SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 7]

In the final part of our series, I sat down with Zain Ibrahim, a SummerHack 2021 judge and Executive Director and COO at EFU Life in Pakistan. We discussed Zain’s experience as a first-time judge and participant, highlights from the event, and his advice for teams looking to win at next year’s SummerHack 2022!

Check out a snippet of our interview with SummerHack 2021 Judge, Zain Ibrahim!

Zain, thank you for joining us both as a judge and participant this year! We’re curious to know, what inspired you to get super involved with the event?

I was recommended by a previous colleague who knew from firsthand experience about the appetite of our company to digitalize and innovate within our industry. I was then approached by Cookhouse Labs, of course, and later found out that I had connected with Jason (Cookhouse Labs’ partner in China) beforehand, so I felt at home.

As a judge and as a participant, you have two different perspectives to share with us. Let’s start with the participant side; What is something about the participant experience that you wish more judges and audience members knew?

Above everything, it taught me to empathize more. As a participant, I gained an understanding of how the whole process works, and I was able to relate more to the teams and what they were trying to achieve. In a global event, teams are from various backgrounds, and it would better serve the judges if they understood the markets the teams are coming from and what challenges they are trying to solve within their regions.

On the other hand, what is something that you wish participants understood better from a judge’s point of view?

It’s all about simplicity. All beautiful things start simple, and judges are not looking for complicated solutions. For every solution we looked at, we asked, “What’s the simple idea here?” to help us understand what the team was trying to solve. So, the key is simplicity.

Staying on the topic of looking at solutions, which pitch did you find memorable and more importantly, why was it memorable for you?

Both the winner and runner-up were amazing! The pitch deck that caught my eye most belonged to the winner, and I’ll tell you why. They took on a difficult challenge and presented it in a uniquely creative way. I was really impressed by the practical solution and the way they executed the pitch.

After seeing all of these pitches and other pitches you’ve seen in your profession, what are three key ingredients that make a successful pitch?

The first one would have to be passion, specifically for the problem that you’re trying to solve. Without that, you will not be able to put your heart into finding the solution, and without that, you won’t be able to come up with a truly innovative pitch.

Another ingredient would be practicality, because while you may come up with an out-of-the-box solution, you need to be mindful of the fact that your innovative solutions should be practical, executable, and should make business sense.

The final ingredient would be the presentation video. You can tell when a team allocates a significant amount of time to the content and to the idea when you see the actual presentation video, and this differentiates the good ones versus the really good ones.

So, what advice would you offer teams for next year?

Practice more. As a team, it’s always better to practice your presentation several times beforehand and even preempt some of the questions that the judges will ask, because then you’ll be able to better handle the questions and everything will look flawless.

Drawing on your experience as both a participant and as a judge one more time, how would you describe your overall experience at SummerHack?

One word: Amazing. The best thing about participating in such an event is that we got to step away from our everyday tasks and unlearn everything we knew about innovation. It was our first time learning about the Design Thinking methodology, and when we were chatting about our experiences afterwards, you could tell that it inspired an innovative mindset in all of us. Now we ask, “Is there a better way to manage this?” in our day-to-day tasks.

I’m really impressed by the flawless management of the event. The team had to manage 12 hours of time differences and they did a tremendous job. All the prep work was given to us and we had meetings before the event, where we were told what to do and what to expect. Even the technical support, I remember, was incredible. We had trouble at the very last minute in uploading our pitch video late at night, and we asked for help. We were helped immediately, and so to Cookhouse Labs, thank you for the amazing management.

Thank you for the kind words! A final question for you: How can an event like SummerHack help #MakeInsuranceBetter for the global community?

Such an event fosters innovative thinking, right? And innovative thinking means thinking differently for different markets. An event like this helps in the local context, because you see global companies talking about challenges and solutions that are relevant to specific markets, but the way they are handling those challenges could in some way, shape, or form be applicable to another market. That’s the beauty of having a global event: You can learn a lot about how others are tackling challenges around the world and apply it to a local challenge. There’s always something you can take away from these events.

Zain, thank you so much for sharing your insights and valuable advice with our community. We wish you all the best and hope to see you and Team EFU Life again at SummerHack 2022!

Want to stay informed about how you can join our upcoming SummerHack 2022? Join our mailing list here and receive updates straight to your inbox!

Recap: Our First Hybrid Event ft. University of Amsterdam!

Earlier this month, we ran our first-ever hybrid event in our Toronto Lab space! 

We were delighted to host an in-house day on November 3rd for a large group of students from the University of Amsterdam as part of the VSAE International Study Project 2021, where Actuarial and Econometrics students visited Toronto for a week to immerse themselves in the Canadian business world. 

Our team was very excited to welcome them — check out how we prepared the Lab space for our special guests below! 

The Setup

We had fun setting up the Lab for our special guests from The Netherlands!

As we continue to grow internationally, our team has been exploring opportunities to run hybrid events that allow participants to join both in-person and virtually. In 2020, we even invited students from the University of Applied Sciences in Würzburg-Schweinfurt, Germany (FHWS) to develop their own solution for a hybrid event model. Check out the cool robotic solution they came up with here

To test out our hybrid concept, our Lead Innovation Coach, Ibeth Ramos, led the day’s events remotely, while our Co-Founder Sven Roehl and our intern Niklas Bortzler were present in the Lab to greet the students and facilitate the on-ground activities. 

The Welcome

The student group arrived promptly at 9 AM and received a warm welcome from our in-house team. After they found their nametags and poured themselves a hot cup of coffee, the group settled in the main Lab space to begin their exciting day with us. 

Our Co-Founder Sven gave a brief introduction of Cookhouse Labs and msg global solutions, our parent company. Director of Cookhouse Labs Utrecht (The Netherlands), Rian de Heer, joined the introduction virtually from France to provide more insight into msg global solutions, beginning with the company’s origins in 1980 and how it grew to over 8500 employees in 28 countries today.  

Sven continued his presentation with a deeper dive into the history of the insurance industry, sharing challenges along the way and how Cookhouse Labs is playing a part to #MakeInsuranceBetter by facilitating innovation, collaboration, and co-creation. 

The Introduction

After a quick coffee break, Coach Ibeth gave the students a virtual introduction to Design Thinking, walking them through the fundamentals of the human-centered innovation methodology. The students were also introduced to her lovely puppies, who joined the session briefly as well! Then, they set off for a quick lunch break before they began to apply their learnings in a short sprint. 

The Sprint

The students were split into 4 teams and invited to tackle the challenge of how the insurance industry can help combat climate change. They began the first step of Design Thinking: Empathy, which required them to learn about current perspectives on insurance and climate change.  

During step two, Define, they mapped out their findings on a whiteboard empathy map. Using these key insights, the student teams defined a persona and created a journey map. For example, one team chose the persona of a 28-year-old salesperson who was inspired by a climate change documentary and mapped out the persona’s experience of getting in touch with their insurer to see how the organization could make a difference. 

Coach Ibeth continued to guide the teams, visiting each room virtually and interacting with the students as they moved to the next step, Design. The students ideated solutions they could develop within various timeframes, such as 1 week and 1 month.  

After voting on the top idea to develop, the teams dove into the next step, Create. Coach Ibeth had prepared special prototyping boxes for the students the day before their visit, with various fun materials to use during this stage, such as feathers, stickers, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks. She invited their inner child to come out and play, providing the space for them to express creativity and have fun. 

During the final step, Test, the teams presented their prototypes to each other, such as an information app and smartwatch to help customers monitor their carbon footprint. The presentations were creative, fun, and all unique — we were absolutely blown away!  

The Wrap-Up

As the clock struck 4:30 PM, we began to wrap up our in-house day with positive feedback and final comments. Co-Founder Sven and Coach Ibeth encouraged the students to always trust the Design Thinking process and to stay connected to our global community by joining future opportunities to co-create with insurance thought leaders. Our team then presented the students with special gifts ahead of the holiday season, and the whole group posed for a few photos before a little networking and final goodbyes. 

Before we concluded the day, we asked Michelle Mutsaers, who is a board member of the VSAE, to describe the in-house day experience: 

“During the in-house at Cookhouse Labs, our students learned to solve problems by using more creative and out-of-the-box thinking. The day was well-balanced with a short theoretical part and after that, immediately using this in practice. In short, it was a highly educational and fun day!” 

— Michelle Mutsaers, Board Member on the International Study Project Committee 2021 

A big thank-you to VSAE for spending a day in our innovation space, and to msg global solutions Canada for being the sponsor for the day! We enjoyed meeting and hosting the students and look forward to seeing all of you continue to achieve big things in the near future! 

Want to be the first to hear about our next young talent event? Join our community and receive updates directly to your inbox! 

SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 6]

In the next part of our series, I sat down with Si XIe, Head of Financial Planning and Insights at HSBC Pinnacle Venture and a 2-time ideathon Judge (SummerHack 2020 and 2021). We discussed the highlights of this year’s global competition, the ingredients to a great pitch, and what teams at SummerHack 2022 can do to win our big prize!

Check out a snippet of our interview with SummerHack 2021 Judge, Si Xie!

Si, thank you for your continuous support of our global Design Thinking ideathons! We’re curious to know, what inspired you to return to the jury panel this year?

First and foremost, the energy and creativity from the participants as they worked together to solve a real industry challenge. I often see many unconventional ideas at these events that even I, as a long-term participant, would not have dreamt about. With my experience over the last two years of helping HSBC set up a digitally enabled financial planning business from the ground up, I have a lot of appreciation for thinking differently.

Speaking of perspectives and thinking differently, you have the unique experience of being both a participant at one of our ideathons and a judge at two more. What is the one thing about the participant experience that you wish that judges and audience members knew more about?

Innovation is like a muscle that you need to constantly exercise to become better and stronger at it. Design Thinking is a great methodology that has proven to be successful. However, this process does require many iterations, and can feel quite unnatural and difficult at first — at least, it was for me initially. No challenge is easy, and sometimes things don’t go well during the journey, but I was also amazed at the result. As a judge, I would want fellow judges and audience members to appreciate how much work the participant has to do during the event.

Now, using your judge lens, what do you wish that participants knew about the judge’s perspective in these events?

It’s equally challenging for the judges, and we often deliberate for long periods of time to decide on the winner. So, if your idea did not win, it does not mean that is not a great idea. There can only be one winning solution, but we see so many great ideas from the teams.

That’s a very valuable insight for our participants! Staying with your judge lens, what do you enjoy most about being on the panel of our ideathons?

It really helps me think outside the box and see what opportunities are out there. From an international perspective, I draw from the inspiration and bring it back to my day-to-day work as well. Since I work for one of the biggest organizations in the world, exposing myself to different global problems and solutions helps with my job and career development and for me, that’s very valuable.

Focusing on the inspiration and ideas, which pitch stood out most to you and more importantly, why did it stand out to you?

The most memorable solution for me was by Team SaveMoney. Their solution helped restaurants find a reliable local supply chain, which in turn, also opens credit related insurance opportunities. It was a very creative idea that not only fit with the theme of reducing ecological footprint, but also it created product opportunities for the insurer. The possibilities are limitless; it can apply to different cities and different countries, and I appreciate that kind of out-of-the-box thinking.

Reflecting on your entire experience at our ideathons, what are three pieces of advice that you can offer teams looking to win next year?

From a participant’s lens, as long as you improve your innovation skills by going through the process, it is already a win. To get the most out of the event, be open-minded and be prepared to work hard, because it isn’t easy. And lastly, set up a team with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, because this will maximize the chances of coming up with a more creative idea.

Final question: How can an event like SummerHack help #MakeInsuranceBetter for everybody in the global community?

It gives us an opportunity to challenge our own ways of thinking and to open our minds to new ideas, such as new forms of risk, new solutions, or new operating models that perhaps we had never thought of before. I often think about this; Instead of letting tech giants disrupt our industry, why don’t we reinvent ourselves? Why not disrupt ourselves? So, this event is great because sparks ideas to solve our own problems in the industry.

Si, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and valuable advice with our community. We wish you all the best with your venture and we hope to see you again at SummerHack 2022!

SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 5]

In the next part of our series, I sat down with Max Bachem, 2-time judge (WinterHack 2020 and SummerHack 2021) and CEO at Coya. We discussed what inspired him to return to our jury panel, why diversity was the highlight of the competition, and his advice for teams looking to win the top prize next year!

Check out a snippet of our interview with SummerHack 2021 Judge, Max Bachem!

Max, thank you for returning as a judge this year! We’d love to know, what inspired you to return, and what do you enjoy most about the role?

I really enjoyed my first time on the panel last year, while I was still at AXA. What was amazing was just networking with all the teams, hearing innovative ideas from across the globe, and being able to discuss new opportunities with people who have a completely different perspective. Often, we might have a local view on a challenge, and it’s great meeting people with different ways of looking at the same problem.

Compared to your experience at WinterHack 2020, what do you think has changed or improved since last time?

The teams were even more diverse this year! Last year, a lot of teams were from Europe and North America, and this year we had people from APAC, EMEA, and the Americas, which I loved. All this diversity meant we had very different ideas on the table this time.

And out of those ideas at the Final Pitch Event, which one stood out to you and more importantly, why did it stand out to you?

I’m very happy for the Winner and the Runner-Up, both of whom had amazing ideas. I have to say though, it was really hard to decide on the winners because there were a lot of amazing ideas. Some were more innovative, and others were more applicable, but I loved all the ideas because they all had an interesting aspect to them. One that stands out to me was a solution from HDI in Germany, which had this tool to scrape social media and stay connected to the customer. Some of the other ideas were very visionary, even ahead of time, but interesting to keep in mind because they might be something to implement in 1-2 years.

After attending the Final Pitch Event and seeing other pitches during your career, what is the best way to create a successful pitch?

The most important thing is to think about the audience. What is the audience interested in? What is the right amount of detail to share? If you create a good story, you can easily hook the audience. During the ideathon, you have very limited time. You may not be able to think through the idea 100%, but it doesn’t need to be fully thought through. Your approach should be “Hey, I have a good base idea, and maybe we need to tweak it a bit afterward, but there is some truth and high potential behind it”, and that will help you convince the judges.

What additional advice can you offer incoming teams for SummerHack 2022?

Just have fun! Sure, you’ll come up with new ideas, but it’s a fun team-building activity and you should enjoy the time you spend exchanging ideas with other people. That would be my biggest recommendation; have fun, because while you’re having fun, you’re probably coming up with great ideas and you’ll make a great pitch at the end.

We’re hoping you had fun as a judge, as well! How would you describe your overall experience at SummerHack?

My own experience was very positive. Both the WinterHack and SummerHack were well-organized! You brought together very diverse teams this year, and it was a pleasure to not only see the ideas, but network with those teams afterwards, as well.

Final question for you: How can an event like SummerHack can help #MakeInsuranceBetter for the global community?

You brought together these diverse teams that likely see different customer problems in their respective markets, whether they’re emerging markets or those that are more developed. These perspectives and solutions can be relevant in other markets or inspire other solutions that you would have never thought were possible for specific markets. These events enable a transfer of knowledge, experience, and ideas that in the end will help to create new, innovative, and better products for customers, which is what we are aiming for.

Max, thank you so much for sharing your insights and valuable advice with our community. We wish you all the best and hope to see you again at SummerHack 2022!

SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 4]

In the next part of our series, I sat down with Nicole Schepanek, a SummerHack 2021 judge and Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Aureus Capital. We discussed her experience as a first-time judge, highlights from the global competition, and what advice she could offer teams at SummerHack 2022 to win big next year!

Check out a snippet of our interview with SummerHack 2021 Judge, Nicole Schepanek!

Nicole, thank you for joining us as a judge this year! We’d love to know, what inspired you to get involved with the event?

I really enjoy working with other experts and helping them think about what new ways are to innovate in the insurance industry. It’s at the core of my being. I love when different people from different parts of the industry around the world come together at these events, and that instills the spirit of innovation.

We’re grateful to have had you onboard this year! Not only did you judge the pitches, but you also joined the networking sessions, something new we added this year. What did you enjoy about your networking experience?

It’s interesting to learn more about the different viewpoints that global participants bring to these events, because it leads to fascinating discussions. It’s crucial to understand those viewpoints. We rarely see people working in insurance and those from other industries come together to think over and beyond the insurance spectrum. Too often, the insurance industry thinks within its box, rather than looking beyond. So, I enjoy the diversity and discussions at these events.

Now, coming to your perspective as a judge, what was your favorite solution from the Final Pitch Event? Why did it stand out to you?

All of them were great, to start, and were inspiring on different levels. Foresters really focused on the gig economy, and that’s both a big trend and challenge for us as an industry. I liked that they really put the customer first and thought about the gig workers’ needs. This was one of the more-developed solutions we saw, and they pitched with great spirit and energy when showcasing their solution.

After seeing these 12 pitches and other pitches within your career, what are a few key ingredients to creating a successful pitch?

Tell a story. Explain the challenge, opportunity, or problem you’re trying to solve. Why is it a problem? What’s our USP? Why can we solve it when no one else can solve it? It’s also crucial to think about what it takes to create a network effect and keep customers coming to you, rather than to someone else

What additional advice can you offer teams going into SummerHack 2022?

Focus on the fun! Be natural and enjoy the experience that comes with different viewpoints coming together to refine your ideas. I think it’s a really exciting event, and everyone that participates learns something, but should also enjoy themselves at the same time.

Drawing on your experience as a first-time judge, how would you describe it overall?

It was awesome! A big thumbs up to Cookhouse Labs and InsurLab Germany. What I really liked about it was that people from different dimensions of the ecosystem come together. Everyone is really excited and there is a great exchange of ideas, even beyond the event.

Continuing that thought, how do you think an event like SummerHack can help #MakeInsuranceBetter for everyone?

You bring together folks with different perspectives from the industry, and often they talk and exchange ideas. As an investor, I hear pitches all the time, but it’s very much one-sided. Here, people come together without a specific siloed focus, per se. Through this, we can innovate more openly. As a second step, thinking about the business model in detail and what kind of backing would be best for the ideas is crucial in order to execute them.

Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your insights and valuable advice with our community. We wish you all the best and hope to see you again at SummerHack 2022!

SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 3]

Summerhack Winner People's Choice

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the recipients of our People’s Choice — APAC & EMEA title, Team EFU Life. I asked the team about the process of developing their innovative solution and invited them to reflect on their experience and success at the global ideathon. 

Check out a snippet of our interview with People’s Choice Winner, Team EFU! 

Team EFU, first of all, congratulations on winning the crowd vote at SummerHack 2021! Before we dive into how you made it happen, let’s do a quick round of introductions. 

Arshad: Hi everyone, my name is Arshad Iqbal and I’m the General Manager Operations at EFU Life. Apart from running the operations of the company, I’m responsible for the transformation process, including ideas, workflows, and processes. I’m both a lawyer and a business manager. 

Danny: My name is Danny Su. I’m currently student at the University of Toronto, studying Actuarial and Statistical Sciences, and I enjoy hiking lot. 

Ashfaque: I’m Ashfaque Ahmed and I head technology and IT at EFU Life. I manage digitalization processes, keep an eye on industry trends, and am involved in a lot of technology-based initiatives in my company, such as the BLISS (Bio-Metric enabled policy acquisition system), the first RPA in the Pakistani insurance industry, and more. 
 
Sam: My name is Sam Xu and I’m currently in my final year at the University of Toronto’s Statistical and Actuarial Sciences program. I love learning about the insurance industry, and in my free time, I enjoy outdoor activities. 

Jane: I’m Hui Jen Yang and I’m also a final year student at the University of Toronto, where I’m double majoring in Economics and Actuarial Science. I love baking and hiking a lot, too! 
 
Raza: I’m Raza Hasan. By profession, I’m an actuary, and I oversee the group insurance department. Prior to Pakistan, I’ve also worked in San Francisco and Toronto, Canada. I love sports, and these days golf has become a passion. 

Yuqing: Hi everyone, I’m Yuqing Liu and I’m currently in Australia. I’m a first year Actuarial Science student at the University of Toronto. I like to play basketball, bushwalk, and I’m learning how to ski now.  

Thank you for those great introductions! Now talking about the event, what inspired you to get involved and how did your team come together? 

Yuqing: Danny brought us students together! We’re both in the Actuarial Science Club at the University of Toronto, and we’re so like-minded that we actually reached out to each other to ask if we wanted to be on a team together. We’re very grateful EFU Life chose us to join their team, and it was a great learning experience for us, especially on the collaboration side! 

Raza: Being a tech-driven company, SummerHack itself sounded like a very interesting proposition. We learned more about the event and really liked what you (Cookhouse Labs) were doing. We also felt working with students would be a great experience.  

And was it a great experience? 

Raza: It was intense, but definitely an excellent experience!  
 
Arshad: We really enjoyed how it was packaged and organized. Everything from the creation of the ideas to the execution was amazing. 
 
Ashfaque: This was the first time that we were involved in something like this. It was organized well, and it was a great learning experience for us, especially because it was hosted virtually. 

We’re happy to hear that! Staying with the theme of things being virtual, we know that EFU Life was able to sit together and ideate, but the rest of your team is actually in several different countries and time zones! How did you all work together and overcome the time difference to create your solution? 

Jane: Good question! The first thing we did was to brainstorm together, and soon we had a general idea of what our solution would be. Afterwards, we split the work up and scheduled regular meeting times, so our teammates were able to work in different time zones and no one had to stay up late to work on the solution. We all did our parts of the project and then met to prepare the pitch video. Communication, respect, and teamwork are so important, and since everyone on our team is considerate and proactive, we were able to efficiently develop our solution despite the time difference. 

We love that kind of collaboration! We love it when there are different perspectives on a team, and everyone finds a way to work together. Speaking of perspectives, we have quite a range of experiences on this team, from first year students to industry veterans with over 20 years of experience. How did you harness these diverse experiences when creating your solution? 

Yuqing: We all come from different cultural backgrounds and have different levels of engagement in the insurance industry. Personally, I’m a first-year student and EFU Life is full of experienced insurers, and our other teammates have already participated in similar events, like the StudentHack. The big advantage for us is diversity, and for us that means creativity and being able to learn from each other. I learned how insurance companies operate and how getting involved in more industry events will help shape my future as an actuary. 

Arshad: We were lucky to have such great students and energy on our team, and we weren’t expecting that. Even at midnight, they were working on the solution as if it was daytime. Based on the input we received from them, you would have never guessed that they were students!  

Ashfaque: The coordination and level of communication was amazing. We broke the ice within minutes of meeting them, and as soon as we started working together, it didn’t feel like we were working with the students for the first time. Once you have a great team, the ideas just flow, and we got fantastic support from the students on our team. 

That’s often the toughest part of working virtually — to meet somebody for the first time and instantly have that level of communication, understanding, and respect, so congratulations on achieving this! Coming to how you worked together, which of the four challenges did your team select and what was your solution? 

Raza: Our challenge was to develop a solution to cater to the underserved population. Our solution was “Bread Protects”, and it comprised of 2 parts. The first part aimed to spread insurance awareness using a drone that would target specific underserved populations by sending customized messages to their smartphones, and those messages would contain insurance information, videos, and promotions. The second part linked that promotion to bread, a staple for every family. By making frequent bread purchases, underserved populations could get free life insurance coverage. Premiums would be funded by bread companies, whose objective would be increased sales of their product. It’s a win-win-win solution for the consumer, insurer, and bread company.  

Very cool idea! “Bread Protects” was voted the People’s Choice for APAC and EMEA. In your opinion, what aspects of this solution made it a crowd favorite? 

Raza: Drones! The fact that drone advertising is a fairly new and exciting concept resonated with the audience.  

Arshad: The best part was definitely the drone being used for something constructive and positive. 
 
Ashfaque: It’s a new concept, and we found value in it. One, because of the low-cost advertising and two, there is a huge reach.  
 
Sam: Anyone can look up at the sky, but not everyone has great internet coverage, so it was definitely the broad reach.  

Yuqing: The ‘bread’ part is very cool. We wanted to make it fun but also send a message that insurance can be protective, for example, by printing informational stickers to add with the bread. You can feed your family and still protect them, instead of just paying premiums. It makes the concept less terrifying and increases the penetration of insurance to underserved populations. 

Jane: What Yuqing said is true. Bread is something people buy every day, so it engages them, and the drone works well to attract attention. 

It was a very well-thought-out solution! Looking back at the entire experience, how would you describe it? 

Danny: My overall experience at SummerHack was amazing because we, as a team, were encouraged to come up with crazy and creative ideas, and that’s how innovation is born. I see ideas as Lego bricks, because when you put yours out there, someone else could pick it up and build a spaceship, a rocket, or even a castle. And I had a really great time working with my team because they were so supportive, and we had a very strong team spirit. It was fun! 
 
Yuqing: This is my first time participating in SummerHack. I’m really grateful to have worked with such a supportive and professional team. 
 
Ashfaque: As I mentioned earlier, the whole process was digital, and it was new for us. We picked up a lot of tools during the Design Thinking breakout sessions and the experience was fantastic. I’ve been working for the past 20+ years with insurance companies to digitalize them and introduce new technology, but to ideate digitally was new for me, as well. 
 
Raza: The opportunity to see different solutions from all over the world was pretty cool. It gives you insight into how other people think and what issues they’re working on. 
 
Sam: It’s one thing to learn the technical side of insurance in school and it’s another to be in this massive ecosystem, collaborating and developing innovative solutions with professionals in the industry. I was happy to work alongside with them to see how wild ideas can be incorporated into an actionable plan. I enjoyed that and it was awesome! 

Now that you’ve been through this process, what advice would you give teams coming in next year? 

Raza: Probably not to underestimate the work involved and the intensity of the challenge. Oh, and have lots of caffeine, that helps! 
 
Arshad: You should have a bunch of crazy ideas and not limit the thinking process. That’s how you become more creative. 
 
Ashfaque: You need to be committed. It’s difficult to participate alongside your everyday work activities; you need to step away from work to focus on the process. There are a lot of ideas that need to be developed into a solution. There’s a lot of learning involved, so you need to be committed.  
 
Sam: And for the incoming students who will hopefully be attending this event next year, I would say don’t be shy to speak up. Sometimes great ideas are hidden when you don’t speak up, and you never know how much impact your ideas are going to have, especially for students.  
 
Danny: Have fun! It’s a really great event. 
 
Yuqing: Danny said this to me, too. The main point of this event is to have fun and I did have a lot of fun. Hello to all the incoming students, and my advice to you would be test out the tools and platforms before the event starts. Once you dive into it, you won’t have the energy to learn how to use them and if you get stuck, it can be very stressful.  
 
Jane: All crazy ideas are acceptable at SummerHack. Your idea could be the winning idea! 

We can’t wait to share this advice with next year’s teams! Final question for the team now: As you know, Cookhouse Labs is all about making insurance better and that’s the objective of these types of events. So, in your opinion, how can an event like SummerHack help make insurance better for the global community? 

Raza: Innovation is something every insurance company needs to be conscious of, especially in the digital age that we’re in. I think events like SummerHack provide the inspiration and motivation that we all need. We get too caught up in our daily routines, so SummerHack was the right thing at the right time. 
 
Arshad: The way that insurance is being sold today should not continue. We all know we need to transform. SummerHack is a good platform for us to share our experiences and decide how we should transform, and everyone can benefit from this.  
 
Ashfaque: In our region, insurance digitalization is very limited. We’re one of the top innovative insurance companies in our region. We took a lot of value out of this experience, and it definitely helped us. I encourage other insurance companies in our region to get involved and see how digitalization can help improve processes here in Pakistan.  
 
Danny: As an aspiring actuary, SummerHack is where I realized how actuaries can help the underserved population. In the past, I always wondered how to help people with low income, because I thought that insurance was only for the people who could afford it. SummerHack is where I found the answer because it’s the actuaries who execute those crazy ideas that we came up with. 

With Bread Protects, you’re on your way to increasing insurance access for underserved populations and finding ways the industry can provide the right support. Congratulations once again, Team EFU Life, and we can’t wait to see where you take this solution in the near future! 

SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 2]

Summerhack 2nd place

Recently, I spoke with our SummerHack 2021 runner-up, Team Westland. I asked the team about their experience collaborating to develop their solution and invited them to share advice for SummerHack 2022 teams — check out the full interview below! 

Check out a snippet of the interview with our Runner-Up, Team Westland! 

Team Westland, congratulations on a fantastic job at SummerHack 2021! Before we dive into the event and your solution, let’s do a quick round of introductions first. 

Susan: I’m Susan Gilbert, and I came over to Westland in November of 2020 on an acquisition. My role within Westland is Director of Digital Operations. I’m able to use the expertise that we’ve hopefully developed out in the MIG environment and trying to bring that over to Westland and, and work with the team going forward. 

Joel: My name is Joel Nagai, and I’m the Director of Sales. I also came over to Westland as part of an acquisition about eight years ago from Atkinson and Terry. I’ve been in a variety of different roles over the years, but my primary focus for the past seven or eight years has really been digital sales.  

It’s always cool to see the different roles that come together in these types of events. We often get asked who should join and the answer is “Everybody!”, so it’s really great to see how the team put all of those perspectives together. Coming to the event itself, we’re curious to know: What inspired you to get involved and how did you put your team together?  

Susan: As you know, MIG has been involved with Cookhouse Labs previously, which has been a great experience each time. When we got the invitation to SummerHack, I forwarded it to our Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, who shared it with our CIO, and it snowballed from there. One of our team members thought of inviting our partners at Acturis, which was a great idea. 
 
Joel: Susan invited me, and I really appreciate that. I’m glad that she had that previous experience and was able to bring that and extend that warm welcome to not only Westland, but some of our strategic partners as well. That was really key to our success. 

With a team that big and with such little time on your hands, how did you prepare for the event? 

Susan: We did a pre-hack meeting right before the event just to bring the team members together and to talk about what we might expect. I did a mini-innovation session to show the team how to use a shared whiteboard space. We talked about some industry issues, because regardless of what challenges would be announced at the kickoff event, we could probably relate to what we’re seeing not just in the Canadian insurance industry, but globally, as well. Honestly, there really is no preparing for it until you get into it and really experience it. 
 
Joel: Something unique and exciting about our team is that we hadn’t really met or worked with half of our team prior to this event. Susan’s intro session not only helped set expectations for the event, but also allowed us to meet each other before we started. After that, we just learned on the fly from then on.  

It’s great that you hosted this session beforehand, because something that our winning teams have in common is that they all met beforehand. They had a strategy and expectations going into the event, and it really paid off in the end. Now, on the topic of the challenges, which one did you select and why that challenge specifically? 

Susan: Right now, Westland is in a heavy acquisition mode, where we’re trying to pull all these brokerages and groups together to create one united brand. It’s interesting because as soon as we heard the challenges, we talked a lot about how we might impact environment and look after ecosystems. Knowing what we might be able to do and differentiating a brand going forward, it was really fun to see everyone else picking up on that.  
 
Joel: Our team had international colleagues and across the entire gambit of people, we had different personalities and experiences. Everyone aligned on the eco-friendly challenge, and everyone was passionate and excited about it. It’s really easy to get fired up and to focus when you’re excited and passionate about something. 

Well, now we’re very excited for this next question: What was your solution to this eco-friendly challenge? 

Joel: We had several goals we wanted to achieve with our solution. One, we wanted to directly connect the actions of our clients to benefit our environment. Another key component is quantifiable results. Our solution has a dashboard connected to your iWatch, your Fitbit, and the telematics in your car. Clients can see that these patterns are driving either their insurance rate or additional discounts. We also wanted to include IoT and offer a smooth and seamless experience or our clients. We didn’t want for them to have to enter a bunch of information or feel like using our product was a hindrance, so we focused on connecting to smart meters and other tools like I mentioned earlier. 
 
Susan: We asked, “How could we partner with different companies and create this experience that would align with people’s values?” because that’s what purchase decisions are often based on. That really resonates with people these days.  

Plus, your pitch video was really fun and memorable! Reflecting on this entire experience, how would you describe it?  

Susan: What’s great about the process is there’s room for everyone’s voice to be heard. Thank goodness we had someone like Joel and Mary who were willing to do the YouTube video style and others who are happy to work in the background. That’s what’s so great about not just an event like this, but also what it can spark within a team is that ability to recognize that everybody has value to bring. Plus, you (Cookhouse Labs) have really nailed the online experience and you’ve done a lot of hard work to make that very seamless, so kudos to the team at Cookhouse for being able to pull that off. 
 
Joel: We had a great experience, very collaborative and positive. A lot of the teams had their webcams on and a lot of people were chatting, so a lot of positive vibes everywhere. It’s still a professional context and everyone is working hard, but the ability to keep it fun and engaging is very unique. Everyone involved in the process deserves a lot of credit there. Obviously, a well-run event, very structured, very timed, well-organized, and the templates and guidance that we received exceeded my expectations. It set the bar for other digital events that I have or will continue to participate in.  

Thank you for the kind words, we’re happy to hear you had a positive experience! Now thinking more forward and futuristic, what advice would you give teams coming into SummerHack 2022? 

Susan: That’s a tough one, because each event I’ve been to at Cookhouse has been very unique. Having that pre-event meeting was really helpful, where we met everyone and discussed industry issues. Otherwise, the best advice is just let the process roll. It’s such a well-organized event that if you just take it as it comes and understand the methodology and tools, you’ll do great.  
 
Joel: Be ready to sprint because it’s a lot of work! Have the mindset of knowing you’re going to have a really great experience, but the expectation will be that when it’s time to work, you really need to deliver in that short period of time. Be ready to put your own thoughts, ideas, and ego to the side and trust the process because it is a robust, well-thought-out process.  

That’s fantastic advice and we can’t wait to share it with next year’s participants. Final question for you: From global perspective, how do you think an event like SummerHack can help make insurance better for everyone? 

Susan: It was interesting to see the ideas that were pitched at the end. Even if two of them move forward into the world, they can help the insurance industry but also can help people in general. If you help mitigate risk in any way, you’re helping people. There’s a spark of something that could really make a difference. 
 
Joel: It’s very easy to get caught up in the monotony that is our jobs, right? Sometimes, you get comfortable doing what you know and do very well. Events like SummerHack take us out of those comfort zones. They bring together people who have great thoughts, experience, and education, and they run us through a process that’s primed to spark innovation and creativity, but to also provide a framework of how you take these great ideas and turn them into something that could be a business pitch. It shows people that you can get a lot of work, innovation, and creativity done in two days. 

Agreed, it’s really exciting to see the ideas that come out of these kinds of events! Again, a big congratulations to both Westland and Acturis for your big win. We wish you all the best and look forward to welcoming you back next year! 

SummerHack 2021: New Times, New Experience [Part 1]

SummerHack 2021 Winner

Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with our SummerHack 2021 winner, Team Foresters. I asked the team to share behind-the-scenes stories and advice from their innovation experience — check out the full interview below! 

Check out a snippet of the interview with our winner, Team Foresters! 

Team Foresters, congratulations on your big win at SummerHack 2021! Before we dive into the event, let’s do a quick round of introductions first. 

Raresh: I’m Raresh Bunea, a Contract Administrator at Foresters Financial. I handle contracts for sales distribution in the Canadian market. This is my second time participating in a Cookhouse Labs ideathon, for which I’m very grateful. It was an amazing experience this time around, as it was the first time around! 

Liam: Hi, I’m Liam Kinnon. I’m a Marketing Specialist with Foresters. This is my first time participating in one of these events and it was a blast. 

Ravinder: My name is Ravinder Sabharwal and I’m a Control Analyst and it was my first time participating in SummerHack. 

Sandra: I’m Sandra Viteri, Senior Underwriting Manager. It was my first time participating in one of these events. I loved it! 

Brian: I’m Brian Cournoyer and my title is Manager, Advanced Markets & Training. This is also my first time participating and it definitely was a great experience that I can’t wait to repeat. 

And we’d love to have you back next year for sure! It would be awesome to see if you could pull it off twice, but before we even talk about next year, let’s talk about this year and hear from the team. What inspired you to get involved this time?  

Sandra: I noticed that there is a lot of disruption happening right now, and of course, it was long overdue in the insurance industry. At Foresters, we’re embracing that change. We’ve been going through a lot of transformation, with new technologies and innovative products. So, for me, this was an opportunity to participate and sharpen my skills in Design Thinking and innovation methodology, especially after reviewing last year’s topics. I felt they provided interesting and relevant challenges, applicable to today’s world. So, I just thought, “This is great. This is perfect”, and went for it. 

After you made the decision to join SummerHack, you pulled together really a big team. We’d love to know; how did you prepare? 

Brian: That’s a great question! Obviously, we don’t want to give away all our secrets because as you mentioned, we have a title to defend. Before the competition, we reviewed what the team did last year, but more importantly, we identified areas together that we felt we could improve upon to be better prepared for this year. Some of us were new to the competition, me included. So, after those conversations I reviewed the material again and I did some research to make sure I would be able to offer the right support to the team during the event. On a personal level, I made sure that all my priorities outside of this event were already taken care of so that when the competition was on, I wasn’t going to be distracted and instead could help my team build a winning strategy. 

Wow! It’s always amazing to see the energy and dedication Foresters brings to the competition every year. So, we ‘ve talked about pulling together a big team and about making team decisions. The question now is, which of the four challenges did you select as a team and then ultimately, what was the solution that you decided to pitch? 

Liam: We voted on challenge #4 to develop a solution or service to support dynamic and engaged independent workers. While walking through the process and through interviewing a freelance designer, we discovered that one of the challenges of the gig economy is the lack of benefits. Using the Design Thinking methodology that Cookhouse was walking us through as part of the hackathon, we came up with a solution called GigLife, which is a benefits platform for the gig community. We thought of a platform providing health benefits funded through a combination of participation fees and perhaps through the unique use of group life insurance. We realized that perhaps benefits could be provided to participants by purchasing a life insurance policy and advancing a portion of the death benefit to cover the costs of the benefits, legalities to be considered of course. Then, the other part of it that we were excited about was that there isn’t really any group advocacy for the gig community. We wanted to include a social component in the GigLife app, which would allow a space for advocacy to form organically. 

That is a really well-thought-out solution. And it wasn’t just a judge favorite, it was also a crowd favorite because you were awarded People’s Choice for the Americas. So, in your opinion, what was it about the solution that made it a crowd favorite? 

Raresh: I think it was our consideration for building an advocacy community for gig workers and the simplicity of how benefits can be accessed via the paid participation. 

Considering nowadays everyone is working remotely, it’s pretty cool that you thought about all of this.  So, thinking back now to your entire SummerHack 2021 experience, how was it? 

Ravinder: Overall, it was indeed a great learning experience for all of us. Design Thinking was a concept that I had heard about, but this platform gave me an opportunity to practice it. One thing that stood out to me was coming together as a team and working through a structured methodology to deliver a customer-focused solution, and all within two days, wow! Talking about GigLife, it’s more than a digital solution — it is our responsibility towards the community we live in and that is what matters. I sincerely thank Foresters Financial and Cookhouse Labs for this wonderful opportunity.  

Well, we thank you for coming back every year with all this energy and an incredible game plan! Speaking of coming back, we’re very curious to know; how has the ideathon concept, environment, and energy evolved and improved since last time? 

Raresh: For me, the energy level was much higher, and I also set higher expectations for myself this time around. Adding Joolia (the virtual innovation assistant tool) helped us stay on track with deliverables and helped us keep an eye on the time.  

And now looking back at your experience, what advice would you give teams who will soon be participating in SummerHack 2022? 

Raresh: I would suggest teams consider a holistic approach that considers both a feasible business model and the natural economic reality. There’s a trend in the expansion of the safety net. There’s talk about UBI, UBS, and Pharmacare in Canada, as well as climate crisis developments and trends towards the green economy. More and more countries are aligning themselves to IPCC recommendations to eliminate carbon emissions. I believe that solutions that come from the insurance industry will also need to adapt accordingly to all these realities. 

Liam: I was a bit nervous at first because we had a four minute limit on the video and we only hit two minutes. I thought, “Oh, did we not communicate enough?” and so I was thrilled when we were chosen as a winner. I realized that you just need to explain your concept as clearly and succinctly as possible and the length doesn’t really matter— what’s important is the story. I would also say that you should construct a narrative around your solution. That’ll give you a leg up in terms of how to position your solution to the challenge. 

Brian: It’s important that you put the judges’ hat on once you formulate your idea. You must step back and say, “Now if I was a judge, what type of questions would I ask?” This way, when those questions are asked, you’re prepared to answer them. That helps you build the strategy upfront so that it includes all those details. Stepping back and reevaluating helped our team and then from there, we made sure we had a solid plan to deliver to the judges. 

Final question for the team now: As you know, Cookhouse Labs is all about making insurance better and that’s the objective of these types of events. So, in your opinion, how can an event like SummerHack help make insurance better for the global community? 

 
Sandra: I see SummerHack as a practice arena to develop new skills, learn Design Thinking techniques, and simply to inspire us to be more creative. My hope would be that it translates into impactful change in the industry that makes insurance easier and better for everybody. For most of us, that’s basically what we hope to achieve, so this is a great platform for that. 

With a solution like GigLife, you’re helping people that want to be included in insurance benefits, so you definitely did what you set out to do. You took a very big step towards making insurance better for gig workers, so thank you Team Foresters and congratulations once again on your big win! 

Curious about our ideathons? Check out our past ideathons, winning solutions, and team interviews here! 

Connecting with Young Talent in an Increasingly Virtual World

The topic of attracting and retaining young talent to the insurance industry has been around for years — in fact, we even ran a project on it last year. In the past, many insurers would turn to campus events (such as career fairs) to find the leaders of tomorrow. However, this search has become more difficult in a virtual world, full of technological distractions and disconnect. In the case of insurance, an industry that is seen as old-fashioned and traditional, the challenge of engaging young talent has only increased tenfold.  

In a virtual world where human beings have been reduced to images on a screen, how can one truly connect with the right person for the job? 

At Cookhouse Labs, we’re all about human-centered design and connection. That’s why this week we’re excited to offer our top 3 tips to help you find young talent in a virtual world! 

Tip #1: Check Out the Chat Section 

You read that correct — we recommend attending external industry events to find engaged young professionals. For example, a frequently overlooked area is the chat section of webinars, where young attendees often ask thoughtful questions. By reaching out to these attendees on LinkedIn for a virtual coffee chat, you can informally screen them and determine if they would be a great fit for your organization.  

We spoke to several recruiters and found that all of them preferred passionate candidates, even if slightly underqualified. One of the best ways to assess this passion is through interaction, so we encourage you to put aside your stack of resumes and join a virtual industry event or two! 

Tip #2: Discover Passion in the Pitch 

The most passionate young professionals always find a way to stay involved with the global industry, even if they’re on another continent, through online projects and competitions. A virtual world offers the opportunity to discover a future leader in a whole different country, sans travel expenses. This type of candidate can bring a fresh perspective and resources into your project team, which may currently consist entirely of local members.  

If you’re wondering how to begin connecting with global young talent, you’re in luck! This Friday, we’re hosting our Young Talent 20/21 Final Pitch Event in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences in Wurzburg-Schweinfurt, Germany. Our team of students has been working on a new way for Cookhouse Labs to innovate in a hybrid model with participants both in the physical lab space and joining us virtually. The team will be revealing their solution at the pitch event — click here to meet them and see their results! 

Tip #3: Join Them in the Sandbox 

How can you assess if a candidate will be a perfect fit for an upcoming project? 

Easy — give it a try! 

Many virtual events simulate the experience of working together on a project by connecting students to organizations and tasking them with solving a challenge. For example, at our upcoming SummerHack 2021, you will have access to our pool of passionate students and can invite candidates of interest to join your insurance team for the 2-day competition. By working together in this guided ideathon to tackle a real industry challenge, you will have the opportunity to see how your chosen candidates fit within your project team and assess their personalities and work styles.  

To start forming your team and meeting young talent, click here

So, there you have it — our top 3 tips to bridge the virtual gap and connect with global young talent. By making the extra effort to scout these young professionals, you’re likely to find the most passionate, thoughtful, and engaged candidates for your next project! 

To stay up to date with our upcoming young talent opportunities, check out our 2021 Events Calendar or join our mailing list! 

Member Stories: Meet Tommy from Munich Re

Member Stories Tommy Kim

At Cookhouse Labs, we’ve worked closely with many members to successfully innovate within their organizations. In the first part of our Member Stories series, meet Tommy Kim, Senior Actuarial Analyst at Munich Re Company of Canada. Tommy is an active member of our global community and is a two-time winner of our Design Thinking ideathons in 2020!

Read about Tommy’s unique experience below!

Tommy, thank you for joining us today! We’d love to know how your journey began; what was the first Cookhouse Labs event that you attended?

That’s a great question! In early 2019, our Senior Executive members asked for volunteers to participate in a Design Thinking training. Even though I saw myself as a non-ordinary individual (I personally enjoy my thinking time, too), I wanted to be more structured. I thought, “How can I improve my thinking process?” Everyone has ideas, but there has to be a way for us to narrow down these ideas so that we can get close to executing them. That was my first session at Cookhouse Labs and I really enjoyed it. Not only did I enjoy working with the experts at Cookhouse Labs, but I also enjoyed working with representatives from other insurance organizations, who were awesome too. We were all there for one single reason — to make insurance better — and we just wanted to tailor it better by leveraging the Design Thinking process.

Thank you for sharing that! On the topic of collaboration, I imagine you’ve worked with many teams at the Lab since 2019. What was your best team experience?

I’m going to answer your question by saying that working with Ibeth (the Lead Innovation Coach) was the best team ever, and I guess that would be every session I’ve ever attended. The reason is that I am an introverted person, which means there are a lot of thoughts going around in my head. Introverts need a comfort zone to be more open to collaboration and for their ideas to be rolled out. I think building that trust is the most difficult part. Ibeth encouraged everyone to open up by making everyone laugh and sharing her life story. It helped everyone engage, and that was the most important component of my experience with Cookhouse Labs.  

What is your favorite memory from this past year of collaborating with us?

All the components were great, but it is really tough to pick just one. In my first hackathon (SummerHack 2020), I participated as a mentor and the 24-hour journey was awesome. But working with the folks at HSB Canada as a collaborative WinterHack 2020 team was awesome and one of my favorite memories, too. Of course, any help from you, Ibeth, and Sven is great. Not just the idea aspect of it, but also the content and patience. I can tell, from one human to another, that the team really does want to make insurance better and doesn’t treat it as “work”. All of these are my favorite memories from Cookhouse Labs.

That’s wonderful to hear, Tommy! Speaking of winning the ideathons, what have you been able to achieve since you started attending Cookhouse Labs innovation events? In other words, how has it helped you?

It might sound weird to say that, even though I have participated in the ideathons, I think the word “achievement” does not fit me. This is just me learning and going to different sessions. Maybe it’s just not the best timing for me to answer this question, because I think there is more to learn from Cookhouse Labs’ sessions and events. One day, if I actually contribute to making insurance better, only then will I be able to say that I achieved this. Right now, it’s too early for me to say anything!

Final question: Would you recommend Cookhouse Labs’ events to others, and if yes, which events would you recommend?

I would definitely recommend Cookhouse Labs training sessions, but if I had to pick one out of the many great trainings, I would pick Design Thinking. This is not only a matter of innovation itself; it can be applied to any sort of work and even your thinking process in your daily life, too. I thought about how you could make the best out of it. No one wants to make a mistake, right? Even when we get groceries, we do a price check and see where it’s from. There is caution with that thinking process, but there is no harm in learning an even better approach to apply to real life. So, I would definitely recommend the Design Thinking trainings.

Tommy, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We enjoyed collaborating with you and Munich Re Company of Canada in 2020 and we wish you all the best in 2021. We can’t wait to continue this collaboration with you in the New Year!