As Head of Connected Home and Product Innovation at Direct Line Group (DLG), Jenny is responsible for defining and delivering product innovation through the Connected Home strategy. With almost 20 years’ experience of working in the insurance industry, most recently in insurance product development and trading performance management, Jenny brings an unrelenting focus on customers and how to deliver value in a relatively unknown area of opportunity. She has an eye on the future, working across all functions within the organisation and externally with technology partners to monitor consumer trends and market insights, analysing how these create opportunities for Direct Line Group.
“…Diversity helps to drive innovation and great ideas, so you need a range of experiences and approaches in a team to really enhance the work you do collectively…”
Enhancing and improving our customers’ experiences
When I left university, I didn’t have an idea of what my career would be. I sort of fell into insurance and my love of it has grown. As my career has progressed, I have found myself seeking out roles that focus on change and product development.
Such roles have ranged from business analysis through trading performance management and then into product development and innovation. I am motivated by roles which focus on enhancing and improving our customers’ experiences.
Understanding opportunities from connected homes
At the moment, my role is focused on developing our understanding of the opportunity which connected homes brings for us and our customers. I spend time analysing consumer trends, listening to our customers and understanding their needs. I also spend time building relationships with potential partners and running pilots and test and learn activity.
The majority of the projects I work on are focused on how we can build on Direct Line’s current Home Insurance propositions, potentially through connected home technology, to further enhance our customers’ experience of their products.
Harnessing technology to enable customers to control and personalise their services
People want more control and they expect to be able to access information immediately, to be able to control things in their life in very simple ways. Voice search and control has grown rapidly, primarily driven by Amazon Alexa and Google Home, so that fits neatly into the need for easy control.
Personalisation is also a key trend, as consumers expect companies and their technology to be able to understand them, and to respond to their specific needs.
Companies who use technology which meets both trends will be the ones driving innovation and being successful.
Gender balance in the insurance industry
The gender balance in the insurance industry is improving, and it is great to see companies like Direct Line Group signing up to the Women in Finance Charter. I see really positive changes taking place to promote gender equality and things do feel different to how they were 20 years ago when I first started working.
Diversity helps to drive innovation and great ideas, so you need a range of experiences and approaches in a team to really enhance the work you do collectively.
Advice to girls and women interested in careers in innovation and product development
My advice to women who are interested in careers in innovation and product development are to remain authentic and be their true selves at work.
They should build a great network – both within the organisation they work for and external to it – make this a mix of people who inspire them, who can support and motivate them. They should try to break traditional thinking and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help or support.
It is important to stay educated about the world around them by following consumer trends and taking inspiration from a range of sectors. Finally, they should always, always keep customers central to everything that they do.
Future advances in connected homes
I love my Alexa and I think this development will be the most exciting. Voice control will unlock smart home technology for a lot of consumers and as more and more people buy these products, the better the technology will become.
While I can’t divulge too much about my up and coming projects, smart home technology gives us interesting opportunities when it comes to developing services for our customers. We are now at an exciting phase where we will see how our customers will react to our ideas.