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!

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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!

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WinterHack 2020: A Global Race to Digitize Insurance

A Global Race to Digitize Insurance

Last week, we wrapped up our first ever virtual WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideathon. We were delighted to partner with InsurLab Germany and msg to bring this exciting event to life! After months of planning and preparation, we kicked the event off on November 3rd in 3 different continents with 12 different re/insurance organizations. At the end of the 2-day ideathon, our teams competed in an exciting Final Pitch Event to blow our global panel of judges away with their disruptive solutions, and boy, did they succeed!

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the global ideathon and highlights from the 3-day event:

A truly diverse and global event

We ran the ideathon in 3 different regions (APAC, EMEA, and the Americas) with 85+ participants from all over the world who spoke 12 different languages. Our insurers partnered to form 11 insurance teams that consisted of a diverse mix of re/insurers, brokers, startups, vendors, and student innovators. Some of our teams even comprised of members who were continents apart — now, that’s true global collaboration!

WinterHack 2020 Participant Organizations

Announcing our “Digital Ecosystems” challenges

Our kickoff events were full of energy and excitement, hosted by Lead Facilitator Ibeth Ramos and Co-Founder Sven Roehl. At the kickoff events, we announced our 4 “Digital Ecosystems” challenges:

  1. Reduce Loneliness
    How might we develop a solution/service offering to reduce social isolation or loneliness of elderly people?
  2. Building Inspection
    How might we develop a highly automated service/solution for building inspection of commercial properties?
  3. Subscription Model
    How might we develop a new subscription-based business model of insurance built on Digital Ecosystems?
  4. Understanding Insurance
    How might we develop a solution/service allowing customers to fully understand the personal risk and coverage situation?

Together, the teams counted down the final seconds and off they went to tackle their chosen challenge!

Design Thinking — our innovation compass

We challenged our teams to use Design Thinking as a compass to guide their innovation journeys. To help our teams prepare, our Innovation Experts created an Introduction to Design Thinking Masterclass and a prep guide titled “WinterHack 2020: A Guide to Disrupting Insurance in Just 2 Days”. We wanted to provide our teams with support during the event, and to achieve this, we scheduled regular breakout sessions with our Innovation Team to walk our participants through the Design Thinking stages in more detail and to answer questions from our teams. Since these breakout sessions were run in 3 different time zones, our facilitation team delivered trainings at all hours of the day (and night)! From 8pm EST on Monday, November 2nd until 6pm EST on Wednesday, November 4th, our Zoom lines were shut down for 2 only hours — the rest of the time, the Cookhouse Labs team was online and continuously available! 

The big reveal

On November 5th, we brought our global innovators together for a combined Final Pitch Event, attended by members of our innovation community. We were delighted to welcome leaders from across the world as members of our jury panel! On our panel, we had:

  • Bernd Scharrer, COO Operations / IT at VHV Holding AG
  • Emily Hill, Manager, Strategy & Planning at TD Insurance
  • Gil Arazi, Founder and Managing Partner, FinTLV Ventures
  • Kayte Fredrickson, Vice President, Insurance at Ontario Medical Association
  • Manisha Dias, Assistant Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at SCOR
  • Max Bachem, Head of Corporate Development, Innovation, Strategic Partnerships & Venture Capital at AXA
  • Sven Roehl, Co-Founder of Cookhouse Labs
  • Thomas Börtzler, Chief Innovation Officer at Munich Re Canada
  • Torsten Oletzky, Professor of Strategy and Process Management at Cologne University of Applied Sciences

Our judges were amazed at the creative and well-designed solutions our teams revealed! All of our teams focused on helping customers understand their insurance policies better or on supporting senior citizens as they combat loneliness. Each team shared a unique approach to tackle these challenges through AI, mobile apps, tablets, and sensory devices. At the end of the event, the judges deliberated on the winners and returned with the big announcement:

  • Winning Team: Hannover Re and EMIL Group Gmbh
  • Runner-Up: Munich Re Canada

Our winning team took home a 6 months Cookhouse Labs membership, and will enjoy free access to a variety of open co-creation projects, Masterclasses, global pop-up Labs, and support from our Certified Innovation Experts! Our runner-up won tickets to insureNXT|CGN courtesy of InsurLab Germany, a new congress fair with the goal to develop new business models by connecting traditional insurers, start-ups and cross industry partners.

We want to congratulate all of our teams for conquering WinterHack 2020! We were blown away by the creative ideas, dedication, and hard work from all of you. Every idea pitched at the Final Pitch Event has the potential to disrupt the insurance industry and we can’t wait to see what you achieve next!

A big thank you to our partners, teams, judges, and community members for your continued support and enthusiasm for our global innovation event. Your excitement encourages us to dream bigger on our journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter and we look forward to seeing you at SummerHack 2021!

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