Best's Review



Risk Adviser
Power to the People

Technological revolution is driven by demographic shift.
  • Mark Rieder
  • August 2019
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Mark Reider

Mark Rieder

Our industry sometimes puts innovation in a box and forgets that we operate in a business that serves people.

Innovation is infused in everything we do, and it's people who are driving it forward. It all starts with a demographic shift.

Insurance and health care traditionally have been seen as something private, and when technology and devices infringed on that privacy it was seen as invasive.

“Kids these days” don't see it that way. They've grown up posting their lives for the world to see. Why wouldn't they do the same with their health and insurance?

But it's not just the workforce. We're seeing a shift in the industry. Insurance and benefits professionals are noticing and retooling their business models.

One thing all innovations tend to have in common is that they help us meet people where they are.

What that means is discovering peoples' values, style, needs, and emotions, then connecting in an effective, need-fulfilling, impactful way. Bluetooth technology, wearables and smart devices make sure that you never have to disconnect for too long.

Simply adding in technology allows us to make old ideas better and there's no better example of this than looking at the world of chronic illness.

Let's take a look at the numbers:

Size of the Wearables Market 

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults, 56.7 million, will use a wearable device at least once a month in 2019.

Just over half of those will use a smartwatch.

An additional 3.8 million U.S. children and teens will have a wearable device.

Who's Buying Wearables?

Wearables have appealed mostly to younger people. In 2015, 24% of those ages 25 to 34 had a wearable device, while 6.5% of those ages 55 to 64 had one.

In 2019, young consumers will still be the largest group of wearable users, with penetration among the 25-to-34 cohort jumping to 38%. But user penetration for the older consumers will also increase substantially to 13.2%.

Clinicians tackling diabetes, cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, and more have long been present. But the ability to incorporate real-time, long-term, moment-to-moment data from wearables and the uploading of vitals and AI/machine learning are driving greater adoption by allowing interaction with the patient when symptoms emerge.

Connected to Consumers

Being constantly connected like this has changed the way insurance providers interact with their customers, allowing insurers to reduce loss, increase engagement, leverage data, maximize install rates, and increase loyalty.

For example, in-vehicle telecommunication devices—or telematics—are allowing for usage-based insurance (UBI), a type of auto insurance that tracks mileage and driving behaviors. UBI is powered by tech that is self-installed using a plug-in device, already installed by car manufacturers, or available through mobile applications.

The basic idea of UBI is that a driver's behavior is monitored directly while the person drives, allowing insurers to more closely align driving behaviors with premium rates.

The impacts include a major shift in how products and services are delivered and consumed, new levels of effectiveness and efficiency that increase value for creators and utilizers, and an expectation that the refinements will be continual.

Our industry sometimes puts innovation in a box and forgets that we operate in a business that serves people. This makes innovation challenging. But if the user, and the user's experience, is always at the forefront driving our efforts, meaningful and sustainable innovation will happen.

Best’s Review contributor Mark Rieder is head of innovation at broker NFP. He can be reached at

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