No-one will be surprised to learn that innovative products continue to be developed.

The insurance industry has traditionally seen itself as a manufacturer of products, with the best products providing competitive differentiation. This is changing gradually as consumers begin to demand a more integrated approach to their challenges, and I believe we are already seeing the emergence of service-based products.

That said, innovative products remain a way to target specific needs, and remain very relevant today. There will always be a place for them as insurance companies will need to have one foot in the future and one in the present. Here are three great new products that respond to clearly identified consumer needs.

AXA in Italy has come up with two bold new products that offer protection to unmarried couples, be they hetero- or homosexual. The need arises because in Italy (as in other countries), only a spouse is guaranteed a certain inheritance when one party dies. The first of AXA’s products is designed to ensure that the non-married partner is an heir, and the other is essentially a pension fund that allows a designated beneficiary to be someone who is not a relative.

And hat’s off to Friendsurance, which has created a user-friendly website to provide quick access to insurance for the multitude of electronic devices on which we depend. By inputting model information, the customer can quickly find out the premium and buy the insurance. Friendsurance is worth watching, I believe, because it has the potential to form the center of a new business model for peer-to-peer insurance.

Genertel has homed in on a niche market—bikers. In partnership with Dainese, a manufacturer of biker equipment and apparel, Genertel has created a new policy to supplement the insurance cover it already offers to bikers. It offers extended warranties to cover damage to the biker’s helmet, jacket and air bag up to the value of €1,500. The product comes with all sorts of other benefits, including a €50 fuel voucher, roadside assistance, legal assistance and discounts on related insurance products.

(My wife persists in not wanting me to be a biker, but if she ever changed her mind, I would buy this coverage. It would also help to resolve some of her issues about biking.)

It’s all about being customer-centric. For more, look at how companies in one of the world’s largest insurance markets are looking at the topic: Japan: Digital insurance and the drive for customer-centricity.

Next week, let’s turn our attention to innovations relating to the channel used.

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