AM Best is the oldest and best-known provider of ratings, financial data and news about the insurance industry, rating around 3,500 companies in more than 90 countries on financial strength, creditworthiness and ability to honour claims. Over breakfast at the recent JMM, we caught up with AM Best’s Senior Managing Director, Strategy & Communications, Andrea Keenan - who is also Vice-Chair of the MiN - to find out more…
MiN: What is your role at AM Best?
Andrea: I’m responsible for industry relations, business development, PR, corporate events and relationships and communications with key stakeholders. I also run the Latin America operations. Basically, I’m responsible for the commercial side of the ratings business. We’ve come a long way since the company was founded in 1899, but our core purpose remains the same - to be a constructive force in the insurance industry, and we do that by communicating on research about risk, financial strength, industry trends and, ultimately financial strength ratings which are the result of rigorous and sophisticated analysis. Our data, reports and ratings are used by reinsurers, investors, agents, governments, regulators, brokers and academics to assess risk and make informed decisions.
MiN: What projects are you currently working on?
Andrea: We’re really focusing on innovation, looking at how we can observe and measure innovation and integrate it into the ratings. It is our opinion that companies should be thinking about innovation, as a failure to be innovative could challenge their business in the future. So we’re introducing a ‘criteria procedure’ to measure a company’s innovation - we recently released the draft methodology for feedback, and next year we will be implementing it fully.
We also recognise that the InsurTech and FinTech spaces can be overwhelming, so we sought to help our companies understand current practices and potential future technologies that have the potential to be impactful. And we had some fun with it! This year for the first time we ran an innovation fair at the AM Best Annual ‘Review and Preview’ event where we take an informed look at the past year, as well as offering insight into challenges for the upcoming year. The fair showcased twelve early-stage, yet post-pilot projects from smaller companies researching and creating innovative technologies for the health and life sectors. To complement the fair and really humanise the innovators, I travelled around the US and Canada interviewing these founders and CEOs and saw their work - these are really interesting people who come from all sorts of backgrounds. They ranged from law enforcement to plumbing to astrophysics, and they all bring a special skillset and enthusiasm to our industry. We produced a video for the fair, which is an invitation only event — more than 600 people came, the place was packed and there was a huge amount of interest in the projects.
MiN: What is AM Best’s involvement in inclusive insurance?
Andrea: Like most of the industry, we’re still learning about inclusive insurance - as a niche player we make sure we understand all the new developments in the industry, and that includes microinsurance. We now operate in around 90 countries, and while some of those are traditional insurance markets, many of them also have a microinsurance sector. Thanks to our long history, and our ratings, we are a trusted voice to traditional market players and we have the platform to inform them about new or unusual developments which they might be able to take advantage of - and that of course includes microinsurance.
MiN: Why are you so passionate about data?
Andrea: I’m an economist! You can’t understand the risks without data. That’s why we provide data so our clients can understand the risks and take informed decisions. But you have to treat data carefully - knowing everything isn’t necessarily the answer. Too much data can be a burden on companies and hinder their ability to move quickly. So we try to produce value-added ratings and information to assist the industry in understanding the risks.
People are thirsting for data - for example I recently represented the MiN at the Global Insurance Forum in Singapore on a panel discussion about the role of insurance helping to rebuild communities in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. A data-rich academic study shows the population was better off for having mutual microinsurance. That hard information helps further the conversation with governments and regulators. (For more about the MiN’s participation at the GIF click here).
MiN: How did you get involved with the MiN?
Andrea: I was invited to join the MiN five years ago and almost immediately they asked me to run for the Board. The Network gives us a deeper understanding of our clients’ markets, because microinsurance also touches their traditional markets and there are things we can learn which occur through reverse innovation. Understanding the inclusive insurance market is really important for understanding our clients and their needs. It’s AM Best’s ambition to become even more involved in this sector, so MiN publications like the Landscape of Microinsurance are really useful for us.
Joining the MiN formalised our participation in the inclusive insurance sector and provides a link between traditional insurers and microinsurers. It has enabled us to access some of the greatest minds in the sector - you can’t get that anywhere else. Of course there are other forums, and they have a part to play, but the MiN is the only one which brings all players together - that’s the strength of the Network. Our members have a passion and hands-on experience as well as a wealth of knowledge that they are willing to share.
MiN: How do you see the MiN’s future?
Andrea: The inclusive insurance space has really evolved over the past 20 years, as more and larger organisations are becoming major influencers. I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of the MiN - 15 years ago we were the only global organisation in this space. Now there are a few platforms working on inclusive insurance. As the world of microinsurance has changed, the Network must continue to provide value and continue to be the touchstone among the various actors in this space - and I am sure we can do that.