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What if Apple built an insurance company?

Campbell Macpherson MM blog

This question was posed by Jason Hurley, sales & marketing director of RGA at its recent (excellent) conference, “Success by Design”. More often than not, these sorts of “What If?” scenarios are merely interesting fillips in a podium speech but this one stuck with me, for the simple reason that more than three decades after Steve Jobs started his little PC company in his garage, it has become the world’s most valuable company.

How? By focusing on the customer experience and taking full advantage of the commercial power that this creates. Our industry must be able to learn some lessons from that.

So, if Apple built an insurance company …

  • People would be queuing around the block to become customers.

  • Distributors would be queuing up around the block to become resellers.

  • Their products would be simple, straightforward and easy to understand; yet with a “Wow!” factor that made them stand out from their competition.

  • The conditions covered would be clear and obvious; no clever actuarial wheezes, no cleverly worded exceptions, no unpleasant surprises.

  • People would aspire to own one.

  • They would be eagerly embraced by the young, the old and all ages in between.

  • The entire end-to-end customer experience would be mapped out in intimate detail – the usability of the products, the “packaging”, the sales experience, the after-sales experience, the claims experience, … no part of the experience would be left to chance. And key members of the Exec Team will have become personally involved in this process – because they know that the customer experience is the key to untold riches.

  • They would employ enthusiastic, knowledgeable, well-trained “geniuses” capable of delivering exceptional customer service

  • The business wouldn’t be afraid to focus on what it does best.

  • Its executives wouldn’t be afraid to admit mistakes, cut projects and start again

  • Innovation and design would sit alongside the customer at the heart of the company.

  • Employees would not only be loyal customers, they would be evangelical advocates for the firm.

  • It wouldn’t need to play on price comparison web sites, because price is not why people become customers.

  • It would be incredibly profitable with an obscenely healthy balance sheet.

  • I would become a customer in a heartbeat.

“But financial services is different!” I hear you proclaim. No it isn’t. The products Apple sells daily by the millions are commodities at their core: An iPhone is just a phone. An iPad is just a tablet computer. An iPod is just an MP3 player. A MacBook is just a laptop.

But try telling that to an Apple customer.

Campbell Macpherson is managing director of Campbell Macpherson & Associates. He has been a senior executive with Sesame, Openwork and Zurich.

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Comments

There are 27 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Steven Richardson 18th September 2012 at 4:06 pm

    The ‘Apple Insurance Company’ products would be homogenised, overpriced and would break really easily…and then they would attempt to sue their competitors simply because they made better products leading to their competition to reinvent their products whilst Apple are left behind…I’ll stick with my SIPP thanks!!

  2. It would be overpriced for what it is. Come out with less features (cover) than anyone else for a while. Then they would sue anyone who had a “contract based life assurance product involving medical underwriting” because they bought a company from 1720 who had put life assurance out before anyone else…

  3. This article is all well and good but the question is could Apple sell their products if their industry was subject to the same regulations (and regulators) as the financial services authority. Would Apple pay to fix my old computer that I purchased from a now defunct re-seller like we do (via our friends at FSCS). If Steve Jobs had tried to reinvest our industry, he’d have failed, and gone on to set up a computer shop instead !

  4. They would also bring out a slightly updated version of their products every 12 months, and their customers would surrender their old policy and purchase a new one at huge expense.

    If the marketed a pension it wouldn’t allow transfers in or out and would only allow investment in “Apple Insurance Company” funds.

  5. I bet you took a day off when Steve Jobs died Campbell.

    Apple trades on the beauty of its design which you cannot replicate with a non tangible product like financial services.

    Interestingly just saw an ad for a Powerbook for £999. Reading the spec it is clearly an inferior machine to the HP laptop I paid £350 for. I find it remarkable that people will pay £650 for a light up picture of an Apple!

  6. Surely the article is about mind set and concept. To many already seem to want to jump on the ‘Apple is the Devil’ bandwagon instead of looking at the core concept of what it is that makes Apple an aspirational brand to many around the world.

    If you want to slate and belittle what is the most valuable company in the world and it’s ethos and practices there are plenty of Tech sites devoted to it.

    But why try and take away from what they have created, unless obviously you have the most valuable company on the world yourself, No? oh seemed like you did from the comments!!!!!

  7. Glad us 4 think a like.

    Although Apples products do what they say on the tin and only people who want the ‘new’ thing upgrade and pay.

    I know people with ipods from when they first came out that still works well.

  8. It wouldn’t work with anything but other products from the same stable. You wouldn’t be able to vest your pension with another company or receive your CI payout unless you had an Apple bank account.
    It would of course look very nice although you could get better elsewhere for less and without being tied in for a minimum contract term – hang on, haven’t SJP already nobbled this idea? 😉
    Please take with the humour intended!

  9. This is a terrible article that adds no value whatsoever, it’s just a wish-list dressed up as something clever by using a successful brand as a reference. The real question is ‘how would you do all these things?’, and the author clearly has no idea, or he would have done it!

  10. I am sure if some of the founding fathers of our insurers were still alive to drive their vision we may see an ‘Apple Insurance Company’ today.

    The issue is surely the bloated insurance companies run by faceless boards of directors that are soley beholding to institutional shareholders. Apple will go the same way, the question is how long.

  11. well apple told me today that it would be 8 days before i could get my phone into the apple shop for repair….. wouldn’t like to wait that long for a loss adjuster….

  12. to think that a business focused on immedaite gratification can be transposed to insurance is to suggest that apples and pears are both fruit…well this is nuts

  13. (Cr)apple Life

    at the present rate ther won’t be any insurance companies left anyway, but (Cr)apple would not go onto a market controled by a psychopathic regulator. On the other hand (Cr)apple Life would also spread the love around the globe by outsourcing jobs and manuafcturing where it can be done cheaply in countries like India and China.

  14. Campbell Macpherson 18th September 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I was aiming this little thought piece at insurers, using one of the most successful, visionary brands of our age to perhaps spark some creative thinking. Apple is far from perfect but their emphasis on innovation, focused product lines, customer service and the end-to-end design of the entire customer experience are universal themes that companies in our industry could try to emulate to some degree. Yes, it is about adopting a different mindset … and, Mike, I would be most keen to help an insurer start to adopt this new mindset – if there is one brave enough to take the challenge!

  15. As marketers at an insurance company, we enjoyed reading this article. Some of the comments seem unfair and have taken the article very literally.

    For us, while a lot of the points made are aspirational, they are not actually too far-fetched and should be goals that all insurance companies strive for. Simple, innovative and transparent products, engaged and enthusiastic staff who champion the company they work for, products that people aspire to own for reasons other than the cheapest price tag.

    After all, it was a thought piece, and it got us thinking.

  16. If Apple went into insurance the policy document would spontaneously catch fire and burn your house down. And you wouldn’t be able to claim on your insurance because, well, no policy document.

    (Yes, I’ve had the misfortune to encounter Apple products – thankfully someone else’s. It wasn’t one of the famous exploding iPods, it was a laptop power supply. After two months spent waiting for Apple to send replacements that overheated in exactly the same way, I solved the problem by getting one off eBay. Apple – the only company to make products that are inferior to and less reliable than their Chinese knockoffs.)

  17. Well apple are good at selling overpriced products to people who don’t know any better so seems viable…

  18. really hard to see the relevance of this article

  19. I am pretty sure Apple products dont have a 15 year warranty and if they went bust I am pretty sure Sony etc wouldnt bail out their customers.

    Lot a load of tosh!

  20. I bet the policy documents would come in a really nice box though

  21. What if Carlsberg made an insurance company?

  22. BUT we are no longer being asked to SELL Products but provide full financial planning advice with product recommendations a secondary consideration.Anyone who has done this job properly understands that even before you get to recommending a product the amount of time in performing functions mandatory under ISO2222 needs to be paid for.

    Suppose you say to a client after doing all that, don’t change, do you really imagine they will pay for advice to do nothing? Never happen.

    I think this article has some merit and could be used to construct our client proposition statements but it has some flaws in its lack of understanding as to what we IFAs do.

    In financial services it would not be possible to do a “one size fits all ” product range, what’s the point. Clients aren’t just phone users they are real people whose main problems are dieing too soon, living too long and running out of money or getting sick or disabled. Advice on these areas are really our products.

    BUT the FSA has ignored all this when bringing in the commission ban.

    What would a consumer say if Apple started to charge customers for entering their shops and just looking at their products ?

    Bye Bye Apple!

  23. it only took one rotten apple to destroy an entire barrel, every-one seems to forget what happened when he left.

    steve jobs created something that everyone wanted even samsung who went to court to get a part of the apple pie and ended up with a bit of all bran instead.

  24. You had better pray that Apply do not decide to enter the insurance market !

    Look at what Virgin /First Direct have done already.They make the industry look like the dinosaur it is.

  25. Julian 10.19 Now that’s a thought !!! Would love to see the advert !!!

  26. This is not a good article because it was just a wishlist without feasibility. The person just used a successful and world-known brand to be a reference, The real question is that whether Apple would like to pay to repair old purchase or change a new one instead.
    If Steve Jobs was alive, he would be sued due to his purchases lead to other competitors, Apple just can focus on its electroic products instead.

  27. The big point that’s being missed by an otherwise thought provoking article is that Apple is an ‘aspirational brand’ whereas anyone working within the insurance sector would be hard pushed to name any insurance company as “aspirational”.

    The brand attributes of an ‘aspirational brand’ are very different from say functional or distribution brands.

    In the insurance sector, there’s something to be said for being a ‘challenger brand’, a bit like Avis that is positioned at trying harder compared with the market leader Hertz.

    That doesn’t mean an insurance brand can’t be an ‘aspirational brand’ but it would need to be built from the outside in and not (as I suspect) from inside out.

    A really good book on the whole brand classification subject is written by Matt Haig and it’s called Brand Royalty. Well worth a read.

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