A company that openly berates the current insurance industry as one that is annoying and in need of a makeover believes that adding behavioral science to the mix will help fix it.
The New York-based startup Lemonade, which is promising to be a revolutionary peer-to-peer insurer, announced this week it has hired Dan Ariely as its chief behavioral officer.
Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. He is the author of the several books including “Predictably Irrational,” “The Upside of Irrationality,” and “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.”
Ariely is also known for his TED talks on topics including “Are We in Control of Our Decisions?” and “What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?”
According to Shai Wininger, a co-founder and president of Lemonade, Ariely’s research on dishonesty can help the insurer learn what “brings out the best and worst” in people and how people’s behavior can be changed for the better. “We believe that behavioral economics, together with our unique technology, will help us decrease fraud, get rid of bureaucracy and lower costs for our customers,” said Wininger.
Through his research and his sometimes unorthodox experiments, Ariely says he “questions the forces that influence human behavior and the irrational ways in which we often all behave.” His experiments have included work for TurboTax on ways to motivate people to save more and work with Intel on worker productivity incentives.
Ariely is no fan of the insurance business that just hired him, or at least how the industry currently operates. He believes the current insurance system is “antagonistic” and “annoying” —just two of the negative adjectives he uses to describe it in a promotional video for Lemonade.
“If you tried to create a system to bring out the worst in humans, it would look a lot like the insurance of today,” said Ariely. “We’ve spent recent years deepening our understanding of honesty and trust, and our conclusion is that insurance is crying out for a makeover. With its unique business model and technology, Lemonade aims to reverse the adversarial dynamics that plague the industry, transforming both the economics and experience of insurance.”
Ariely will be working with some more traditional insurance executives at Lemonade. In January, the instech startup hired four seasoned insurance executives to round out its executive team. It named Ty Sagalow, a 25-year senior executive with American International Group (AIG), as its chief insurance officer. It also attracted three other seasoned insurance executives—Robert Giurlando and James Hageman from ACE Insurance and Ron Topping, also from AIG—to join its small band of technologists.
Lemonade’s founders promise their firm’s technology and approach will disrupt and reinvent the insurance industry business model and make insurance a “delightful” experience for consumers.
This week another highly-touted “disrupter” of the insurance system, Google Compare, was put on the chopping block by its parent, the search engine giant. Insurance industry experts said the flop of this high-tech insurance agency was a result of Google not understanding the insurance business.
*A version of this story appeared previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.