InsurTech Week 2016 hosted by the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines was a great experience. It is quite interesting to see the energy, excitement, new ideas and investment in the insurance industry. Brian Hemesath and his team at the GIA have done a great job of harnessing this activity and being a positive force for change in the industry.
There are two themes I would like to highlight. The first is that the ingenuity and sheer variety of the startups is astounding – and will ultimately be a great thing for the industry. The second theme, and perhaps the more subtle one, is that there is a collegial atmosphere and a common sense of purpose about the role of insurance in society and business.
Variety and Ingenuity
The 11 insurtech startups participating in this InsurTech Week are a microcosm of the larger movement. A few examples are illustrative.
- Abaris – an innovative, direct-to-consumer solution for retirement planning, starting with income annuities.
- Insure A Thing – an idea for a revolutionary new business model for insurance that includes making payments in arrears (post-claim).
- Denim – a social media ad platform for insurance with a vision to ultimately reimagine marketing and distribution.
- ViewSpection – a mobile app for DIY property inspections to help to inexpensively provide more information to agents and underwriters.
The other participants also had innovative solutions for various lines of business and addressed key business issues in insurance today. They are: Ask Kodiak, Gain Compliance, Montoux, InsureCrypt, Elagy, CoverScience and Superior Informatics.
Some are in the early stages. Some originated outside North America and may or may not enter the market here. Some may not even be approved by regulators in their current form. But that is true of the broader set of the hundreds of insurtech companies that are active today.
The main point is that there is a great deal of innovation here, and many of these companies will play a role in the evolution of insurance, one way or another.
The founders and investors in insurtech companies certainly desire to make money. Insurers that are engaging with these firms hope to gain competitive advantage. But in keeping with the culture of the insurance industry, there is also a great atmosphere of collaboration and even a sense that there is a higher purpose.
I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but there is a sense of altruism here – a sense that there are great opportunities to make the world a better place. Many of the insurtech companies see opportunities to improve safety in homes, in businesses, in factories and on the roads. The potential to significantly reduce accidents and deaths is tangible. Providing new services and capabilities to enhance lifestyles, improving individual well-being and just making it easier for customers to do business with the industry are also common purposes.
There is a spirit of cooperation among insurers, insurtech and other industry players, even in cases where companies are competitors. Not to criticize other industries, but insurance is about a lot more than selling a widget and making a buck.
A Bright Industry Future
Overall, I believe this is cause for optimism for the insurance industry. It is not easy to transform from today’s business models, processes and systems into a future that embraces all the new ideas coming from insurtech. But many in the industry are now actively involved in building strategies, experimenting with new ideas and technologies, launching ventures and generally being willing to think differently.
While many industries are being disrupted, insurance is more likely to morph into a better version of itself, with incumbent players learning from and partnering with new players.