Non-Carrier Portals and Tools Vie to Become Consumers’ Insurance/Protection Consultants

A consumer’s primary trusted protection consultant might be carrier or an agent, but it could be neither – it might not even have any connection to the insurance industry, at least not yet.

(Image provided by Snupps.)

Consumer technology is evolving fast into new areas, such as automotive safety and home automation, which have an insurance dimension. The question is where do insurers fit in? In the case of Telematics, insurers have control of the relevant data; but what about home automation? Connected devices in the home will generate data analogous to that generated by telematics devices, but so far it remains in the hands of service providers such as AT&T or Nest Labs/Google. There’s a similar question about the role technology plays in who ends up being a consumer’s protection consultant and what that means for owning the data – and the customer.

Carriers and distributors alike have provided tools such as retirement calculators, home inventory and other protection information and education services. A recent example comes from London-based agency Drewberry Insurance, which has launched a Family Insurance Tool, which is designed to let user to better understand their financial risks. Available to the general public, the tool asks users basic questions about essential bills, mortgage and children. Upon completion of the process, which takes less than five minutes to complete, users receive what Drewberry calls a simple guide to their protection needs. The output processes the user-specific answers to show percent risk of being unable to work or dying, appropriate levels for income protection and life insurance, as well as some informal guidance on which policy options to choose.

Tom Conner, Director Drewberry Insurance.

Tom Conner, Director Drewberry Insurance.

“It can be difficult for busy families to find the time to research all the different products and options,” comments Tom Conner, Director, Drewberry Insurance. “This new tool helps people to better understand the financial risks they face as well as providing a simple guide on which products can cover those risks and which options to choose.”

Conner adds that, “The actual risk of passing away before age 65 is 7 times higher than the public perceive and according to our research 49% of people are choosing to buy protection insurance on the internet, which shows a clear need for online tools to help the public make more informed decisions.”

Companies providing online protection consulting need be neither carriers nor agents. Recent start-up Sureify (San Jose, Calif.) provides an interactive interface to teach people about their life insurance needs in a simple, quick and easy manner. Users can rapidly fill in relevant fields and complete a process based on a continuum of Learn-Estimate-Compare-Download My Plan. The output provides suggested agents and carriers.

Sales Enablement

Sureify works with agents and carriers by guiding consumers quickly the point where they are prepared to have a serious insurance buying conversation and then facilitating a hand-off. “By the time they hit the agent, they’re an educated buyer, and an educated buyer is a good one,” comments Dustin Yoder, Sureify’s CEO, who characterizes the company as sales enablement provider.

Dustin Yoder, CEO, Sureify.

Dustin Yoder, CEO, Sureify.

On the property/casualty side of the industry, many carriers have provided home inventory tools, Allstate’s Digital Locker being one of the more notable examples. But insurers’ home inventory offerings may have competitors from providers outside the industry. Snupps (London) offers a consumer app that it touts as useful for helping users keep better personal inventories in the event of insurance claims and also potentially helping their insurers.

“Insurers also incur high human resource cost in managing claim settlements,” comments Arthur Holcombe, managing director, Snupps. “There is a two-way incentive to have users with better home inventories.

Snupps (which was derived from Serial Number Universal Protection Protocol) originally aimed at a broad market for people keeping track of their possessions, including collectors, hobbyists and small businesses – many of which also maintain a personal inventory for insurance purposes, Holcombe relates. Noting that other available inventory apps were rather clunky, Snupps aimed to develop a much more engaging tool based on the personal connection people have with their stuff, he explains.

“On Snupps you can share shelves or items to get direct word of mouth feedback from peers, or you can explore stuff that other people share,” Holcombe elaborates. “You can also remain entirely private – think Pinterest for real-world objects.”

While aiming at the general public, Holcombe says Snupps has seen interest from insurers and is open to cooperating with them. “Our primary focus at this stage is to build up our organic base of users,” he says.

Self-Service Appeal

The insurance industry needs to apply the same approach to engagement as do developers of consumer apps, suggests Dewberry’s Conner. “In a world where an increasing number of people would rather transact online rather than speak to someone, it’s vital to cater to that preference by building tools to guide people in the right direction,” he recommends. “There is plenty of technology out there that provides quotes and prices, but very little that helps consumers make an informed decision, and that’s where we step in.”

“When we try to provide genuine help with our tools, consumers recognize us as experts and they’re far more willing to interact with us,” Conner adds.

(Related Content: Apple iOS 8 SDK Offers Insurers M2M Pathway to the Internet of Things)

Below: Snupps home inventory app appeals to individuals’ attachment to their possessions:

 

Snupps-Shelf

 

 

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonne[email protected] or (503) 936-2803.

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