American Enterprise Group, Inc. (Medico) 2019 Carrier Forecast

What The Future Holds For Insurers And How Some Will Stand Out
As I look toward the future, I believe the standout companies of tomorrow will be those that combine human and digital capabilities in smart, thoughtful ways. We live in an era where data is king and providing experience-driven products is expected. Disruption is everywhere, and we must be willing to think differently to transform our business. Being in a heavily regulated industry makes this challenging, but not impossible.

All insurers face multiple challenges. They must manage risk, stay on top of regulatory changes, grow their capabilities, and develop innovative products and technologies. Many insurers have started investing in their own venture capital businesses to drive innovation and change the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. Strategic partnerships throughout the industry are playing a key role in helping us pivot and pioneer in a collaborative manner.

Retail giants such as Amazon and Apple are setting customer expectations with new, emerging technologies. No matter their age, people have adapted to this digital age and expect the convenience technology provides. The insurance industry has lagged behind in technological advancements and needs to learn from these successful companies. When we understand how to better engage with our customers so they feel more connected with us and listen to their needs, we can then strategically integrate innovation into our traditional business model.

Medico is using data and analytics to a far greater extent than in the past. Taking advantage of visual data helps us quickly analyze and interpret information to make informed decisions and determine focus. Leveraging our customer data and expanding technology is one of the key ways we’re able to better understand our customers and identify opportunities for growth. For example, providing agents and customers with immediate, relevant information and simple but innovative digital tools is crucial.

Although agents sell insurance products and customers buy them, these two audiences are much more similar than they are different. Both are critical parts of our process, and both are more engaged and interactive than ever before. They’re comfortable telling us what they want and we’re pleased to listen, because it allows us to focus on providing solutions that meet their specific needs. This has meant rebuilding our customer websites to offer value-added resources, always increasing the functionality of our online customer portal to enhance the customer experience, and continuing to make improvements to our electronic application tool which allows agents to quickly and easily enroll their clients in coverage.

Deep insight into our customers’ and agents’ lives and their needs ensures we will help create value for them by providing personalized, tailored solutions. Instead of just being focused on improving existing products and services, we must look to how we can solve their pain points to ensure we are creating value for them. This approach requires us to have the courage to step out of our comfort zone and be willing to take risks by doing things differently, but the potential to make a positive difference in the lives of our customers is worth the extra effort.

Another way Medico has risen to the challenge is by diversifying to offer a greater solution set to our customers while continuing to provide outstanding service. For instance, our family of companies acquired Great Western Insurance Company, a leader in the pre-need industry and a final expense insurer, in January, 2018. The acquisition has created growth opportunities for our organization to expand beyond health insurance while also providing our customers with additional products to achieve financial security.

I previously mentioned regulatory changes, which can greatly affect every aspect of an insurer’s business if it’s not prepared. We strive to recognize regulatory changes as early as possible and plan accordingly to protect our customers and agents. One example is legislation effective January 1, 2020, which will change Medicare Supplement plan options for consumers new to Medicare.

Jenny Smith, Medico product manager, explains, “The regulation means consumers will have different plan options available based on when they became eligible for Medicare. We’re acting quickly to ensure our agents will be able to easily and seamlessly enroll their clients in the appropriate Medicare Supplement plans.” Being proactive in this way is just an example of our commitment to making it easy for agents and customers to do business with us.

With the continued increase in the use of technology, it is imperative we not lose sight of being human. We’re in a “people helping people” business. Our customers and agents must be able to trust us and have confidence that we will always be here when they need us most.

The key for insurers will be going beyond just providing products to insure risks. Real value will come from providing the options, resources, and tools to empower customers to make better decisions, enabling them to live better, healthier, and wealthier lives. As long as we remain customer-focused, we will continue to succeed in our competitive and dynamic markets. [TS]

Tom Swank, Chief Executive Officer, American Enterprise Group