Driving Innovation



2019 Ignition Innovation event.

8 min read June 17, 2020

At MetLife, innovation means reinvention, our process for continuously reimagining how we create and deliver new forms of value for our customers, employees, and business partners.

To generate this value, we work hard to create a culture where people are encouraged to participate in problem solving, ideation, and experimentation, and are given the tools to do so successfully. We source ideas that can directly help solve challenges for our business, our customers, and our communities. We host a digital accelerator for early-stage startups. We facilitate training sessions, host ideation challenges, and crowdsource ideas on products, processes, and practices from our employees. Additionally, we provide guidance on experiments and engage with academia to explore new research and attractive adjacencies for MetLife.

Leveraging internal expertise to crowdsource innovative customer solutions

To take advantage of our ideation platform — Sprout, available to employees globally — we provide guidance and training on identifying business problems and opportunities that would benefit from a crowdsourcing tool. Global teams learn to design and execute successful innovation challenges based on a set of mature processes and techniques. One of the Sprout challenges we conducted in 2019 was with the Internal Audit team on how advanced automation can help achieve better and more efficient risk coverage. Challenges were run in English and Japanese with a total of 114 ideas submitted rom 288 active participants.

Our innovation team also conducted a Sprout Challenge in 2019 in collaboration with U.S. Property & Casualty (P&C) Claims to source ideas on how they can keep customers better informed during the auto claim process and reduce status calls 20% by year end. Given the relevance, the challenge saw high engagement and participation with MetLife employees, resulting in 182 ideas being generated within 45 days across four categories: Technology, People, Process and Structure. Many ideas progressed to immediate implementation in direct response to customers’ demand for multichannel communications and more efficient communication with MetLife Claims Adjusters. IT Service Operations ran a Crowdsourced Innovation Challenge focused on identifying ways to reduce manual labor hours by 20%. With close to 200 submitted, ideas were pitched to a panel of leaders who reviewed the top three ideas and selected a challenge winner.

“Finance Forward” supports early-stage entrepreneurs building financial health solutions

Together, MetLife Foundation and Village Capital launched the “Finance Forward” global initiative in 2019 to support tech-enabled financial health solutions. The program spans the U.S., Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and India, and provides seed capital to the most promising entrepreneurial solutions while engaging MetLife employees as business mentors. Finance Forward will feature nine regional accelerator programs and boot camps over the next two years, with each program driving investment to entrepreneurs building solutions to improve the financial health of low- and moderate-income people and small business owners. Participating companies will be eligible to receive capital ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 to help support the growth of their company.

Poland drives simplified digital experience

Given the continued demand for digital products from customers, MetLife Poland simplified and digitized its sales process in 2019 by reducing the time taken between incoming requests and policy finalizations, and expanded its digital capabilities to ensure customers can receive policies and reminders through email, as well as being able to report an event or request payment of a policy benefit online.

Our Purpose

Better prepared for climate risks

As weather patterns continue to shift and elevate the extremity of natural disasters such as wildfires, we continue to invest in research and pilots to understand how technology, data analytics, and artificial intelligence can help us solve business problems, provide better engagement for customers, and grow our business. In 2019, we tested two new innovative technologies to help us better assess risks and serve our customers tangibly in times of need and natural disasters.

More comprehensive wildfire risk assessments with Zesty.ai:
We teamed up with Zesty.ai, an artificial intelligence (AI) and aerial imagery startup, to improve assessments in wildfire risk. Zesty.ai’s Z-FIRE incorporates multidimensional digital imagery and third-party resources into its processes to accurately assess risk exposure at the property level as opposed to the broader ZIP-code level. This allows us to have an individual property view of the risk that can be transparently shared with agents and regulators, as well as the customer. Along with AI, high-resolution satellites, and third-party data, Z-FIRE uses history and fire science to increase property risk-assessment accuracy. In addition to utilizing Zesty.ai’s technology to refine underwriting, the granular risk identification will also improve our ability to transparently engage customers in a way that protects them for the long term. We will begin integrating Z-FIRE into our U.S. Property & Casualty underwriting and business operations in 2020.

Improved disaster readiness with Northern Illinois University:
In addition to large annual economic losses, particularly bad weather years can lead to devastating destruction. Long-range forecasts for these events could lead to better mitigation and preparedness strategies for emergency managers. With this in mind, and to inform how we can proactively alert customers about impending weather events and deploy aid in advance, we began a collaboration with Northern Illinois University (NIU) in 2019 to better understand advanced weather forecasting methodologies, specifically around convective storms. NIU’s recent research and models anticipate when and where severe weather will strike in the future, enabling accurate forecasts for tornadoes and hailstorms two or even three weeks in advance. With this exclusive arrangement and technology, MetLife can anticipate periods of large potential losses and notify their customers about impending severe weather to help keep them safe.

Common Cents Lab Workshop at Duke University.

Customer-led innovation and engagement

Innovation is an important driver for continuously improving our customer experience. It is equally important to arm our corporate customers with tools and resources to better engage their own employees on health and financial wellness issues — and innovation can play a critical role in identifying new ways and platforms for doing that effectively.

Digital innovation: MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars

In 2017, MetLife and Techstars launched an annual startup accelerator program focused on the insurance industry. MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars brings best-in-class FinTech startups to met.X, MetLife’s innovation space in Cary, North Carolina. The Digital Accelerator is an intense, 13-week bootcamp for early stage startups, helping them develop new capabilities that have the potential to transform MetLife’s business and the entire insurance industry.

The first class, launched in July 2018, featured 10 startups focused on the future of underwriting, the gig economy, health and wellness, and employee benefits. The second, which began in July 2019, focused on new customers, new products, and improved processes. At the end of 2019, 12 experiments and pilots had been completed, or were underway with three companies having signed production contracts and two more in process. In addition to the value provided by sourcing these new capabilities, the Digital Accelerator helps drive cultural change by familiarizing MetLife employees with startups and encouraging employees to participate in experimentation and ideation initiatives.

In 2019 more than 650 employees engaged with the Digital Accelerator.

Meet some of the Digital Accelerator’s 2019 companies:

Bringing personal finance to life for children
Zogo Finance seeks to reward children and adults for learning about personal finance by partnering with financial institutions. In 2019, MetLife launched a pilot with Zogo, providing our employees and their families with access to Zogo’s smartphone app. The app has educational modules on specific financial topics, and users are rewarded via quizzes. We are currently in the process of measuring user engagement and app sentiment to identify future use cases.

Making Medicare enrollment fast and easy for seniors
Enroll Hero created a personalized recommendation tool that seeks to help seniors pick the perfect Medicare plan in seconds. MetLife expanded its relationship with Enroll Hero after completing an email marketing campaign pilot in 2018, with results exceeding expectations. The campaign’s success led to a distribution arrangement with TakeAlong Dental, MetLife’s direct-to-consumer dental product, which launched in October 2019.

Automating claim settlement for insurers
Sprout.ai (formerly known as BlockClaim) aims to empower insurers to settle claims in as little as 24 hours through data-driven insights. In past applications, Sprout.ai reports automating 96% of medical claims and 60% of auto insurance claims.

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