Friday, May 24, 2024

How technology is transforming the insurance ecosystem

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Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio for the authoritative record.

Patti Harman (00:06):

Welcome to the Dig In podcast. I’m your host Patti Harman. Editor-in-Chief of Digital Insurance. Technology permeates every aspect of the insurance experience and in this edition of the Dig In Podcast, we’ll explore how it is making the process more transparent, more human, and even more empathetic for policy holders. Our guest is the chief product and technology officer of Duck Creek, Jess Keeney. Jess has spent almost two decades delivering B2B products at an enterprise scale across multiple industries with a focus on fostering a culture of innovation and is a champion of improving the customer experience. Thank you so much for joining us today. Jess.

Jess Keeney (00:52):

Thank you so much, Patty, for having me. I’m very excited to be here today.

Patti Harman (00:56):

So I said in my intro that technology has permeated every aspect of the insurance experience. Let’s start with a look at some of the positive impacts that technology adoption has had in the insurance space. If you could explain for our listeners, how is it changing customer interactions from policy purchase to first notice of loss through the claims process and even beyond that?

Jess Keeney (01:23):

Yeah, I mean I think when you look at what technology adoption has done across the industry, there are really obvious examples that bring much higher efficiency across the board, higher levels of efficiency, and that can go from driving towards operational cost reduction, thinking how you don’t have to mail anything out anymore, you can deliver it via email. Everything is mostly electronic versus where back in the day everything was very physical and it was much more painful to get information out to customers. And then I think honestly, just bringing better transparency overall that can come from the form of data, it can come from informed business decisions and I just feel like we have much higher and quicker response and access to data than we used to.

Patti Harman (02:09):

Why is the use of technology so important from the customer experience perspective? Because really, it’s giving them a lot of new options I think.

Jess Keeney (02:19):

Absolutely. I mean think when you think about what a customer’s needs are, they can now have those met no matter where they are. So I spoke about electronic, think of all the electronic interactions that are now available 24/7 that a customer has access to. They can also self-serve when needed. So instead of having to actually contact someone and ask for a document, they can go online, they can request it, download it immediately. And I also think that gives the ability then to reserve those personal interactions in the appropriate timeframes with people. So it frees up actual employees working at carriers to spend their human interaction time during those times when people need sympathy or empathy during a loss or when they actually want access to a subject matter expert to explain something. But it took out all of the pain of having to wait for nine to five to get in touch with a human to do something that someone may need access to.

Patti Harman (03:13):

I love that. That has really given people the opportunity to have access to information and possibly even to people almost on a 24/7 basis. Because you’re right, things don’t always happen from nine to five, so having that flexibility is really important. So how is it changing how agents and brokers and insurers even interact with their customers then?

Jess Keeney (03:36):

Yeah, I think the ease of doing business has been just greatly enhanced. So I think you can think about it in terms of how quickly people are getting responses or how they’re able to interact across the entire workflow of the insurance cycle. So it probably used to take days to have these interactions and flows across people. Now they are happening sort of in real time, collaboratively online. And I also think that it brings the ability for us to then leverage that information to have more competitiveness in terms of what you’re looking at for pricing comparisons. I also think it gives the ability to have better fraud detection, reducing the carrier risks and really just overall better and more seamless experiences across the support process. What can we do to support the end user and in making everything more accessible and approachable?

Patti Harman (04:28):

Yeah, I like that you mentioned the fraud piece. That’s one of the things that we’ve been watching from a coverage perspective on our team is with the increased use of technology, it makes it a little bit easier for bad actors to perpetrate fraud, but then the technology is also making it a lot easier for insurance carriers to identify it. I said earlier you’ve seen a lot of new products developed during your career. Would you mind taking our listeners behind the scenes and maybe share a little bit of what goes into the development of a new product? Maybe talk about the research and development processes and how someone just doesn’t say, oh, I think we’re going to create this product and it’s in the market the next day.

Jess Keeney (05:15):

That’s pretty much an example I give to people when they ask about product management. I say it’s not just someone’s idea that they decided to spit out and put out there for everyone, so I love that you use that example. But yeah, I think obviously the need for new products really is driven from the market and it’s really understanding what are pervasive trends that are coming or honestly what are things that are frustrating both carriers or customers or the carrier’s customers directly and how can we really allow that innovation to foster a new product that can reduce the frustration or solve the market demand. And really what that looks like is we are constantly doing research, looking at the trends across the insurance industry, looking at what is going to impact the insurance industry, but also looking across all other industries and seeing what trends may have already hit another industry that’s ripe or likely to come.


And again, I think right now when we look at what are carriers dealing with today that maybe they didn’t have to deal with in the past, those are the ideas that sort of drive new innovations. It’s really about being very specific about how do we want to solve those problems and allow the carriers to grow in new and different ways. That could be with new lines of business, it could also be in new geographies, it could be supporting a new digital journey. And I think those are the areas that really look at far more rapid investment. And those are usually where we’re looking to do some new products because we see an urgent need and it’s a problem that hasn’t been solved. The second we do solve it in the industry, we move on to the next one and start it all over again. But I think when you’re building a new product, the best thing to do is really be coupled with what is the frustration or the problem you’re trying to solve and then doing some really deep testing around it and making sure that it does actually resolve that issue and it’s going to provide value for the carrier and at the end of the day it’s going to be an improved experience for the customer.

Patti Harman (07:10):

Not to put you on the spot, but could you give us kind of a timeframe in terms of the development of these new products? So it can take, I’m assuming that it takes months and in some cases even years.

Jess Keeney (07:23):

Yeah, for sure. It depends on obviously the extent of the product, but I don’t want to put anything out there that hasn’t been properly researched and developed. But I also think that the trend is fail fast. And obviously if I can get something out iteratively and get responses on it and feedback on it, I’m going to keep doing that. And the second that I have anything of value, I will try to get it out the door as quickly as possible. And so what used to take, I would say nine, 12 months, 18 months to see something get out the door, we are now looking at honestly a three-month process where we can make sure that we have it supported and out the door and then iterate continually again, just the ability of actually being able to release all the time and deploy new code and giving the flexibility for a customer to feature flag, turn it on or turn it off are some of the abilities that make it far easier to develop and deliver new products.

Patti Harman (08:15):

That’s pretty amazing given how much technology has changed and really affected the development process, what aspect of this process do you find the most important or rewarding then?

Jess Keeney (08:28):

I mean obviously I like solving problems, so that’s the thing that for me is obviously the most rewarding. But I will say that there’s no shortage of ideas and people are driven to innovate. So I think the art that’s most rewarding is that it happens continuously and really when you’re sitting there watching the entire process, it gives the opportunity for us to connect new solutions to a frustrated user and people are happy and engaged and satisfied. And I feel like that is probably the most rewarding thing. Knowing that I saw a frustrated user, developed something, delivered it to them, and then watching them be absolutely delighted with that experience is probably my favorite part for sure.

Patti Harman (09:14):

I can see where that would be very rewarding too. How are companies really fostering a focus on innovation these days? I’ve spoken to a number of insurers and it’s been very interesting for me to see how they’re innovating in different spaces, but what are you seeing from your perspective in terms of how companies are focusing and fostering innovation?

Jess Keeney (09:39):

Yeah, I think innovation happens in multiple ways and I think there’s both a need for a scientific culture around it. So really focused resources, constantly thinking about it all the time, but also making the space in time for innovation, providing the ability for people to think about things differently, think outside the box. And really innovation isn’t this magical concept. A lot of people think it is, but you have to make the space in time and focus on it just like you would any of your other business outcomes. And so some of the ways we do that, or I think I’ve seen best across the industry is really having customer and industry involvement. That can be from conferences, it can also be identifying use cases across the board. It can also be really specifically having hackathons or what we like to call duckathons because we play on duck puns for both industry partners and employees. And so I think by allowing people the space and time focusing on it as a business outcome and really collaborating across the board, those are some of the best opportunities.

Patti Harman (10:42):

So Jess, I wanted to know what’s actually driving much of the innovation that we’re seeing. You were talking about customer needs, but also is it data? Is it changing expectations in the marketplace or is it something altogether that seems to be driving the innovation that we’re seeing?

Jess Keeney (11:01):

Yeah, I think it’s a combination of all of those things. Obviously new technologies enable new innovations, especially when those technologies are consumed by the masses or are exposed and easier to get access to. So we’re definitely seeing that with some of the newer later access to large language models and artificial intelligence and machine learning. And I also think that customer expectations drive change as priority shifts, and so customers will actually demand what they need to see from a user experience and the carriers must react to that. So I think between both customer expectations and quite honestly new technologies wanting to be available, that’s definitely some of the change. Obviously can’t go without saying significant events can have major impacts like Covid and really forcing the issue of how is everyone going to be working more efficiently remotely across the globe.

Patti Harman (12:00):

What kind of impact are generative AI and other types of technology having on the insurance industry? Is it changing how quickly companies need to adapt and adopt new technologies now or are things still kind of moving at the same pace they have been?

Jess Keeney (12:17):

I mean Chat GPT is one of the most rapidly adopted technologies ever in the history of technology, and so obviously that is going to cause impact and I feel like carriers must really adapt and adopt rapidly as well. That means looking at opportunities where we can use generative AI to augment and support people in their activities. I think that comes with looking at some of the areas that have always been complicated. I think of risk assessment, having the ability to have more data and more understanding and greater collection of insights in that process that can only help us and benefit. And so I think to create better insurance products, you have to be really thinking about how is this going to help me compete on price? How is this going to help me in the marketplace? And I think so bringing those new capabilities and arming our customers with the ability to compete at all scales that they want to be competing at is something that’s going to bring more nimbleness, but it also can bring a level of disruption. And I think that’s really understanding what is the right balance between efficiency and personalization with the correct balance of what that privacy or unintended data sharing may be. And we have to be really responsible on those fronts as well.

Patti Harman (13:40):

Yeah, that kind of leads into my next question, which was I had asked you earlier about some of the positive aspects of technology on the insurance industry, and so you’ve just talked a little bit about the disruption, but what are some of the other risks or downsides to the adoption of technology?

Jess Keeney (13:57):

I think there’s always going to be a balance about whether it is the right time to adopt it and how pervasive that adoption is. We definitely are going to see and have seen in the past sort of flash in the pan technologies that people believe are going to have wide adoption, they put them in and it doesn’t actually have the impact of making it better for consumers, making it better for the customer end user. So I think it is always constantly a trade-off. And I think one of the best ways that we can look at it is having more data, having more connected sources will always be fantastic, but we always have to really understand what level of transparency do we need to bring with that so that we have explainability. And I think as more and more technology comes in, it also brings more and more regulatory changes.


And so I think one of the other things that we really have to focus on is how do we keep bringing in and responding to these regulatory changes without it being so disruptive that we’re not, at the end of the day, we’re not serving the customer as best as we can be. And I think it’s also there’s a trial and error, so it is you have to limit not only your adoption of it, but maybe think about the expense of it as well. I think right now we see a constant downturn of technology being adapted or adopted and then usually the price will go down. But I think in the beginning it’s very hard for companies to estimate exactly how expensive something is going to be, and usually you have to be very specific about the business case and doing some trial runs. So I think the best thing that we can do is understand the true potential before you roll it out widely. And the best way to do that is starting with a small sample, making sure it proves that it’s going to be successful and have the impact that you wanted it to be rather than just adoption for technology’s sake or technology for technology’s sake.

Patti Harman (15:52):

That is so true. Within our company we have a research department and we were doing a survey with some of the insurers to see how and where and what kind of spending they were proposing for 2024, and it was interesting to see that a lot of them were planning to still continue to invest the same amount in adopting and creating new technologies as they had previously. Some were going to scale back just a little bit, but I think for many of them, they want to make sure that they do stay on that cutting edge and that they don’t fall behind in terms of what’s going on in the industry and they want to make sure that their customers have the very best experience possible. With all of that, what kinds of technologies do you think are going to have the most impact in the insurance space in the next couple of years?

Jess Keeney (16:46):

One of the things that I think is probably going to have the biggest impact is around connectivity and also the pervasiveness of artificial intelligence and Gen AI. And I think because we have the ability now to take technologies that were previously sort of only used in the dark rooms of the data scientists and now everyone has access to it, I think we have the ability to really push on the connectedness of things, and I think it has a fantastic interaction with what that means for remote areas, for mobility, for just remote work across. And I really like talking about it in the definition or a new definition of modern working and having access to this data that can empower us to think differently about our relationship with our customers and how to actually really disrupt in a very meaningful way, historical norms so that we can do better across the industry, support our customers even better, and really honestly just drive a little bit more of the free market economies. How do we help expand business?

Patti Harman (17:53):

The insurance industry has had this reputation for a very long time of not being necessarily ahead of the technology curve, but I think a lot of that has changed in the last couple of years, especially with the onset of the pandemic and some other things that are going on. And I’m wondering what excites you about what you’re seeing as far as the digital transformation in the industry?

Jess Keeney (18:15):

I think actually you hit the nail on the head there. I think the thing that excites me the most is that we have seen a mindset change in terms of people being much more open to the technology and adopting it far quicker. I think even five, 10 years ago when you talked about the cloud or you talked about needing more computer power or even more data, people were very fearful of what that meant. Now I think just looking at some of the newer technologies that have evolved, people are much quicker to understand they are not going to be able to provide the same level of competitiveness or customer support if they’re not really thinking about how to get their workers more efficient and how to leverage these technologies to create a better customer experience. So the thing that excites me by far the most is just finally having people lean in to adopt new technologies and also being very specific on how do we collaborate across the industry and work together. It’s kind of diffusing the competition between them and really talking about how do we pull up the entire industry?

Patti Harman (19:21):

Yep, that’s very, very true, especially since there isn’t anything that any one company can do on their own. It has to be a collaborative effort in order to meet the needs and you need to bring together all of those different areas of expertise to really create something magnificent. With all of this adoption, is there anything that concerns you about the increased use of technology in the insurance industry at this point?

Jess Keeney (19:48):

I think it’s really, can we capitalize it as quickly as possible? Can we really get the most value out of it, and are we doing that with the right safeguards in place because there is a level of how much we need to know or want to know about our customers while protecting the individuality, making sure that we have the right data protection and also making sure that we’re using it responsibly. We want to be able to provide better protection for people in businesses, not accidentally decrease protection for a certain group or a certain area. And so we have to be really specific about how we’re making sure there isn’t accidental bias in any of our products.

Patti Harman (20:25):

Yes, I’ve spoken with a number of insurance companies and they are acutely aware of the importance of making sure that there isn’t bias in any of the products and how they’re using data and that sort of thing, and it’s encouraging to see that. If there was one product or digital solution that would have a profound impact on the industry, what do you think it would be? And this is just what would you like to see or what do you think would just really change things as we see and know them now?

Jess Keeney (20:58):

Yeah, I mean, I think right now, and I’m probably very biased for the right now, but I do think it is Generative AI, and I think because we’ve seen such a fast adoption of it and because it has such a wide array of use cases where it can make such a positive difference in terms of the amount of cost per carriers in terms of the customer experience, and honestly just making it able to be better at how we’re doing modern work or how we’re doing remote work and how we’re supporting people. I will say if you ask me, probably in another year, I’m probably going to pick the latest and greatest technology there because I think really it’s overall why I’m talking about it right now, that is it’s Gen AI and AI right now. I think a year from now or two years from now, we’re going to keep seeing these technology advances and it really is how can we make sure that we are honestly adopting those as quickly as we can while being as safe and secure as we can? And does that come with with a level of security and cybersecurity that we need? So I would feel like all the technology all the time is too risky. Adopting the technology at the right moment and figuring out the best ways to leverage it is probably the strongest thing that I would say, and I think it has the best and most rewarding impact if we do it correctly.

Patti Harman (22:18):

Very wise words. I completely agree with that. We have covered an awful lot in the last couple of minutes. And is there anything I haven’t asked you about the digital transformation of insurance that you think is important for our listeners to know?

Jess Keeney (22:35):

We touched on a lot and it’s been a wonderful conversation, so thank you so much. But I feel like maybe the one thing that I will leave is, are we really doing enough to change the industry? Are there other things that we should be doing to really recognize our full potential and how are we getting better at adopting the next big change that comes if every time a new technology comes or a new customer preference comes, we have to start all over and redesign the wheel, we’re probably not getting ahead of it as much. So I think the one thing that I would probably ask everyone is how are we doing better at preparing for the next big change and being flexible and what have we learned from the experiences we’ve had so far?

Patti Harman (23:20):

That is just a great way to end this conversation. Thank you so much, Jess, for sharing your expertise with our audience today. And thank you all to our audience for listening to the Dig in podcast. I produced this episode with audio production by Adnan Khan. Please make sure to review us and subscribe to our content at dig From Digital Insurance, I’m Patty Harman, and thank you for listening.

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