How do you respond to markets that didn’t even exist a couple of years ago? That was one challenge facing Chubb Corp., a $13.6 billion, 130-year-old specialty insurer. Chubb underwrites risk in lots of fast-evolving niche markets, like clean tech, life sciences and medical devices.
In the mid-2000s, Chubb found itself struggling to move as fast as the markets it was insuring. Its innovations had typically come in a linear fashion driven by the home office in New York. But much of the company’s expertise was in other offices, and it wanted a way to supplement its traditional innovation process.
“We have to evolve our product service offerings and more important, our understanding of risk, at the same pace” as the market, says Jon Bidwell, Chubb’s chief innovation officer.
Risk is a special challenge, since it gets assessed in part through data such as actuarial tables. When there is no well-established market, an insurer like Chubb has to look to the expertise of its employees. Chubb is decentralized, with 11,000 employees in 27 countries, and expertise scattered across those offices. It also has 279 different operational groups. Chubb’s management wanted to bring new ideas to the surface, across all those groups.
So in 2008, Chubb created an innovation unit and tapped Bidwell, a 30-year veteran of the company who was then managing director of strategic development, to run it. It was a small group — besides Bidwell, it included Gerry Myers, vice president of global innovation, and an administrative assistant. Their jobs were to figure out how to tap the experts inside Chubb and create new products faster.
March 7, 2013
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