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InsurTech Spotlight with Meera Last

Welcome to the ABI InsurTech Spotlight, Week 2. Each week I’ll be putting questions to one of the movers and shakers of the UK InsurTech arena – the leaders of exciting InsurTech businesses, InsurTech and innovation leaders within ABI member companies, InsurTech experts, commentators and investors. This week we catch up with Meera Last, Innovation Manager at Lloyds Banking Group.

Hi Meera, could you tell us in one sentence what your role at LBG involves?

I am an Innovation Manager at LBG, aligned specifically to our Insurance business, and I work across our “innovation value chain”, from the scouting/discovery and profiling of start-ups, right through to assisting the development and running of “Proof of Concepts”.

That sounds like a great gig! How did you end up at LBG, doing this job?

I started with LBG on the graduate scheme in 2015 and worked my way through some great placements in customer propositions and business development. I then met Derek Smith (my current line manager) and started to do some work for him as he was shaping his vision for an Innovation team that was specifically aligned to the Insurance Division. He’s now expanded the team out to 7 people, and we’ve really started to gather momentum internally. It’s been very exciting to be part of!

Innovation and InsurTech have been extremely fashionable in the trade press and on the conference circuit for a couple of years now. Has the innovation agenda become more embedded at LBG in that time, or has it always been there?

LBG has worked really hard over the last few years to bring innovation into focus. We’re such a large organisation, and we’re very aware of our responsibilities to our customers, so of course there is the challenge of regulatory and operational risk awareness that we must work through. We’re establishing a network of Innovation teams across divisions. It’s not been without challenge, but personally I’ve seen a lot of change in the last year or so – other parts of the business are very receptive to hearing about market trends in InsurTech, for example, and more and more are interested in partnering with us to run Proof of Concept experiments to test new ideas.

One key goal we’re working towards is reducing the development lifecycle. It’s a classic feature of larger organisations, to be focused on large transformation projects that take a great deal of time. But there is growing recognition of this change, as well as a growing awareness of our changing competitor pool, and the fact that there are non-traditional competitors entering our space (some of which inherently have more agile operating models).

As a result, we’re seeing increased recognition of the test-and-learn approach to change – sampling a solution on a small scale, iterating and evaluating, ahead of proposing larger transformations.

Which areas of your business are the most ripe for new ways of doing things? Do you see different perspectives on innovation and tech in the General Insurance and the Life and Pensions parts of the organisation?

I think there’s a lot of potential across the insurance business, although scope to run PoCs depends on many factors (including resource, current state of the product lines, etc.). At the moment, the largest chunk of our work sits within GI (and Home specifically) – we’re running an IoT/Connected Homes PoC at the moment, and we have claims automation PoC in plan – but there is interest from the Protection side too. We’ve also got an established corporate pensions lab that’s been underway for a while now; they follow a lab-based approach that has produced some very interesting results for LBG.

I’m also personally excited about the opportunities that come with having a banking arm to our insurance business. I think it gives us the chance to weave insurance into a customer’s wider view of their financial wellbeing, and this in turn can tie it closer to lifestyle/goals for the future. There are some great solutions out there which aim to give customers a holistic view of their financial needs, and this is something insurers need to play a part in.

Having said that, I tend to prefer to look at it from a thematic perspective, rather than split by business line. There are many companies out there with fantastic tech, but more often than not they haven’t thought of an insurance application for it.  So there is an element of co-building potential there, which I find exciting. And it’s a method that corporates really shouldn’t be afraid of, allowing firms to bring their ideas and expertise to the party, without each needing to contribute a fully-fledged solution.

What’s your perspective on our industry’s poor public trust ratings, and do you think InsurTech will be a catalyst for improvement?

I think our poor trust ratings are very unsurprising. Insurance is a necessity, but not an enjoyable one to purchase. It’s a product you hope you never actually have to use. It becomes useful when loss has occurred in the customer’s life, making the interactions around insurance inherently negative, and if the experience in claims or renewal – the only two points of real contact insurers have with their customers – is substandard, then it’s a recipe for poor feeling.

Personally, I think insurtech offers us an important opportunity to get away from this, and to pivot our image and shake off the negative perceptions customers have of us./ We need to earn back trust by providing tangible benefits.

If we can start providing value outside of the claim/renewal cycle, if we can start offering our customers ways that they can proactively prevent risk, for example, then we’re offering them a more meaningful type of protection. I like to think of it as insurers becoming trusted partners in protecting the customer’s most valuable assets. If we can combine this with becoming more flexible - if we can align ourselves to our customer’s needs better – offering reduced contract times, removing excess requirements, flexing policy terms, offering non-insurance service features, etc. – then we’ll be on our way to becoming more valuable, and therefore more trusted.

Finally, tell us some more about yourself. What do you get up to outside work?

I know everyone says this but I do love travelling. I’m lucky enough to be visiting two of my dream places this year (Vietnam and Costa Rica), both with my wonderful little brother/best friend/housemate. I also love to cook – my signature dish is this aubergine, almond and honey tagine (made once by accident, often recreated). I also spend a great deal of time listening to Adam Buxton talking. I’ll listen to him talk about absolutely anything, to absolutely anyone (but of course his stuff with Joe Cornish on 6Music never fails to cheer me up!). And finally – give me a hill, mountain, glacier, you name it, and I’ll attempt to climb it (not gracefully, and not with any discernible skill). Oh, and one day I’ll have a dog, and my life will be complete. 

Last updated 24/08/2017