Innovating in insurance companies takes some convincing: CSAA Insurance Group VP

Breaking the boundaries is hard, but vice president at insurer explains how he did it

Innovating in insurance companies takes some convincing: CSAA Insurance Group VP

Motor & Fleet

By Will Koblensky

Getting clients to adapt to the already advanced infrastructure of digital options and furthering the usage of agent facing portals could be the top trends for 2017.

That’s according to Michael Cross, vice president of digital services at CSAA Insurance Group.

Convincing the company’s organizational leadership that customer experience should get a larger share of the focus, he said, is fundamental to moving the needle in a large company’s digital development.

Cross came to CSAA Insurance Group when it had no digital presence whatsoever and led the group to launch what Cross described as “maybe even a market leading quoting experience” with gamification in discounts and adjustment coverage. 

The VP was also ardent in pointing out CSAA Insurance Group’s in-house feature for agents.

“We have provided an agent cockpit, a central application that allows them to pivot to many other applications through single sign on,” he explained. “In an agent’s life you’ll typically see multiple computers and logins - I think we’ve made their life easier.”  

However, operating online does have its costs.

Cybersecurity issues and fraud vulnerability, Cross conceded, were exposures gained from entering the digital space.

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On top of the typical IT security practices, “we’ve also taken an approach from a software and digital development perspective - I’ve embedded my own security anchors within the development team,” Cross said. “There’s actually security engineers that are constantly writing scripts and automated tests for security because of the risk exposure.”

Bringing innovation into an insurance company is a challenge, but in Cross’s case it was his role.

He hopes CSAA Insurance Group will soon offer quotes based on taking photos of your VIN and Drivers License and that claims processing will get enhanced with photo uploads and artificial intelligence.

This kind of innovation, Cross has found, often meets some resistance.

“Our Chief Information Officer, Steve O’Connor, he recognized he needed to bring in talent for each of these different (digital) disciplines,” Cross said, mentioning that he would be asked what the return on investment was of the digital products he was trying to launch.

“This isn’t just about ROI…it’s a different mindset, it’s about customer experience, it’s about design. If you don’t put the customer at the center of your experience, they’re just on to the next thing. You have to think ‘customer first.’”

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