Be willing! That’s the golden ticket that insurance companies must embrace if they want to enable meaningful change in their organizations. Insurers have to be willing to make short-term decisions with potentially longer-term paybacks; they have to be willing to think outside the box and break down silos in responsibilities and ideas; they have to be willing to learn about new ideas and admit deficiencies in old ones; and, perhaps most importantly, they have to be willing to fail.
That is the idea that came up in discussion at the Reuters ‘Future of Insurance Canada’ event before the close of 2020, when multiple business leaders took on the challenging topic of change management and how to successfully incorporate innovation in an industry that is notoriously risk adverse at its core.
Danish Yusuf, chief executive officer of Zensurance, a Toronto-based digital insurance brokerage that specializes in business insurance, stressed how important it is for companies to embrace the right culture.
“Within our company, we’ve made it a point to hire insurance people and people with no insurance expertise – and then we’ve got this ‘battle of the minds’ where everyone has to come to the table and share what they think,” said Yusuf. “Some of our core values are ‘strong opinions, loosely held’ and ‘disagree and commit’ – so you have to speak up for what you think, but also be willing to let it go if you’re out-debated and we decide as a company to prioritize something else. We’ve set that up internally and it helps us to ensure we’re not being complacent.”
Incumbent insurers must be willing to engage in a ‘battle of the minds’ not only at the C-suite and board level, but right the through the succession path and beyond, according to Bryan Falchuk, founder of Insurance Evolution Partners. He commented: “What you see sometimes is some cherry-picking – ‘Oh, this person works with data, so we’ll give them training [on X tool]’ – but actually everybody works with data and everyone faces change.” Essentially, change management requires total engagement and total buy-in from companies and their employees.
That buy-in can only be achieved if everyone speaks the same language, according to Jimmy Spears, head of automotive at Tractable, a software company that develops artificial intelligence for accident and disaster recovery, enabling some of the largest insurers worldwide to settle claims more quickly and efficiently.
“It’s about lexicon – enabling someone to speak the language of analytics [or any other innovation] in a way that it [permeates] the company and the culture. That’s really what I look for,” said Spears, when discussing Tractable’s major insurance partnerships. He said, generally, people can talk about Tractable’s AI solutions and machine learning – but effective change needs to go beyond just being able to talk about it. Insurers need to understand innovation and how it can benefit their organizations.
“It’s really about how you understand how to leverage [technology] to really go after your strategy of better indemnity control or superior expense control,” Spears added. “So, for us, it’s about understanding what [our insurer partners’] strategies are, complementing our technologies with their strategies, teaching them that language, and working with their IT teams to understand how simple it is to implement what we do into their processes. There are a lot of excited people out there that really want to learn about innovation.”
Jason Hope, vice president of strategic partnerships at The Boyd Group, one of the largest operators of non-franchised collision repair centres in North America, which has insurance company clients across Canada, said the firm has managed to encourage its insurance partners to embrace innovation by showing “willing”.
“It really starts off with our culture internally. We have a very entrepreneurial mindset,” said Hope. “We started off 30-years-ago with one location in Winnipeg, Manitoba – and today have over 700 across North America. We’ve grown through really taking on reasonable risk [and] looking at failing quickly and learning from that.
“We’re willing to invest, we’re willing to leverage our scale, we’re willing to go out there and try things. We show [our insurance partners] what we’re seeing, we bring them to the table, and we partner with them on these things in order to see what we can achieve together.”