LOMA, an international trade association for the insurance and financial services industry, held its second Tech event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from December 7th to 9th. I have to say that being in the sunny, beach location the first week of December was a great treat. Snow was flying in my home town of Toronto while I had my feet in the sand. And the conference was outstanding as well. Organization was top notch, the presenters were above par and the content was very insightful.

One thing stood out to me above all else, the industry is still very much struggling with how to deal with the changes their businesses must make to adapt to what their customers want. I even heard the old fall back argument that because the industry is so highly regulated it is impossible for new entrants to change the game the way Uber has changed the taxi business. There is likely a great deal of truth to that, perhaps Insurtech firms end up being acquired as their brethren Fintech startups are being acquired by the banks. It is the strategy on how to advance that wasn’t evident at the show.

There was talk around cognitive computing, artificial intelligence (great job @LisaWoodley), mobile (thank you for your insights @rogsoppe) and analytics. All the things you would expect to be covered at an event like this. And, in fairness, they are all things that carriers should be executing against. Trouble is, it could be that these firms aren’t far enough down the path of modernizing their systems to even contemplate these initiatives. Of course that is a blanket statement, and there are some who are further ahead, but the consensus I heard was that these firms “don’t even know where to start” on such advanced programs.

While data might not be a critical component to a mobile strategy, it is the key element common across cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and analytics. And insurers aren’t confident in the data they have, in part because all that data is spread across multiple back-end systems, making it difficult to aggregate. Beyond that, I heard tell that old forms, policies and such completed in analog format – that is modern talk to mean physical paper – have not been converted to a digital format and therefore the data is not available.

I did see a presentation from a leading mutual life insurance company that was clearly, to my eye, ahead of the curve on many of these things. And it appeared to me, though not stated as such, that the biggest step they took to lay the foundation was to bridge their systems. It was an integration project that they did on their own, they wrote custom software to achieve their goal. The project was significant enough for them that they gave their new application a fancy name.

I wish NexJ had been there to help them with that project. The NexJ Customer Data Management solution would most assuredly have given the firm a leg up on the initiative. While I appreciate the value of having in-house competency to deliver such transformative solutions, writing custom code may not be the ideal methodology, but I digress.

Throughout the history of CRM there has always been talk of achieving a 360 degree view of the customer, more recently a 720 degree view to incorporate social media and other digital channels, which would require breaking down silos in a business. Never has putting this idea in to practice been more important. The future of the long standing insurance firms may be depending on it. It is the path to going digital.

If you have any thoughts or are interests in discussing this topic further I look forward to hearing from you.