Consumers expect brands to provide the same high-quality day-to-day experiences directly within the digital platforms they use most. Insurance should be no different.
MEDIA 7: Congratulations on your new role as the COO at Cover Genius! What inspired you to pursue a career in insurance?
DARCY SHAPIRO: Thank you! I came into the industry by way of my background as an attorney. This gave me extensive experience in the mechanics of the industry, but it also gave me insights as I worked across the value chain, from licensing and regulation, product development, and portfolio management, all the way through to claims. I was lucky enough to find a role to leverage this experience when I started at Cover Genius a few years back.
M7: From policy creation to claims management, how does Cover Genius deliver a seamless customer experience to their customers?
DS: Cover Genius embeds insurance for the world’s largest digital businesses — like Intuit, Booking Holdings (owner of Booking.com, Priceline and Kayak), eBay and Wayfair — who distribute insurance and warranty products to their global customers at the point of sale or signup. We do this through our XCover platform, which is an API for the global distribution of insurance products. Our API integrates seamlessly into any business’s eCommerce platform to offer customers insurance and warranty products for any industry and in 60+ countries and all 50 US states. Our technology also enables claims handling and instant payments in any currency.
In tandem with our API, we’re able to leverage real-time data to offer customers protection that’s tailored to what the customer is undertaking, whether that be buying or selling online or in a brick and mortar store, signing up (for instance to a gig economy service like Ola in India) or banking. The need for this kind of embedded insurance integration is clear: a recent study from PYMNTS.com found that 60% of customers prefer to buy insurance from their favorite online retailers, and also that 32% of customers would both buy more and spend more if they were offered insurance at the checkout. These stats support the idea that customers want seamless experiences — they’re expecting the brands that they already have relationships with to offer them protection for their purchases, which in turn provides favorable outcomes for important business metrics.
Finally, by being a full-stack insurance provider, we are in a unique position to assemble a seamless customer experience for any line of insurance globally, particularly in the way we handle claims. This is a pain point for the entire insurance industry since claims processing has failed to keep up with consumers’ expectations. For instance, for Descartes ShipRush, a parcel shipping platform, we’ve reduced the average time taken to process and payout a claim from 22 days to 1. Since our claims processes are fully digital and our architecture connects the customer lifecycle, we can issue real-time payment via the customer’s preferred payment method as soon as the claim has been approved. No long wait time means happier customers!
The top challenges faced by the insurance industry today are digital distribution, meeting post-Covid customer expectations, and efficient and effective claims handling and all three go hand in hand.
M7: How do you think insurers can turn Machine Learning from a threat into an opportunity?
DS: The traditional insurance industry has been using data for decades to determine which insurance offerings to provide, and at what price. For traditional insurers, data is the key to unlocking high-value insights into customer behavior. But, there’s a huge problem with that approach: the default setting of the insurance industry is to work with historical proprietary data sets, which are quite limited and aren’t personalized.
Using real-time data from both historical and alternative data sources while harnessing the power of machine learning can generate new insights and improve the accuracy of price and product, however, we believe that this asymmetric information is uniquely available to digital companies that ultimately own the customer. Yes, insurers will play a role in supporting these “digital distributors'', but by applying machine learning to the vast datasets at their fingertips, digital companies will be able to assess risk and bring product and price efficiency to insurance markets that have not yet undergone the seismic shifts that have played out in other industries.
To see how real-time data and alternative data sources play to a company’s advantage, just look at Tesla Insurance which openly seeks to leverage its understanding of individual driving behavior and price elasticity to undercut its direct-to-consumer competitors. Insurtechs today team up with such technology companies on the one hand, and insurers who can demonstrate agility on the other, to build programs that tackle the problem collaboratively, allowing the former to leverage their customers preference for protection that’s embedded at the same time as any underlying activity or purchase.
M7: What do you see as the most noticeable change right now happening in the workforce, encouraged by the rise of digital technologies?
DS: We have seen customers shift to being online all of the time. The move to digital was already strong before the pandemic, but we’ve seen a massive acceleration in the pace of digitization since the onset of COVID-19. Everyone is shopping online, working out online, building businesses online, and banking online. Consumers expect brands to provide the same high-quality day-to-day experiences directly within the digital platforms they use most. Insurance should be no different. Having inked deals with some major brand names for a variety of commercial and personal insurance lines in the past 12 months — like Intuit, eBay, Wayfair, Descartes ShipRush, Skyscanner, Icelandair, and more — we are confident that we will see more technology-driven global companies offer insurance products to their customers at checkout as add-ons in the hopes of meeting customer expectations.
It’s important to seek out the right mentors, guidance and sponsorships in the organizations you are a part of. Find the people that are doing what you want to do, and ask for their input and guidance.
M7: What do you believe are the top three challenges faced by the insurance industry in the post COVID-19 era?
DS: The top challenges faced by the insurance industry today are digital distribution, meeting post-Covid customer expectations, and efficient and effective claims handling and all three go hand in hand. On the distribution side, the vast majority of insurance products in the US still involve lengthy applications, agents, and days or weeks between quote and bind. Very few insurers are binding for select products in real-time utilizing APIs for various external reporting services such as credit scoring, property data resources, motor vehicle reports, and even weather reporting services, as an example, but the fact is that customers are beginning to demand that real-time servicing. Similarly, when it comes to claims, paper-based forms and checks-in-the-mail all drag down customer satisfaction. In fact, the average insurer can at best hope for NPS scores of +10, while InsurTechs are continually achieving +50. The world changed as a result of Covid-19 and customer expectations are forever altered. The industry as a whole needs to catch up.
M7: What is your advice to women who want to pave their way through a competitive InsurTech space?
DS: As a woman who spent her entire career in two male-dominated industries, first within traditional insurers, and then in the technology sector, I can offer other women what I hope is a helpful perspective around navigating a professional path and having an impactful career.
First and foremost, it’s important to seek out the right mentors, guidance and sponsorships in the organizations you are a part of. Find the people that are doing what you want to do, and ask for their input and guidance. It’s also important to be strategically focused and as you develop a viewpoint and ideas, do not be afraid to share them. From a practical standpoint, as someone who’s worked across a number of functions within the industry, the best piece of advice that I can offer to young women is to try to hone in on roles that generate profit for your business. Women tend to be heavily represented in the cost-center parts of the business like marketing, claims, and human resources. These are crucial functions, of course. But business strategy positions that are profit-focused will give you the opportunity to get visibility and recognition that leads to advancement at the highest levels. Of course, focusing on tech leadership and developing your skills therein will always help too. There’s a bright future for women in InsurTech if we push for roles outside of our comfort zone.