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Voices of Innovation

Posted On: Sep. 24, 2020 12:00 AM CST

Voices of Innovation

How does your organization encourage innovation in serving the needs of risk professionals?

Jim Winkler, Aon: At Aon, we tend to think about innovation from three angles — client-driven innovation, organic innovation, and partnerships. When smart people come together to solve a problem for a client, we ask if other organizations could benefit from the solution and we scale from there. Our teams are always thinking about the marketplace, what might come next, and through a fairly structured process we’ll consider a number of ideas and test them with clients to see if they’re worth pursuing. We also work with many insurance carriers, private equity and venture capital-backed firms on emerging solutions, to see how a solution or partner could fit what we’re trying to deliver to our clients.

Joe Tocco, AXA XL: At AXA XL, we’re intent on being more than a payer of claims. We want to partner with our brokers and clients because that’s the way we think we can best understand and address the risks they face daily and keep in front of other concerns they see on the horizon. That’s the big driver behind how we keep up our innovation momentum. We’ve long understood that risks change. The global pandemic has certainly highlighted how quickly they can change. Therefore, we can’t be happy with the status quo. That’s why our business teams have a constant stream of innovative activity taking place as they seek to serve their clients with increased efficiency and develop coverages or other risk management offerings that address current and emerging risks. 

Sean Ringsted, Chubb: The insurance industry has a history of being very good at innovating products and services and continues to look at new ones to bring to clients. We’re now in a period of secular change around digitization — all clients, in all sectors, are having to digitize fast, and this creates a demand for new products and services. At Chubb, we encourage innovation in two ways. First and foremost, we look to understand the needs and wants of our customers. We have many ideas ourselves, but it’s really about listening to and understanding the needs of risk professionals. The second part is focus, to distill innovative ideas in a practical way to benefit the client.

Kevin Turner, Paradigm: We’ve always considered ourselves innovators, by the nature of our work and the services we provide. Paradigm Catastrophic Care Management focuses on unique and costly catastrophic injuries, often involving acute brain, spinal cord, severe burns, amputations, and multiple trauma. We have always seen ourselves as a provider of knowledge to the industry, going beyond the needs of the injured workers, families and communities we serve, to educate the workers compensation community. This, in itself, is an innovation. We’re constantly looking at treatments and trends in care management, and we share those with the industry. Paradigm believes it has an obligation to shed light on what ultimately leads to improved outcomes, clinical and financial. We’re always looking to tell the industry about what we have learned and in ways that are meaningful.

Where does your organization tend to look for innovative ideas?

Jim Winkler, Aon: We’re probably not unique in constantly looking at the marketplace for ideas, but one of the things we do is tap into thinking across our organization. In health, property and casualty, intellectual property, cyber and so on, we bring people together to think about solutions. We look for innovations in connections that might not always seem obvious. For example, when you pull together seemingly disparate data on workplace well-being and workplace safety, unexpected correlations can appear. With innovation, if you’re doing it right, you’ll occasionally chase things that don’t pan out. But a lot of time you unlock things that can have tremendous impact.

Joe Tocco, AXA XL: Everywhere. Innovation happens on all levels here. Colleagues. Our clients. Our brokers. It’s totally a team effort. Our AXA XL colleagues are always looking at what’s next. Everyone is encouraged and empowered to ask — What we could do better? What could help our clients? What could help us operate more efficiently? — and act to make it happen. 

Sean Ringsted, Chubb: It has been said one of the challenges of a large company is it’s hard to innovate. But size can be a benefit. We have a lot of listening posts that allow us to take in ideas in all sectors. Ideas vary by product, geography and customer segment. Some of the quickest innovations we’ve seen have been tied to overseas and in consumer lines. With a rising middle class using digital technologies and wanting to have a modern experience, it’s a perfect storm where you must provide products and services digitally. In the United States, we have seen developments in digitizing the customer experience, but I think the Internet of Things is especially exciting. Our midsize to large clients are looking to better manage the risks to their assets. One aspect of this is using technology to predict and prevent rather than repair and replace. There’s so much benefit from that — rather than just getting a check to replace a financial loss, the client also avoids the time and effort to remediate the loss. Technology is becoming an enabler of much better risk management.

Kevin Turner, Paradigm: A major source of innovative ideas at Paradigm comes from our clinical delivery teams, which represent a cross-section of talent who are on the front lines with the injured worker, family, and care providers. These resources include our catastrophically trained nurse case managers and Paradigm medical directors, each selected for his or her clinical expertise specific to the diagnosis. An equally important source comes from our clients, who turn to us with needs in search of innovative solutions that can be operationalized. All these sources help us better understand workers’ needs and what it will take to get the injured worker to the best possible outcome. Running parallel to this is looking beyond our work, which typically concludes when maximum functional recovery is achieved, and targeting lifetime claim costs, which are important to our clients and establishing the best trajectory for the lives of the injured workers and their families. 

How has COVID-19 changed your organization’s approach to innovation and change?

Jim Winkler, Aon: COVID-19 has accelerated Aon United, our organization’s focus on thinking across topic areas and solutions that bring value — in a united and consistent fashion — to our clients. The problems that COVID-19 posed in March didn’t fit neatly into any of our solution lines. For example, testing employees in the workplace was not a typical vendor procurement challenge. COVID-19 exposed for us in the U.S., and globally, that the business world was not immediately ready to adapt to a massive amount of change. It got us working on how to help clients think differently about disruptive issues, to build “a new better” going forward.

Joe Tocco, AXA XL: The global pandemic added urgency to some of innovation initiatives and moved them along at a quicker pace. For example, we were already partnered with Marsh in developing DeliveryPro — a product that delivers incremental insurance coverage via a technology platform. It addresses auto exposures for delivery services that many companies relied on to get their products into consumers’ hands. We pushed up the launch of this product because our clients needed this insurance protection, now more than ever, as their operations had to shift during the pandemic. If anything, the pandemic proved that we can overcome a lot of obstacles and drive innovation quickly when we set our minds to it. 

Sean Ringsted, Chubb: COVID-19 has been a real tragedy and one that’s still playing out. Like almost everyone else in financial services, we’ve had to operate remotely. By and large, our underwriting and service levels are as good as they were before, if not better. Some operational changes have occurred out of necessity, such as remote inspections by our risk engineers and remote claims handling. COVID-19 is accelerating the handling of business digitally across most sectors of the economy, and we are making sure we reflect that reality. This is the path we’ve been on for a while, investing more than $1 billion annually on technology and we continue to focus on providing differentiated value for the customer. Technology aside, there’s still a very important role for human touch, especially in claims, where empathy is crucial.

Kevin Turner, Paradigm: COVID-19 taught us a lesson about the importance of being nimble and finding new ways of combining resources. When the pandemic emerged, we had to train people quickly on how to manage COVID cases. We had pulmonary, cardiology, psychology and infectious disease resources already and we had to apply them to the highly unknown COVID-19 situation. A big challenge during the pandemic was having over 700 open catastrophic losses where our injured workers in the acute care setting were separated from their loved ones and there was an inability to provide medical treatment as physicians were being pulled in different directions to treat coronavirus patients. Paradigm was able to leverage our relationships with key providers to appropriately gain safe access to the injured workers. From this experience, we are better prepared to respond to the next event.

What percentage of innovation in your organization is inspiration vs. execution?

Jim Winkler, Aon: Inspiration is what gets the headlines, but probably 10% of innovation is inspiration, and 90% is execution. The marketplace is full of really good ideas that people can’t make into a sustainable business model. We take that part very seriously. Concept testing, for us, is a bridge between inspiration and execution. We talk with clients and ask how we can make it work for a buyer. Execution is the key. We have to come up with solutions that are measurable, sustainable and that we can prove work for the buyer.

Joe Tocco, AXA XL: I’d say 60/40. Sixty percent of our innovation is inspiration. Forty percent is attributed to execution. Overall, our innovation momentum can be attributed to a lot of things — hard work, focus, creativity, expertise and plenty of strong partnerships. We’ve developed business partnerships with plenty of brokers, insurtech companies and others to leverage our collective expertise and execute on some very innovative ideas for new services, ways to deliver coverages or reach new market segments. One example is our partnership with, which allows our cargo team to deliver coverage for small and medium-size cargo risks in a matter of minutes.

Sean Ringsted, Chubb: I’d say for us, the old 90/10 adage applies — it’s 10% inspiration and 90% execution. The common theme where we’ve made real progress is the “operational last mile.” It’s one thing to think about an innovation, and then another to actually deliver it to the customer in a way that’s going to give the right experience, insights and information, and to deliver that in an integrated way using technology, and also satisfy business requirements — for example, underwriting or compliance. So many things have to come together in that process. That’s where the execution and hard work get done. And then of course you don’t stop there. It becomes its own process, with always something to add and improve.

Kevin Turner, Paradigm: Paradigm is not unlike a lot of other innovative companies, in that we talk about innovation all the time — that’s the inspiration part. We might discuss numerous ideas but execute on four or five. We drive innovation into things that are actionable, meaningful and valuable for our clients and injured workers. Execution takes discipline. There are a lot of great ideas, but if something is not ultimately going to help the marketplace and injured workers and their families, then we probably won’t do it.

What factors does your organization consider in deciding when an innovation is ready for the marketplace?

Jim Winkler, Aon: When we’re developing an innovative solution, the first big hurdle is concept testing. This gives us a lot of confidence in the problem solving. Once we’ve moved a concept along, so that we understand what the solution fits, we’ll build a business case for it and make sure our colleagues understand the clients’ problem and how our solution works. In some industries, especially technology, a minimum viable product approach can bring a solution to the market. That’s less effective in problem-solving professional services. We can’t solve only part of the client’s problem.

Joe Tocco, AXA XL: We really value our clients and brokers’ opinions. That’s why we turn to them early and often to vet ideas, new developments and innovations. Our recently launched Construction Ecosystem is a good example of how that’s worked. This new online platform brings together different risk-reducing technologies to give our clients a better, real-time snapshot of their operational risks. Technologies connected to the platform include weather analytics, wearables, onsite sensors and more that provide clients with data and analytics to help boost their risk management efforts. To build it, we turned to our clients who helped pilot new technologies to test them on their jobsites. We also constantly collected feedback and used their responses to shape the ecosystem’s development. Listening to our clients is a big step in helping us determine when a product is market ready.

Sean Ringsted, Chubb: We believe an innovation is market ready when we’ve got a customer who’s ready for it. We have a list of technologies and ideas in development that we think are really good, but if the customer isn’t thinking that way, either it’s a bad idea or a good idea that’s too early. But every innovation that’s going to work has to have customer interest and engagement at its heart. 

Kevin Turner, Paradigm: Our first goal is to support injured workers and their families, and to reach more patients in need. That’s part of Paradigm’s DNA in delivering care management. Not every solution is right for everybody, because people perceive needs differently. To us, an innovation is ready for the marketplace when it aligns with our DNA and the needs of our clients, and buyers are willing to support it. An example of this alignment is our longtime involvement with Kids’ Chance, an organization that provides scholarships to children of catastrophically injured workers. It perfectly fits what Paradigm is trying to do, which is make a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Jim Winkler
Senior Vice President and Global Chief Innovation Officer
Aon Health Solutions

Joe Tocco
CEO, Americas
AXA XL, a division of AXA S.A.

Sean Ringsted
Chief Digital Officer

Kevin Turner
CEO, Catastrophic Care Management
Paradigm Corp.