Tag Archives: CoverWallet

New Era of Commercial Insurance

Despite a generally soft market for traditional P&C products, the fact that so many industries and the businesses within them are being reshaped by technology is creating opportunities (and more challenges). Consider insurers with personal and commercial auto. Pundits are predicting a rapid decline in personal auto premiums and questioning the viability of both personal and commercial auto due to the emergence of autonomous technologies and driverless vehicles, as well as the increasing use of alternative options (ride-sharing, public transportation, etc.).

Finding alternative growth strategies is “top of mind” for CEOs.  Opportunities can be captured from the change within commercial and specialty insurance. New risks, new markets, new customers and the demand for new products and services may fill the gaps for those who are prepared.

Our new research, A New Age of Insurance: Growth Opportunities for Commercial and Specialty Insurance at a Time of Market Disruption, highlights how changing trends in demographics, customer behaviors, technology, data and market boundaries are creating a dramatic shift from traditional commercial and specialty products to the new, post-digital age products redefining the market of the future.

See also: Insurtechs Are Pushing for Transparency

Growth Opportunities

New technologies, demographics, behaviors and more will fuel the growth of new businesses and industries over the next 10 years. Commercial and specialty insurance provides a critical role to these businesses and the economy — protecting them from failure by assuming the risks inherent in their transformation.

Industry statistics for the “traditional” commercial marketplace don’t yet reflect the potential growth from these new markets. The Insurance Information Institute expects overall personal and commercial exposures to increase between 4% and 4.5% in 2017 but cautioned that continued soft rates in commercial lines could cause overall P&C premium growth to lag behind economic growth.

But a diverse group of customers will increasingly create narrow segments that will demand niche, personalized products and services. Many do not fit neatly within pre-defined categories of risk and products for insur­ance, creating opportunities for new products and services.

Small and medium businesses are at the forefront of this change and at the center of business creation, business transformation and growth in the economy.

  • By 2020, more than 60% of small businesses in the U.S. will be owned by millennials and Gen Xers — two groups that prefer to do as much as possible digitally. Furthermore, their views, behaviors and expectations are different than those of previous generations and will be influenced by their personal digital experiences.
  • The sharing/gig/on-demand economy is an example of the significant digitally enabled changes in people’s behaviors and expectations that are redefining the nature of work, business models and risk profiles.
  • The rapid emergence of technologies and the explosion of data are combining to create a magnified impact. Technology and data are making it easier and more profitable to reach, underwrite and service commercial and specialty market segments. In particular, insurers can narrow and specialize various segments into new niches. In addition, the combination of technology and data is disrupting other industries, changing existing business models and creating businesses and risks that need new types of insurance.
  • New products can be deployed on demand, and industry boundaries are blurring. Traditional insurance or new forms of insurance may be embedded in the purchase of products and services.

Insurtech is re-shaping this new digital world and disrupting the traditional insurance value chain for commercial and specialty insurance, leading to specialty protection for a new era of business. Consider insurtech startups like Embroker, Next Insurance, Ask Kodiak, CoverWallet, Splice and others. Not being left behind, traditional insurers are creating innovative business models for commercial and specialty insurance, like Berkshire Hathaway with biBERK for direct to small business owners; Hiscox, which offers small business insurance (SBI) products directly from its website; or American Family, which invested in AssureStart, now part of Homesite, a direct writer of SBI.

The Domino Effect

We all likely played with dominoes in our childhood, setting them up in a row and seeing how we could orchestrate a chain reaction. Now, as adults, we are seeing and playing with dominoes at a much higher level. Every business has been or likely will be affected by a domino effect.

What is different in today’s business era, as opposed to even a decade ago, is that disruption in one industry has a much broader ripple effect that disrupts the risk landscape of multiple other industries and creates additional risks. We are compelled to watch the chains created from inside and outside of insurance. Recognizing that this domino effect occurs is critical to developing appropriate new product plans that align to these shifts.

Just consider the following disrupted industries and then think about the disrupters and their casualties: taxis and ridesharing (Lyft, Uber), movie rentals (Blockbuster) and streaming video (NetFlix), traditional retail (Sears and Macy’s) and online retail, enterprise systems (Siebel, Oracle) and cloud platforms (Salesforce and Workday), and book stores (Borders) and Amazon. Consider the continuing impact of Amazon, with the announcement about acquiring Whole Foods and the significant drop in stock prices for traditional grocers. Many analysts noted that this is a game changer with massive innovative opportunities.

The transportation industry is at the front end of a massive domino-toppling event. A report from RethinkX, The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the Internal-Combustion Vehicle and Oil Industries, says that by 2030 (within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles (AVs)), 95% of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals, in a new business model called “transportation-as-a-service” (TaaS). The TaaS disruption will have enormous implications across the automotive industry, but also many other industries, including public transportation, oil, auto repair shops and gas stations. The result is that not just one industry could be disrupted … many could be affected by just one domino … autonomous vehicles. Auto insurance is in this chain of disruption.

See also: Leveraging AI in Commercial Insurance  

And commercial insurance, because it is used by all businesses to provide risk protection, is also in the chain of all those businesses affected – a decline in number of businesses, decline in risk products needed and decline in revenue. The domino effect will decimate traditional business, product and revenue models, while creating growth opportunities for those bold enough to begin preparing for it today with different risk products.

Transformation + Creativity = Opportunity

Opportunity in insurance starts with transformation. New technologies will be enablers on the path to innovative ideas. As the new age of insurance unfolds, insurers must recommit to their business transformation journey and avoid falling into an operational trap or resorting to traditional thinking. In this changing insurance market, new competitors don’t play by the rules of the past. Insurers need to be a part of rewriting the rules for the future, because there is less risk when you write the new rules. One of those rules is diversification. Diversification is about building new products, exploring new markets and taking new risks. The cost of ignoring this can be brutal. Insurers that can see the change and opportunity for commercial and specialty lines will set themselves apart from those that do not.

For a greater in-depth look at the implications of commercial insurance shifts, be sure to downloadA New Age of Insurance: Growth Opportunities for Commercial and Specialty Insurance at a Time of Market Disruption.

The Need to Educate on General Liability

In a perfect world, insurance buyers would understand their products just as well their insurance agents. This would save a few headaches for everyone involved, and it would probably streamline the process on all ends. However, the reality is that most business owners don’t understand the extent of the insurance products they purchase. Then again, no one should expect them to.

Insurance products are highly complex vehicles. Few business owners have the time to invest in becoming experts in the field or in the products they purchase. Even the best insurance agents spend years learning about the products they sell, many of which change frequently as the economy changes.

That being said, no business owner should simply buy a product without understanding the most important aspects regarding what it does and does not cover. In truth, a highly skilled insurance agent should never let them, either. Here’s where there can be a gap between how much insurance a business purchases and how much it actually needs, showing why educating business owners on the extent of their insurance really matters.

False Perceptions of General Liability Are Common

Many customers tend to believe their insurance covers more than it actually does. This situation could probably be applied to any insurance product, but general liability policies are often the most frequently misunderstood by buyers.

See also: What to Expect on Management Liability  

To put it simply, far too many businesses are purchasing less insurance coverage than they should. In a sense, many are taking a huge gamble, believing their risk exposure is less than what it actually is or that their preventative measures, such as employee training, can shield them from those risks. While risk prevention definitely helps, it’s ultimately far from the bulletproof shield many companies think it is. Most companies do it to help themselves get a better rate on their insurance, while maintaining the false perception that their general liability coverage protects them against a multitude of risks not actually defined in the policy.

As a company scales in size, so, too, does its likelihood of experiencing losses related to cyber liability, employee fraud, fiduciary liability, directors and officers (D&O) or workplace violence. Yet many companies seem not to realize their exposure.

This would, of course, be less troubling if companies were purchasing policies that actually covered those kind of risks. Overwhelmingly, they’re choosing to avoid those insurance products altogether. According to Chubb’s survey on private company risk, non-purchasers believed their general liability policy covered:

  • Directors and Officers Liability (65%)
  • Employment Practices Liability (60%)
  • Errors & Omissions Liability (52%)
  • Fiduciary Liability (51%)
  • Cyber Liability (39%)

Businesses aren’t failing to purchase enough liability coverage because they’re unnecessary risk takers. Most, it seems, simply have false perceptions about what their general liability will and won’t do.

A small business may think its general liability policy covers a server hack. Yet, lo and behold, when a server gets hacked and the ensuing liability claims start pouring in, that small business may quickly find itself underwater. In fact, the U.S National Cyber Security Alliance found that the 60% of small companies went out of business within six months of a cyber attack. This seems extreme, but the average cost for a small business to clean up after a hack is $690,000, according to the Ponemon Institute. How many small- or medium-sized businesses can easily absorb that kind of cost without insurance coverage? Not many.

Similarly, mid-sized companies may believe their general liability policy covers directors and officers, leaving the company with unnecessary risk exposures should an incident occur. If, for example, a company begins operating internationally and fails to effectively meet one of the federal regulations governing its industry, a general liability policy won’t help protect the company from impending lawsuits. Any directors held personally responsible may find their own personal assets at risk. Given what we learned from the Chubb survey, it’s quite likely that most directors may think they’re fine with the minimal coverage they receive from a general liability policy. A costly mistake, to be sure.

Who’s to Blame?

We’ll leave the finger pointing aside for now and settle on this: The customer is always right, but he’s not always well-informed. As every insurance agent knows, the amount of time it takes to fully understand an insurance product can be extensive. Business owners, in general, lack the time to invest in fully understanding the products they purchase. It should come as no surprise, then, that misunderstandings arise over what general liability policies actually cover and what risks they simply won’t mitigate.

See also: ISO Form Changes Commercial General Liability  

Insurance agents have a responsibility to use their knowledge to help business owners better understand and sift through those misconceptions. More needs to be done to help decision-makers understand what they are and are not getting from their insurance.

Helping businesses better understand the ins and outs of their general liability policy is a win-win all around.

Why Disintermediation Is Overrated

Venture capital money has poured into insurance technology to the tune of more than $3 billion in the last 18 months. Much of this capital has financed companies founded under ambitious missions and goals:

“It’s a digital-first, direct-to-consumer agency — we’ll be a carrier in 18 months.”

“We’re a mobile-first, full-suite personal insurance shopper.”

“We’re leveraging IoT and blockchain to completely redefine underwriting — in a way that makes sense to consumers.”

Wow, sounds disruptive.

Anyone close to the insurance industry has heard some variation of these assertions countless times over the past 18 months as entrepreneurs have identified the antiquated insurance industry as one ripe for disruption. There’s no arguing that insurance is a relative laggard in a financial services industry that has seen material innovation over the past decade. Advancements in payments, investment management and lending have permanently altered the way consumers think about banking and the movement of capital, while insurance has remained relatively underserved by technology.

See also: Find Your Voice as an Insurance Agent  

Technological innovation across industries has typically come in two ways: through uprooting incumbents or through empowering the existing system. In industries and business lines that are largely commoditized, the former approach has historically created lasting value — with Uber being a prime example. Meanwhile, industries that require expertise or personal touch have generally innovated incrementally by enabling existing channels — Charles Schwab or Sabre are examples.

Most agree technology will improve the user experience in insurance. Most agree technology will provide new access to data sources to improve underwriting. But will technology actually displace the incumbents and existing institutions? Is that the approach that will work in insurance? In some cases, yes. In the case of the commercial insurance, we generally think not.

Disintermediation? We see empowerment.

At first glance, commercial insurance may seem like an ideal candidate for meaningful disruption. It is a substantial market with more than $240 billion in premiums written annually; it has a brick-and-mortar, aging distribution channel (39,000-plus retail agents with an average age over 50); it primarily operates with pen and paper communication; and it largely functions in a data vacuum. In addition to these structural features, many small commercial policies can now be quoted, rated and bound instantly (they don’t need human review). This seems like a startup opportunity in a box.

With these market fundamentals in hand, a host of direct-to- consumer digital insurance brokers or companies (MGAs) are entering the market with the intent of disintermediating existing channels and delivering instant policies to small commercial insureds. Examples of some of these are Next Insurance, Embroker, Coverwallet, Trym — and the list goes on. For some business owners, purchasing coverage in this manner may in fact be the best way to transfer their business’ risks. Though it is quite likely the amount of premium placed through digital channels will increase from its current number (around 4%), we see the incumbent brick-and-mortar retail brokers, who command 96% of placed premium, as incredibly entrenched for a host of reasons:

  1. Commercial insurance is complex. Each business has unique risks that business owners struggle to understand. The alphabet soup that is commercial insurance and discussions of CGL, EPLI, E&O, coverage limits and deductibles are often met with blank stares. So, even if business owners understood their risks and could purchase coverage directly, they often are not familiar with what they are buying.
  2. Brokers actually acquire customers quite efficiently, and it may be difficult (or impossible) to acquire customers online at the same cost that brokers do through more traditional means. Acquisition of small and medium-sized business (SMB) clients generally works best when done vertically or locally — most brokers, local to their area and experts in specific products, fit that mold.
  3. Commercial insurance policies are not commodities. Each policy is unique and has its own specific set of coverages, endorsements and exceptions. An experienced agent has immense value to the insured navigating potential coverages.
  4. There is no cost savings by going around a traditional broker. Brokers are free insurance consultants to the client, and there is no cost difference between going through a digital channel vs. a traditional one.
  5. In commercial insurance, the buyer is insuring against certain things that could put her entire business at risk. A trusted adviser is, therefore, incredibly important in understanding various policies and insurable risks.

Unless there are significant advancements in artificial intelligence and reductions in marketing costs, we don’t see the possibility for meaningful disruption or displacement of the broker in the near term. We do, however, believe in a massive network of digitally empowered brokers.

The digital broker

Imagine a world where a technology platform gives a network of brokers the same digital tools that are being produced by the technology startups trying to replace them. The broker now has a digital interface that services insureds quickly while simultaneously providing expert advice that takes years to amass.

See also: 3 Ways to Improve Agent/Insurer Links  

Moreover, there is meaningful precedent for industries with the above dynamics to become empowered, not disrupted, by technology. Charles Schwab became a household name largely because it allowed wealth managers to break away from banks, freeing them from the operational overhead of having to build trading, reporting or portfolio management systems. Schwab enabled wealth managers to focus on being a high-quality consultant to its clientele. This has also been exhibited in real estate, where startups have empowered real estate agents with infrastructure and data science to provide a level of service and expertise on par with companies like Amazon and Google.

Both of these examples illustrate the transformative effect of empowering existing, experienced distributors of complicated and operationally intensive products. We see this same future for commercial insurance brokers.

Commercial Insurers and Super Delegates

No matter how hard I try, I have been unable to avoid being bombarded with news about the presidential race. While most of the opinions and assertions leave me wondering, the additional insights into the importance of super delegates fascinated me. It turns out that winning the traditional delegates was important, but having the super delegates on your side really swung the field in your favor. In one way, it doesn’t feel quite right that any delegate should have any greater impact than another. However, because no one asked me how to run party primaries, I suppose I’m left to live with my feelings and just “figure out how to live within these rules.”

As I work with many of our commercial clients on strategies for their digital footprint (a concept I’ll discuss in a moment), I can’t help but think of our super delegate equivalent — the proliferation of insurance aggregators. Whatever you may call them — rate exchanges, quote engines, comparison sites, aggregators or digital agencies — these newcomers are increasingly important and relevant distribution channels, and, no matter how long we attempt to ignore them, they won’t be going away. They will simply be wielding their distribution clout, helping insurers to grow as they continue to rapidly expand their prospect pipelines. For commercial insurers who may not wish to pay attention to aggregator growth or for those who would like to reserve their judgments on the future of commercial sales, I would like to suggest that it is time to swallow your notions, accept the relevance of these super delegates and just “figure out how to win within these rules.”

How quickly can an industry turn upside down?

In politics, anything can happen. Approval ratings can rise and fall dramatically in 24 hours. Major players and influencers can come from nowhere. I think 2016 is proving my point. In 2015, we had no idea that our presidential race would look quite like this. What if, on Jan. 1, 2017, you awoke to find that most commercial polices were being sold online through digital agencies? If you hadn’t seen it coming, it would certainly hit your organization like a ton of bricks. If you had seen it coming and you hadn’t prepared, it would feel even worse. If you had seen it coming, and you had aligned your organization with some of these alternate channels, you might feel gleeful. The point is, the day of the digital agency is close upon us. If you aren’t preparing to sell in this space, you are probably being shortsighted. The super delegates have arrived, more are on the way through the insurtech movement and it is time to court them.

See also: Commercial Insurers Face Tough Times  

In the commercial space, we currently have companies such as NetQuote, CoverWallet and Insureon offering lead generation and quoting capabilities to commercial insurers as they offer real quotes to businesses in need of insurance. (Read more about new insurtech players in Majesco’s Future Trends report.) Insureon, probably the most-talked-about of the three, can quote on a fairly broad spectrum of business insurance. Insureon has tremendous reach and a good selection of insurers to bolster its offerings. If we see Insureon as our leading super delegate, what can we do to gain Insureon votes?

The digital footprint

Let’s step back for a moment and look at our high-level goals. Our goal is not to leave behind agent and broker service, but to embrace and prepare for new distribution channels by improving our digital footprint. As we often see, when it comes to digital preparedness, what’s good for one channel may be good for another. What is useful for the aggregators is likely to improve agent service, as well. Every step we take to become digitally ready, with the right back-end capabilities and integrations and the right front-end capabilities, will end up benefiting all channels, including traditional broker and agent capabilities. The real work of enabling the digital presence that these new channels require will prepare your organization for growth across channels by creating a consistent experience for both your delegates and your super delegates. If you have your digital footprint in position when a producer reaches out to your underwriter or phones in to your call center, they will capitalize on your improved capabilities, enhanced product offerings and simplified quote process.

The role of the super delegate

When I speak with clients, I often see how perspectives make all the difference. Insurers look at the existing distribution channels and all the technology options to further advance the agent and broker experience, and they see the newcomers like Insureon popping onto their scene. Most insurers seem to fall into two camps. Either they see aggregators as a threat or they view them as a smart option for distribution, reaching a broader set of customers and segments. This is the inside-out perspective. The insurer asks, “What can we do to engage or compete?”

But the digital agencies themselves have taken advantage of starting with a fresh perspective to make the customer experience seamless and easy. They are taking the outside-in perspective, asking, “What can we do to make ourselves more appealing?” They start with business preferences and how businesses will want to buy something. In that practice, they have positioned themselves as extensions of our internal systems. They are funnels attracting businesses like flowers attracting bees. If done correctly, integrating with these third-party players can mean a material addition to our distribution model, with little change to the traditional agent/broker approach. In this way, the super delegate has not only become an aggregator, but has become a cheerleader. It is their marketing and their messaging that will drive insurers’ businesses. (Read more about perspectives and purchase trends in the blog, The Power of Observation for Insurers.)

See also: How to Win in Commercial Lines  

If I look at companies like Insureon as my super delegate (and cheerleader), I can see how I can tip the balance in my favor. I still have to win the affinity and loyalty of my agents and brokers, but having these new alternative distribution options could mean the difference between maintaining my business or breaking out to new customers, products and accelerated growth.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at possible approaches to preparing the digital footprint and some of the questions an insurer should ask itself before beginning. We will also look closely at why business insurers may want to begin by developing insurance products for small, niche businesses.

This article was written by Robert Buhrle and originally appeared on Majesco.com.

Why Start-Ups Win on Small Business

As more companies invest in insurtech, we know that the small business insurance market is in the crosshairs of a number of start-ups, because small businesses are underserved and often underinsured. What many have failed to discuss is the impact that serving a small business has on carriers and brokers and how innovation could help these folks, as well.

It is both challenging and costly to manage a small businesses book because serving these smaller, often first-time business owners comes with more questions, more time spent on renewal and more upkeep. Small businesses often do not have someone solely responsible for operations, and, thus, business owners are figuring out insurance on their own, with little time or patience to learn every intricacy of the insurance process.

See also: Start-Ups Set Sights on Small Businesses

However, the small business market makes up $100 billion of the $1 trillion insurance market. While not serving these businesses comes with a cost, serving these businesses poorly perhaps comes with a greater cost — not the least of which could be the loss of trust, if not the loss of a customer for life.

Without the right systems in place, brokers and carriers will continue to feel the burden of serving small businesses, and small business owners will continue to feel confused about their insurance needs.

So the truth that no one is talking about is: Innovation goes beyond helping small businesses; innovation helps everyone, carriers and brokers included.

So, what is the solution?

When many insurance veterans hear the words “start-up,” “innovation” or “change,” they roll their eyes, and they have the right to. After all, many of these folks have dedicated their lives to selling insurance and managing books worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Traditional carriers and brokers have built strong brands and have served billions of businesses, both large and small.

At CoverWallet, we don’t take the expertise of those who have come before us lightly, but we know that finding a better way to acquire, retain and improve lifetime value of small businesses policies in a more cost-effective way is an essential path forward for traditional carriers and brokers. What’s important to understand is that many carriers and larger brokers aren’t well-positioned to take on completely innovating their tech stack, which is where start-ups can fill an unmet need.

Start-ups can innovate and build faster and can focus on a single group, while traditional carriers and brokers have largely been forced to focus on many groups, businesses and sizes of business. Overall, start-ups are better poised to:

  • Acquire customers: Quotes and binds can take a long time, and carriers are more apt to focus on larger accounts. However, start-ups with an online application can serve businesses faster, moving from quote to bind in record time.
  • Service customers: Finding information about insurance online is tough, but with peer comparison tools, informative landing pages and support any way you want it (email, chat, phone) a customer can get questions answered in 1-2-3.
  • Retain customers: Retention of small businesses for traditional carriers and brokers gets tougher and tougher year-over-year as customer expectations grow. Many small business owners will at least shop around for a new quote when renewal time comes up, typically because they are disappointed with the level of customer service they have received. Start-ups focused on small businesses, providing a digital solution, built-in notifications and renewal reminders will likely make customers more comfortable with renewing — again and again.

This is not to say that introduction of start-ups into the insurance world means the end of traditional carriers and brokers. Quite the opposite. While start-ups are better-positioned in some ways, even the most innovative start-ups will need the help and support of traditional carriers and brokers.

See also: InsurTech Boom Is Reshaping Market  

Partnering with a start-up, especially one that focuses on making insurance a digital experience, from the bind to policy management, will no doubt prove valuable for today’s insurers. Doing so will allow carriers and brokers to focus on their largest binds and will reduce the cost of maintaining smaller businesses for the carrier.

Having a strong digital presence and giving customers a way to buy online will be essential to the future of the industry. What is important for all players to understand, from start-ups to brokers to carriers, is that the most successful way forward is together.