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7 Symbiotic Ties With Insurtechs

Our previous blogpost introduced the Top 10 insurtech trends for 2017. We received a lot of requests to share more of our view with regard to the last trend we mentioned: symbiotic relationships with insurtechs. Banks and insurers are looking for ways to learn much more from the fintechs and insurtechs they are investing in and partnering with. This is indeed a critical issue to accelerate innovation in banking and insurance.

In our new book “Reinventing Customer Engagement: The next level of digital transformation for banks and insurers,” we actually included seven best practices — seven examples of banks and insurers that created very different ways of working with fintechs and insurtechs. (The book will be available Feb. 23, but you can already pre-order at Amazon).

Corporate Venturing

Virtually every bank and insurer is organizing competitions and hackathons or supports one or more accelerator programs. Some have started their own corporate venture arm. Obviously, corporate venturing should not be the main way for financial institutions to reinvent themselves. It is a means but not an end in itself. The challenge of the digital transformation is essentially a cultural one that involves the whole company, not just the technology. Working with fintechs and insurtechs offers the opportunity to rethink and accelerate innovation. Innovation is not about asking customers in focus groups what they want. It is about understanding new technologies and how they will interact with consumer behavior. And that is one of the things fintechs and insurtechs are much better at than incumbents. Therefore, financial institutions need to really immerse in the fintech community to stay on pace or maybe even a step ahead in a rapidly changing technology environment, or, better still, to shake up the status quo and accelerate change in the stagnant financial industry.

Minh Q. Tran (AXA Strategic Ventures). Key note address at DIA Barcelona in 2016

Banks and insurers are looking for ways to learn much more from the fintechs and insurtechs they are investing in and partnering with — whether it is about specific capabilities or concrete instruments they can use in the incumbent organization, or whether it is about the culture and the way of working. (At last year’s edition of our Digital Insurance Agenda, Minh Q. Tran, general partner at AXA Strategic Partners, and Moshe Tamir, global head of digital transformation at Generali, shared their view. Check here for the interview with Tamir. Obviously, expect more such keynotes addressing this critical issue at DIA Amsterdam, which will take place May 10-11, 2017.)

We have come across quite a few different models in which relationships between financial institutions and fintechs/insurtechs seem to flourish. In this blogpost, we included seven examples. This is not meant to be exhaustive. New kinds of symbiotic relationships evolve every day, and of course they can be combined.

1. DBS Bank: Fintech Injections

Neal Cross, chief innovation officer at DBS Bank, involves fintechs in his own distinctive way: “I don’t do innovation, I do sales. I sell programs that solve business problems inside the bank. We always start with their problems, around business model innovation or around KPIs. The start-up community plays a key role in our programs. I often tell our business units: ‘Give us 20 of your staff, we will split them into teams and pair them with startups.’ By embedding our staff in this agile, lean mean way of working, everyone benefits. We make sure our teams work within structured processes that include research, experimentation and prototyping, followed by implementation. Everything we do is focused, and we get senior sponsorship before embarking on a project, so we don’t have problems with innovations that end up not being implemented.”

Neal Cross

2. Aviva: Icons

This is the best practice that we included in our previous blogpost. Andrew Brem, chief digital officer at Aviva: ‘In our view, ‘icons’ are needed to spearhead the digital transformation process. Our digital garages in London and Singapore are such icons. They are a very concrete and visual manifestation of our digital journey – for everyone across Aviva. The garages are not just idea labs to house ‘skunk works’ teams. They are real places, where we make and break things. We run digital businesses from the Garages, and we design and build our digital ecosystems such as MyAviva. Anyone from Aviva is welcome to come and hold workshops and meetings there, to see and feel our digital capabilities at first hand. The garages also help us engage with insurtechs and inject their culture into our organization; by launching startups ourselves, but also by partnering, mentoring and investing. Aviva Ventures, with a fund of £100 million, is also housed in the garage, and so are some of the startups they invest in, such as the IoT home security startup Cocoon.”

Aviva Garage, Shoreditch, London

3. Deutsche Bank: Digital Factory

In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank started its “digital factory.” More than 400 IT specialists and banking experts from the private, wealth and commercial clients division are working on a specific site in Frankfurt to develop new digital products and services for the bank’s customers. In addition, there are 50 places for external partners from the fintech community. The digital factory is obviously also connected with the Deutsche Bank’s innovation labs in Berlin, London and Palo Alto CA.

4. Munich Re: Interfaces

Andrew Rear, CEO of Munich Re Digital Partners: “To avoid a culture clash, we have set up a separate Digital Partners unit in 2016. To make the interface between the two worlds work, two things are vital: The first is speed. Startups move fast and don’t accept the limitations of a corporate diary: ‘Time is money’ is literally true for them. We therefore need to move with the same sense of pace. The second is decision-making: Start-ups make decisions; they don’t arrange committees. Therefore, we don’t do that, either. All the key decisions from Munich Re’s side are in our hands. In our model we do the things startups don’t need to control, to make their proposition live. That can include policy administration, compliance, reporting and product pricing; the ‘boring insurance’ stuff. We have stakes in our start-up partners but we don’t interfere in the way they engage their customers. The positive effects on our ‘regular’ organization are noticeable. For example, people in compliance and risk management were not used to these new speeds but are already adapting and finding new ways to fulfill their responsibilities in a way that is manageable for the start-up.”

Example of an interface between Munich Re and startups at regional level is Mundi Lab. Mundi Lab is an accelerator partnership between Munich Re Iberia & Latin America and Alma Mundi Ventures. Augusto Diaz-Leante, senior vice president of Munich Re Life, Spain, Portugal and Latin America, explains how the cross-fertilization with startups works: “We select startups from all over the world, such as RiskApp from Italy and Netbee from Brazil. Twenty Munich Re executives mentor these startups one-on-one. The best-performing companies with the highest potential to disrupt the insurance industry have the opportunity to work on a pilot program in one of the Munich Re Iberia or Latin America markets. In this way, the sharing of knowledge, experience and expertise is made very concrete.”

The Munich Re Mundi Lab team

5. Zurich: Open Innovation

Zurich created a platform to bring together the innovation initiatives and projects in the group. Xavier Tuduri, CEO of ServiZurich Technology Delivery Center: “In the Zurich Innovation Lab, we generate disruptive ideas and strategic R&D projects for the global Zurich group. We believe in open innovation, a collaborative model that means combining the internal knowledge, for example regarding markets with external talent and disruptive technologies. In this way we are always at the forefront of the latest disruptive fintech and insurtech developments, while being able to quickly develop tangible prototypes that fit and inspire our businesses. These are prototypes, without risky high investments, for example regarding using drones for risk assessment. Each prototype project is led by an employee of ServiZurich who works together in a team with several start-ups, universities and institutions. In this way, our people and organization get injected with new ways of working and thinking.”

6. Chebanica!: Co-Opetition

If a financial institution wants to behave like a fintech, it needs to open up, think of what the ecosystem could look like, be at the forefront to see what is happening and partner with fintechs to accelerate innovation, to learn or to advance the sector as a whole. Roberto Ferrari (CheBanca!) is a protagonist of this mindset: “We believe in a ‘co-opetition’ model. There will be things in which we will be competing with fintechs and other banks, and areas where we will be cooperating with the same parties. Therefore, we try to make the Italian fintech community grow. Building a larger cake will be for the good of the whole financial ecosystem, innovation is key and startups will always be the lifeblood of any sector. We among others launched the Italian fintech awards and the Smartmoney blog, which is now the most important vertical innovation in banking blogs in Italy. We now have a very strong presence in the Italian fintech community, and we are close to all developments and connections. I and other C-level executives at our bank speak to at least five to six fintechs each week, and we have already launched two new services – award-winning Mobile Wallet and Robo Adviser — thanks to our partnership with some specialized Italian fintech startups. We help them by partnering, but also we want to help them to go abroad as scale is key to succeed.”

Roberto Ferrari (right) with Matteo Rizzi (left, one of the most influential fintech experts)

7. Metlife: Capability Building

Lee Ng, vice president and COO of LumenLab, MetLife’s innovation center in Singapore: “LumenLab and our new businesses are distinct from MetLife’s core business. Our mission is to create a growth engine that launches disruptive new revenue-generating businesses for MetLife, targeting the needs of Asian consumers across health, aging and wealth. But we do work with in-country experts to develop plans for testing the new business ideas and assess market potential. In our first year we, for instance, launched BerryQ, a quiz app that rewards users for their health knowledge; Rememory Stories, a platform to capture intergenerational stories; and developed CONVRSE, virtual reality experiences around service and sales for financial services. We notice a real mindset shift within MetLife because of this cooperation. The people we work with develop skills about new ways of testing new ideas, new toolkits and new ways of thinking. Our core insurance business thus improves their performance, through adopting new behaviors like curiosity, velocity, experimentalism and bravery. In others words, we are lighting a path for innovation at MetLife.”

MetLife’s LumenLab, Singapore

We believe that it will be increasingly important to adopt a culture of constant innovation, to stay in sync with all that is going on out there. Rather than trying to change their DNA, which is quite impossible, banks and insurers should think that constant innovation is the only way to adapt the DNA to the change that is taking place. You can, for example, buy great algorithms, but if you are not able to transform your culture, the implementation of these algorithms will fail. A banker shared with us: “I see working with fintechs like vaccinations in biology: these injections in our cytoplasm help us prepare ourselves for new attacks and adapt to changing environments. If you acquire new fintech companies, you could destroy them if you don’t adapt to them as an organization. You have to adapt the mindset of your own people. It is like playing a piano. Some people sit down on their piano chair and move their chair to the piano. Other people don’t want to change their position and try to pull the piano to their chair. We should therefore teach people to move their chair after sitting down. How to move the chair will depend upon the situation, but should always deliver value to our customers.”

Working With Fintechs and Insurtechs at DIA Amsterdam

Maximizing the results from working with insurtechs is an essential subject on the Digital Insurance Agenda. So definitely expect us to pay ample attention to this at DIA Amsterdam: our two-day conference connecting insurance executives with insurtech leaders. Check out www.digitalinsuranceagenda.com for more information.

10 Predictions for Insurtech in 2017

It’s time to reflect on the passing year, mark my predictions from last year and throw some light on what I see 2017 holding in store.

In my post from this time last year, I made a number of predictions, so, now, I wanted to look at how I did. Feel free to jump in and see how close to the mark I was and share your perspectives.

Reviewing 2016 — How did I do?

1. Fintech and insurtech.  In last year’s piece, I said that 2015 was the year of the zone, loft, garage and accelerator and that this would continue in 2016 with more focus. Regarding fintech and insurtech, I was right. We have seen some heavyweight investment (more so in the U.S. and Asia) and no major failures, to my knowledge. Trending up. Points: 1. 

2. Evolution of IoT. In 2015, I wrote, “2016 will be the year we all realize (IoT) is just another data/automated question set.” Evolution here is continuing, but not at the pace I expected. New firms such as Concirrus (and many others) have come up with some great examples of managing and leveraging the ecosystem. Points 2.

3. Digital and data. At the end of last year, I said 2016 would continue to be a big area of growth for both. There’s been progress, yes, and pace and traction ahead of what’s expected. Points 3.

4. M&A will continue but will slow. I think this has slowed this year, with two of the three major regions in the latter half of the year focused on Brexit and the U.S. election. Now, folks are trying to work out where that leaves fintech/insurtech. Points 4.

5. Will the CDO Survive? I said I thought we’d see a move back to the chief customer officer. Well, no sign of my chief customer officers yet! (Although, after writing this, I came across three chief customer officers, so it’s a start). Have you ever asked an insurance company or people inside the company “who owns the customer?” To me, we’re still product-centric rather than customer-centric. Points 4.

6. New business models. I said last year that we’d need to be clear on what the new business model will be — and what it needs to be. This year, there’s been lots of talk in this area, including here at Deloitte in our Turbulence Ahead report. We identified four business models for the future: 1) Individualization of insurance, 2) Off-the-shelf insurance, 3) Insurance as utilities and, finally, 4) Insurance as portfolio. It may take longer for this to materialize, but, without doubt, these models are coming. See my colleague Emma Logan describe these here. Points 5.

7. What we buy and sell. I believed that, last year, we’d move away from a product mindset to become more relevant and convenient. But we’re still in talking mode, although the ideas here are evolving rapidly. Expect an all-risks policy in Q2 2017. Points 5.

8. Cyber is the new digital. There has been an increase in the number of products and players, but there still hasn’t been any personal cyber policy. I expect that to come in 2017 still. Points 6.

9. Partnerships and bundling. In 2015, I thought we’d see a big rise in the partnerships between insurers and third parties. That’s happened. Points: 7.

So I’m marking my 2015 predictions as 7/9 (or 78% ) — a good effort, but I may have been a bit too ambitious.

See also: 4 Marketing Lessons for Insurtechs  

Moving into 2017

Re-reading the above, I still feel all my predictions are valid, be it the end of the CDO, the birth of personal cyber or an all-risks policy. I’ve been involved in enough conversations over the last 12 months to say these are all very real, although some are closer to seeing the light of day than others.

Moving into 2017, here are my top 10 trends to watch:

  1. Speed. Almost all conversations about insurance start with a statement that we’re not moving quickly enough — from transforming and modernizing the legacy estates to quite simply getting products to market quicker. We can no longer wait six months to launch new or updated products. Look at those who managed to capitalize on Pokemon Go insurance cover. In insurance, we’ll move from fast walking to jogging and sprinting. But take caution: This is still a marathon, and there’s still a long way to go. In fact, as Rick Huckstep wrote recently, the sheer speed at which the insurance market has grown in the last 21 months is part of the challenge and attraction.
  2. AI, cognitive learning and machine learning. AI has been long bandied around as a material disruptor. On the back of collecting/orchestrating the data, it’s critical to drive material insight and intelligence from this and allow organizations, brokers and consumers to make subsequent decisions. In 2017, AI will come of age with some impressive examples, including voice. In 2016, we saw Amazon’s Echo and Google Home product launches, as well as some insurers — like Liberty Mutual — giving voice a try. Imagine asking freely, “Am I covered for…?” or, “What’s the status of my claim?” Adding this skill to the mix will likely be table stakes. In addition, AI will augment other solutions to drive value, e.g. robotic process automation, which I wrote about here. All this boils down to getting a better grip on the amazing data we have already while leveraging the vast open data sets available to us.
  3. Line of business focus shift. The insurtech world will make a definitive shift from all the wonderful personal line examples to SME (the next obvious candidate) and to more specialty and complex commercial examples. Will Thorne of the Channel Syndicate wrote a great piece on this in November. While the challenges are harder and more complex, I believe the benefits are greater once we get to them.
  4. Believers. The market has polarized somewhat between those who believe in major innovation and are pushing hard, and those who don’t (or have a different focus and near-term objectives). The range is from those who worry about the next 90 days/half-year results to those who are actively looking to cannibalize their business and investing to find the most efficient way to do this. Here, there’s no right or wrong, with hundreds of organizations strewn across the path. I still believe more will move to the cannibalization route as the first carriers start to unlock material value in 2017, including continued startup acquisition. Oliver Bate (Allianz) had an interesting and positive perspective on this during his company’s investor day in November.
  5. Scale and profitability. Over the last 12 to 18 months, I’ve seen some great startup organizations; internal innovation and disruption teams; VCs; and more. Now is the time to work out how we industrialize and scale these. This is the very same challenge the banking and fintech communities are going through. If you’re an insurance company with 30 million or 80 million global customers, should you be worried about Startup X that has 10,000 or 100,000 customers? If they do manage to scale, can they do so profitability? This reminds me of a recent article about how unprofitable Uber is, but, with millions of engaged customers, they have our attention now. Profitability will become front and center. In fact, Andrew Rear over at Munich Re Digital Partners put together a good post on what the company looks for and why he and the team chose the six they did.
  6. Orchestration. With all of these startups in insurtech, we’ll need to quickly understand what role they play. Are they a platform play, end product play, point disruptor or something else? Regardless, given the volume and velocity of data generation, the importance of both API connectivity and the ability to orchestrate it will increase dramatically. For me, these are table stakes.
  7. External disruptors. In the Turbulence Ahead The Future of General Insurance report released earlier this year, we identified six key external disruptors that are happening regardless of the insurance industry. These are 1) the sharing economy, 2) self-driving cars and ADAS, 3) the Internet of Things, 4) social and big data, 5) machine learning and predictive analytics, and 6) distributed ledger technology. The key for me within insurance is to identify what role we’ll play. I believe we’ll continue to firmly be the partner of choice for many given our societal and necessary position in the global economy.
  8. Micro insurance. Here, I specifically mean the growth of micro policies, covering specific risks for specific times. Whereas we typically annually see 1.1 policies per customer, we’ll see eight to 10 micro policies covering a shorter period (episodic or usage-based insurance) as per our business models described in the Turbulence Report. This will be true for all lines of business. We’ve already seen some great launches in this space — including Trov, which partnered with Munich Re in the U.S., AXA in the U.K. and SunCorp in Australia. There’s been global access through partnering with established players that has created a new way to market to the next generation. While we switch this on manually by swiping left and right (given some of the external disruptors and location based services), this will very much be automatic going forward. Insurers will need to find new ways to orchestrate, partner and find value to bring in clients. It won’t be just one policy, it will be many that they orchestrate to deliver clients everything they need.
  9. Blockchain and DLT. I almost didn’t include blockchain here, but two factors have led me to include this for the first time: 1) the number of requests we’re now seeing in the market for both specific solutions and more education/use cases and 2) the fact that nine of the 18 startups in the FCA’s new Sandbox are blockchain-related. In 2016, we saw lots of PoC examples, trials and the first live insurance product on the blockchain (see: FlightDelay). Some use cases are more developed than others, and some markets are more suitable than others (I’m still looking for good examples in personal lines), so I believe this will evolve in 2017 but that there won’t be scale breakthroughs. However, along with the World Economic Forum, I firmly believe that “The most imminent effects of disruption will be felt in the banking sector; however, the greatest impact of disruption is likely to be felt in the insurance sector.” We still must ask, “why blockchain?” Just because you can use it? It needs to be the right solution for the right business problem. Horizontal use cases such as digital identity or payments offer compelling use cases that can easily be applied within insurance. In many ways, blockchain, for me, feels much more like an infrastructure play in the same way we would do core systems transformation (policy, claims, billing, finance, etc.)
  10. Business as usual — for now! Partly related to No. 4, we still need to run our business. How we do this and how we set up for the future will be another challenge — not just from a technology perspective but from a people and organization design perspective. (How we work, collaborate and more.) What are the transition states from our current models to a new world in 12, 24 or 36 months. Forward-thinking organization are putting plans in place now for their organizations in the years to come. This will become more important as we embed, partner and acquire startups and move toward new ways of engaging and working with customers.

Interestingly, there are now also so many accelerators, garages, hubs, etc. that startups all now have a lot of choices regarding where to incubate and grow. This presents a whole new challenge on the rush to insurance disruption.

See also: Asia Will Be Focus of Insurtech in 2017  

Finally, there are two other observations I wanted to share:

  1. China. While I don’t spend any time in China, it’s hard not to be in awe of what is going on — specifically, the speed and scale at which things are happening. China’s first online insurer, Zhong An, did an interview with Bloomberg regarding what the company is doing with technology (including blockchain) and, more importantly, its scale ($8 billion market cap in two years, 1.6 billion policies sold) — and the only concern from the COO, Wayne Xu, is that the company isn’t moving quickly enough! Step away from this and look further to what’s happening with disruption in general with Alipay and others from the BAT (China’s equivalent of GAFA — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) is simply amazing. There’s a good FT article on Tencent, the killer-app factory, and the sheer speed and scale of disruption.
  2. Community. The global insurtech (and fintech) community is an amazing group of people from around the world who have come together across borders and time zones to further challenge and develop the market. Each geography has its own unique features, mature players, startups, labs, accelerators, regulators and, of course, independent challenges. We don’t always see eye to eye, which makes it all that more rewarding because you’re challenged by industry veterans and outside-thinking entrepreneurs. This year’s InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas with more than 1,600 people was truly amazing to see. Things have clearly moved far beyond a small isolated hive of activity with varying levels of maturity to a globally recognized movement. It was great to meet and to see so many carriers, startups, VCs, regulators and partners looking to further the conversation and debate around insurance and insurtech. This community will, no doubt, continue to grow at a fast pace as we look for insurtech successes, and I look forward to seeing how the 2017 discussion, debate and collaboration will continue.

As always, I look forward to your feedback! What I have I missed?

Here’s to an exciting 2017!