It’s up to insurers to spot developers who can push
the boundaries of mobile capabilities and serve
customers dynamic functionality.
While the outsourcing market for application development in mobile devices is till considered green, its already clear that insurers will need to look outside the industry for innovation in order to keep up. Companies from all corners of the private sector are seeking developers working with smart phone- and tablet-specific capabilities in fresh ways.
Case in point, Progressive spotted innovative capabilities in a neighboring industry, and now its
customers can receive real-time quotes and instant binding for coverage via images captured and submitted using an iPhone app. Progressive accomplished this by reaching out to Mitek Systems Inc., a
provider of software that captures and reads data from mobile devices using proprietary technology,
had gained traction by fulfilling the business possibilities mobile image capture offers, particularly in
banking, where demand for mobile depositing has soared as of late.
“We saw remote deposit capture begin to take off with folks like Chase and PNC and U.S. Bank,”
says Matt Lehman, Progressive’s mobile business leader, Image Capture mobile technology. “We
recognized how that technology can be re-applied in our world, and looked at who was driving
that technology on the back-end.”
Mike Nelson, director of the mobile imaging platform at Mitek, lends one
specific example of where insurers can look for upcoming trends and associ-
ated innovative developers: banking. According to Nelson, mobile banking
remains a few years ahead of mobile insurance, and the cross-pollination of
technology innovation is what brought mobile image capture to insurers.
Fellow financial services companies are not the only closest places to spot
innovative trends and developers, however.
“We benchmark ourselves against others we think are really innovating in the mobile space overall.
Folks like Amazon or eBay or Wal-Mart or Target or Chase or others, whether it’s in financial services
or retail,” says Lehman. “That’s who we are constantly measuring ourselves against, and who we look
to for ideas, for ways that they’re applying technology that could be re-applied in our space.”
Despite the industry’s conservative tradition when it comes to technology implementation in
general, insurers are suddenly faced with the challenge of being technologically proactive, with
little room for steep learning curves.
“I don’t typically associate that approach with the insurance industry or the financial services
industry,” says Neff Hudson, AVP, Emerging Channels, USAA. “We tend to build stuff to be battle-
ships, with 10- to 20-year views, and now we’re up against competitors and trends that change,
literally, within six months.”
Hudson and USAA have established and integrated mobile into their enterprise-wide business
infrastructure. But it has taken years to arrive at this point. Large insurers that have been in the
game for some time have carved out internal IT staffs and a focused path, whether it be the iPad
and agent apps, an eye for innovation or breadth of offerings. Insurers that have only decided to
jump into the mobile fray recently have some catching up to do.