The Insurance Tech Insider is constantly scouring the globe, looking for insurance companies that are being aggressive in identifying and embracing new technologies that can help them better assess risk and serve their customers. One of those companies is Grange Insurance, which has been in business for more than 80 years and, today, offers affordable and customizable auto, home, life and business insurance products.
Why do we consider Grange such an innovator? It’s worked hard and invested heavily into its customer interaction – relaunching Websites, embracing mobile apps and even launching an Alexa Skill – all to ensure that its customers can engage with the company the way that is most effective and convenient for them.
Last year, Grange announced that it would be a flagship company in Fintech71 – a fintech accelerator based in Ohio that provides funding to fintech startups and connects them to top financial services companies and mentors.
To learn more about the digital transformation shaping the insurance industry, and why Grange is so heavily focused and invested in tomorrow’s insurtech solutions, we sat down with Linda Roubinek, the company’s EVP, Chief Customer Interactions Officer, and Tim Cunningham, Grange’s VP, Chief Information Officer.
Here is what they had to say:
Insurance Tech Insider (ITI): The CEO of Grange – John Ammendola – recently stated that the company – and the insurance industry as a whole – can be rather conservative. However, Grange has been taking some steps recently – embracing new technologies, supporting a local Fintech incubator, etc. – that seem to be very progressive and forward-looking. What is driving this shift in the company towards innovation?
Tim Cunningham: Our industry is facing unprecedented change due to advancing technology and customer demands. The new sharing economy is blurring the lines of liability and changing how we look at risk. Technology advances continue to give rise to market disruptors at a record pace. Lastly, the “Amazon experience” is changing customer expectations as they want simple and easy interactions from any place at any time. We are shifting our culture towards innovation so we’re leading change instead of just responding to it.
Linda Roubinek: New trends — everything from artificial intelligence and chat bots to increasingly autonomous vehicles and homes communicating with devices – require us to be innovative. As these new trends become part of our customers’ lives, relying on a conservative mindset could actually put us at risk of getting left behind when these new trends become the new normal.
Staying ahead of the curve and focusing on innovating now, will ensure we not only survive the continuously changing insurance industry, but thrive in it.
ITI: Now seems like a very transformative time for the insurance and financial services industries – with these historically conservative industries exploring and implementing innovative fintech and insurtech solutions. Of the hot new technologies that are buzzworthy today – AI, Blockchain, IoT – what are the technologies that Grange seems the most potential in? What areas of the insurance business and industry can these technologies help improve and transform?
Tim Cunningham: We see great potential in all three. We are considering how each plays into our journey of modernizing our systems and transforming business processes and traditional practices.
Recognizing that these new technologies are at various levels of maturity, widespread adoption will continue to evolve over time. It’s reasonable to believe that when these newer technologies are applied effectively, they will enable better customer and agent experiences and foster unique and innovative products to market faster.
As we become more sophisticated, we will have plenty of opportunities through the use of AI, Blockchain and IoT to offer new payment and settlement options, dramatically simplify claims processing, anticipate customer and agents needs proactively, and offer solutions specifically tailored to more individualized needs.
ITI: Grange recently announced that it will be the flagship company in the launch of Fintech71 – a fintech accelerator based in Ohio. Why was it important for Grange to be a part of Fintech71? What is Fintech71’s mission, and why is that mission important for the company to support and foster?
Tim Cunningham: Our involvement with Fintech71 is helping Grange improve our innovation competency and allowing us to do something really great for Ohio’s economy. Fintech71’s mission is to spur innovation and growth, raise Ohio’s profile as an innovation hub and to provide a direct line of support between fintech startups and financial and insurance industry leaders.
The startups are truly inspirational. They have a passion and a spirit when thinking about their ideas. They work relentlessly, and they aren’t afraid to fail. We believe startups can help us see what’s coming next, and the education goes both ways. With Fintech71, we have an opportunity to mentor the startups and help them refine their ideas, so those ideas can become powerful solutions.
ITI: Grange has made news recently for embracing mobile apps, making its Website more mobile friendly and even launching an Alexa skill. What drove the company to put resources towards these solutions? How do these help the company, and how do they benefit Grange customers and policy holders?
Linda Roubinek: Our customers, their expectations and the way they use technology to interact with businesses today — these were all at the forefront of our thinking when we launched our mobile-friendly website, mobile app and Amazon Alexa skill.
Our customers’ lives are increasingly technology-driven, so we’re investing in these technology solutions so we can continue to meet their expectations. Our mobile-friendly website and mobile app ensure that Grange customers can do business with us anywhere and anytime. Our Alexa skill increases the speed by which our customers can contact their independent insurance agent or learn more about insurance.
While we’re happy with the tools we’ve provided to our customers so far, we’re looking forward to continuously improving what exists today and developing new solutions that will make our customers’ experience with Grange even more effortless and enjoyable.
ITI: The Alexa skill is particularly interesting and innovative. However, I think some of our readers may be a bit confused as to WHY they would want their insurance company accessible via Alexa. What can Grange’s Alexa skill be used for? How have people been using it? What has the response been?
Linda Roubinek: The Grange Insurance skill for Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices gives customers a hands-free, voice-activated way to interact with Grange Insurance and our network of independent insurance agents. By using a simple voice command, it’s faster than ever for our customers to contact their independent insurance agent or to learn more about insurance.
The Grange Insurance Alexa skill can be used to quickly find and contact an independent insurance agent, learn an insurance tip of the day and find out more about Grange Insurance. We’ve built the foundational capability and over time we will continue to enable intuitive features that are important to our policyholders and agents. Having the base capability gives us plenty of options for today and in the future.
ITI: What does the future hold for Grange? What new technologies are currently being analyzed or considered for implementation? What changes can policy holders expect in the near future in how they work, communicate and interact with the company?
Linda Roubinek: At Grange, we are committed to advancing our digital capabilities to further support ease of doing business for both our agents and policyholders. We want to offer compelling choices so policyholders and agents continue to do business with Grange for a very long time.
Having the right insurance coverage when you need it is fundamental. Big data, analytics, AI, RPA, Chatbots all help to inform, assess and shape the right conversation and ultimately the right solution. These technologies don’t replace the unique expertise and value that an independent agent provides but rather strengthen it.
In addition, whenever there is a claim, we also want that experience to be as simple, timely, and straightforward as possible. We will continue to invest in technologies and capabilities that advance these basic tenets.
ITI: Similar question, but at a higher, industry-wide level. What does insurance look like five or ten years down the road? How will the core business, the way the industry interacts and engages customers, and the role that insurers play in policy holders’ lives change as a result of new technologies?
Tim Cunningham: Many, including Grange, are predicting that the introduction of driverless vehicles will evolve our industry significantly. We know that we will need to customize insurance as the needs and demands of consumers change. What will be key to our success is ensuring we have nimble business and technology solutions that adjust to these adaptations in our industry.
We clearly are not looking at other insurance carriers as our sole competition any longer and we will continue to hold ourselves in comparison to other companies that are viewed positively in terms of protection, trust, security, and great customer experience.
To learn more about Grange and some of their recent technology investments visit their corporate Website by clicking HERE.