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Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Another Case for Native Apps

Consumers want anytime, anywhere access to products including insurance, but don't want to waste space on their devices. Can insurers make the case?

Yesterday, I wrote about how some insurance industry observers see native apps as an important part of the relationship between the insurer and the insured. The best way to provide the mobile experience customers crave, reasons Sundar Vallinayagam, CEO of Jarus Technologies, is to get them to use a native app that takes full advantage of the capabilities of their particular device.

At the same time, insurers have struggled with keeping their apps relevant to consumers. Without the need for multiple touches, like in banking or retail, policyholders are apt to delete apps or not download them.

But it might be incumbent on insurers to create the multiple touches themselves, instead of expecting policyholders to reach out themselves. Avi Greenfield of HP Exstream told me yesterday in a meeting at the ACORD LOMA show in Las Vegas that while insurers are increasingly interested in pushing out notifications via SMS, "the smartphone and tablet apps is probably where that is headed."

"It's those kind of events that have some urgency to them: payment is due, status of a claim, some kind of time-sensitive nature," Greenfield continued.

If the apps can be the main vector for such notifications, could that be enough to keep them on consumers' phones? If so, a lot of capabilities open up: The app can be a place where policyholders can store documents (like ID cards or policy materials) instead of having to go to the carrier website or file away paper. Then, the app will always be there for more important communications.

But there are barriers to that strategy right now, Greenfield cautions. The mobile device is actually the least secure link in the mobile chain, and insurers are still reluctant to store too much on them.

"There's still a desire for more of the transactional documents to have an 'invite and pull' approach — bring the consumer back to the website via a link," he says. "There's a desire to maintain that content in session on the phone, and then once the session is ended, wipe it. There's a lot higher comfort level in accessing the data in the cloud."

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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