Old Dogs and New Tricks

October 20, 2011

Changing the way you buy small business insurance I often reflect on the decades I've spent in the insurance industry, and how things have changed. I hate to think of myself as an “old dog ” because, if the truth be known, while  technology has had a profound impact on society, the ideas that underpin progress are often recycled old tricks, rather than new ones. We old dogs don't need to be taught new tricks, because we often planted the seeds for them many years ago. I have very fond memories of my 24 years at Progressive, and those early years when we laid the foundation for what  in my humble opinion is one of the most impressive insurance businesses on planet earth - although I am, of course, biased. When I was with Progressive we started selling auto insurance on a direct basis in Florida in the early 1990's.  Customers could call our IBT (Insurance By Telephone) unit, get a quote and, after 2 or 3 back and forth faxes, they could purchase a policy.  There was no interactive web site until much later.  We used the technology of the time to improve the insurance experience for customers. It seems hard to imagine today, but at the time this was real progress and customers loved it. Today's entry-level working generation probably doesn’t even know what a fax is!

In 2007 I agreed to become a non-executive director at Hiscox, which I have to say is like rolling back the years and being, once again, involved in something incredibly exciting. My Progressive example above is a far cry from today's Hiscox small business insurance service, where in just minutes a business owner can research coverage, get a quote and buy a policy online - for professional liability insurance (errors and omissions insurance), general liability insurance or a business owners policy.  It's seamless, paperless and incredibly efficient.  But it's also, somehow, not impersonal.  The volume of email and social media dialogue between Hiscox policyholders and the company is, to me at least, surprising and gratifying.  The degree to which there is a relationship between Hiscox and it's online customers is unique in my more than 30 years of insurance experience. As a Director of the Company, I didn't anticipate that people would so enthusiastically appreciate an easier solution to their insurance "problem" (read our business insurance customer reviews) and the extent to which they would want to talk about it with us and each other.  To paraphrase Sally Fields's memorable Oscar acceptance speech, You Like Us, You Really Like Us! It may be that the new ideas are just recycled old ones, but I have to say that it still takes businesses like Progressive and Hiscox to turn them into winning ones for consumers. Bob McMillan Non-Executive Director, Hiscox