Almost a year ago, I felt impelled to bust the cliché that insurance is boring. In that blog postI called out the idea that any industry that touches every imaginable peril individuals, families, businesses, and communities face could reasonably be considered dull.
Today – as I dig back into work after spending two days at the Society of Insurance Research (SIR) annual conference in Las Vegas – I feel similarly impelled to take on a different myth: That, because of its focus on statistical analysis and the dollars-and-cents aspects of risk, the insurance industry is out of touch with day- to-day human concerns.
I get it. I’m no one’s quant. Until becoming immersed in this big-numbers industry, I probably shared this perspective. I might even slip back into it from time to time, when the conversations become a bit too actuarial for my all-too-verbal nature.
In his opening remarks, Mike Meyers, SIR president and lead competitive analyst at USAA, used a phrase that the cynic in me thought a bit hokey. He referred to the conference – the first major in-person event for SIR since the pandemic – as a “family reunion.” As the event proceeded, though, it really did feel that way. This was my first in-person SIR event, but it quickly became clear that wasn’t the case for most of the attendees. The warmth and familiarity among the 200-plus participants was palpable.
Now, this was a gathering of insurance industry researchers, so, of course, there was going to be a lot of “numbers talk” and discussion about “leveraging technology to improve loss experience,” and so forth. But the human dimension was never far from any of the panels or one-on-one conversations. Whether the topic was online life and health insurance shopping; the challenges of researching diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in insurance; or how COVID-19 has affected the risk profiles of small businesses, nothing was abstract or soulless about these conversations.
Two bits that particularly struck me:
- In a discussion of automobile safety data, a correlation was drawn between driving-safety and fuel-consumption stats. It was just one chart underscoring the fact that safer drivers use less fuel, which, in turn, has a positive impact on the environment. It’s not a big jump from there to the fact that automobile telematics technology – which helps insurers more accurately price coverage and creates financial incentives to drive more safely – also helps reduce emissions. Who doesn’t want to save money AND the planet?
- If you’ve ever had to replace an entire ceiling (I have!) because of a long, slow, undetected leak upstairs, the presentation on smart plumbing would have excited you as much as it did me. More inspiring, though, was the win-win strategy implemented by the insurer, which provides the easy-to-use technology to the policyholder for free and pays for a plumbing inspection if the diagnostic app flags a possible leak. Future big claim deterred for the insurer, massive headaches prevented for the homeowner!
I may not be an actuary or a data scientist or an economist – or possess any of the extraordinary quantitative skills insurance is known for – but I’m glad the industry marshals and rigorously applies these resources to such homey challenges, at scale.