Sean Ringsted was one of the 7,000 or so people who attended the 2019 InsureTech Connect Conference, held Sept. 23 to 25 in Las Vegas.

Ringsted is executive vice president, chief digital officer and chief risk officer at Chubb Group, and he visited ITC in part, to nurture existing business contacts and make new ones.

Sean Ringsted/Chubb

InsureTech Connect is arguably the biggest network event around for InsurTechs and carriers seeking to form partnerships or other business arrangements, and Ringsted took advantage of that, describing the convention as “an intense few days of meetings” between the Chubb team with both existing and potential new InsurTech partners.

Below, as part of a Q&A with Carrier Management Editor Mark Hollmer, Ringsted elaborates on what he and Chubb gained from the massive networking event. He also offered a primer on Chubb’s InsurTech perspectives, strategy and progress.

Q: How was this year’s ITC event?

Ringsted: The event was excellent. The agenda covered the use of technology by every corner of the insurance industry and provided the opportunity for an intense few days of meetings by the Chubb team with existing and potential InsurTech partners. This was helped by a record attendance, ranging from small startups to Big Tech such as Microsoft and Google. This year, there was also a greater emphasis on using technology to improve the customer experience.

Q: What did you learn from it?

Ringsted: As expected, there was a great deal of focus on technology and innovation at ITC, and the industry’s use of the latest capabilities in AI, data analytics, machine learning, robotics, IoT, etc. Listening to the discussions and the potential for tech-driven change, I believe we are all still working with the same core set of insurance business principles that have stood the test of time, namely disciplined underwriting and keeping our promise to pay claims. Technology is helping to make welcome changes in the customer experience, including the ability to buy and service their policies as well as assist insurers with their decision-making and operations. However, we need to remain focused on our fundamentals and not lose sight of the importance of the human touch with our customers, especially in time of need. I saw a greater recognition of the need for this balance between tech and the human touch at this year’s ITC .

Q: Why were you there?

Ringsted: For Chubb, ITC offers a great opportunity to network, deepen existing relationships with partners and vendors, explore new partnership opportunities, understand the competitive landscape and learn about new market and technology trends. Aside from the structured sessions and meetings, I found equally valuable the corridor discussions and introductions that would otherwise take months to replicate. I also really enjoy setting aside time to meet with the “grassroots” InsurTechs, which always provides a fresh and energetic view on the underlying pulse of the entrepreneurs.

Q: How goes Chubb‘s innovation evolution?

Ringsted: We have a clear strategy to lead and thrive in the Digital Age and continue to execute on those objectives. Our efforts are in three areasdoing the simple things smarter in our operations, the use of data analytics to improve claims and underwriting decision making and digitizing our product, services and the overall customer experience.

We are becoming an increasingly digitally integrated organization by investing $1 billion annually on new innovation and improving legacy technology to provide anytime, anywhere access and processing, as well as new front-end capabilities including improved customer experience and an expanding ecosystem of digital distribution partners. Chubb‘s global scale provides us access to new markets, ideas and capabilities which is allowing us to sign major distribution partnership agreements, digitally enhance the customer experience and reimagine our product offering.

Q: Where do you see the InsurTech innovation landscape in five years?

Ringsted: InsurTech is here to stay. Today we are focused on what is most visible right in front of us, such as improving the customer experience on the front end and better use of data analytics to improve decision making and operational effectiveness. The industry of tomorrow will need to meet a growing demand for new products and services. Insurance will need new products to help address secular challenges such as healthcare, ageing, urbanization, and climate change. New industries are emerging with new insurance needs such as the gig economy, mobility and shared workspaces. InsurTech will provide collaboration opportunities and competition, both welcome, for the industry as it solves its old challenges and rises to meet the new.

Q: What’s the easiest thing for carriers seeking to incorporate innovation into their routines?

Ringsted: It’s important to have clarity and a sense of business purpose. Innovation spawned in a vacuum will have a harder chance to succeed and provide true business impact. Not every bet will succeed and that it is about learning fast (not failing fast) and adapting quickly.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge for carriers seeking to incorporate innovation into their routines?

Ringsted: Building solutions for each partner can be time, resource and cost intensive. Patience is required.

In our plans, we factor in the time spent with partners, negotiating with vendors and contractually agreeing to intellectual property rights, data ownership, handling of breaches, etc. to stand up new digital products and services. Issues are not new nor are they a result of innovation occurring in the insurance space. Existing laws and regulations on insurance product and also around privacy, IP, data protection, data localization, etc. must be complied with regardless of the technology or platform utilized.

A trustworthy, longstanding carrier brand like Chubb underscores the importance of the “last mile” execution to ensure that quality, trust and security are incorporated into the innovation collaboration with InsurTech.

Q: Are carriers keeping up with InsurTech changes?

Ringsted: Speaking from a Chubb perspective, I believe we are keeping up. We retain a focus on our business objectives that allows us to filter through to the companies that can potentially provide material benefit to us.

Q: If carriers need to approach InsurTech innovation differently, what should they do?

Ringsted: The InsurTech industry is both vibrant and broad in terms of opportunity. Clearly there is a balance to be hadthe “Goldilocks conundrum.” Those companies that are not engaged with InsurTech are likely to be missing out. At the same time, those companies that are heavily engaged across the sector need to be sure that the effort matches the business benefit.