As we all know, the world is continuing to change and grow at a rapid pace, and as consumer behavior keeps evolving, so do the methods to meet their demands. While the pandemic pushed for more digitized solutions and experiences across insurance, we still have many milestones ahead of us.
But while everyone is talking about the “why,” it’s the “how” that often feels vague and aspirational versus clear and actionable. So, how do we begin to bridge the gaps to innovation that exist in insurance?
Fostering a culture of innovation
To help answer this question, we sat down with Brian Gaab, Managing Principal, Strategy & Innovation at CSAA Insurance Group, on the latest episode of UNBIND with Bindable to speak about his work implementing new technologies and innovative risk transfer solutions for new and existing products at AAA. Recognized as a thought leader and advisor to InsurTech startups, Gaab’s work has influenced transformative change across insurance. So who better to speak to about innovating within our industry, right?
At CSAA, a AAA insurer, Gaab says they’ve been working on the cultural aspect of innovation for a while, and have even gone so far as to implement design-thinking training and rotational assignment programs for employees. Through this exposure, education, and awareness, Gaab says their team has been enabled to more clearly carry out the company’s mission to make insurance more “simple, proactive, and personal.” Fostering a certain way of thinking and approaching problems is what has really fueled their innovation efforts as an organization.
And while innovation can be difficult in this slow-growing environment, as Gaab points out, it’s not impossible. Instead, it’s all about trial and error.
“Rarely do you get it all right the first time,” said Gaab. “You have to learn.”
Identify problems, then solutions
At the end of the day, as Gaab puts it, the purpose of the AAA organization is to be there for their members and to make insurance work for them. So, when it comes to leveraging partnerships throughout the broader insurance ecosystem, Gaab believes it shouldn’t be about focusing on what other companies are doing. Instead, organizations should take a look at themselves before committing to finding solutions through others.
“If you understand your pain points, if you understand where challenges are within your business, there are a lot of companies out there you can work with,” said Gaab.
Innovation in action
Gaab explained how AAA has taken this mindset and applied it to their organization to evolve their own product offerings. In 2017, they noticed the blurring of lines between personal and commercial segments in the auto space. In particular, the advent of the gig-economy and subscription-based car services revealed evolving risks that didn’t quite fit one segment over the other. Instead of trying to make an existing product work, AAA took their expertise in the personal lines space and began to apply it to the commercial space, resulting in the development of new products, including CSAA's subsidiary Mobilitas, that have been able to better address the evolving risks of a new sector of clients.
Gaab stressed it’s important to keep thinking of non-traditional solutions that will add value for your customers or members.
“You have to be creative, and you have to start with those real business problems or customer problems, and then seek solutions from there,” he said.
Gaab says even with fears of recession on the horizon, the cornerstones of innovation are not lost, In fact, we often see innovation shine through during the darkest of times.
“Some really great ideas have come out of recession,” says Gaab. “Even if you look at our most recent recession, we got some pretty fantastic...companies like Airbnb, Credit Karma, Uber, and Square.”
Headwinds create opportunity, and according to Gaab, there are a lot of opportunities and a lot more changes to come.
Gaab’s final notes on innovation: “It might be easy to be pessimistic on the topic of innovation, I actually see it the opposite…this [is] a time where differentiation is going to happen between companies.” Those that really invest in and support innovative concepts within their organizations and really put their customer first will be the ones who win.