While many of us have been saturated with media coverage of the current Covid crisis, there are those of us who are trying to regain some semblance of normalcy and opted to tune into Olympic coverage. However, when I watched the opening ceremony two weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think of how similar Insurance and Olympics are in many aspects, but especially when it comes to innovation and transformation.

Even with the impact and copious challenges from the global pandemic, the Olympics have long been known for innovation. It is rather fitting that again, Tokyo held center stage with numerous technological advances as they once did during the 1964 games, where the first-ever Olympics in Asia earned the Japanese praise for their efficiency, modernity, innovation and recovery.

It wasn’t until the Tokyo Games in ’64 that for the first time, an entire marathon race was broadcast live. The Japanese government partnered with NASA to develop a new satellite technology application, which enabled them to relay live pictures to a global audience for the first time.

Once Tokyo set the pace, innovation continued to follow, from modernizing equipment to improving timekeeping, scoring and performance with timing plates, wireless sensors, and digital sighted infrared beams, all in an effort to provide enhanced capabilities, better experiences (for participants and spectators), and continue to progress.

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The same can be said for insurance industry, and especially the pace of change – with disruptors moving away from antiquated COBOL systems and dual mainframes into sleeker policy systems that delivered more speed and value. Soon, there was a race amongst P&C carriers to leverage the latest software tools and technologies, from PaaS to SaaS capable claims, billing and rating systems. Many carriers quickly realized that it took an Olympic sized effort to modernize, while others are still either sidelined or in training.

Since dipping their toes in the proverbial pool of prevalence, many P&C insurers continued to up the technology ante, continuing to move forward to improve operations, efficiency and capabilities. Carriers are competing across an array of business lines to be gold medalists with their customers, driven by digital demand and perhaps the race to the conquer the cloud.

In an effort to provide more flexible workflows and deliver a wider array of content in more formats to more platforms, the Olympic Broadcast Service (OBS) rolled out the OBS Cloud. The OBS video server now has the benefits of increased capacity and worldwide accessibility, while on the technology side, their cloud-based solutions, designed specifically for high-demanding broadcast workflows, allows for greater flexibility, remote production and unsurpassable speed.

Like insurers, OBS had to quickly pivot, to ensure that viewers would still be able to enjoy the Games, despite the hurdles caused by the pandemic. OBS partnered with a technology provider; together they created an innovative digital fan engagement suite, which allows remote viewers to interact with live events in Tokyo and sponsors with the ability to connect athletes with their fans. Seeing that need for “digital engagement” again reminded me of how many insurers are on a similar path, or digital journey, and may have not yet realized the seismic benefits of the cloud, modern technology and even choosing the right partners.

This year, innovation also aided in the addition of four new sports to the Olympic catalog, skateboarding, surfing, karate and sport climbing. Imagine trying to judge accurately the power, speed, and flow of a surfer hitting a perfect pipe without having accurate instruments in which to do so. For insurers, its similar to launching new products, getting to market first, faster, and delivering the products thru omnichannel distribution and engagement options, now requires the right tools and technologies to simplify the experiences for both the customer as well as insurer.

This year, rather than sitting in the stands (and knitting) – insurers must go for the gold first. Many incumbents have already won and although in the realm of insurance (and especially insurtech, there are many competitors) the desire to win is universal. It requires an understanding of the playing field, the tools and technologies that can aid, assist, and enable them to be better carriers, remain competitive, and attract, engage, and ultimately delight their customers.

There are many similarities between Olympics and Insurance, and as innovation continues to expand, so too will the similarities. In fact, even insuring the most widely watched global sporting event, is something to still consider. All the facets of pricing the sizeable risks, athletes, and components that surround it are daunting, especially considering that insurers initially faced a $2-3 billion loss if the Tokyo Olympics were cancelled, as had been discussed earlier this year. Experts indicated that it could have amounted to the the largest ever claim in the global event cancellation market, so for the sake of all of us in the industry, I certainly watched in awe as world records continued to be smashed, and continue to compare innovation in Olympics to innovation in Insurance.