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Electronic Chat with Wendy Aarons-Corman

Wendy Aarons-Corman has more than 30 years’ experience in both IT and insurance, from her earliest days as a software developer on the underwriting side, through her job of introducing the nascent Duck Creek Technologies product to the insurance industry. She is currently CEO and President of OWIT Global, a global insurance technology provider whose portfolio centers on microservices for both P&C and A&H, including user experience services, bordereaux services, rating services, ETL services, document services.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing insurance today?

Time. It takes time to stay on top of new technology and participate, and everyone only has so much time. Some companies have created digital platform officers or innovation officers whose jobs are specifically to watch new technology, but that’s a luxury. It ties back to the importance of having a business case when investing in new technology: I can be the “innovation guy” and see how all this stuff could make our lives easier, but if I’m on a massive policy replacement or bringing on a new book of business, I just don’t have the time -- unless the company is investing in more people to do that type of work, from concept to prototyping to prioritizing. It’s complex.

In your experience on both the tech and insurance side, you’ve seen how insurance has traditionally been reluctant to quickly adopt new technology. With the advent of insurtech, do you feel we’re at a “make or break” moment for insurers to embrace technology?

It all ties back to what consumers want. Insurance company marketing departments should be on top of what buyers need in terms of technology. They must understand the demographics of consumers. One of the first customers Duck Creek had was esurance, which is now owned by Allstate – we sold them rating engines. This was an amazing, innovative insurance company and an interesting business model that knew what consumers needed. Well, it’s been years since they used Duck Creek rating engines and times and tech have changed to mobile and people buying insurance direct. A lot of it goes back to understanding the buyers and their needs and taking the time to understand demographics and use of technology. My 25-year-old daughter wouldn’t even know how to go to an insurance agent. If that’s the next generation, you need to research what they want, and a lot of it involves trial and error. The big driver of insurtech to begin with is seeing what people need. And startups are the demographic; they are the customer.

How would you define “insurtech”?

I don’t know if it’s just a buzzword for insurance technology. Some people define it as upcoming insurance technology. I don’t consider my business an insurtech – I am an insurance technology provider, a startup, but I’m also a traditional startup because I have very well-versed, intelligent insurance software solutions resources: people who have developed it, business analysts, with lots of experience. We have acquired three new customers through the traditional process of insurance technology sales; we sound like the opposite of an insurtech startup.

How do you predict insurtech will evolve over the next five years?

What’s happening at OWIT demonstrates it. Distribution will always be a need, but dealing with other providers will become a bigger deal. For example, if you sell homeowners, IoT can hook into smart technology to help you underwrite -- that’s in the future for sure. Think about the pathway of analytics. Around 1999, analytic vendors began making their way into the industry, and nobody cared; it was a complete uphill battle for them. People just used traditional underwriting; they sat at round tables and talked about risk. Then suddenly it hit insurers: “I can underwrite with all this information!” Remember how AI was such a big deal? That’s where data analytics was at the time. Valen Technologies comes to mind; they got some buyers and people really began to see the value. Then other people started coming out with analytics tools. Cyberinsurance is a developing area.

And it’s also about extending systems to reach other suppliers of information – not just about analytics, but about smart data as we’re getting more information. With all the information coming in from your car, smart appliances – the more smart technology you have, the lower the risk. That’s why APIs are important – they expose data so you can connect to it. We might become more of a preventative than a reactionary society.

How will privacy and regulatory issues play out in the near future?

As the mobile user experience changes and becomes more intuitive, the issue of security privacy will grow in importance and complexity because all the traditional aspects of insurance are still in play through all this information sharing. There’s lots of opportunity for automation and streamlining to follow these rules – and probably a lot of business opportunity there, too.

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