How is MetLife transforming the insurance industry through collaboration?

Digital is at the core of MetLife’s strategy and you can see that play out in what we do across the various markets. We demonstrate our commitment to innovation and technology through LumenLab in Singapore (Asia focus) and our Digital Accelerator program in the US (global focus).

Since its establishment in 2015, our strategic investment in LumenLab has resulted in many projects being successfully implemented as ‘business as usual’. For example, Montoux, a NZ insurtech start-up providing sophisticated pricing support and intelligence, was one of our LumenLab Collab winners in 2017 and we’re now working with them in Japan. Out of this we anticipate a long-term engagement with Montoux in Japan. This is only one of several innovation examples from LumenLab which cover a wide spectrum of the value chain and functions supporting insurance. These innovations all share a common goal of solving business challenges in a way that is real and can be commercialised to create value for customers.

Digital Accelerator, powered by Techstars, is another initiative that supports start-ups and insurtechs. MetLife is fortunate to partner with and benefit from Techstars proven capability in this space. Since its establishment in 2006 Techstars has taken on over 1,600 start ups which now boast a combined market capitalisation of over US$18bn. And of all the companies that it has taken on and incubated – only 10% have failed. That’s a really high success rate given the inherent uncertain nature of start-ups.

As a life insurer, how is MetLife approaching digital technology?

In Australia, we’ve been working on the empowerment of our customers. We are doing that through our digital suite of products to give customers the option to manage their claims and applications online. This has meant that we’ve been able to significantly reduce the claims cycle time for customers and fast-track what was previously a manual process. In fact, the first claim was paid out within 24 business hours.

With our online claims solution, we collaborated with the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD) to create an industry standard Application Programming Interface. ACORD is a non-profit organisation that provides the global insurance industry with data standards and implementation solutions. We donated that API back to the association and it led to MetLife being recognised with an industry contribution award that we’re very proud of.

A digital focus has also been enhanced through changes within the business where we have created agile teams to ensure faster and more effective delivery of customer focused solutions.

What are the trends for the future?

I don’t think there are any real surprises here. Everyone is talking about machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, and digital innovation will continue to evolve. To a lesser extent, people are also talking about the expansion of API economy and collaborating to improve efficiency. These are the themes we are seeing.

What is the main challenge for the industry in the future?

I feel the key one is getting the balance right between automation and having that human connection, particularly in the insurance industry. No matter what happens with technology, people are still human beings and have an innate need to interact, relate and engage with other human beings on a personal level. That’s top of mind at MetLife, where our goal is to be the fastest, easiest and most caring life insurer in the market.

We don’t want to be making assumptions about human needs, especially at claim time, when we are dealing with a person who may be experiencing one of the most stressful times of their life. I therefore caution against simply assuming that they don’t want to deal with a person. We still need to consider how we can provide empathy and care when designing an automated or online experience.

While we are implementing digital solutions at MetLife, we constantly think about how we are providing a caring experience and it’s a challenge that we try and work through. In this space, we’ve seen that a one size fits all approach is not the ideal customer solution.

What are the other challenges the insurance industry should be aware of?

Data is one. Basically, everything depends on reliable data. Many organisations these days are challenged by this – and oftentimes, this requires investment to build the appropriate foundation, capability and data governance frameworks to ensure we have robust systems and processes in place to provide reliable and consistent data.

Finally, I think it’s about engagement and understanding opportunity. I came across a Gartner research paper recently that showed the industry’s participation in AI was only 11% in 2018, which is up from single digits in 2017. This demonstrates to me that we still have a way to go in terms of realising the inherent potential value of AI and machine learning. Some insurers just do not have significant appetite in this space and I believe this is impacting the pace of change.

Gerard McDermott
Chief Strategy & Customer Officer