I’m recovering from the exhilaration of two days at #GeoInsurance (Europe). Being a conference Chair is hard work. But it is incredibly satisfying – fun, too. These are my dashed-off notes from the train and yes, I’m more than a little bit excited about what could be achieved by continuing this great conversation.
The speakers at Corinium’s GeoInsurance (Europe) event confirmed for me that insurers, as a customer subset, can only grow in both importance and value for the geospatial industry. This isn’t new-news for anyone. Not really.
What’s important is that ‘shiny-shiny’ new geo solutions, and data, aren’t seen as a panacea; that the insurers and the reinsurers do gravitate towards grass-roots integration of location intelligence right across their businesses; and that the geospatial infrastructure emerges in Britain to empower those businesses with higher quality, more accessible location data.
If we get this right, the future looks good.
On the other hand, geospatial will only deliver its true potential to insurers if providers are prepared to take a holistic approach: exploring the business-wide breadth of each challenge before having the temerity to suggest a solution … and then developing consumer-centric tools and products that will adapt or evolve to support the myriad, complex, existing workflows already in place.
The same might be said for any industry, it’s true. But this is not ipsedixitism.
Insurance has always known that its métier can benefit by using informed insights about ‘where is’ and ‘where might’: that is, after all, the essence of the well-executed analysis necessary to understand accumulation and aggregation. Insurers have been developing and using proprietary geospatial tools for years. As a result, the importance of interoperability – of being in the practical position to integrate new platforms, widgets, tools, cloud-solutions, and datasets – must not be underestimated.
That data must also be discoverable; affordable, and delivered with the right level of detail. For insurers, too much data is an inhibitor, not a facilitator. It may – for a period of time – appear to present competitive advantage, but too many attributes can obscure outcomes. They don’t make decisions easier.
It is not also uncharitable, I hope, to say insurance has something of a reputation for counter-intuitive product development and innovation. (TCF terms and conditions, anyone?)
Policy-panjandrums aside, there’s always been a keen focus on detailed analysis, and parameter- or caveat-driven products, which can suppress the appetite for exploring a more imaginative hypothesis or service. At the end of the day, good insurance benefits people. People do need to be involved in developing great products – products that are built for everyman, anywhere.
It’s not just about the data, it’s about that data being confidently associated with a deep and meaningful relationship – between the insurer and its customers, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. There, geospatial comes into its own: the industry can benefit by seeing location data more as the facilitator between disparate datasets – rather than an as a pure conduit to asset analysis.
Geospatial does have a vital, multi-faceted role to play in delivering powerful visualisations. As human beings, we are all hard-wired in different ways. But those renderings stimulate the imagination in new ways and introducing a new facet to decision-making: informed creativity. In short, it is easy to calculate linear risks on a spreadsheet, but it is much easier to ‘see what might happen’ on a map. Ultimately, that can lead to creating better propositions, faster. And more robust decisions, more easily.
Insurers have always had the opportunity to exert influence. Today, they can also take an active role in the stewardship of a more sustainable economy – embracing enterprise, working together to change behaviours and mitigate risk – and the other side of the coin can have great, long-term value too. There’s also a need to educate consumers at a grass-roots level (and by the consumer, I’m referring to personal lines and commercial lines equally). In both aspects, geospatial insights are pivotal. The appetite is also there to explore more ‘push-me-pull-you’ use of geospatial – delivering information to consumers in a form of visualisation, rather than a word document.
Thoughts I noted down during the day:
- Telematics: we’re relating vehicle data to location, but how can geo’ help us be more confident about the involvement of the driver (or not)? Should we be more granular in that data collection?
- Episodic insurance – a model for the masses? Yes, surely. And myriad applications; multiple lines. But how influential will mindset and environmental factors be, in ‘of the moment’ purchases? How could we use macro location data to understand where a customer is at the point of purchase; how could we use micro-micro-nano location data to be more confident of their comprehension – they’re about to board a plane, the travel insurance is last-minute, can the location of a thumb on a device show us if they’ve really scrolled through and read the terms and conditions carefully?
- Nat Cat 1 – how do we develop trust levels in meteorological information?
- Nat Cat 2 – why aren’t we seeing more cat memes in Cat presentations?
- Property – couldn’t we be collecting more data in different dimensions? And how can we get better access to the right data, comprehensive property data, at the right time in an asset’s lifecycle? How can we add colour to the context we’re deriving from contours?
- Property passports – what might the role be for insurers, in developing such a concept? How would the regulator be involved? Where, when does the accountability transfer from one regulator to another — planning, habitation, demolition and beyond?
- Attribute aggregation en masse may be inevitable – is there enough transparency about privacy?
- Who is regulating the cloud, where is all this data stored?
- Only four delegates from the insurance side knew what BIM is. Crikey.
- Autonomous vehicles – what role will location insights play in understanding the handover process from a vehicle, back to its driver, if there’s a need for that to happen?
- In general – (I was heartened to see this as an undertone of the event) how can insurers and reinsurers make sure they’re getting the most from investments in geospatial workflows, right the way across their businesses – and on, out into their client relationships?
- With so many proprietary forms of geospatial insight and location data sources being curated in each business, it might behove us to remember that customers do change their minds sometimes and want to change insurer — how can they be assured of fairness in assumptions, if everyone’s using different datasets. Aren’t we edging towards an opaque, uncompetitive, or even unfair landscape?
- We may be on the verge of a political diaspora: inherent instability may, perversely, increase the demand for security – what’s the role for smarter use of geospatial intelligence in that vein?
And – it was said more than once, on both days – geeking out is great, but it’s so much more productive (profitable) to start by pinpointing the problems first.
My final question from the event, I guess, is “How can we get insurers and geospatial businesses talking to each other more often, more regularly, in a non-commercial environment that nurtures better understanding of end-customers’ needs … and in a language that they both, and their customers (internally and externally), can all understand?!”
The insurance industry is clear: the need for greater momentum and an overtly user-focused development of our national geospatial strategy is key. With it, the insurers’ approach to product development (and productivity-focused work) will make a formative difference to the nation’s economy. Without it, they’ll find a way to develop their own geospatial competencies in isolation, even further.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that – this morning – Allianz released its Risk Barometer for 2019, describing its predictions for the year’s top ten corporate risks. Guess what? Without exception, detailed geographic insights are key to the methodologies used for analysing each one.
Being at the intersection of geospatial and insurance is – awesome.
The little grey cells might take another day to recover.
Bring. It. On.