This article is part of our insurance innovators interview series.

Stan GalanskiJohn Wurzler, President, OneBeacon Technology Insurance

Q1: In your view, what has been the greatest innovation in the P/C insurance industry in recent years? Explain.

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): One of the more significant innovations in the property/casualty industry has been the development of telematics and big data models that enable carriers to operate more efficiently. By providing ready access to intelligent data streams, underwriting models have become more sophisticated and useful for day-to-day risk management decisions.

Q3: In your view, what innovation or innovator outside the insurance industry has had or is having the greatest impact on the P/C insurance industry?

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): Smartphones come to mind immediately. These mobile hand-held computers put very powerful capabilities into the hands of everyday people and offer many potential uses in our industry, including internal workflows as well as customer-service and self-service opportunities.

Q4: Describe one or more ways in which your company encourages innovation. (Feel free to describe any elements of the culture or process.)

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): At OneBeacon Technology, we are always looking for ways to improve our business, and we encourage our employees to bring new ideas forward. One particular area benefiting from employee innovation has been the renewal cycle. As an example, one of our underwriters suggested revising our rules engine to filter and automate the renewal process. This resulted in a pre-renewal review process that uses computer models to significantly streamline this workflow.

Q5: What is the biggest obstacle to innovation within the insurance industry? Explain. What is your company doing (or what can the industry do) to overcome this obstacle?

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): I would say mainframe-based legacy systems that do not readily lend themselves to Internet-based interactions or the use of mobile technologies.

Q6: Do you believe the next innovation to impact the P/C insurance industry will come from inside the industry or from an external innovator? Why?

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): Thinking broadly, I think the Internet and the smartphone represent the paradigm shifts that will let the property/casualty industry develop and implement groundbreaking ideas. The foundation is now in place to launch fantastic tools for use by insureds, agents, brokers, loss prevention engineers and underwriters alike.

Importantly, the mobile platform will enable faster communication and customer service across the board. For instance, already there are mobile applications to enable almost instant requests for coverage to be implemented. Imagine going to the car dealer to purchase a new truck for your company, and while there, you log on to your smartphone to input the motor vehicle ID and set your insurance parameters. You immediately see the price and bind the coverage, and finally view and print the proof of insurance. Or, similarly, you can immediately add a new computer server to your scheduled inventory of covered business equipment.

The limitation of what comes from innovation is simply our own imagination.

Q7: Describe your role in leading innovation at your company.

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): As a business leader, I view my role as responsible for both inspiring and fostering a culture of innovation. Some of that comes from continually offering ideas, and some of it comes from continuously demonstrating that we value innovation. That’s particularly important to us, given our focus on the technology sector.

Q8: What is the best book you have read about innovation? The best course or seminar you have attended? What was a key takeaway from the book or education session?

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): I have an entrepreneurial spirit, so I was drawn to a book by Peter Drucker, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” which serves as a continual reminder to simply think. This book has helped me focus on the processes required to develop, launch and profitably grow product ideas.

In the technology space, I value attending the annual InterOp conference, which is a very hands-on event. We typically come home with all kinds of new ideas or variants of old ideas to improve what we do and often to create something new.

Q11: Outside of providing risk transfer solutions, what are the most likely areas in which insurers can be innovators? Can P/C insurers disrupt other industries or provide noninsurance solutions by applying innovations developed through their core skills in underwriting and risk analysis, settlement negotiations, catastrophe modeling, environmental science or other areas?

“Imagine going to the car dealer to purchase a new truck for your company, and while there, you log on to your smartphone to input the motor vehicle ID and set your insurance parameters…The limitation of what comes from innovation is simply our own imagination.”

John Wurzler, One Beacon Technology

Wurzler (OneBeacon Technology): In this day and age, I feel it is important for a specialty carrier to add value to the insurance solution through services. We must also continually evaluate these services to ensure they remain relevant to the insured and help mitigate risk. For example, we provide data breach notification and response handling, safety training and employment background verification services. Some of the services we offer alongside or embedded within our products today did not even exist a year or two ago, such as a cyber-framework analysis. These services are among those that differentiate OneBeacon in the marketplace.

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