SIR Fall 2018 Recap

New Orleans is a fun location for an insurance conference and there were distractions a-plenty for attendees. Fortunately, the Society of Insurance Research event agenda had a diverse and interesting range of sessions to counter New Orleans’ siren’s call.

Throughout the event, the recurring themes of strategy, artificial intelligence, data collection, tools, techniques, and competitive intelligence were presented. While each presentation had a unique take on the theme, the sum of the event was a reminder that there are many types of research and tools in the insurance space, each with unique roles and outcomes. There were too many sessions at SIR to cover each one, so we present here our highlights.

Two keynotes stood out from our perspective, which presented opposite sides of the same coin.

The, first was “Using CI to Develop/Test Strategy and Influence Senior Executives Across the Company”, where the presenter discussed the need for change in how competitive intelligence (CI) is used to support decision making. The second keynote, “The role of Human Intelligence in a World of Artificial Intelligence”, was on the role of AI and data in decision making.

In the CI to develop/test strategy session, data was downplayed as a source of strategic decision making. The presenter made a strong case that the CI professional’s role is to impact decision making.  He then posited that the old guiding principle of CI: “Speaking Truth to Power” was outmoded and subjective since it is logically impossible to know the “truth” about a competitor’s future actions which haven’t happened yet.  At the core of the presentation was a three-factor formula to determine if it possible for the CI professional to impact decision making. The three points are:

  1. Willingness of management to see perspectives other than their own
  2. Management that is willing to ask the right questions
  3. Availability of feedback, without which the CI professional is shouting into the wind

Under this scenario, the analyst must present a story that goes past data and into insight to overcome the typical senior leader mindset, which often relies more on intuition and belief than on hard facts. One key tool that helps management get out of their core mindset and find different perspectives is a War Game (also known as a Competitive Simulation). A second tool is to have face-to-face briefings with leadership on a regular basis where the CI professional can share insights and help leaders see alternative perspectives.  In this scenario, the data itself is only relevant to the extent that it is directionally accurate, and the story crafted around the data is what drives the decision.

The second keynote focused on the topic of artificial intelligence and its role in competitive intelligence. Fundamentally, the speaker’s point is that AI allows the CI professional to access more data and filter through larger data sets. This mostly impacts the collection component of the CI cycle. The speaker stated that at present, AI is mostly capable of Deductive, Relevance, and Converse logic but can’t perform Inductive logic, which remains the province of human thought. In this perspective, there is always more data to find, and more data makes for stronger analysis and results.

Break-out sessions addressed the changing role of Insuretech, how carriers integrate new technologies into operations, and the application of Win/Loss to operations.

On the side of Insuretech, a session addressed “techcroachment” (the encroachment of technology into a new area) emerging in the insurance market. This techcroachment is the cumulation of numerous small technological changes that build on each other, many of which are driven by narrowly focused AI. As AI becomes more prevalent, the network effect starts to come into play and the pieces begin to integrate into a system. The presenter of this session presented three rules which will govern Insuretech success:

  1. Intelligence (AI) is the new competitive advantage, but it includes the entire support platform for the product, not just the AI itself
  2. Reflexive creativity, which is the realm of human thought, will shape sustainable advantage
  3. Techcroachment is not just about the technology. Companies that fail to adapt and implement new technologies will lose in the market

In summary, the presenter expressed that there have been large advances in AI, but many of the key insurance value chain areas still require human interaction. Insuretech will have far reaching impacts, but innovation comes from humans identifying new ways to apply technology.

The final session we attended was a discussion on how Win/Loss contributed to success for a life insurance carrier. The carrier sought to get at the ‘why’ behind a customer’s decision to purchase from the carrier and use that knowledge to align advisors and clients. Using Win/Loss also helped identify new competitive activity and market changes. Success for the program was obtained by implementing cross functional teams in the program, giving all the stakeholders input into the program, and selecting key actions to take based on the results of the Win/Loss process.

Our perspective is that there are elements from both keynotes noted above and many of break-out sessions that apply to all CI leaders. For many CI professionals, there is an over-emphasis on getting more and more data combined with a belief that AI will provide the answers (it won’t), and an unwillingness to make specific recommendations for action. At the same time, many company leaders are impatient with data and focus their energy on solutions and decisions. For these executives, it is more important to have the story than the data. At Fletcher/CSI, we believe the CI professional’s most important role is to help leadership make decisions. This requires enough data to complete analysis – but more importantly, effective storytelling to convey the message and decision to be made. Relying on data alone won’t craft a persuasive argument for change, and a well-told story based on speculation is not a basis for strategy.

It was not all business at the SIR event and the many networking sessions, held in the exhibit hall, allowed attendees to share their impressions informally and learn about sessions they couldn’t attend.

We’re looking forward to the 2019 spring workshop and annual conference next October and hope to see you there.

To learn more about how Fletcher/CSI and our 30 years of experience can help you stay ahead of the market, please contact us. For insurance related companies, contact Erik Glitman at [email protected] or for technology related companies contact Mark Gigliotti at [email protected]