Will Customer Experience Be the Biggest Insurance Challenge of 2021?

It’s no secret that the insurance industry has historically been one of the slowest to adopt technology.  

The arrival of the pandemic last year propelled the insurance industry into a virtual era, causing insurers to scramble to adopt new technology and rethink the digital customer experience. However, the industry still faces many hurdles in this area, including: 

  • Distrust arising when customers learned their policies did not cover COVID-related health and business issues 
  • Frustration when customers could not easily contact insurers to answer their policy-related questions 
  • Disappointment in the delay to offer new insurance solutions to bridge the gap 
  • Anxious customers who now feel they are not covered for future emergencies 
  • Increased distance felt by customers who previously had negative insurance experiences, but now feel more disconnected from their providers due to the lack of coverage 

These hurdles, along with pre-existing negative perceptions of the overall industry, have put a spotlight on what may now be the industry’s biggest challenge in 2021: delivering an exceptional digital customer experience to retain those it promised to protect.  

Why Does It Matter? 

Insurance was born from community spirit, where many came together to protect the losses of a few individuals. Especially over the last century, this spirit has been lost in the pursuit of profitable business models and highly regulated market. Insurers have not generally succeeded in establishing a meaningful relationship with customers leading to loyalty, and without a massive turnaround in digital strategy, insurers risk losing customers and irreversibly damaging the industry’s reputation further.  

As last week’s court ruling in the UK shows, customers have spent months fighting insurers for pandemic coverage (in this case, to secure business interruption payments). The general sentiment in the market is not positive, and in an already-competitive landscape, insurers must do everything they can to ensure their customers have a better experience this year.  

Can an Improved Digital Experience Help? 

In short, yes, and it has already begun to show positive impact. Global market research company Ipsos recently surveyed 2,500 insurance customers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, and found that customers placed the highest value on the speed of processing policies and claims online when selecting a carrier. In places such as Australia, where purchasing a private health insurance policy is not optional, efforts to create a smooth and positive experience can reduce resentment in customers who view insurance as a forced expenditure.  

The challenge is to create a more personalized experience while employing digital platforms — after all, the objective is to preserve human interaction where it is most impactful. A good example of a personalized digital interaction is a video consultation with an advisor at the time of purchase, which allows new policyholders to get answers specific to their unique situations. On the other hand, removing the need for a wet signature will speed up the process favorably, and so replacing human interaction with a digital signature would prove effective in this case. 

So, Where Do I Begin? 

While the strategy will vary from organization to organization, we recommend starting by connecting with your customers and hearing their perspectives. How do customers feel about your organization’s current experience? What are they saying on social media and to customer service representatives? If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is Stage 1 of the Design Thinking methodology: Empathize. Often, customers are seen as numbers (or data) — numbers of calls answered, premiums calculated, or policies underwritten — and not human beings with unique lives, jobs, and dreams. When creating a strategy, is it important to consider those who will be most impacted; in this case, it is the customer.  

Collecting customer insights is another process where human interaction is impactful. Observing the customer’s body language and tone can provide additional insight into how the customer really feels and can help insurers identify specific areas of the current experience that may be distressing or difficult. Once those insights are available, it’s time to innovate! 

Perhaps 2021 will be the year that the industry can improve customer perceptions and prove that it is here to provide support and peace of mind. Will this be the year that insurers return to their community-driven roots? 

We will cross our fingers and wait to find out! 

Let us help you reinvent your digital customer experience. Check out our innovation consulting services, such as our Design Thinking Sprints, where our Certified Innovation Experts will guide your teams to develop a human-centered solution that satisfies what your customers actually want.  

The Human Side of Innovation

The Human side

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

— Steve Jobs

Innovation is a word that has been used over and over in the last years. Everyone wants to be innovative; everyone wants to launch an innovative solution, and everyone wants innovation all around. The interesting part about these wants is that most people expecting innovation expect it fast, easy and comfortable, when really it requires patience, patience and patience! Innovation requires patience to move through the interviews and research phase; patience to embrace the failings during testing phases and learning how to accept feedback; and patience to step out of the comfort zone.

I have spoken to many people who visit our innovation lab and many mention the disappointment they have experienced when it comes to innovation, the frustration with the design methodologies and working with teams, and the pain of seeing ideas change over and over through testing phases. Yes! Not so pleasant descriptions. And these descriptions come from top down. It is no coincidence they first questions they ask are, “Can you help us get to an innovative place and help us understand what we are doing wrong?” and “Can you help our team understand why we are not coming up with innovative ideas?”.

Of course we can!

What is innovation about?

What does innovation mean to you? The most popular answers are new, fun, useful, building from something old and make it new. No matter which way we look at them, all the above require a set of fundamental steps like:

  • Research (to understand the problem and what already exists)
  • Listen with human-centric mindset (to understand the need)
  • Test (to understand usefulness) and
  • Remain open to change (to either create something new or shift on something that already exists)

In a nutshell, innovation is about being open to change based on research, testing, etc. And let’s be honest, that word “change” is not something that people are always excited to do, especially when there is uncertainty, which you know exists when working in innovation. Being open leads to accepting the fact that to create this amazing product, service, or idea, one must be prepared to change rapidly and often. And experiencing change leads, in most cases and at some point, to hitting a wall of (as most people relate to innovation) frustration and pain. But why the frustration and pain? And why, many times, giving up? Well, because we forget about the most important element in innovation. YOU!

What is the most forgotten and overlooked element in innovation?

The most forgotten element in the journey of creativity and creating something new is the HUMAN and all that comes with it. Let’s break it down:  we know that to be able to create something ground-breaking, we have to be open to uncertainty and change. We already know that for most of us humans, those words most often lead to fear. Then how can we expect to create anything revolutionary when we forget the human side of innovation? That involves you, the team member and/or you, the team leader and/or you, the decision maker. No matter what your role is in an innovative journey, you must be aware of your human side, which includes mindset, attitude, behaviors, and patterns. In summary, it asks that we remember that we are human and, based on our day and how we are feeling in the moment when we are working on our solutions, innovation and creativity will be impacted. Therefore, it is vital to remember this important fact – the human side.

How can one unlock and embrace the human side of innovation? Empathy and Courage

Empathy! Not only is it important to have empathy for customers when using creative methodologies, it is also vital to practice empathy with your team members and yourself. Empathy will organically create a safe place for creativity to show up and live.

Courage! Have the courage to trust the process; time and time again, we hear stories of creative minds solving problems and creating pioneering solutions. These creations happen when the team trust a process that is proven, even though the path to the answer is not clear, and when the team move past fear and doubt and into an uncomfortable place of trust.

In summary …

Accept that sometimes you and/or your team will have bad days, not because of the project or because of the team, but because you or one of the team members may be going through a challenging time on a personal level, or perhaps there are limiting beliefs that are blocking the flow of creativity. Perhaps it is the first time you allow yourself to trust a new process. Regardless of the reason why – the answer is patience.

 “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” 

— Arnold Bennett

Want more insights from our Lead Innovation Coach?

Join our upcoming free 1-hour Introduction to Design Thinking session, where Coach Ibeth will walk you through the first 2 key steps to get you moving to an innovative idea. Check out this session and other global opportunities on our 2021 Events Calendar here!

WinterHack 2020: A Global Race to #MakeInsuranceBetter [Part 2]

WinterHack 2020 Winner Team

Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with WinterHack 2020 Winner, Team EMIL-Hannover Re. I asked Dr. Lorenz Kemper (Hannover Re) and Henrik Dittmar (EMIL Group Gmbh) to share behind-the-scenes stories and advice from their WinterHack 2020 experience — check out the full interview below!

Team EMIL-Hannover Re, congratulations on your huge success at WinterHack 2020! Before we dive into the event, let’s do a quick round of introductions first.

Lorenz: I have been working as a Data Scientist at Hannover Re for 2 years now. Just recently, I became the first member of the Hannover Re Digital Accelerator, where I am responsible for the technical aspects in a team that works with insurers, digital insurers, and InsurTechs to get them going globally.

Henrik: I am the Head of Product at EMIL Group. We’re a technology company that helps insurance companies quickly launch innovative products.


Thank you for the introductions! We’d love to know, what inspired you to join WinterHack 2020?

Lorenz: When I heard about WinterHack, I thought it was a great place to meet like-minded people and network to meet possible corporate partners from other parts of the InsurTech industry, such as a primary insurer or technology provider.

Henrik: Since we provide software for insurers and reinsurers, it’s essential for us to collaborate with them and see how they are thinking, especially when it comes to innovation. Networking, of course, is a motivator, but we really want to know how insurers and reinsurers approach innovation.

Speaking of collaboration, this was your first time meeting one another. How did you connect and how was the experience of working together?

Lorenz: We hit it off on a personal note very quickly. We actually met before the event for a quick call to get to know one another and to get on the same page. We talked about our backgrounds and our goals for the event, and in that initial call, we decided we wanted to have fun but also win the competition!

Henrik: It was a fun 2 days, which has a lot to do with the team. In our case, that meant Lorenz as our teammate! We started out on the same page and worked well from the beginning, which was really nice.

It’s always great hearing about successful collaborations! Diving into your solution now, which of the 4 challenges did you choose to tackle and what was your idea?

Lorenz: This is a funny story — the jury panel thought we were tackling the challenge of loneliness for the elderly, but what we were really focusing on was digital subscription models!

Henrik: Our solution was an app that integrates many tools and services from around the digital world and makes them accessible to senior citizens, so I understand how the confusion happened! It was all about combining these easy-to-use services in an app as an entryway into the digital world for senior citizens.

How was your experience using Design Thinking to develop this solution?

Lorenz: Design Thinking was a good way to encourage customer-centric thinking, especially because none of us are a customer group. We used Design Thinking to empathize with the customer, but we actually didn’t use all of the tools. We cherry-picked within the toolbox of Design Thinking to select the best tools that would help us reach our goal, such as the Persona, Empathy Map, and Journey Map, and decided very quickly what product we wanted to pitch.

Henrik: The target group focus in the Design Thinking approach is very essential in today’s world, especially when it comes to innovation and developing something the target group actually wants. It was very helpful for us to get into the mindset of the user group and start from there. Our general approach was to get to the prototyping stage very early, and so we chose the tools that went along with that. We wanted to create the solution quickly and test it by having the prototype ready, creating a landing page, and seeing how people would react when they saw the page, which is how we chose to validate it.

On that note, what else do you believe contributed to your overall success at WinterHack 2020?

Lorenz: Because we were a small team, we were really quick and well-coordinated. Everyone took charge of certain tasks quickly and owned them. We were very clear on who was responsible for each task and relied on them to do a great job.

Henrik: Our focus on prototyping the solution early helped us create something that in the end, when the judges saw it, conveyed the usefulness of the idea in real-life. As much of a bubble as these 2 days were, that’s what they were trying to evaluate — how much would this idea make sense outside of this context?

Looking back at the event, how would you describe your overall experience?

Lorenz: For me, it was fun and broadened my perspective in many ways. I was surprised at how much we were able to get done in 2 days. I was also quite surprised that we were able to hit a personal note even though we had never met before! This was new to me, because I felt this year that it would be difficult to really connect with other people via Zoom, but I think we were able to do that quite effectively. It was a big learning for me!

Henrik: There was a lot to do in 2 days and we worked through it quite well as a team, which made it really enjoyable. Our skillsets matched up very well with all of the tasks we had to do!

As you know, at Cookhouse Labs our mission is to #MakeInsuranceBetter for everyone! How do you think your solution and events like WinterHack 2020 help achieve this?

Lorenz: In a way, our product has the same characteristics as what makes insurance better. Our product aims to bring technology to the elderly, who typically are not the primary users of technology but could benefit from it. Technology can improve their lives and make things much easier for them. In the same way, the industry is not typically the first to take up digital ideas and technology. However, it is an industry that is predestined to make use of technology, and in this way, we can make insurance better.

Henrik: Historically, insurance has been a slow industry, especially when it comes to product innovation. It takes a very long time to launch an insurance product. Changing this mindset is one thing that events like WinterHack encourage, and this is our goal at EMIL, too. We want to make it technologically possible to launch new products, but this only works if we can bring the insurers we work with into the mindset to launch new products quickly. These types of industry events create the sensibility for innovation in a short time and make the process of quickly launching new products possible.

Team EMIL-Hannover Re, thank you for an insightful interview and congratulations once again on your big win at WinterHack 2020. We wish you the best and hope to see this collaboration continue in the future!

Curious about our next big global Ideathon in 2021? Stay updated on the details by signing up for our newsletter and following us on LinkedIn!

WinterHack 2020: A Global Race to #MakeInsuranceBetter [Part 1]

Winterhack 2020 Runner-Up

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with WinterHack 2020 Runner-Up, Team Munich Re. I chatted with Abhishek Gupta, Calvin Choi, Joanna A., Salman Ghaffar, and Tommy Kim about the process of developing their innovative solution and invited them to reflect on their experience and success at the global ideathon.

Team Munich Re, congratulations on your big win! Before we begin, let’s start with a quick intro. What can you tell us about yourselves in 30 seconds?

Abhishek: I’m a Business Development Manager for IoT in the Applied Technology Division at HSB Canada. I focus on commercializing sensor and IoT technology here in Canada, which includes water, temp, and pipe sensors.

Calvin: I’m a Data Analyst within the Client Company Management Team at HSB Canada. My role involves assisting Client Company Managers with data to build compelling stories about why clients should work with us.

Joanna: I’m a Marketing Communications Specialist at HSB Canada with a focus on branding and digital marketing. It’s been a rewarding journey for me as a marketer, being part of a team that encourages intrapreneurship, and a company that’s innovative, technologically driven, forward thinking, and people focused.

Salman: I also work in the Applied Technology Division at HSB Canada as an IoT Operations Specialist. We bring solutions from the U.S. to implement in the Canadian market, and my responsibility is to ensure everything goes smoothly, from bringing in the solution hardware to installing it at client locations.

Tommy: I’m from Munich Re Company of Canada, which is a life, property, and casualty business. My current role is a Senior Actuarial Analyst from the Pricing team, and my day-to-day responsibilities include supporting the Reinsurance business with actuarial services.

Great, thank you for the introductions! We’d love to know, how did you come together and what inspired you to join WinterHack 2020?

Abhishek: I was looking for an amazing and super talented team with lots of brainpower! I came across one of our champions from MRoC, Tommy Kim, who is great to work with. I found more talented people from our organization: Calvin, who is a new member of HSB Canada and was very excited about the ideathon; Salman, who is our IoT Specialist and is incredibly talented; and Joanna, who brought everything together from a marketing perspective.

Calvin: What motivated me was the space for people to come together to innovate in the insurance industry. If you think about it, the industry has always been resistant to innovation and change, so if there’s an opportunity to work with like-minded people on innovative ideas and solutions that can help develop the industry, I’m all for it.

Joanna: Abhishek was putting together a team to represent Munich Re at WinterHack 2020 and he reached out. The theme “Digital Ecosystems” was a huge driver for me to join the team. As a marketer, I’m always thinking of innovative and better ways to do business, so it was a good fit.

Salman: I’ve been a part of QHacks, which is hosted by Queens University, so I understood how hackathons work. Considering WinterHack 2020 was going to be held remotely, I was a little inquisitive as well about how it would go, and that motivated me to participate.

Tommy: What inspired me to join was the passion from my colleagues. It’s always difficult for an individual to get something done, but the synergy that Abhi brought into one team was definitely a great inspiration.

That’s awesome! Let’s dive further into the event: Which of the 4 challenges did you choose to tackle and how did you decide?

Abhishek: We chose the first challenge, which was to reduce isolation and loneliness for elderly people. It was quite a deliberation process — we spent about 60% of our workday just on choosing the challenge! We created a matrix with parameters and every single team member scored the challenges from 1 to 5 based on these parameters. We used a weighted average to select the challenge we were going to work on. We realized later on that everyone on our team is very empathetic, when we all understood pain points for the elderly and how our solution can really help them.

Tommy: I really love the fact that we were able to share our thoughts and visions for each challenge. It’s fantastic that Abhi proposed the matrix we used, because at the end, we were very objective in how we selected a challenge.

Could you describe your experience using Design Thinking to develop your solution?

Abhishek: Design Thinking is a different way of thinking when creating a product, and as a team, we understood how important it was. I’d say Calvin and Salman did an incredible job creating a customer journey map that detailed each point in the journey. Salman shared with us that his mother’s age is similar to our Persona, and his understanding of her experience really helped us.

Calvin: We really focused on being empathetic to what the customer journey would look like. On the other hand, we also focused on practicality and how the company could benefit from a product like ours. We made sure to empathize with both sides when designing this product.

Joanna: Design Thinking is the way to go. You simply can’t develop a solution without empathizing with your customer, and building on that is key. Design Thinking flows in that direction. It’s logical and efficient.

Salman: My mother is a single parent who is a similar age and I’ve seen her struggles and how she feels about technology at this age, and it was really helpful in drafting our journey map. We wanted to address those needs and bring the human touch to our solution, because at the end of the day, technology cannot replace the human touch.   

What do you believe contributed to your success at WinterHack 2020?

Abhishek: The biggest factor behind our success was bringing together amazing people. Joanna brought her marketing perspective to create a credible product offering. Calvin and Salman had a streamlined approach to empathizing with the customer and creating the journey map. Tommy brought his actuarial skills, and he was very focused on the commercialization aspect and feasibility of our idea. It was all about bringing together the synergies of different talented people.

Calvin: We all tried to see things from each other’s point of view. We took the time to listen to and understand everyone’s ideas. I think that also contributed hugely to our success.

Salman: I agree completely — all the credit goes to the team. This is one of the best team experiences I’ve ever had. Everyone brought in their skillsets while remaining open-minded and respectful towards others’ ideas. If there was a difference in opinion, we used thoughtful discussions to sort through the pros and cons of each idea and to decide on the best way forward.

Tommy: What worked well was the synergy based on trust and open-mindedness. I also have to upsell the support we got from Cookhouse Labs: the templates guided us in the right direction on how to develop and present our solution in the end, so thank you!

How would you describe your overall WinterHack 2020 experience?

Abhishek: It’s been fabulous! Previously, we had an opportunity to participate in the SummerHack, which was again a wonderful experience. WinterHack, I would say, was a notch higher for us because when everyone came together, we fit like a glove. Even though we all came from different experiences and backgrounds, everyone was respectful and open-minded. I also have to say that the event was amazingly organized by Cookhouse Labs. You gave us all the design templates and guidance we needed, and I really want to thank the whole team for helping us along the way.

Calvin: It was a lot of fun for me, because we were on the same page and everyone was very encouraging. I would say, though, that at the end it got a little stressful, because we raced to get everything done on time. Cookhouse Labs did a great job making this a very seamless and smooth process, and even when we got to the Final Pitch Event, I had a great time listening to everyone’s pitches. I noticed some pitches applied cultural aspects from the region the team was in, and this international aspect was cool to see.

Salman: Spending two days together almost felt like a family! It was a wonderful experience, and we had a lot of fun. When signing up for WinterHack, I was curious about the entirely virtual experience and how it would be managed. Cookhouse Labs did an amazing job with sharing resources and guiding teams through all the steps, so thank you!

Tommy: Having judges with a lot of professional expertise and knowledge was great. Also, the event format was virtual, which was a nice experience to be part of. Before COVID-19, I would have never thought of being part of a virtual competition because I would have wanted to feel the synergy and energy within the same room and in-person. However, virtual collaboration was not a barrier for our team, which was a wonderful experience.

How do you think your solution and events like this help #MakeInsuranceBetter?

Abhishek: Using methodologies like Design Thinking promotes lateral thinking, and the time crunch fosters and accelerates the kind of thinking needed to create a viable product. At the end of the day, something we create here has the potential to become a real insurance product. We observed the judges’ interest and our organization’s enthusiasm for this idea, which means this idea could very soon become a real product offering.

Calvin: Insurance products, with respect to P&C or personal lines, are generally similar across the industry. How can companies set themselves apart from the rest? Usually, this is through value-adds that they can provide to policyholders. When companies want to compete for customers, they need to think of these creative value-adds to provide to policyholders. The product we came up with is a nice example of a value-add that a home or life insurer can provide, and this can set them apart from other insurers. This is what makes the difference between one company and another.

Joanna: Events like this open the floor for thinking outside the box and innovating, and when you combine innovation with Design Thinking and its focus on empathy, you make insurance better.

Salman: I’m a strong advocate for using technology to push the envelope further. What we see is that the insurance industry is late to adopt technological trends. An event like this helps to change this perception and helps companies in the ecosystem realize the importance of technology in improving their products for the end-user. Even further, it helps adopt these technological solutions and advance the industry as a whole.

Tommy: The perspective towards the insurance industry is that it is very reactive, not proactive. These events encourage the industry to become proactive and offering meaningful services to customers, which is progress.

Team Munich Re, thank you so much for sharing your insights with our readers and congratulations once again on your big win at WinterHack 2020. We wish you the best going forward and hope to see your solution come to life as a real product offering in the near future!

Curious about our next big global Ideathon in 2021? Stay updated on the details by signing up for our newsletter and following us on LinkedIn!

Partnering with the Insurance Industry to Support the Community

Over the course of 2 days, we provided small business owners with live access to expert knowledge, resources, and community support to aid them as they return #BackToBusiness during these challenging times. The session topics were selected based on key business areas that owners had expressed interest in learning more about. Our team of innovators has been working closely since April to bring this virtual event to life, and we’re happy to share that it was a success!  

To help you get caught up on the progress of this project, we’ve summarized some interesting facts about this event below: 

It all began with a Co-Creation Sprint 

In April, we brought members of the insurance industry together virtually to ask the question, “How might we come together to support the small business owners in the community?” 

Over the course of 4 afternoons, our innovators worked together using Design Thinking to develop an impactful solution to the challenges small business owners were facing in these difficult times. The team interviewed owners in Canada, the U.S., and Bermuda to understand the challenges in depth, and what they learned about was the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty small business owners experienced every day. During these interviews, the team uncovered a common challenge — while many owners sought vital information to develop their reopening strategy, such as Financial Planning, Marketing, and Insurance Coverage, very few of them were able to access expert knowledge due to budget constraints and lack of accessibility.  

The solution: Make the information accessible at no cost, truly from the core of supporting the community! 

We received truly generous support from the industry 

There’s a reason we call them Summit Partners, and not Sponsors! The entire event was organized by volunteers, promoted by Partners, and hosted by expert speakers looking to give back to the community. We’d like to give a special shout-out to Kasia Kraszewska, Nancy Kwan, and Marcel Hegglin for their dedication, support, and enthusiasm throughout the project! 

We’d also like to say a big thank-you to our Partners: 

The community loved it! 

The community shared incredible feedback, thanking our expert speakers for making the information easy to understand and for taking the time to answer questions from our audiences! 

“I appreciate the fact that our speaker was self-taught and candid,” one attendee wrote to us about the session, Build an Online Presence. “As a small business owner, financial resources are precious, and we need a practical approach. He was practical, informative and very helpful in responding to questions. A great presentation and very happy to have attended!” 

“Loved the whole talk,” another attendee shared after the session How to Launch a Product ended. “It was simple, effective and the speaker gave a clear and comprehensive explanation. Very refreshing to listen to her.” 

All of our survey respondents said that the information shared offered value in helping them get back to business. During the event, our registrations more than doubled as more business owners joined to obtain access our live and on-demand sessions! 

There’s more to come 

After the positive response we received, the team decided to continue to support the community by offering more live and on-demand sessions in the coming months! We’re excited to share that we already have expert speakers lined up on topics such as Cybersecurity and Legal, thanks to our newest Partners — more on this soon! 

There’s still time to join this community support initiative; click here to become a Back to Business Partner! 

Curious about the next phase of the Back to Business Summit project? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates! 

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 2)

In the next part of our series, I had the pleasure to chat with Team ABC, our 1st Place winners at SummerHack 2020. I spoke with Rachel FermoPrinsa Gandhi, and JiaQi Zhao about their experiences as first-time Hackers and how they worked together to come up with their winning idea. 

Team ABC’S winning solution: Smart Tooth, a device glued on to any tooth that transmits different waves in the radio frequency spectrum to detect and measure the calories consumed. An embedded small Bluetooth radio wirelessly transmits data to the app, Byte. Users can redeem rewards for healthy living in the form of reduced insurance premiums.

Rachel, Prinsa, and JiaQi, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on conquering your first hackathonBefore we dive into your winning solution and your experiencelet’s do a quick intro about yourselves. 

Rachel: I’m going into my third year at the University of Toronto, and I am studying Actuarial Science and Statistics, possibly with a minor in Math. Eventually, I want to become an actuary in Canada. I’m not exactly sure which area to go into, possibly Life and Health, but they say it depends on your first internship!  

Prinsa: I’m also going into my third year at U of T. I’m a double major in Actuarial Science and Statistics, working towards a minor in Math. I also want to become an actuary. I am interested in Property and Casualty, but I’m not sure yet either. 

JiaQiI’m going into Actuarial Science, and I also study Computer Science. I’m hoping to get a minor in Statistics or Economics.  
 

In line with that, what inspired you to join SummerHack 2020? 

Rachel: We get emails from our Statistics department about opportunities related to Statistics, and we got an email invite to SummerHack. We said, “Why not, it sounds really fun and it’s something we can put on our resume for experience”! It was a learning opportunity, and that’s why we wanted to join.  

Prinsa: Initially, we were pretty nervous about it! When we went to the Slack webpage, there seemed to be a lot of older participants from the insurance industry, so we joined for the experience.  

JiaQi: We thought, “Let’s just try it. No matter how it goes, at least we tried our best”.  
 

As first-time Hackers, how did you prepare for the 24-hour event? 

Rachel: The first thing we did after hearing about it is that we tried to search up definitions, because we didn’t really know what IoT was. The Cookhouse Labs team also released prep videos, which Prinsa watched and shared notes about, and that’s how we prepared for it. 

Prinsa: We received videos and articles from our Mentor on Slack, so we read those. We also saw the guide you posted about Design Thinking in 24 hours with time stamps, so we read that and watched the videos you shared.  

JiaQi: We worked with our Mentor, David Schraub, who shared definitions, videos, and articles, and we asked him a bunch of questions. That was really helpful! 
 

So, which of the three challenges did you pick, and why did you choose that challenge?  

Rachel: We ended up picking the challenge about overcoming obesity. We each decided to research a challenge, and then come together with our notes and ideas to see which ones would work. Overcoming obesity was the soundest one, so we choose that challenge.  

PrinsaWhen you released the challenges, we had a discussion with our Mentor and he explained each topic in the real industry and how it works. Then, we split up and found ideas for each topic. We chose obesity because we had the most ideas for it.  

JiaQi: We had to choose between small business bankruptcy mitigation, overcoming obesity, and mobility. We had the idea of an app and we tried linking each challenge to it. We wanted a solution that was possible to implement but was also original.  
 

Once you choose a challenge, how did you go about developing your solution? 

I asked Team ABC to walk me through the process of developing their solution using Design Thinking.

Rachel: First, we came up with our idea through research around overcoming obesity and insurance. We talked about our idea with our Mentor, and he gave us ideas about how to further develop the idea. Our idea was a Smart tooth, so we asked, “How do we link that to insurance?” We decided to add an app to our solution and reduce insurance premiums, and so on.  

Prinsa: We followed the guide on Design Thinking, and when we decided on overcoming obesity, we did the survey research part on Google. We had a meeting with our mentor, and he told us to think of a specific target group, since this solution wouldn’t work for everyone. So, we created a persona, and we went ahead with it.  

JiaQi: When we met with our Mentor, he told us that it was best to choose a target group first, and then create our solution around it.  
 

You mentioned your Mentor, David, helped you quite a bit. Could you tell us more about how he supported you throughout your journey? 

Rachel: He was really helpful, because he would notice things that we wouldn’t, like what we should focus on and what we should include in our presentation. He would give us research articles and things to think about when we were researching our idea. We definitely attribute our success to how he helped us throughout.  

Prinsa: He also thought about the business side, which we didn’t really think about. He gave us a lot of advice on how insurance really works in the real world, such as pricing. He would join our Zoom call every two hours and would give us suggestions on what would work and what wouldn’t. 

JiaQi: He gave us a lot of insights and examples of how internet of things is currently used in insurance. It helped us develop our idea of Smart tooth and link it better to insurance. As we were developing our concept, on our zoom call, he can always bring something new on the table and help us make our solution better. We couldn’t have done this without his support.  
 

You mentioned that your idea was an IoTpowered Smart tooth. Could you tell us more about the concept behind it? 

Rachel: It’s a tiny piece of metal glued to your tooth, and depending on what nutrient it absorbs, the metal shifts its electrochemical properties. You can transmit the information from the tooth to your phone, and you can view the data on the app. It’s easily accessible compared to calorie counters that exist right now, where you have to manually input the numbers, which can be inaccurate. Our way was to make it easier for people to access the information and make it helpful for insurance companies, because you can give that information to insurance companies and it will be an incentive to reduce your insurance premiums for healthy living.  

Prinsa: When we researched our personas, we found that a common problem with health apps was that the customer didn’t have time to input information. The Smart tooth would automatically tell you the calories that you consumed, so it makes the process a lot easier.  

JiaQi: In Design Thinking, we were told to put ourselves in place of the person who would be using the app, and we learned that it wasn’t that people didn’t care about what they were eating; it was that they didn’t have time. This method was very helpful! 
 

What do you think contributed to your success in winning 1st Place at SummerHack 2020?

Rachel: I think our idea was really creative! Personally, I was really impressed with all the work that we accomplished in 24 hours. A big part of our success was that we worked together; this was our first time working together and we all knew what we had to do! We communicated with each other the whole day and we didn’t leave the Zoom call until we finished it and recorded our presentation. Only then did we fall asleep!  

Prinsa: We were always on the Zoom call working together, always discussing our ideas. 

JiaQi: Listening to each other’s ideas really helped. Rachel came up with the idea for the Smart tooth, we added to it, and that’s how it became the final solution.  

How would you describe the overall experience at the event? 

Rachel: We had never done anything like this before! When we heard that we had 3 minutes to pitch our ideas, we always had that in the back of our minds. We recorded the video a couple of times so that it was under 3 minutes. We were pretty good go-getters and we didn’t back down from the challenge. We continued the whole way through.  

Prinsa: It was a fun experience because it had to do with real life industry issues. While working on the solution, we were completely interested in it because we felt as if we were working on something that was meaningful. It was super fun! 

JiaQi: I really liked it, especially because it was 24 hours. Prior to us doing that, I would have never thought that we could create something in such little time. The fact that we actually did it has made me more confident in doing hackathons now! 

As you know, WinterHack 2020 is coming up in November! As our 1st Place team, what advice would you give incoming students for the next event? 

Rachel: If you’re a student, you might be taken aback by the 24-hours and not know what to do. If you take advice from your mentor, that will be really helpful for you. It’s not always about winning; it’s also about learning, so have fun while you’re doing the hackathon! 

Prinsa: I would say, don’t be scared or nervous about what you can contribute! Just enjoy the experience, because you’ll end up learning a lot. That’s why we went into this — we wanted to have a cool experience.  

JiaQi: Don’t overthink it! I’m sure all of the participants were nervous but it went really well. It always goes better than you expect! 
 

Final question: How do you think that an event like this can make insurance better? 

Rachel: In an event like this, you have to be really creative and think outside the box. The ideas that you come up with are ideas that people don’t normally think about. By doing this, we have ideas that didn’t previously exist and can really help insurance.  

Prinsa: The challenges that we were given made us think from the consumer’s point of view. We did what we thought the consumer would want and it really helped in the end. 

JiaQi: I think that gathering people from different countries, industries, and experience brings much more diversity and different perspectives on tackling a problem. I believe that an event like this can bring new insights and ideas in insurance.  

Team ABC, thank you so much for your time and congratulations once again on your big win at SummerHack 2020! 

We’re gearing up for our next global hackathon, WinterHack 2020. To stay informed about the event, follow us on LinkedIn!

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 1)

Summerhack Mentor interview

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with David Schraub, a Staff Fellow at the Society of Actuaries and the Mentor of our 1st Place team at our 24-Hour Global SummerHack 2020. During the interview, David discussed how his team developed their winning solution and shared advice on how teams at our upcoming WinterHack 2020 can replicate this success.

Thank you, David, for joining us — not only for the interview, but as a SummerHack 2020 Mentor to a student team. Congratulations on your team’s big win! We would love to hear about your experience as a Mentor, but before we do, let’s start with a quick introduction about you.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate! It was my first hackathon and my first interaction with Cookhouse Labs, and I had a lot of fun. Now, about me — I’m a French actuary that moved to the U.S. about 17 years ago and became an American actuary. I’m currently working for the Society of Actuaries (SOA), helping advance professional design and continuing education programs. My background is in Life Insurance; I focused on the ERM and investments side. Now, I’m working on predictive analytics and InsurTech initiatives that bring the SOA and actuaries to the forefront of innovation.

David Schraub and Insiya Meherally during the virtual interview.

Thank you for that introduction, David! Our students loved having such an experienced Mentor guide them throughout the event. Tell me, what inspired you to mentor a student team?

A member of the Cookhouse Labs team reached out to me with the opportunity to mentor a group of actuarial students, and I became curious about the innovation process and the event itself. So, it was the curiosity, the potential for disruption, and the question, “What can we create in 24 hours?” I wanted to find out!

How did you go about engaging and preparing your team for the hackathon?

We started with an introductory call to get to know each other. The Events Team also suggested using this call to align on how Mentors and students would stay in touch during the event. I was interested in learning about the students’ backgrounds and what they wanted to get out of the experience. They were interested in Data Science and Internet of Things. In advance of the 24-hour period, I shared related articles and background reads to clarify a few concepts and help them prepare.

What process did your team undergo to develop the solution?

The Events Team spelled out a very good process with milestones that we had no reason to challenge — the Design Thinking methodology. Our team started by sharing ideas on each of the 3 challenges given and decided on the first one, Overcoming Obesity. We created a detailed Persona to help us understand the target market. We discussed the size of the target market and the expected profitability of a product. Your product doesn’t have to be relevant to everybody, so long as your target market is large enough to generate a profit. You may have a small group of people that are extremely interested in one topic, and you may be able to build a completely viable product for them. After we had a Persona, we defined their interests and disposable income. We then went about developing a solution, and the next step (if we had time) would have been to develop a business plan around it.

We’re very excited to hear Design Thinking helped your team create their solution around Overcoming Obesity! Could you briefly describe the concept behind the solution?

We came up with an IoT-backed tooth with sensors to monitor what you eat. For example, it can count the calories you consume or your snack times. Let’s say you’re craving a snack — the app will use the information to suggest you go for a walk instead of opening the fridge. The app could also be connected to your doctor, who could use the data to help you manage aspects of your health and wellness that are impacted by your nutrition.  

What do you think your team did well that led them to conquering SummerHack 2020?

One thing that they did well was to actually deliver; they had a good presentation that was submitted on time. Another thing is that their solution met the need and was possible to implement. We found a few articles suggesting the concept is already being developed. They also demonstrated a clear link to insurance: there is potential to reduce life insurance premiums.

On that note, what would be your advice to teams going into our upcoming WinterHack 2020 in November?

Fully understand the requirements and deliver based on them! Submit your materials way in advance of the deadline and rehearse your pitch well. In fact, submit a video pitch to avoid technological issues that come with a live presentation. While all this may sound very basic, it is the key to success. Also, know what your solution can achieve and back this knowledge with numbers and statistics.

That’s very valuable advice! In a nutshell, how would you describe your experience at SummerHack 2020?

I’d say it was fun, interactive, and a great opportunity to learn!

How do you think such an event can help #MakeInsuranceBetter?

The basic answer would be to share these ideas with potential startups so that those products can be developed. They may make insurance better because they address the needs of the insured and of the insurance industry.

Thank you, David, for sharing your time with us and for mentoring our students at SummerHack 2020! Congratulations once again on your big win and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming WinterHack 2020 in November!

Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure!

We’re about to announce the winners of our Best Solution – Greater China Area prize (valued at $1,000 CAD)! The announcement will be made via Facebook live stream on Tuesday, August 25th, 2020 at 8 pm EDT. You don’t want to miss it, so click here to stay connected!

Everything You Need to Know About the Back to Business Summit

FAQs Back to Business Summit

After we recently announced our upcoming Back to Business Summit, many members of the community reached out to us with questions about the event. To bring you up to speed on how you can get involved in this community support project, we’ve summarized some of the questions we frequently receive below!

  1. What is the Back to Business Summit?

Cookhouse Labs is partnering with the Insurance industry to organize this virtual community support summit, designed to aid small business owners across the Americas in recovering from recent business interruptions and support them in preparing themselves to go Back to Business. The event will comprise a mix of live and on-demand sessions which focus on key business topics that are important to the small business community. The event will go live on September 15 and 16, 2020, and will be entirely online/virtual.

  1. Why should I get involved?

Insurance was born out of the idea of community and right now, it is our responsibility to show up for the small business owners in our community. They are more than just business owners – they are our friends, neighbors, and family members. In these trying times, the community needs to come together. Your small business customers need your help to navigate the uncertain futures they face. This event is your way to:

  • Provide community support
  • Connect with your customers
  • Show you care
  1. How can I provide support and get involved?

There are four ways to get involved in the Back to Business Summit. You can:

  • Provide expert speakers for defined topics
  • Invite your customers to the event
  • Spread the word, share, and repost our posts on Social Media
  • Join the event coordination team

The event is an opportunity for Partners to connect with their small business customers. We will provide invitation emails, website registration links, and social media content so that you can share the event information directly with your customers.

  1. What topics will be covered in the speaker sessions?

We surveyed small business owners across the Americas to see what business topics they are interested in learning more about. Some of the high-interest topics are:

  • Business Strategy and Planning
    – Clarify Mission & Vision
    – What is the New Normal?
    – Design Thinking 101

  • Marketing and Social Media
    – Marketing 101
    – Social Media 101
    – Build Customer Personas

  • Insurance Policy, Coverage, and Claims
    – Know Your Coverage
    – Know Your Rights
    – Tips for Filing a Claim

  • Financial Planning & Taxes
    – Cash Flows and Expenses
    – Banking Resources
    – How to Protect Employees
  1. What benefits will I enjoy as a Partner?
  • Create goodwill with your customers
  •  Access expert knowledge for your customers
  • Expand your commercial network and meet potential small business customers
  • Receive high brand visibility throughout the event promotion and Summit duration
  • Show your customers that you care about them!

We invite you to join us in making a difference to the community – become an official Back to Business Partner and support your small business customers!

To get in touch with our Events Coordination Team about this community support opportunity, click here.

Supporting the Community in Going #BackToBusiness

Back to Business Summit

Somewhere in Toronto, a family-owned café serves its final customer, preparing to shut its doors indefinitely. Just across the border in New York, a salon owner wonders how she will make her next $6,000 rent payment. 

While the definition of the ‘new normal’ continues to evolve every day, for many the future is as uncertain as ever. Despite lockdown restrictions lifting in some areas, sales remain low as shoppers spend only on basic necessities.  All around us, small business owners are struggling to pay rent, plan for their families and themselves comfortably, keep their employees, and return to pre-pandemic levels of income. 

In challenging times, it is often critical to look through a lens of empathy. In doing so, we see that these individuals are so much more than “just” small business owners; they are members of our communities with families to support. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members, and our customers. And right now, they are overwhelmed with the possibility of losing their livelihood and for many, losing their dream.

Insurance was born out of the spirit of community, where the burden of one was shared by many with the intention to support each other and protect each other’s wellbeing in times of hardship. So, in these difficult moments we ask, “How might we come together to support the small business owners in our community?”

In April, we asked this question at our first virtual co-creation sprint, “Innovating to Save Community Businesses During COVID-19“. Innovators from across the Americas collaborated for 4 afternoons to develop a solution to this shared challenge. To accomplish this, we began by empathizing with small business owners in Canada, the US, and Bermuda through virtual interviews.

The interviews gave us incredible insight into the challenges they were facing, and many tears were shed during the conversations. We understood the fear and anxiety that our community members experience every day, and how painful this experience is for them. 

After the interviews, one of our innovators was able to put into words what our entire team felt. She said, “This was a reality check. People’s dreams are being put on hold and there is a lot of uncertainty for them as business owners.”

Over the course of the project, we deliberated over many potential ways we could provide support in these difficult times. Our team came up with 70 ideas, and 1 MVP later, the concept of Back to Business was born!

So, what is Back to Business?

It is a solution to assist small business owners in preparing to return #BackToBusiness. We understand that many owners seek vital information to develop their reopening strategy, such as financial planning, marketing, and insurance coverage. As an industry, we will stand by our small business owners and provide access to experts on these topics and more in a 2-day virtual summit. To provide support to as many business owners as possible, we will make the information accessible across the Americas at no cost, truly from the core of supporting the community. 

As an industry, we will come together to show our community that we care about them, that we are here for them in times of hardship.

We will reach out to the family in Toronto and the salon owner in New York. We will support them in recovering from recent business interruptions. We will provide access to resources to help bring them peace of mind in these difficult times.

This is our community and we will show up for them.

Who do you know that wants to show up and support the community?

To become a Back to Business Partner and play your part, click here.

How to Disrupt Insurance in 24 Hours

Only 3 days left to SummerHack 2020!

If you’re joining us as a Hacker or Mentor this summer, you’re probably wondering how you’ll create a disruptive IoT-powered solution in just 24 hours. To help you prepare for our upcoming virtual hackathon, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to disrupt the insurance industry using Design Thinking in time for Friday’s deadline!

What is Design Thinking?

Previously in the insurance space, most insurers took the approach of creating solutions based solely on assumptions and hoped that their products or solutions would resonate with target audiences. Design Thinking reverses this logic by first identifying the root(s) of the problem, observing how people think and behave, and gathering customer insights. From there, they create practical solutions. Using this methodology invites teams to look at a problem through the eyes of the customer, put themselves in their shoes and fully empathize with the customer – who is ultimately the people impacted directly by the solution.

Stages of Design Thinking

The following are the stages of the Design Thinking process:

  • Empathize with the customer and other stakeholders
  • Define the opportunity or problem
  • Design a solution
  • Create and build a Minimum Viable Product/Concept/Service
  • Test the solution with customers and users

How to Use Design Thinking at SummerHack 2020

While the stages listed above may sound time-consuming, it’s possible to walk through each of them within a short timeframe. As a reminder, our Innovation Team will be available via regular check-in calls to answer any questions and provide support on how to follow Design Thinking to develop impactful solutions.

Below, we’ve broken down the 24-hour hackathon period using the Design Thinking process to help you structure your time (should you choose to do so) and succeed in SummerHack 2020!

Thursday, July 30th

9 AM – Empathize

At 9 am EDT, the Cookhouse Labs team will announce our IoT-based challenge and you will have 24 hours to create your solution!

Your Design Thinking journey begins with the first stage, Empathize. This is where you will begin to understand your target group, which can be done in 2 ways: internet research and interviews with your target group. You can’t create a customer-centric solution without putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, and a good way to do this is to speak directly with the potential customer and listen.

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have:

  • An Empathy Map to help you visualize how the user thinks/feels and documents their pain points
  • Your Persona, a character that represents the type of customer/user of your solution. For example, in our last project about mitigating small business bankruptcy, we created the persona of Fiona, a small business owner in Toronto

1st Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 11 am to 12 pm!

3 PM – Define

The next stage focuses on constructing a point of view based on the user’s needs. Here, you will take time to reflect on what the user has shared with you and to visualize their experience. By doing so, you can define what problem you are trying to solve, which will help you shape a better experience for the user.

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have:

  • A Journey Map, which is a narrative of your user’s steps to accomplish a specific goal. This is mapped out in 2 layers: a timeline of the user’s actions and their thoughts/emotions while completing each task. You want to identify areas where the user encounters obstacles or barriers along their journey
  • How Might We (HMW) statements, which are short questions that focus on specific problem areas from the Journey Map and identifies the benefits or gains the solution will bring. In the same project about bankruptcy mitigation, our team created 20 HMW statements and selected, “How might we reduce the risk of financial impact of current economic events?”

2nd Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 3 pm to 4 pm!

7 PM – Design

After selecting a single HMW statement to focus on, it’s time to ideate! This stage is all about connecting to your inner child and using your imagination to come up with multiple solutions to the problem your team identified. Quantity is important here, so remember to list as many possibilities as you can!

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have:

  • Multiple possible solutions to tackle the challenge in various timeframes
  • A chosen idea to begin prototyping!

3rd Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 7 pm to 8 pm!

11 PM – Create

Once your team has voted on a winning idea, you are now ready to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You will begin by creating a low-fidelity prototype, which could take the form of a sketch, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation.

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have:

  • A sketch of your Lo-Fi prototype to help visualize and test the solution

4th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 11 pm to 12 am!

Friday, July 31st

3 AM – Test

Now that the solution has taken shape, it’s time to test and retest the idea with different users. The objective is to receive feedback on the content, design, and usability of the prototype and is usually done via surveys and interviews. It is important to remain open to feedback and fully engage with the potential end-user in order to understand their thoughts and improve your prototype. Note that if it is not possible to test with actual personas, you can either test within the team, with friends or connections you have in your network, your Mentor, or ask the Cookhouse Labs team if they have a chance to check out your solution.

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have:

  • A final MVP that is ready to be presented

5th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 3 am to 4 am!

7 AM – Wrap-Up

In 2 hours, you will submit your final solution!

At this time, you should begin to practice your presentation and prepare any materials required (such as PowerPoint slides). Remember, you will only have three minutes to pitch your solution to our panel of judges!

Deliverables: By the end of this stage, you will have:

  • Submitted your solution on our platform, including a brief description and any additional materials
  • Prepared your presentation for our Live Pitch Event beginning at 9:30 am

6th Check-In: Our Innovation Experts will be available from 6 am to 7 am!

To provide even further support, our Innovation Team has prepared a Design Thinking video series to walk you through each stage in more detail, which you will have access to before the event.

And remember – along the way, you will have support from your Mentor, an industry expert dedicated to providing your team with valuable knowledge and expertise.

And with that, you are now ready to disrupt the insurance industry!

We wish all our teams the best of luck for SummerHack 2020! We invite our community members to join the Live Pitch Event on Friday, July 31st at 9:30 am EDT to see the exciting solutions our teams of student and corporate innovations develop.

To receive an invite, please register here.