Coventry, 16 November 2015Broker Expo: The challenges of an increasingly digitised world
Don’t do anything digital without thinking ‘mobile first’, make sure you engage the right people from the outset of every project — from cyber security experts to designers, and remember that success in the digital space is wholly dependent on being found in the first place through the power of search. These were just some of the key broker takeaways from the Digital Think Tank debate chaired by Insurance Age and held last Thursday during Broker Expo at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Expert panellists included Arthur J. Gallagher chief digital officer Vivek Banga, Simply Business’ head of brand and creative Jess Warrener, BIBA corporate affairs manager Andy Thornley and Tom Gill, IT director from Willis Commercial Networks. Subjects up for debate ranged from the role of the broker in an increasingly digitised world and whether the personal touch is being lost, growing risks surrounding data security and the areas in which brokers are best advised to focus their investment, attention and involvement.
By far the biggest challenge facing brokers on the digital front is making sure they remain in step with evolving customer expectation. Citing a survey that found 79% of the UK population are now confident about using digital technology, Vivek Banga said: “So if what our customers really want is to be able to view, review and transact everything via their smart new five-inch screens, then the real challenge is in making our solutions work in that fully mobile environment. Even the most innovative insurer extranets or integrated broker systems are meaningless if they don’t deliver the mobile solutions customers want.”
Jess Warrener agreed, urging brokers: “Don’t do anything without thinking mobile first. Think from mobile outwards because user experience is everything. So think with agility, think visually.” She also reminded brokers how crucial it is that they can be easily found in the first place: “The power of showing up in Google search is vital. So don’t just be open digitally, be smart in how you enable people to find you.”
Vivek added that engaging the right people — including designers — is also fundamental to the success of a project: “Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to squeeze all the functionality you need into a five-inch format. I’ve also found it refreshing to work with specialist designers; those that fully understand swipe navigation and how a user’s eyes move across the screen. You need that expertise. You don’t necessarily need them to know anything about insurance.”
With statistics showing a threshold has been crossed — customers are now more likely to be looking at a company’s website from their smartphone or tablet, than PC or laptop — BIBA’s Andy Thornley pointed out how Google has revised its way of ranking pages as a result. “If your website is not fully mobile-enabled, you will quickly drop down the rankings because Google is making sure it provides the most relevant search results,” he warned the brokers present. “There are quick and easy tools to help you achieve this – and your competitors will already be doing it.”
The panellists disagreed that increasing digitisation is spelling the end for the ‘personal touch’. In fact, they went further to argue that the heightened level of personalisation and responsiveness that good digital developments deliver is actually increasing this. Vivek gave the example of a self-serve mobile app Gallagher has recently launched aimed at the university sector to meet their group travel needs. Once an individual is set up there’s no need to create a new profile with each new trip, and every time a lecturer or student travels they can generate their own certificate — while the data generated means insurers receive accurate real-time information, the university’s big administrative burden is reduced and an organisation knows at a glance where their people are at any one time.
“In the first 10 days after launch, more than 500 certificates were generated,” he explained. “So I would argue that digital in instances like this very much adds to the personal or personalised touch, increasing convenience and reducing admin. You’ve also got to remember that those born after 1995 are now the ones setting up news businesses in every sector — this generation doesn’t understand how you do without technology; they feel at a loss if you can’t offer them a technological solution.”
Jess agreed, explaining how Simply Business adheres to half-hour response rates for enquiries or complaints. “No matter what the forum, this generation expects a quick response. Just because you can’t see a person, doesn’t mean it’s not personal in service terms.”
The Think Tank debate also explored how data security needs to sit at the heart of any digital development. Vivek shared his own experience, explaining how he now involves experts in this field from the very first scoping of any new digital project. “Historically when you set up a new digital project you’ll engage marketing, underwriting, compliance — but I also now ensure I have someone responsible for data or cyber security involved from the very beginning. It’s incredibly useful to have someone advising ‘If you’re building this, you need to be conscious of XYZ’.”
Tom Gill urged brokers to always seek to strike the ‘CIA’ balance on the data security element of any digital development: confidentiality, integrity and accessibility. “If you lock everything down and build impenetrable walls, you can’t do business. It’s a tricky balance.”
And he cautioned everyone not to get distracted by the malicious risk of hacking despite the headline-grabbing data breaches impacting high profile firms like Talk Talk and Marks & Spencer — pointing out that the specialist security press devotes far more column inches to another vulnerability, the real weak point when it comes to data security — internal personnel.
In spite of the challenges, Andy called on brokers to grasp the digital opportunities in front of them and reminded them that the value they will bring to digital stems from the same qualities they have always held dear: customer interaction and expertise. “You can make a real difference in delivering and realising the value of an intangible product, a product that is essentially a promise to be there when things go wrong. By jumping at the opportunities that exist digitally, brokers can stave off the disruptors and build up a real resilience in broking.”