Insurance Innovation? Oxymoron or New Focus for the Industry?

in·no·vateˈinəˌvāt/ verb
– Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
– Introduce (something new, especially a product).

ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge

Is insurance innovation an oxymoron?

This phrase might qualify because the words “insurance” and “innovation” have historically had opposite meanings — old set in our ways versus introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

I’ve been quite critical of the insurance industry as a whole for not embracing and adapting faster to rapidly changing technology and the resulting change in consumer expectations.

Over the last few years, I’ve been hearing from an increasing number of businesses and individuals that are working on bringing some very creative and dare I say, innovative methods, ideas, and products to the industry. One of their big problems is getting enough visibility for their ideas and products — which is why they seek me out.

Fortunately, ACORD (the insurance industry standards body) has also recognized this problem and is taking steps this year to provide a platform that will highlight innovations within the industry. The 2015 ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge provides a platform to showcase the best and brightest within the global insurance industry.

The ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge

The Innovation Challenge is the first insurance-specific technology and innovation competition. It is open to individuals and organizations of any size, from anywhere in the world. The only criteria? Have a new method, idea, or product that can be applied to transform the way the insurance industry does business.

Winners will be selected based on their ability to develop products and services that have the potential to bring significant innovation to the industry.

“Everyone in the industry is talking about disruption, so we wanted to give them a chance to stop talking and start acting,” said Malou August, ACORD Director of Event Programs. “People are challenging ‘business as usual’ in other industries right now. This event is an opportunity for insurance industry players to step up and create the actual innovations we need.”

The deadline for applications is May 1, 2015. A panel of nine independent judges will review these initial applications. These judges will score the submissions and the top five or more candidates in each category will move to the next round.

These winners will be invited to present a 20-minute pitch to the judges on June 18, 2015, at the ACORD office in Pearl River, New York. Three finalists will be chosen from each category.

Showcase finalists will receive a speaking slot before an audience of potential investors, partners, press, and employers at ACORD2015, the flagship ACORD event taking place November 2-4, 2015, in Boca Raton, Florida. At ACORD2015, judges will select the winners, who will receive prizes valued at up to $25,000.

How Do You Apply?

Do you have a great idea? Are you proud of your company’s accomplishments? Itching for you and your colleagues to get the peer recognition you deserve? Then complete an application and let the insurance world know what you have done. Remember, the deadline for applications is May 1, 2015.

Complete information about the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge is available at

(Originally published on LinkedIn, April 6, 2015)

Going Beyond Best Practices

For over 20 years the independent insurance agents of America (IIABA) and Reagan Consulting have been conducting a best practices study that benchmarks what makes some of the nation’s top independent agents and brokers successful. The Best Practices Study helps agency owners and managers understand how their business operations perform and measure up to the top performing firms included in the study.

best practices

Every three years, insurance companies, state association affiliates, and other industry organizations are asked to nominate organizations for each of the revenue categories they believe to be among the best, most professional agencies in the industry. These nominated agencies are then invited to participate.

By studying the leading insurance agencies and brokers in the country, the IIABA hopes to provide member agents with meaningful performance benchmarks. They also look at business strategies that could be adopted or adapted for use in improving agency performance, thus enhancing overall agency value. The best practices study has been a valuable tool and resource for agencies as they look to improve the overall value of their agencies.

Even as valuable as the best practices study has been, there are some problems with how today’s organization use the information.

As stated above, only agencies nominated by an insurance company or state association are included in the study. That may mean that some organizations that are testing and experimenting new ideas and ways of selling, servicing, and managing their agencies might get overlooked. In 2010, more than 1,200 independent agencies were recommended to take part in the study. However, only 224 agencies qualified to be included. To be chosen, the agency had to be among the top performing agencies in one of the six revenue categories.

Another problem with the best practices study is that it looks at historical information. In the past this has been fine, as the only way to determine success was to look at past practices and performance. However, changes are happening faster today than ever. Perhaps a better measure of success and help to other agencies is what is being done today to impact the organization’s future tomorrow.

Going beyond best practices helps agencies to not only look at the past, but also look toward the future and learn from other agencies as they test, experiment, fail, learn more, and get better at operating their agencies.

Consumers today are changing fast. Their expectations of an excellent customer experience are changing even more quickly. Successful agencies that are looking toward the future will be adapting and changing as fast or faster than the consumers they serve. So what does it mean to “go beyond best practices?”

Look to the past when appropriate

Past performance can be an indicator of success in the future. I am not suggesting that we throw out all historical information. I am suggesting we look at it differently.

Encourage innovation

Going beyond best practices is creating a culture in your agency that encourages experimentation and innovation. It is a culture that embraces fast failure, so you can learn what to do better next time.

Become a technology company

You might assume I would add this into any thoughts I might have. An agency CEO, who brought me into their organization to review their efficiency and effectiveness, said he felt his insurance organization needed to be a technology company that happens to sell insurance not an insurance agency that happens to use technology.

There is a world of difference in those two thoughts. Online access, content marketing, campaign management, marketing automation, mobility, mobile apps, and any other cool tool, gadget or gizmo that you can name are all part of what is expected by consumers today. Is your agency truly adding value to the insurance transaction? Or, are you simply one more agency that does a “me too” type of process?

Not being satisfied with the top 25%

Going beyond best practices means you are not satisfied with being included in the top 25% of agencies in the country. It means you strive to be in the top 1% and are an insurance organization other agencies look toward to the find out what’s working and what’s not.

This is truly an exciting time within the industry. Opportunities abound. So many agencies are complacent that an agency that goes beyond best practices can quickly pick off clients.

Are you willing to remain a traditional agency and read the best practices study to see where you fit?

I hope you are part of an agency that wants to go beyond best practices and create the standard that other organizations follow. I am here to help you innovate so you can serve the public as well tomorrow as you have in the past.

Candied Bacon Tower

It was great to be speaking at the IIA of Mississippi Agency Management Conference in Jackson, MS this past week. At the reception that night this candied bacon tower appetizer was part of the food. I do love being in the South. They were great!

Graduate Seminars feature a variety of topic selections along with real-life applications for the material. Use what you learn here to explain to your clients the presence of specified risks and the most effective methods for remedying them.

Date: April 14, 2015
Time: 08:00 am
Event: CIC Ruble Graduate Seminar
Sponsor: The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research
Location: Pittsburg, PA
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

As small business enterprises grow in number, so do the opportunities for insurance organizations. Attending this seminar will help you stay current and profitable in the rapidly expanding market of small commercial to middle market accounts.

Date: April 21, 2015
Time: 08:00 am
Event: CIC Small & Middle Market
Sponsor: The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research
Venue: Westin Atlanta North
Location: Seven Concourse Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30328
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

The enemy of creativity…

is fear.

We’re all born creative, it takes a little while to become afraid.

A surprising insight: an enemy of fear is creativity. Acting in a creative way generates action, and action persuades the fear to lighten up.

Seth Godin