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InsurTalks Podcast with Dr. Robin Kiera: Nurturing Sales in the Global Shutdown

9 minutes, 45 seconds read

Today, we are facing a crisis unlike ever before. The outbreak of COVID-19 has shaken the very foundation of the world economy. Social distancing and lockdowns have disrupted supply chains and international trade. 

We are seeing an unprecedented surge in lay-offs since the last economic recession in 2008. Amongst other industries that have been affected, Insurance and InsurTech are also finding it difficult to deal with the crisis. To get deeper insights on the new strategy for Insurance Sales, we interviewed Dr. Robin Kiera, founder of  Digitalscouting and renowned Insurtech & Fintech Influencer.

Digitalscouting is a platform with over 70,000 followers for thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and senior managers in finance and insurance to share best practices, lessons learned, and up-to-date views on tech and business trends around the world. 

Dr. Robin is a Co-author of The InsurTECH Book which offers essential updates, critical thinking, and actionable insight globally from startups, incumbents, investors, tech companies, advisors, and other partners in this evolving ecosystem, in one volume. He also advises and mentors many start-ups and corporations in various industries. His other areas of expertise include Brand & Marketing, Public Relations, Business, and Management. 

Connect with Dr. Robin Keira- LinkedIn

Complete podcast:

Excerpt from the interview-

Impact of COVID-19 on Insurance in Europe

Europe’s Insurance markets are facing a severe crisis? How are carriers, agencies, and insurance professionals in Europe developing measures to survive the global shutdown?

Dr. Robin: We have several live shows that we do in English and German where we interview several CXOs in the insurance industry. Mr. Christopher Lohmann from Gothaer Insurance said that only 10% of sales are doing well. 

So the question is, what do they do well? 

The answer to that is, they talk to clients, change their value propositions and product portfolios. 

One agent from Allianz said he is doing well because in the initial weeks of the lockdown he reached out to small and mid-sized businesses and helped them cope with the situation — displaying humility on their part. One of them helped his client in restaurant business sign-up for an online delivery service during lockdown. It wasn’t his job, however, if his client does good business, he will remain his client. Some agents and brokers took this opportunity to invest time into their client’s businesses and flourishing them. 

Other areas of distribution such as bank insurance i.e. selling insurance via banks are facing losses as most retail banks are closed and a lot of them have not found ways to effectively communicate with their clients.  

On the claims side, we haven’t seen any disastrous news yet. Also, it is interesting to see from the Life Insurance segment which did not see a surge in claims for term life or whole life insurance. However, we saw general insurance lines such as car insurance going down as not many people are driving. It’s a mixed picture. While in US insurers are paying the claims, in Germany insurers have decided to wait till the end of the year to assess the state of claims. 

The holding company of AXA announced it’s revenue numbers for the 1st quarter which was (-)10%. The negative figure means that new businesses are slaughtered. On the other hand, there’s been a boost for agencies. Our clients ask us how they can help their sales team to sell insurance policies since they cannot meet during this time. There’s been a dramatic change in the way insurance sales works.

The Reinforced Insurance Sales Strategy

How can Insurers equip their agents to generate sales in this pandemic?

Dr. Robin: It depends on the philosophy of an insurance company. Many insurance companies here are very old and go as far back as the 19th century. They have a very authoritarian culture and the agent-insurer relationship is very complex. There are some trust issues due to the unethical practices. 

For example, one of the big insurers promised young people to get on board and provide them with customer portfolios. But on the day of business, they see that only half of the portfolios were provided. If there is such a toxic relationship in an organization, then it gets difficult to deliver good output. 

However, small and mid-sized insurance companies have a very nice working culture where they willingly help their sales people. They have a very effective way of communicating with each other. 

Insurance Sales in The New Normal 

What are some Attention hacking lessons for Insurers operating in ‘The New Normal’?

Dr. Robin: Let’s divide and focus on two groups. 

First is the End Customer. For example, we have a client which is a big insurer with a distribution model to banking i.e bank insurance. We looked at every single touch-point in the process and noticed that they were not present in any. So we started placing them in every touch-point. Therefore, when a user logs into his bank account, the insurer can extract their data with the demographics, individualize and present relevant content/product.

[Related: How Technology is Transforming Insurance Distribution Channels]

Second is Sales. It doesn’t make sense to spend millions of euros and dollars in advertising with celebrities. Instead, they should produce content with people they know in the insurance community such as bank managers, insurance agents, etc. However, what’s more important is how insurers communicate and manage their sales against brokers, retail employees, etc. 

One of the most unestimated channels of communication is the messenger system. For example, WhatsApp, which is very popular in the west. We started experimenting with WhatsApp two years ago and the response was amazing. 

Sales managers use this distribution channel to share content with their agents. It brings 10x or sometimes 50x better engagement than a newsletter coming from headquarters. It is very necessary to focus on the attention of the end customer but also of the sales team. There are many simple ways to engage with sales guys such as interviewing top 2-3 performers with a simple smartphone. The key is to produce massive content and share with customers and sales that they are zoomed into the company. 

[Product: Lead Generation Chatbot]

Prevailing Technological Challenges

What are some of the technological challenges faced by Insurers operating in the New Normal?

Dr. Robin: The insurance industry needs to change culturally. They need to be a part of the daily lives of its customers and agents. They need to win their hearts, minds, and home screens. Insurers need to be on the apps, on platforms, and help them provide value. For that, we need technology. 

[Related: Four New Consumer-centric Business Models in Insurance]

Technology helps in faster claims and application processes which is a given but there are still many companies in the world that do not have these standard processes automated. I believe that the true game-changer will be AI, data science, data analytics in claims or underwriting departments. 

[Report: The State of AI in Insurance 2020]

Insurance is ripe for AI. Still, why are some Insurers still hesitant to invest in AI?

Dr. Robin: Traditional Insurers overlook the capabilities of AI and other technologies. Having people both — from inside and outside of the industry can give a broader perspective on applications of technology to bring innovative products and solutions. 

Product Innovations in Insurance

What product innovations in insurance are going to take place for short-term, mid-term, and long-term?

Dr. Robin:  In the short-term, adaptation of certain payment methods like pausing the payments and lowering risks could be done. 

In the mid-term, you will see more flexible products, more lean underwriting, or more lean claim management. What we need to think is about our role in society. Our mind-set should not be of pushing insurance products down the throats of the customers. What our role is to pool risks and stand by those who have been hit by these risks. We should not just help them during claims but before as well. 

For example, why should we have to replace a car if we could send them a push notification intimating them of the hailstorm and advising to put their car inside the garage? 

Another example is, why to sponsor super expensive healthcare when we can help the people to live healthier lives. Having customers call you portrays that the insurer is the solution. And that is what I believe the long-term goal should be. 

COVID-19: An Impetus to Digital Processes?

Insurers are taking the distribution process online. How are the Insurers adjusting to this new model? Is the ongoing pandemic, going to be the impetus for insurance to move completely digital? 

Dr. Robin:  Having come so far to 2020, I think it is very rude to do time-consuming tasks. What is needed here is to educate the people that their manual tasks can be done by machines. Today, there is so much knowledge available out there. One of my clients asked me how much we should invest in educating employees. To which I said, zero. You don’t have to hire so many consultants to educate them, just send them relevant YouTube videos. 

Way Forward for InsurTech

InsurTech largely facilitates technology in terms of scale, distribution, and market fit. How will New Normal InsurTech create market attractiveness?

Dr. Robin: The first thing that InsurTech or any other company needs to understand that all the plans made earlier have now become irrelevant. It’s time to research and build value propositions for existing clients and prospects. This would include a new pricing and pilot structure as well. 

For example, we can create a small package of services which an insurer can easily download and try out. I don’t think they should aim for $100-$200 million deals but rather give this small package demo to insurers trying to get them hooked on it. This will pave the way for getting more business. I have seen some software companies slashing prices to 70%-80% in some cases. It’s not always the question of pricing, but when InsurTechs say that they’re not able to sell, it ‘s time to re-evaluate their pricing models.   

Road to Recovery for General Insurance

Many General Insurance lines are hit- Travel, Motor, Home – what will be the road to recovery for these Insurance lines?

Dr. Robin: It’s going to be difficult. I was talking to Chris Skinner, an author in the finance space where he said that it’ll take two years to recover. This is a significant paradigm shift in Insurance Sales. Maybe we will never go back to normal. I used to travel a lot for business. Right now, I am very happy to do remote workshops. It is unpredictable how it’s going to pan out.  

The Expert Advice

First, it is time to bypass the moment of shock. Most insurers have done that. They are past the crisis mode and are addressing the issues at hand. 

Second, avoid watching too much news about the coverage on COVID-19. It’ll just bring the morale down.

Third, Stay Zero! and re-evaluate everything- what kind of products we should make, what do clients need, which clients have money to invest, what additional products can we launch, what should be the pricing model, what kind of value proposition we should provide and

Fourth, is to take action rather than Netflix. There will be massive layoffs, so it’s important to ensure you bring value to the company. 

Last but most important, is to focus on the attention of the end customer and provide value to them. Make your customer come to you.


AI is going to be essential for Insurers to gain that competitive edge in the post-pandemic world. Check out Hitee — an Insurance specific chatbot for driving customer engagement. For your specific requirements, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com.

Podcasts in this series:

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Retention playbook for Insurance firms in the backdrop of financial crises

4 minutes read

Belonging to one of the oldest industries in the world, Insurance companies have weathered multiple calamities over the years and have proven themselves to be resilient entities that can truly stand the test of time. Today, however, the industry faces some of its toughest trials yet. Technology has fundamentally changed what it means to be an insurer and the cumulative effects of the pandemic coupled with a weak global economic output have impacted the industry in ways both good and bad.

Chart, line chart

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Source: Deloitte Services LP Economic Analysis

For instance, the U.S market recorded a sharp dip in GDP in the wake of the pandemic and it was expected that the economy would bounce back bringing with it a resurgent demand for all products (including insurance) across the board. It must be noted that the outlook toward insurance products changed as a result of the pandemic. Life insurance products were no longer an afterthought, although profitability in this segment declined over the years. Property-and-Casualty (P&C) insurance, especially motor insurance, continued to be a strong driver, while health insurance proved to be the fastest-growing segment with robust demand from different geographies

Simultaneously, the insurance industry finds itself on the cusp of an industry-wide shift as technology is starting to play a greater role in core operations. In particular, technologies such as AI, AR, and VR are being deployed extensively to retain customers amidst this technological and economic upheaval.

Double down on digital

For insurance firms, IT budgets were almost exclusively dedicated to maintaining legacy systems, but with the rise of InsurTech, it is imperative that firms start dedicating more of their budgets towards developing advanced capabilities such as predictive analytics, AI-driven offerings, etc. Insurance has long been an industry that makes extensive use of complex statistical and mathematical models to guide pricing and product development strategies. By incorporating the latest technological advances with the rich data they have accumulated over the years, insurance firms are poised to emerge stronger and more competitive than ever.

Using AI to curate a bespoke customer experience

Insurance has always been a low-margin affair and success in the business is primarily a function of selling the right products to the right people and reducing churn as much as possible. This is particularly important as customer retention is normally conceived as an afterthought in most industries, as evidenced in the following chart.

Chart, sunburst chart

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        Source: econconusltancy.com

AI-powered tools (even with narrow capabilities) can do wonders for the insurance industry at large. When architected in the right manner, they can be used to automate a bulk of the standardized and automated processes that insurance companies have. AI can be used to automate and accelerate claims, assess homeowner policies via drones, and facilitate richer customer experiences through sophisticated chatbots. Such advances have a domino effect of increasing CSAT scores, boosting retention rates, reducing CACs, and ultimately improving profitability by as much as 95%.

Crafting immersive products through AR/VR

Customer retention is largely a function of how good a product is, and how effective it is in solving the customers’ pain points. In the face of increasing commodification, insurance companies that go the extra mile to make the buying process more immersive and engaging can gain a definite edge over competitors.

Globally, companies are flocking to implement AR/VR into their customer engagement strategies as it allows them to better several aspects of the customer journey in one fell swoop. Relationship building, product visualization, and highly personalized products are some of the benefits that AR/VR confers to its wielders.  

By honoring the customer sentiments of today and applying a slick AR/VR-powered veneer over its existing product layer, insurance companies can cater to a younger audience (Gen Z) by educating them about insurance products and tailoring digital delivery experiences. This could pay off in the long run by building a large customer base that could be retained and served for a much longer period.

The way forward

The Insurance industry is undergoing a shift of tectonic proportions as an older generation makes way for a new and younger one that has little to no perceptions about the industry. By investing in next-generation technologies such as AR/VR, firms can build new products to capture this new market and catapult themselves to leadership positions simply by way of keeping up with the times.

We have already seen how AR is a potential game-changer for the insurance industry. It is only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace.

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