February 15, 2013


Mobile: The Road AheadInsurance & Technology's March 2013 digital issue examines the future of mobility and how insurers are leveraging local awareness, ubiquitous connectivity and other mobile capabilities to their advantage. To read more, download our March 2013 digital issue now.
Remember the classic Seinfeld episode from 1991 when Jerry and the gang parked in a New Jersey shopping mall garage, then got separated and couldn't find each other or their car? That plot may have typified the series' theme of being "about nothing," but to me it also illustrates the extent to which mobile technology has transformed our lives. The Parking Garage would not be made today. All the characters would have smartphones, and in addition to being able to call and text one another, they'd be able to take advantage of mapping apps and their devices' video and photography capabilities to track down the car. (Actually, they never would have gone to the mall because Kramer could have bought his air conditioner online.)

[Fact or Fiction? 4 Mobile Development Myths Busted]

Just as it's hard to imagine shopping or almost any other social activity that isn't shaped in some way by mobile, it's increasingly difficult to conceive of how today's insurance business could be conducted without mobility. Sales and distribution as well as claims adjustment are two vital aspects of the business that depend heavily on mobile technology, whether via smartphones, tablets or some kind of dedicated device. It's coincidental but interesting that the date of Seinfeld's garage episode coincides with the period when insurance companies began to equip their agents with laptops and systems that let them complete and submit applications electronically.

Pervasive Shift

The shift to digital business and mobility didn't happen overnight but has become pervasive. According to Forrester Research, the percentage of insurance companies that either didn't have a mobile strategy or were only in the early stages of defining one fell to 31% from 57% between the third quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2011, and no doubt that percentage is continuing to go down this year.

The question now is this: Can insurers imagine and prepare for the next possible uses of mobile technology in the business? Are they ready for the inevitable rise of mobile payments and wallets? Are they reinforcing infrastructure in anticipation of mobile security challenges? Are they scoping out emerging technology companies and nontraditional players that might be exploring mobile as a channel by which they can compete with established insurance companies? Are they enabling their employees to maximize productivity and engagement through sensible bring-your-own-device policies? Do they recognize that mobile is a non-negotiable element of any successful customer experience and engagement strategy?

Whatever's next in mobile, insurers must be on the leading edge of it. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...