Allstate: More than Insurance technology — an Innovation Driven Enterprise

Published: August 4, 2022

SyncNI sat down with Allstate to find out more about how they have turned the business into an innovation driven enterprise.

Allstate has been serving customers in the USA for more than 90 years. Starting as a booth in a department store, it has grown into one of the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list in USA, with revenues of more than $53Bn, assets of more than $99Bn, 54k employees and 190M policies in force.

Allstate Northern Ireland is an integral part of Allstate and helps keep the technology and financial eco-system of Allstate healthy, competitive, and fit for purpose in a fiercely competitive market. As the largest tech employer in Northern Ireland, we develop some of the most innovative products in the world of insurance, right here on your doorstep.

Illustration of how mobile first technology influence our behaviors.

As the world embraced the internet, we innovated to drive changes in our products and solutions and meet ever-evolving needs. Mobile phones have evolved to be more powerful computers than ever imagined 50 years ago and are now a constant companion for most adults and teenagers. Recognising this emerging trend, we innovated to adopt a 'mobile first' approach for all our consumer-facing solutions. Engaging with customers in a way that is convenient for them is important in an ever-changing world.

Digital maps of our towns, cities, and countryside were a huge step forward in digitisation of the world in which we live. It took a while for the pioneers to produce enough reliable mapping data, but when it became available to use, we jumped at the chance. We researched and developed technology to use mobile phones as data collectors for how people drive (telematics data) so we could offer our consumers better value for money, tailored to their needs and behaviours. Using big data analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), we can determine from their telematics data how often drivers brake hard, corner fast, accelerate fast, or handle the phone while driving. We use these insights to score their driving behaviours, helping to identify the better drivers that are less risky. Using this score, we reward or discount eligible drivers and improve our competitive prices making car insurance more affordable. Since we started doing this more than 10 years ago, our spin-out company called Arity has collected data on more than 600 Billion miles driven, are now connected to 60% of the drivers in USA, and currently collect data on more than 800 car trips per second.

The only constant we can depend upon is change itself, and we have the DNA of innovation in Allstate NI to drive us forward. Our culture of innovation has driven us to be more ambitious as we seek out new opportunities. Our Technology Innovation Research & Development team scans the technology horizons, searching for emerging technologies. We ask how might this technology help us meet our customers' needs in the years to come, how might Allstate leverage it, and what needs to change for us to be ready to do so. Technologies such as Blockchain, Digital or Self-Sovereign Identity, and low-code/no-code development are just some of those that we have experimented on, created, and explored hypotheses on, and developed Proof-of-Concepts (PoC) for over the years.

Innovation is an often-used word, and the meaning could become somewhat unclear as a result. Innovation is simply about changing what we do and/or how we do it, to create new value and/or eliminate inefficiency. Innovation is essential for survival, as much for Allstate as it is for humankind and society.

Most of our efforts to innovate never make it into the world we live in. It is essential to have a healthy method to deal with the very low percentage of innovations that result in a new or changed product or service. We expect to FAIL in many of our efforts, but every time we do we gain learnings and insights. FAIL — Failed Attempts Instil Learnings.

Innovation is akin to exploring new lands, possibly where no one has been before you. There are unknowns (you don't know what you don't know), risks, hopes, and assumptions. Innovation can be successful by chance, although we have found that a robust repeatable process significantly enhances our chance of success. Resolving the ambiguity, uncertainty, and risks around innovation ideas can be achieved if you take time to ask yourself 'what needs to be true for this to work?'. Identifying those assumptions, and prioritising small experiments to test whether they are true, is a high value-adding exercise that allows us to minimise investment in ideas and innovations that might not yet be attainable. This enables prudence and saves resources that can be invested in other innovation efforts rather than spending it all on one. We use this approach at Allstate to get the most from our innovation resources and avoid chasing ideas that may not yet be feasible, desirable, or achievable. One of the ideas we were able to pursue successfully because we used this approach is described next.

Digital Footprint: As our use of the internet has grown, so also has the trail of breadcrumbs we leave behind us. Visits to websites that have tracker cookies or sharing our email address with companies that promise to send us special offers are just two ways in which we share personal details. How many times have we created an account with a new online retailer? How many of those have we forgotten about over the years? How many times have we reused the same or similar password on those accounts? Our research into this has shown that we might have upwards of 200 online accounts, often using the same passwords. Hackers can hack those online websites, gather our account details and passwords, and often the site doesn't know until much later. The issue with us reusing passwords is that while the site from which the hacker steals your password might not be a big risk for you, it might be the same or similar password you have used on a more important account. These passwords are often sold on the 'Dark Web' and used to hack into other more important accounts you might have elsewhere.

Allstate is essentially a company that protects consumers from the uncertainties of life, whether that is owning/driving your car or owning a home. We typically sell insurance policies; basically, a contract saying we will help you recover costs in the event of damage/theft to your property. Essentially, we protect people from life's uncertainties and risks. Your online identity is at risk, as explained above, with our increased digital lives. We have innovated to create a protection for digital identity. Allstate Identity Protection helps you stay safe in the digital world by watching out for you, even when you're not online. Our R&D developed novel ways to detect your Digital Footprint and to monitor the 'dark web' should any of your details get leaked there. This has since been developed into a product feature as part of our new identity protection business — check it out at

Whether it is developing new products or services, changing how we deliver those to the market or communicating with our customers, innovation is an essential enterprise capability. Many organisations in Northern Ireland possess this capability. Anyone that has visited the local conferences such as Digital DNA or BelTech will know that there are many companies in Northern Ireland that are at the leading edge of technology. Leading not just locally, but on a global stage, and right here on your doorstep. Living and working in Northern Ireland enables us to compete globally and work locally. There are many existing and soon-to-be globally recognisable brands in Northern Ireland, helping drive toward the shared vision of a 10x Economy. Technology companies require people with tech and non-tech skills — there's more to creating and marketing a tech product than programming a computer. Tech industry needs people leaders, thought leaders, people that love to organise projects and get things done on time, and people that can design engaging and effective experiences for consumers. There are many pathways to a successful career in a technology company. We go out of our way to build teams consisting of diverse skills and perspectives. People of different cultural and ethnical background, life experiences and education pathways and genders, are essential to help create products and services that meet the needs of a diverse world and society. Diversity helps enable our Innovation Driven Enterprise.