How a 300-year-old insurer drives innovation

As digital disruption gathers momentum, revolution is sweeping across the global insurance industry.

By Matt Curtis, Vice President of Global Branding, Milliman.

Insurance startups are exploding onto the scene, promising to redefine the industry’s products and its relationship with customers. But innovation is also being driven from within the industry by some of its most established players.

A visit to Aviva’s Digital Garage in East London earlier this year revealed a bold initiative by a 300-year-old firm to place itself at the forefront of innovation and change in the insurance industry.

Innovation hub

The Digital Garage is a place where people are encouraged to challenge convention—but not without an awareness of the company’s rich inheritance, as Andrew Brem, Aviva’s first chief digital officer, explained when I met him.

“When you walk around the Garage, there are only two things on the walls: things that we are doing and making today and things that remind us of our heritage.”

The goal for Aviva is to transform customer engagement while preserving the core proposition of protection that is at the heart of all insurance.

“We’re trying to have a digital connection with all 33 million of our customers and to increase the frequency and improve the quality of that engagement.”

Leading digital transformation

Aviva aims to reduce friction in the insurance buying process through a smarter use of data. The objective of its “Ask it never” initiative is to free customers from endless forms and tedious questions so that they can focus instead on selecting the appropriate types and levels of coverage to suit their individual needs.

The company is also pulling insurance out of its centuries-old silos and moving toward creating composite offerings for customers, with life, health, savings, and general insurance all managed together.

Of course, to improve the customer experience and facilitate more meaningful engagement, you need access to the right data, along with the expertise to analyze it and drive decisions based on that analysis.

A key advantage traditional insurers like Aviva have over startups is an established base of customers numbering in the tens of millions, which brings with it a wealth of data. But, as Brem is quick to point out, the insurance industry has yet to unlock the potential of this data.

Using data to drive change

Ultimately, Aviva’s aim is to use available data to produce better pricing based on individual customer needs, while at the same time implementing a frictionless buying experience.

Achieving this objective will require a number of new skills, such as hard core data science and sophisticated digital marking, which will better position Aviva to transform itself from within, says Brem.

It will also require collaboration with—and in some cases investment in—outside technology companies and innovation centers like Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play.

Through a combination of building internal capabilities, taking equity investments in outside companies, and partnering with tech innovators, Aviva hopes to drive meaningful change in the insurance industry at a pace that rivals even the most aggressive startups.

Click here to watch the full interview with Aviva’s Andrew Brem.


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