Personal Auto Pricing Different Since Great Recession

AR_July-Aug_2016-coverMany changes have taken place since the Great Recession, forever altering the personal auto pricing cycle. My latest Actuarial Review article, which is already attracting positive feedback, takes an in-depth look into what has affected personal auto insurance premiums since 2008.

The article, called, “The New Cycle of Pricing Personal Auto” covers several pertinent factors including:

  • The relationship between frequency and employment.
  • The curious sudden accident uptick in frequency by miles driven in the 4th quarter of 2014.
  • The gradual increase in costs per claim (severity).
  • A marked increase in driver distractions not just from cell phones but infotainment systems.
  • A growth of driving while under the influence of marijuana and accident increase in states where use is legal.
  • Auto manufacturers’ safety features reducing the frequency and severity of accidents.
  • Big data and predictive modeling transitioning from a unique pricing strategy to a common insurance business practice.
  • Low interest rates.

I am unaware of any other article that comprehensively looks into the auto insurance pricing cycle since the Great Recession. I would also like to thank James Lynch from the Insurance Information Institute for his assistance. I hope you enjoy it!

What do you think has most affected the auto insurance pricing cycle?

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Facing the Insurance Quality Content Dilemma (Part 1)

CC0 Public Domain

CC0 Public Domain

Insurance marketing and communications executives face a Hobbesian choice when looking for public relations and marketing services. They can either rely on agency counterparts who do not deeply understand the intricacies of insurance or internal subject matter experts who know insurance but are not professional communicators.

The dilemma is the direct result of two primary factors. First, there are few professionals who offer insurance expertise and possess audience-focused communications training and experience.

Second, effective marketing heavily relies on producing magnetic and substantive content. Amidst intensifying online competition, the C-Suite asks their internal marketing and communications departments to become publishers of brand journalism without the additional resources to support the effort.

Often, the C-Suite commonly does not want to accept that publishing is expensive. But it is, which is why so many newspapers and magazines, even those offered online, no longer exist. In a world of free content as a marketing approach, there is no option to sell advertising to underwrite the expense of professional communicators.
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Without understanding the audience,
inbound marketing will fail.
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Those who appreciate and understand insurance tend to be professionals whose aspirations didn’t include becoming writers. Experts in claims management, underwriting, risk management, actuarial, statistics and other disciplines often despise writing. They began their careers not knowing that branding and digital marketing would introduce the publish-or-perish mentality that academics have struggled with for decades.

Such professionals are being asked to work beyond their skill sets while trying to maintain their core competencies through endless hours of continuing education. So it is not surprising that producing content by writing white papers or blogs becomes a hassle amidst their already busy days.

These experts find the writing process to be quite frustrating. After staring at a blank screen for seemingly hours their material is often unorganized or too complicated, making it difficult to read and understand. As a result, the marketing and communications department must invest in heavy editing and re-writing. It’s a time consuming and difficult process that can breed resentment on both sides.

Further, this approach is likely more expensive. Asking highly-paid professionals to write diverts their time and focus away from meeting client needs or rainmaking. Unfortunately, the C-Suite often does not take all these factors into consideration.

Lacking Insurance Expertise

The other option is to hire public relations, marketing and other communications firms. Usually, these well-intentioned companies lack deep and thorough insurance expertise.

The reality is that it takes years to understand the nuances of insurance. The industry not only has several disciplines, but several functions and a multitude of insurance lines.

Workers’ compensation, for example, involves understanding different subjects including health care, the claims process, return-to-work and disability coverage. Additionally, each state has its own regulations and expectations. Personal auto, the largest property/casualty insurance line, focuses on consumers so the approach is different compared to commercial lines such as general liability or business interruption coverage.

Further, the traditional insurance paradigm is evolving to a data and analytics model. Insurance executives, who tend to be conservative in nature, are still learning to maximize predictive modeling so it extends beyond underwriting and pricing to addresses claims management practices and marketing techniques. Forward-moving insurers are focusing on obtaining business intelligence through predictive modeling, which is quite difficult to understand without insurance expertise.

Other disruptors, including artificial intelligence, changing regulations and policy sales via Internet are also having a great impact on insurance companies and the vendors that serve them. Vendors that want to expand into the insurance industry also struggle with understanding what insurers really need, industry nomenclature or the right point person to contact.

Meanwhile, each insurance line faces its own struggles. Auto insurers are excited about telematics when a great deal of consumers want to maintain privacy. Then there are “preoccupiers” such as Uber and Lyft and driverless cars.

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…the C-Suite commonly does not want to accept
that publishing is expensive.
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Then there is the problem of truly understanding the needs of each customer type. Insurers are vying for a greater piece of the growing demand for cyber coverage, for example, when policies are inconsistent and buyers – and even their agents – are struggling to know what should be included in their coverage. The market potential for cyber insurance is enormous, but developing the right policy per each specific customer profile remains a challenge.

For business insurance, a smaller company that lacks a risk manager or a really awesome agent or broker will purchase based on price. Larger companies see the value of services and are sophisticated enough to know that price is just one part of the equation. They want to know how an insurer’s services will support risk management, claims processing and other areas. They also need to be sold on the technology designed to better serve them.

Another limitation is that marketing companies often approach digital marketing from a business school rather than a journalism school approach. They lack professionals who understand how to effectively produce materials because they are not trained in first rule of journalism, which is to understand the audience. I often encounter companies that do not want to invest in determining customer needs and pain points. Without understanding the audience, inbound marketing will fail.

So what is the solution? I’ll address this in my next blog. You can follow it by pressing the follow button on the left hand side.

In the meantime, please offer your comments below.

 

 

Driverless Cars: Beyond the Hype

Not long after I submitted my Actuarial Review article about driverless cars, “60 Minutes” presented a segment, “Hands off the Wheel” on the same subject.AR_Nov-Dec_2015 Cover

Since I had intensely researched the topic, I could not wait to hear what the reporter would tell the general public. Instead of investigative journalism, the segment gave the driverless car industry a boost with little mention of the many unresolved issues and potential unintended consequences.

At its beginning, the reporter said “almost all” car accidents are caused by driver error, noting the safety potential of driverless cars. The truth is, nobody really knows how safe driverless cars will be.

The often-quoted statistic by driverless car advocates is that 93 percent of car accidents are caused by human error. The logic is that by reducing the opportunities for driver mistakes, automated vehicles will be safer.

The statistic and its assumptions, which were also presented as testimony before the U.S. Congress, are very important because they guide the assumptions and expectations of driverless cars. Google also boasts that all of the accidents involving its cars were due to human error.

But when the rubber hits the road, it’s the insurance industry’s opinion that counts. Its actuaries not only have the most experience looking at the factors that lead to accidents, but the industry will be responsible for covering them.

My article, Destination Driverless: Will Vehicles – Not Drivers – Become the Center of Risk?, sets the record straight about the all-important 93 percent statistic thanks to actuarial analysis provided by the Casualty Actuarial Society’s Automated Vehicles Task Force.

The task force concluded that automated technology could only address 78, not 93 percent of accidents if it cannot overcome factors such as weather, vehicle errors and inoperable traffic control devices. Using the 93 percent statistic, the task force also asserts, is problematic for other reasons.

Stemming from a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, the statistic had nothing to do with driverless cars. And, due to its age, the study could not anticipate the latest safety improvements to conventional vehicles.

So what do actuaries need to have a better idea of the potential costs of insuring driverless vehicles? Access to proprietary data that developers and manufacturers naturally are not quick to share.

My article also details other factors that should be considered – especially when human drivers must take the wheel of automatic vehicles. It also covers the challenges that developers must overcome to make them viable in the real world.

What does this mean to the average consumer? Driverless car excitement abounds, but nobody sees significant population of driverless cars for another 20 years.

In the meantime, drivers can expect automated vehicles to gradually join the traffic jam. That transition, in and of itself, could also lead to unintended consequences.

Auto Insurance Purchasing Tips You Probably Don’t Know

Today I published an article about how to shop for automobile insurance. I have to confess I thought I knew a lot about it already. But after speaking with three national experts, I learned how much I did not know.

You really owe it to yourself to check out my article, How to Confidently Shop for Auto Insurance. If I learned something after spending 25 years writing about insurance, chances are you will as well.

Share this article with all your friends. They’ll thank you for it.

Please don’t forget to let me know in the comments section below how much the article helps you.

Auto Insurance Price Optimization A Reminder to Shop Around

 © Copyright Lewis Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1721718

© Copyright Lewis Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1721718

Price optimization in automobile insurance has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially since it is controversial.

Some consumer advocates say price optimization can be unfair to auto insurance customers. Insurers, however, believe using all the data possible for pricing premiums is good business.

Determining how insurers can acceptably develop rates – the basis of premiums — ultimately falls on state insurance commissioners. Before they can decide on if or how to regulate price optimization, they need a reliable definition. 

As I cover in my recent Actuarial Review article, Descending Confusion, some state insurance departments have already begun limiting price optimization using definitions that could disqualify decades-long actuarial practices. Most commissioners, however, want to further investigate price optimization first.

The challenge is that there are several definitions of price optimization.

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….for consumers to really get the best price for insurance,
they really should shop around on a regular basis.
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The goal of my article is to present facts and opinions about price optimization while avoiding political pitfalls. I can assure you it was no easy task.

I do thank the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), which represents the actuaries who price auto insurance, for giving me the opportunity to tackle this controversial subject. I have had the opportunity to work with countless CAS actuaries in my career and their personal and professional standards should be emulated by every profession.

While this is all fine and good, my mother is going to ask me what I think of price optimization.

Here’s what I’ll tell her. There is nothing wrong with insurers making a profit. It helps ensure that insurance is available to consumers.

And since insurance is such a highly regulated industry, insurers really can’t gouge customers as some would suggest. At the same time, for consumers to really get the best price for insurance, they really should shop around on a regular basis. 

But hey, even Flo would tell you that!

How Insurers Determine Your Auto Insurance Premium

While spending the past two decades as a business writer covering the insurance market, I finally got a chance to share what I have learned about auto insurance with a new audience — consumers.CCI31102014 

My article, How Insurers Determine Your Auto Insurance Premium, was written to explain the major factors that drive (no pun intended!) auto insurance premiums.

The article’s main objective is to provide more comprehensive material than similar articles while being easy to understand. 

Thanks to http://www.cheapcarinsurance.net for the opportunity. 

I hope you’ll check it out! Who knows, you might save a few bucks!