What hinders insurance from fully embracing digitalization?

Insurtech expert tackles how regulation is hampering the industry’s digitalization efforts

What hinders insurance from fully embracing digitalization?


By Gerv Tacadena

Brian Harrigan’s (pictured) interest in the promises digitalization has for the insurance industry sparked the moment he began his career in the sector. In his early days as a managing underwriter for reinsurance and insurance in 2003, this industry veteran was already forward-looking, fascinated about how automation can lessen the amount of paper being physically processed by people.

With this in mind, Harrigan founded insurtech firm InsurIQ. His goal was to establish a fully-automated underwriting, quoting, binding, and policy issue process which was essentially an “innovation lab” for real life insurance technology solutions.

However, in an industry that is highly regulated, not all came on a silver platter. For Harrigan, the United States’ insurance industry still lags when it comes to digital adoption.

In this exclusive interview with Insurance Business, Harrigan talks about the factors hampering the insurance industry’s push towards digitalization. He also shares his insights on how brokers and independent agents can keep up with the ever-changing insurance landscape.

IB: Why is the insurance industry overall lagging when it comes to digital adoption?

Harrigan: The insurance industry is highly regulated. Admitted carriers deal with Insurance Commissioners from 50 States plus D.C. Products must be filed for approval before being sold to residents of a state, each with its own application form, policy form, endorsements and coverage riders. Agents must be licensed to sell. 

The morass of product filings, licensing requirements and compliance issues has been perceived as too challenging to move to digital. Adding to that is the fact that most carriers have expensive legacy systems to maintain service to existing business and you can see that digital adoption has been lagging for the industry.

IB: How can carriers improve their speed to digital?

Harrigan: Carriers need to take an “all-digital” view of the business, which is a major departure from the support structure of their legacy systems.

They will also need to become more consumer-centric as the expectation of consumers to do everything in a digitally engaging environment continues to expand.

IB: What does the future hold for the second wave of insurtech?

Harrigan: The second wave will be the actual automation of the insurance process with less emphasis on the widgets and gadgets that are being offered currently and a shift of focus on to new elements that add real value to the insurance ecosystem.

IBA: Can brokers and independent agents win in today’s industry environment?

Harrigan: Yes, but they need to think digitally as well. They cannot sit still while their customers’ needs and demands are changing. Those that adopt and execute on a digital vision will succeed, while those who do not will become the dinosaurs of the segment.

IB: How did your insurance career journey start and what led you to this path?

Harrigan: I started as a Group Insurance Representative (trainee) with The Union Mutual Life Insurance Company in the Boston office, now known as UNUM. I had planned to attend Business School and was advised to get some real work experience before getting my MBA, I never looked back after entering the insurance segment.

IB: What do you love the most about your current organization?

Harrigan: InsurIQ is changing the way insurance business is done by migrating our clients from a historically paper-based, analog process to a fully digital environment. We help our clients achieve their digital insurance aspirations. While we have had this vision for some time, the industry is just now buying into the need for transformation. We love the fact that we are helping to change the last financial services segment improving efficiency and transparency for consumers, agents, brokers and carriers.

There are a host of firms being classified as “InsurTech”, broadly defined as technology for insurance. We focus specifically on helping our clients sell and deliver their products to their customers in a fully digital environment. Imagine eliminating all of the paper processing and redundant data entry that has been the hallmark of traditional insurance sales and policy delivery. We do not require the use of the carrier’s legacy systems, so we are able to give our clients a real “speed to market” advantage.

IB: What makes it different from other firms in the same space?

Harrigan: We work with senior insurance executives who are responsible for growing premium income (selling insurance) and improving their customers’ experience. This makes us core to the revenue growth objectives of our customers. Other firms are focused on core systems replacement or enhanced claims system functionality. Our customer tends to be in the business of acquiring new customers and does not have control over the major corporate IT purchasing decisions but rather has to grow a book of business in an increasingly competitive market with greater digital purchasing expectations from brokers and end user consumers.

IB: Please tell us briefly about your role in your company.

Harrigan: As founder, president, and CEO, I’m responsible for creating the vision of an “all-digital” world of insurance across all segments of the insurance ecosystem. My primary focus is working with our team to make our vision a reality for our clients.

IB: What advice can you share for those wanting to join the insurance industry?

Harrigan: It is not your grandfather’s insurance industry anymore. The transition from analog to digital will be breathtaking and if someone wants to be on the forefront of a changing industry, now is the time to get on board.

IB: If you were to imagine a world without insurance, how would you describe it?

Harrigan: That would be difficult, as it would mean that we are in a world without any type of risk.  So long as there is the potential for risk and economic loss, there will be a world with insurance.

IB: What are your passions or hobbies outside insurance?

Harrigan: Working with my wife on expanding the reach of our charitable foundation, continuing to see the success of four adult children in building their families and careers, and watching as they add to the population at large with six grandchildren and counting.

IB: If you were not working in the insurance space, what would you be doing now?

Harrigan: Just completing my farewell tour for my rock band, The Marauders.

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