Jason Gross shares his insights on the culture at EMC Insurance and how it successfully facilitates innovation

“I am starting to see fewer ‘new ideas’ and a lot more ‘new approaches’ to problems


Jason Gross, Vice President of Innovation at EMC Insurance

Insurance Innovators spoke to Jason Gross about how innovation is taking hold of the insurance industry and how businesses can ensure first mover advantage.

Innovation has been a buzzword in the insurance industry for a few years now – what steps can insurers make to ensure innovation creates meaningful change, rather than just being a buzzword?

J.G. The first step is recognizing that the marketplace — and world — that we operate in is changing and that we need to prepare our organization (our people, technology and partners) to respond to that change strategically and intentionally. For EMC, roughly half of our innovation efforts have been focused internally as we engage our team members to be part of this change by fostering a “culture of innovation.

What advice would you give when integrating new innovations with old business models?

J.G. I tell my innovation team all the time: “There will be no successful pilots or production implementations that come out of the innovation team.” I say that because we recognize that successful pilots come out of our business areas. Our innovation team is here to inspire, make connections, work the process, facilitate, etc., but a pilot will only be successful if our business partners own the solution — because they are ultimately responsible to implementing and using the solution.

Which innovative trends in insurance do you think hold the most weight right now?

J.G. The most intriguing and, I think, impactful change is happening at the confluence of tech trends; for examples, the increasing capability and applications of artificial intelligence to understand new data sources that were previously not accessible.

You are involved in the Global Insurance Accelerator, tell us a bit about the program and the value it holds in the industry?

J.G. The Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA), based in our home office city of Des Moines, Iowa, has played — and I believe will continue to play — a key role in the evolving concepts of innovation and insurtech in our industry. It was ahead of its time by being the first accelerator in the world wholly focused on insurtech. As such, our member companies and the hundreds of mentors that are the bedrock of the program have been able to go both deep and wide (gaining deeper understanding of the new approaches to our industry problems and wider in the sense of the diversity of applicants and participants from all over the globe) in ways other accelerators aren’t.

How do you expect the insurtech market to evolve and disrupt insurance over the next 5 years?

J.G. I am starting to see fewer ‘new ideas’ and a lot more ‘new approaches’ to problems that are already being tackled by dozens or hundreds of insurtech companies. Over the next five years, we will start to see a lot more “winner and losers” as some won’t be able to make the next plateau and as the winners start garnering market share and acquiring or merging with complementary companies to round out their technology stack and/or solution offering.

To what extent is collaboration crucial to future success in the insurance industry?

J.G. It is one of the most important and fundamental ingredients. I see this happening on three key fronts:

1) Carrier-Regulator-Insurtech: I attended Insurance Innovators London as part of a delegation from Iowa that included our insurance commissioner and economic development leaders. This was a tremendous, first-hand experience of the unprecedented levels of collaboration happening in some parts of our industry today (and I am proud – but not surprised – that Iowa is leading the way)

2) Carrier-carrier: While competing carriers are very cognizant and respectful of anti-trust laws, some of the most intriguing developments happening right now are carrier-carrier collaborations. Let’s face it, short of our product, pricing and other proprietary processes, we are all facing the same challenges and hurdles. We are finding opportunities to learn from each other through conferences like Insurance Innovators, through our investments and other mechanisms such as the GIA.

3) Carrier-Broker:  Regardless of your view on consumer preferences shifting toward direct-to-consumer transactions, the fact is our independent agents and brokers continue to write and service billions of dollars of risk. EMC is devoting significant innovation resources to helping our independent agents and brokers compete in the changing marketplace… as opposed to making investments in companies that may try to cut them out of the equation.

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