformation of the insurance industry. That is why the Google and Insurance research report has provoked such a response in the industry – because it provides insights and a glimpse of the challenges and opportunities for the industry. It also points to why, as an industry, we need to rethink how we respond to and embrace innovation as the core of a new culture and keystone of a new future.

Other industries, from retail to media, entertainment and photography, have experienced the same thing the insurance industry is now encountering: the very foundations of their businesses are being challenged, requiring novel thinking, experimentation, innovation, and adoption of the new and emerging technologies. As one industry leader and CIO recently commented, “Insurers must build knowledge, a network, and an ecosystem of outside-in relationships to reimagine and contribute to their company’s future.”

This persistent and continual disruption will necessitate a new way of embracing change and innovation. It  will require a culture and model built around ongoing collaboration and ideation that extends outside the traditional insurance organization. This is why an innovation mandate is critical.

The innovation mandate must track and assess trends and influencers both inside and outside the industry, prepare plans and scenarios, experiment, and collaborate in order to gain competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the day-to-day operational demands, time constraints, and shortage of expertise or resources for evaluating the many implications for insurance will find most insurers unprepared or unequipped to respond to this level of disruption. More troubling is the way that many insurers are continuing to operate with the long-standing approach of wait-and-see or being a fast follower. With the accelerating release of next-gen technologies, eager competitors, new influencers, and increasing customer demands, failing to adopt a culture of innovation and collaboration could create a potentially unsurmountable risk to survival of the business.

Unparalleled Challenges, Unparalleled Opportunity

For insurers, the coming years promise unparalleled opportunity to increase their value to their customers. Those that are best able to capitalize on the key technology influencers will reap the most in rewards. In contrast, those that do not prepare for the future will find themselves falling behind, losing both competitive position and financial stability. To capture the full potential, insurers must determine to create and participate in an ecosystem of outside experts and resources; inspire their leadership; and enable their journey of change, transformation, and innovation. Why will this be so important? Because the ecosystem network will integrate new ideas and thinking from outside the organization, and provide that outside-in perspective needed to break legacy assumptions.

The innovation journey toward rethinking, reimaging, and reinventing the business of insurance has started. Have you started your journey?


Denise Garth // Denise Garth is Chief Strategy Officer responsible for leading marketing, industry relations and innovation in support of Majesco’s client centric strategy, working closely with Majesco customers, partners and the industry. She is a recognized Top 50 InsurTech Influencer and industry leader with both P&C and L&A insurance experience as a CIO and business executive with deep international ties in Asia and Europe through her ACORD leadership role. Denise is an acknowledged strategic thinker, innovation leader, international speaker, and author of thought leadership and articles regarding the key issues and opportunities facing the industry today to prepare for the future.

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