Nationwide is striking hard against digital insurer upstart competitors with the debut of Spire, a digital auto insurance platform with an eye on millennial customers.

Spire rolls out in the 2019 fourth quarter, and it centers around the promise of providing a quote in about a minute. All that’s needed: a driver’s license and answers to four short questions.

Nationwide debuted the new system during the InsureTech Connect Conference in Las Vegas as part of a packed panel session on Sept. 24 with a standing room-only crowd. Panelists explained that the system is designed to morph and adapt to suit the needs of customers over time. Spire is a mobile app, and users can get coverage by supplying a standard driver’s license and answers to four basic questions: Where do you park? How many miles do you drive? Do you own or lease your car? Have you had more than two tickets in the past year?

“We will grow and we will adapt and we will learn,” Scott Sanchez, Nationwide’s chief innovation officer, explained during the panel discussion. “We want our users to tell us what matters and tell us their needs.”

Spire will compete with rivals such as the online auto insurance InsurTech startup Root, which pulled in a $350 million venture capital infusion earlier in September.

Nationwide has said that it is pursuing a strategy to still keep and nurture its clients who work with agents but also attract users who want to purchase their insurance digitally without agents. Panelist Scott Liles, the Spire project leader and Nationwide’s innovation leader, said that Spire fits in directly with this approach.

“We do believe that there is plenty of space for those two [approaches] to live in parallel,” he said.

Nationwide has pursued partnerships with InsurTech and others as it has enacted its global strategy, such as its strategic investment in Betterview, an InsurTech whose machine learning platform is designed to help perform commercial and residential property assessments for P/C insurers and reinsurers. Spire is also the product of partnerships. The insurer is using EY’s Nexus for Insurance platform for Spire’s initial auto insurance focus and to manage Spire via outsourcing. Additionally, EY’s Design Studios helped shape Spire’s development through the use of a “Design Thinking” approach to develop Spire’s user-friendly model. As well, the insurance technology firm Socotra (Nationwide is an investor) contributed the core system upon which Spire will run its policy administration operation, from quote to claim, according to the insurer.

Carrots and Not Sticks

Spire will help customers cancel their existing insurance policy, manage their Spire coverage, file a claim and monitor their driving habits via a telematics component. Liles said part of Spire’s evolution will involve finding ways to use it as a “carrot” rather than wielding it as a “stick” to nudge customers into better driving behavior as other telematics-related programs have. Part of that will include a rewards program.

Sanchez noted that Spire will eventually evolve from auto insurance into “habitation, renters, homeowners” and other insurance areas. Those areas will come up over time as Nationwide learns how Spire operates and what customers want from it as their needs evolve.

“We’re still learning what the road map looks like, how do we meet the needs of [users]. And if that goes in new directions, we will go in whatever direction this takes us,” Sanchez said.

Topics Auto InsurTech Tech