Tag Archives: daniel schreiber

Customers Vote: State Farm or Lemonade?

A recent social media dust-up between renters and homeowners insurance technology upstart Lemonade Insurance and old-line insurance industry stalwart State Farm motivated us to look at what their respective customers are saying about their experiences with the companies.

A little context: State Farm recently aired a television commercial poking fun at technology-focused entrants to the marketplace. Specifically, the commercial made fun of the use of bots (artificial intelligence) used to process claims.

Lemonade was quick to respond to the perceived slight, with early Lemonade investor Ashton Kutcher even weighing in on Twitter. Kutcher has since deleted his tweet, but Coverager captured it in a screenshot.

To support its claim that Lemonade leverages technology to provide a customer experience superior to State Farm, Lemonade’s CEO Daniel Schreiber published, compared and contrasted its renters insurance customer rating and ranking to State Farm from Clearsurance’s independent platform. You can see Clearsurance’s full renters insurance rankings here.

Full disclosure: Lemonade is an engaged subscriber and affiliate marketing partner of Clearsurance. State Farm is not currently a subscriber. Being a subscriber does not enable any company to manipulate their customer ratings, which derive 100% from customer feedback.

See also: New Entrants Flood Into Insurance  

With that context, let’s see what renters insurance policyholders are saying about each company. Below is a table that includes renters insurance ratings of Lemonade and State Farm for six different categories. It’s important to note that, given that Lemonade was founded in 2015 and has a vastly smaller market share than State Farm, the startup insurer has far fewer renters insurance reviews (57) on Clearsurance than State Farm (1,349). Given that, the data should be taken with a grain of salt as Clearsurance user testing has revealed that the more reviews on a company, the more weight a consumer assigns to that company’s rating.

*Lemonade’s claim service rating based on just nine reviews

Time will ultimately tell whether Lemonade can maintain these high customer ratings as it scales and receives more reviews from its policyholders. Still, we can at the very least get a sense for how consumers feel about Lemonade’s technology-based insurance. And the early returns portend a customer base that is highly satisfied with the experience.

Despite not having agents like State Farm, which has more than 18,000, Lemonade has a 4.75 customer service rating out of 5. The part of the story that’s harder to tell with the data is how consumers’ experience has been at the time of a claim.

Lemonade’s 4.33 claim service score is based on just nine reviews, which isn’t enough to draw any conclusions. By comparison, State Farm’s 4.26 claim service rating (based on 267 reviews that include a claim) and 4.41 customer service rating are both among the best for renters insurance companies.

The largest discrepancy between the two companies is price. Lemonade has received a 4.80 rating from consumers for price, while State Farm’s 4.21 price rating is its lowest of any of the six categories we collect ratings on.

Beyond just the ratings, though, consumer feedback within reviews has helped provide us with a look at what their policyholders value.

Lemonade’s policyholders frequently discuss the ease of working with the company, things like getting a quote, buying a policy and setting up the coverage. In fact. 53% of Lemonade reviews discuss ease of the user experience while just 15% of State Farm reviews do so.

The online services of Lemonade are also a main focus of reviews. More than a third of Lemonade reviews (35%) discuss the companies’ online and application-services while just 3% of State Farm reviews address the insurer’s online services. Instead, State Farm reviews are more apt to talk about agents (18%, compared with 0% for Lemonade, which has no agents).

All this isn’t to say consumers have indicated one method — agent or bot — is better than the other. Quite the contrary, in fact. The consumer ratings data shows that both methods are pleasing the companies’ respective policyholders.

State Farm and Lemonade appear to be geared toward different demographics and different service preferences. Some may prefer the personalized service an agent can provide. Others may prefer the ease and speed of a bot — like Lemonade’s Maya. That’s what this data indicates. And both companies appear to be enjoying success of their different business strategies.

Lemonade has raised $180 million in funding and just last week was one of the companies Forbes named in a list of the next billion-dollar startups. State Farm, meanwhile, holds the largest P&C market share in the U.S.

See also: Making Lemons From Lemonade  

The misconception in all this — and why Lemonade may have taken offense to State Farm’s commercial — is that it insinuated agents are far superior to bots. The State Farm agent in the commercial says, “These bots don’t have the compassion of a real State Farm agent.”

While more State Farm reviews use words describing the helpfulness of the company (15% to 7% for Lemonade), the customer service ratings in the table above indicate that isn’t the only part that matters. In today’s technological age, customer service in the eyes of the consumer may not just be about being compassionate. It factors in things like ease and speed, too. We would submit that saving a customer time from having to think about insurance is an act of compassion.

What this means for Lemonade and State Farm in years to come remains to be seen. For now, a majority of the policyholders from these companies have indicated they’ve had a positive experience. If you’ve held a policy with Lemonade or State Farm, share your experience on Clearsurance to help better inform other insurance shoppers.

This article originally appeared on the Clearsurance blog.

In Age of Disruption, What Is Insurance?

“Somehow we have created a monster, and it’s time to turn it on its head for our customers and think about providing some certainty of protection.” – Inga Beale, CEO, Lloyds of London

In an early-morning plenary session at this year’s InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas, Rick Chavez, partner and head of digital strategy acceleration at Oliver Wyman, described the disruption landscape in insurance succinctly: while the first phase of disruption was about digitization, the next phase will be about people. In his words, “digitization has shifted the balance of power to people,” forcing the insurance industry to radically reorient itself away from solving its own problems toward solving the problems of its customer. It’s about time.

For the 6,000-plus attendees at InsureTech Connect 2018, disruption in insurance has long been described in terms of technology. Chavez rightly urged the audience to expand its definition of disruption and instead conceive of disruption not just as a shift in technology but as a “collision of megatrends”–technological, behavioral and societal–that is reordering the world in which we live, work and operate as businesses. In this new world order, businesses and whole industries are being refashioned in ways that look entirely unfamiliar, insurance included.

This kind of disruption requires that insurance undergo far more than modernization, but a true metamorphosis, not simply shedding its skin of bureaucracy, paper applications and legacy systems but being reborn as an entirely new animal, focused on customers and digitally enabled by continuing technological transformation.

In the new age of disruption …

1. Insurance is data

“Soon each one of us will be generating millions of data sets every day – insurance can be the biggest beneficiary of that” – Vishal Gondal, GOQUii

While Amazon disrupted the way we shop, and Netflix disrupted the way we watch movies, at the end of the day (as Andy G. Simpson pointed out in his Insurance Journal recap of the conference) movies are still movies, and the dish soap, vinyl records and dog food we buy maintain their inherent properties, whether we buy them on Amazon or elsewhere. Insurance, not simply as an industry but as a product, on the other hand is being fundamentally altered by big data.

At its core, “insurance is about using statistics to price risk, which is why data, properly collected and used, can transform the core of the product,” said Daniel Schreiber, CEO of Lemonade, during his plenary session on day 2 of the conference. As copious amounts of data about each and every one of us become ever more available, insurance at the product level– at the dish soap/dog food level–is changing.

While the auto insurance industry has been ahead of the curve in its use of IoT-generated data to underwrite auto policies, some of the most exciting change happening today is in life insurance, as life products are being reconceived by a boon of health data generated by FitBits, genetic testing data, epigenetics, health gamification and other fitness apps. In a panel discussion titled “On the Bleeding Edge: At the Intersection of Life & Health,” JJ Carroll of Swiss RE discussed the imperative of figuring out how to integrate new data sources into underwriting and how doing so will lead to a paradigm shift in how life insurance is bought and sold. “Right now, we underwrite at a single point in time and treat everyone equally going forward,” she explained. With new data sources influencing underwriting, life insurance has the potential to become a dynamic product that uses health and behavior data to adjust premiums over time, personalize products and service offerings and expand coverage to traditionally riskier populations.

Vishal Gandal of GOQuii, a “personalized wellness engine” that is partnering with Max Bupa Insurance and Swiss Re to offer health coaching and health-management tools to customers, believes that integrating data like that generated by GOQuii will “open up new risk pools and provide products to people who couldn’t be covered before.” While some express concern that access to more data, especially epigenetic and genetic data, may exclude people from coverage, Carroll remains confident that it is not insurers who will benefit the most from data sharing, but customers themselves.

See also: Is Insurance Really Ripe for Disruption?  

2. Insurance is in the background

“In the future, insurance will buy itself automatically” – Jay Bergman

Some of the most standout sessions of this year’s InsureTech Connect were not from insurance companies at all, but from businesses either partnering with insurance companies or using insurance-related data to educate their customers about or sell insurance to their customers as a means of delivering more value.

Before unveiling a new car insurance portal that allows customers to monitor their car-related records and access a quote with little to no data entry, Credit Karma CEO Ken Lin began his talk with a conversation around how Credit Karma is “more than just free credit scores,” elucidating all of the additional services they have layered on top of their core product to deliver more value to their customers. Beyond simply announcing a product launch, Lin’s talk was gospel to insurance carriers, demonstrating how a company with a fairly basic core offering (free credit scores) can build a service layer on top to deepen engagement with customers. It’s a concept that touches on what was surely one of the most profound themes of the conference–that, like free credit scores, insurance only need be a small piece of a company’s larger offering. This may mean embedding insurance into the purchase of other products or services (i.e., how travel insurance is often sold) or it may mean doing what Credit Karma has done and layering on a service offering to deepen engagement with customers and make products stickier.

Assaf Wand, CEO of the home insurance company Hippo, spoke to both of these models in his discussion with David Weschler of Comcast about how their two companies are partnering to make insurance smarter and smart homes safer. When asked about what the future of insurance looks like, Wand put it plainly when he said: “Home insurance won’t be sold as insurance. It will be an embedded feature of the smart home.” Jillian Slyfield, who heads the digital economy practice at Aon, a company that is already partnering with companies like Uber and Clutch to insure the next generation of drivers, agrees: “We are embedding insurance into these products today.”

Until this vision is fully realized, companies like Hippo are doing their part to make their insurance products fade into the background as the companies offer additional services for homeowners, “Can I bring you value that you really care about?” Wand asked, “Wintering your home, raking leaves, these are the kinds of things that matter to homeowners.”

3. Insurance is first and foremost a customer experience

“The insurance industry has to redefine our processes… go in reverse, starting with the customer and re-streamlining our processes around them” – Koichi Nagasaki, Sompo

To many outside the insurance industry, the idea of good customer experience may seem unremarkable, but for an industry that has for so long been enamored by the ever-increasing complexity of its own products, redefining processes around customers is like learning a foreign language as a middle-aged adult. It’s hard, and it takes a long time, and a lot of people aren’t up to the task.

The insurance industry has been talking about the need for customer-centricity for a while now, but many companies continue to drag their feet. But customer-centricity is and remains more than a differentiator. It’s now table stakes. How this plays out for the industry will look different for different companies. Some will turn to partnerships with insurtechs and other startups to embed their products into what are already customer-centric experiences and companies. Chavez of Oliver Wyman would rather see the industry “disrupt itself,” as he believes it’s critical that companies maintain the customer relationship. In his plenary sessions, he cited the German energy company Enercity as a company that disrupted itself. Operating in a similarly regulated industry, rather than becoming just a supplier of energy, the company invested heavily in its own digital strategy to become a thought leader in the energy space, to be a trusted adviser to its customer and to deliver an exceptional digital experience that, among other things, leverages blockchain technology to accept bitcoin payments from customers. For Chavez, insurtech is already a bubble, and, “If you want to succeed and thrive in a bubble, make yourself indispensable.” The only way to do this, he believes, is to maintain ownership over the customer experience, because, in today’s digital economy, the customer experience is the product.

But to own the customer experience and succeed will require insurance companies to completely reorient their business practices and processes – to start with the customer and the experience and work backward toward capabilities. In the words of Han Wang of Paladin Cyber, who spoke on a panel about moving from selling products to selling services, “It’s always a questions of what does the customer want? How do they define the problem? And what is the solution?”

4. Insurance is trust

“The world runs on trust. When we live in a society where we have lots of trust, everyone benefits. When this trust goes away, everyone loses.” – Dan Ariely, Lemonade

During a faceoff between incumbents and insurtechs during one conference session, Dylan Bourguignon, CEO of so-sure cinched the debate with a single comment, calling out large insurance carriers: “You want to engage with customers, yet you don’t have their trust. And it’s not like you haven’t had time to earn it.” This, Bourguignon believes, is ultimately why insurtechs will beat the incumbents.

Indeed, the insurtech Lemonade spent a fair amount of stage time preaching the gospel of trust. Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and chief behavior officer at Lemonade, delivered a plenary session entirely devoted to the topic of trust. He spoke about trust from a behavioral standpoint, explaining how trust creates equilibrium in society and how, when trust is violated, the equilibrium is thrown off. Case in point: insurance.

Insurance, he explained, has violated consumer trust and has thrown off the equilibrium–the industry doesn’t trust consumers, and consumers don’t trust the industry, a vulnerability that has left the insurance industry open to the kind of disruption a company like Lemonade poses. As an industry, insurance has incentives not to do the thing it has promised to do, which is to pay out your claims. And while trust is scarcely more important in any industry as it is in insurance, save in an industry like healthcare, the insurance industry is notoriously plagued by two-way distrust.

What makes Lemonade stand out is that it has devised a system that removes the conflict of interest germane to most insurance companies – as a company, it has no incentives to not pay out customer claims. In theory, profits are entirely derived by taking a percentage of the premium; anything left over that does not go to pay out a claim is then donated to charity. The result: If customers are cheating, they aren’t cheating a company, they are cheating a charity. Ariely described several instances where customer even tried to return their claims payments after finding misplaced items they thought had been stolen. “How often does this happen in your companies?” he asked the audience. Silence.

And it’s not just new business models that will remedy the trust issues plaguing insurance. It’s new technology, too. In a panel titled “Blockchain: Building Trust in Insurance,” executives from IBM, Salesforce, Marsh and AAIS discussed how blockchain technology has the capacity to deepen trust across the industry, among customers, carriers, solutions providers and underwriters by providing what Jeff To of Salesforce calls an “immutable source of truth that is trusted among all parties.” Being able to easily access and trust data will have a trickle down effect that will affect everyone, including customers, employees and the larger business as a whole–reducing inefficiencies, increasing application and quote-to-bind speed, eliminating all the hours and money that go into data reconciliation and ultimately making it easier for carriers to deliver a quality customer experience to their customers.

See also: Disruption of Rate-Modeling Process  

While the progress in blockchain has been incremental, the conference panel demoed some promising use cases in which blockchain is already delivering results for customers, one example being acquiring proof of insurance for small businesses or contractors through Marsh’s platform. With blockchain, a process that used to span several days has been reduced to less than a minute. Experiences like these–simple, seamless and instantaneous – are laying the groundwork for carriers to begin the long road to earning back customer trust. Blockchain will likely play an integral role this process.

5. Insurance is a social good

“We need insurance. It is one of the most important products for financial security.” – Dan Ariely, Lemonade

For all of the the naysaying regarding state of the industry that took place at InsureTech Connect, there were plenty of opportunities for the industry to remind itself that it’s not all bad, and its core insurance is something that is incredibly important to the stability of people across the globe. Lemonade’s Schreiber called it a social good, while Ariely told his audience, “We need insurance. It is one of the most important products for financial security.” Similar sentiments were expressed across stages throughout the conference.

In fact, in today’s society, income disparity is at one of the highest points in recent history, stagnating wages are plaguing and diminishing the middle class, more people in the U.S. are living in poverty now than at any point since the Great Depression, the social safety net is shrinking by the minute and more than 40% of Americans don’t have enough money in savings to cover a $400 emergency, so insurance is more important than ever.

For Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyds of London, insurance has a critical role to play in society, “It goes beyond insurance–it’s about giving people money and financial independence,” she said during a fireside chat. She went on to describe findings from recent research conducted by Lloyds, which determined that, by the end of their lives, men in the U.K. are six times better off financially than women. When designed as a tool to provide financial independence and equality for everyone, insurance can play an important role in addressing this disparity. While this has been a focus in emerging markets, financial stability and independence is often assumed in more developed markets, like the U.S. and Europe. In reality, it is a problem facing all markets, and increasingly so. Ace Callwood, CEO of Painless1099, a bank account for freelancers that helps them save money for taxes, agrees that insurance has an important role to play. “It’s our job to get people to a place where they can afford to buy the products we are trying to sell,” he said.

You can find the article originally published here.

The First Quarter in Insurtech Financials

The three independent U.S. insurtech startups whose 2017 full-year results we profiled — Lemonade, Root and Metromile — continue to grow rapidly in early 2018. But so far that has meant more red ink: Results that are bigger and blacker remain elusive.

We’ve again analyzed publicly available financial results called statutory statements. The same caveats from our 2017 full-year analysis remain, and again we use only public data to write this post, which reflects only our personal opinions.

Our prior statements regarding the three companies also remain – we think highly of their management teams and long-term potential. All three have a lot of runway and time to perfect their business models. We think they will. We produce this analysis not to critique their management. We want to help investors, entrepreneurs and traditional industry insurers to understand what is happening in insurtech through a lens of insurance fundamentals and facts rather than dogmatic opinion-mongering.

Overall observations

Top line: bigger. All the three companies are growing at rates associated with successful early-stage startups. For a time, these rapid growth rates may sustain their impressive, rumored valuations. Root nearly tripled its top line in the last quarter, apparently without spending too much on customer acquisition, and now has closed the gap on Lemonade. We suspect that this narrowing may surprise a few people, considering the differences in the two companies’ “share of voice.” (Admittedly, we also give Lemonade a lot more attention, in part because its business model is less straightforward.)

Bottom line: redder. Underwriting results have continued to be consistently poor, even excluding expenses, which are influenced by scale and inter-company agreements. This is true even considering paid losses relative to premiums earned. It has been suggested that some of the poor underwriting results are because of exceptionally prudent or cautious reserving, but we find little evidence that reserving practices explain the high loss ratios. Auto and renters are well-modeled, short-tail lines of business where large absolute differences in estimates are less common than in lines where losses take longer to become known.

In between: A quarter doesn’t make much difference in insurance. Detailed breakouts of spending are only published annually. The most notable change: Lemonade materially reduced the potential giveback and made an accounting change that reduces the expenses reported by its insurance company. Lemonade Insurance Co. used to pay its parent a flat fee of 20% for various services rendered by the parent and affiliated companies. In March, this was raised to 25%, retroactive to 1/1/2018. The higher fee increases the slice going to Lemonade’s non-regulated entities by a quarter. Furthermore, Lemonade Insurance Co. no longer reports the true cost of the services provided by the parent, meaning that its expenses for 2018 will appear lower than they actually are. (We explain this later.)

Lemonade Insurance Co.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s something for you in Lemonade’s first quarter results. The gross loss ratio (excluding loss adjustment expense) of 116% is still almost double what it should be to have a sustainable business, but it is within the last year’s quarterly range (from 104% to 144%). A quarterly loss ratio with a small book like Lemonade’s ($2.9 million gross earned premium) is still quite sensitive to individual losses and reserve assumptions. The company reported $207,000 of gross adverse development in the quarter, which added seven points to the gross loss ratio.

Premiums earned continue to grow rapidly. Texas is actually Lemonade’s largest state, followed by California and then New York. Lemonade’s other eight states combined produced less premium in 1Q18 than New York. In the last quarter, direct written premiums have almost doubled in New York, but the growth in California and Texas has slowed to around 40%, quarter-to-quarter. This is extraordinary growth even if it is slowing. Lemonade has pointed out that it looks at different measures that aren’t published in yellow books – which we suspect include indicators of the sustainable long-term growth rate in the major states as well as seasonality factors in its renters’ insurance book.

Reinsurers continue to subsidize the company’s losses: Reinsurers incurred $3.53 for every $1 in premium they received in the most recent quarter. The aggregate XOL reinsurance contract normally runs another two years (through 6/30/2020), illustrating why reinsurers that back startups also consider having equity participation.

See also: Touching Customers in the Insurtech Era 

A homeowner’s company would typically aim for numbers something like the following (which are from a leading homeowner’s insurer), plus or minus a few points:

Compare with Lemonade’s numbers:

The Giveback

Lemonade’s giveback is one of the company’s most intriguing features. Customers join cohorts, and, if any premium remains after paying the cohort’s claims, fees and reinsurance, that money goes to a designated charity. Lemonade says that this “giveback” was 10% of “revenues Lemonade recognized” from its launch in 2016 until mid-2017. Another is coming in mid-2018.

Lemonade has hinted at “an exponentially larger giveback in years to come.” We’re not so sure. There are two big headwinds. First, Lemonade raised the fee paid from its cohorts to the parent company from 20% to 25%, effective 1/1/2018. Such arrangements are common in the insurance industry and are approved by regulators, but not always gladly. Sometimes profit is moved to an affiliated agency that doesn’t have to pay claims, while losses remain in the regulated insurer.

The second headwind against the giveback is that Lemonade’s cohorts have to pay for reinsurance, the cost of which is almost certain to rise in 2020 if the company continues ceding several times more losses than premiums. The giveback will probably remain – someone’s cohort will have very low losses – but the combined effects of a bigger fee to the parent and more expensive reinsurance could greatly reduce the giveback “in years to come.”

This matters because the giveback is the crux of Lemonade’s business model for both its investors and customers. As CEO Daniel Schreiber has explained:

“If there is underwriting profit it is donated to non-profit – if it isn’t and there are insufficient funds the reinsurers have a bad day, not Lemonade.

“The 20% is insulated – we take 20% in good years and in bad and that is not really impacted by loss ratios – so we are indifferent to the level of claims.”

Set aside the line about being “indifferent to the level of claims.” The 20% is not insulated – it has already gone up – and reinsurers usually seek “payback” if they have a bad day. Payback means higher reinsurance fees such that, over time, reinsurers make at least a modest profit margin. That means a bad day may be coming for Lemonade, though perhaps not until late 2020. What would happen to the company’s vaunted social mission and behavioral incentives if the economics stop adding up?

Lemonade has the cash to weather a lot of bad days and maybe even a pivot or two. The company confirmed its shareholding structure in the first quarter, and the figures support (but do not precisely confirm) the rumored $600 million valuation when Softbank and other investors put in $120 million.

In the past weeks, Lemonade’s Policy 2.0 initiative has generated a relevant debate and raised challenges to regulators, who will have to examine the policy and deal with claims disputes. Ambiguity in an insurance contract typically is interpreted against the insurer, which could make it that much harder to get the loss ratio down. Lemonade remains a challenging company for regulators, and traditional agents are lining up to kill any regulatory flexibility given to insurtechs.

Lastly, we comment on a quiet but meaningful accounting change. The 20% fee paid by Lemonade Insurance Co. (now 25%) was far less than the actual cost of the services received. Lemonade Insurance Co. used to report consolidated figures that gave a true representation of the cost of running its operation. No longer. Effective in 2018, the consolidation is gone, and perhaps $3 million of expenses seem to be missing in 1Q18 – highlighted in yellow above. In terms of disclosure, throughout 2017, Lemonade used the language shown below. The highlighted language is the key bit that is missing in 2018.

Now in 2018:


Root Insurance Co.

Root has grown explosively, with gross premiums written having trebled since 4Q17, for a run rate exceeding $30 million. $2.9 million of $7.9 million of gross premiums written were in Texas, with Ohio and Arizona also chipping in more than $1 million each. Potentially most impressive is that Root apparently has achieved its growth without massive advertising spending. If ad spending as a percent of total expenses remained constant this quarter compared with last year (a big “if,” because overall expense are rising rapidly), then Root has greatly cut its ad spending as a percent of the premium. See the bottom line of Exhibit 2.

As with Metromile and Lemonade, Root’s loss ratio remains unsustainably high, but the company’s $51 million fundraising round in June gives it a few years of runway to make improvements. Following our previous article, the CEO of Root commented that his company’s loss ratio was high in part due to prudent reserving. Indeed, Root was the only of the three startup insurers to report favorable development in the quarter, to the tune of $239,000 of gross positive development, which would cut almost 10 points off the 2017 gross loss ratio. (In reality, Root cut about seven points from the 1Q18 loss ratio, because prior year results aren’t restated when reserves develop.) There could continue to be favorable development, but so far the 2017 loss ratio would be cut from 138% to 128% — still well above a sustainable level. Further, the company in 2017 paid $1.36 of losses for every $1 of premium earned (on a net basis).

Root’s reinsurance comes up for renewal at the end of June 2018 and currently consists of a 50% quota share and $1M XS $100K tower, which limits volatility in results.

Metromile Insurance Co.

Metromile, the oldest and the biggest of the three, continues to grow premium – achieving an impressive plus-25% quarter-to-quarter, nearing an $80 million run rate. California continues to be the largest state for Metromile, accounting for $11 million of $19 million of direct premium written this quarter, as compared with $5 million of $10 million in the first quarter of 2017, which suggests that the company relies on one state but has room to expand. The company appears to be losing money in each state.

As with other insurtechs, distribution has been easier than profitability. The gross loss ratio including LAE at 104% remains close to the results posted in 2017 but above a sustainable long-term rate. For comparison, Progressive’s personal lines loss & LAE ratio was 74% in 2017 (30 points lower), with a combined ratio of 93%. The gross loss ratio is affected by $1.5 million of adverse development at Metromile, which added about eight points to the loss ratio this quarter.

Does loss ratio scale?

We have been surprised to hear some investors comment that they expect loss ratios to decline with scale and to consider them as any other costs on the insurance income statement. There are some elements of loss ratio that scale, but only in a limited way, i.e. a few points, not cutting the loss ratio in half.

  • Claims: Taking claims in-house at the right time can reduce the loss & LAE ratio. TPAs get paid to manage and settle claims, which isn’t always exactly what carriers or MGAs want. (Claims is a moment of truth that drives loyalty, and insurance fraud is real.) Bigger insurers also have better ability to drive favorable pricing with repair shops, contractors and outside adjusters.
  • Portfolio management: Scale can enable the company to be more selective about risks underwritten, thus avoiding the worst risks. It’s hard to manage a portfolio (i.e. cut the worst risks) when also growing it rapidly from a small base.
  • Underwriting: Scale can help the company understand its own loss experience and adjust its underwriting accordingly. When companies start, they assess what risks are good or bad using industry data and place bets that certain segments are more attractive, thus targeting those segments or distributors that target them. As the company gathers data on the performance of its own book, through time and scale, the company can adjust underwriting and pricing to attract customer segments that perform particularly well for its particular business model. Again this has a trade-off against growth.
  • Mathematics: The law of large numbers will cause actual loss ratios to converge closer to the expected loss ratio. This isn’t really the loss ratio scaling down, but rather limiting the probability of a single really bad loss poisoning a year’s results.

However, when an insurer says that “we are indifferent to the level of claims” and then turns in a loss ratio that is double a sustainable level, investors should ask themselves, “What if they really are indifferent?”

See also: Why Financial Wellness Is Elusive  


We have been grateful for the positive feedback on our first article covering 2017 results, with both startups and incumbents featuring highly on the list of companies whose employees read the article. So far, 2018 results do not lead us to change our conclusions from 2017.

The three companies we’ve analyzed have several years of cash on hand, during which time they will probably continue to grow rapidly. They will probably improve their loss ratios, and expense ratios will scale down. The question is whether the figures get to a sustainable level. We won’t know for a few years whether these daring start-ups are really ground breakers or just expensive follies – as long as they are not acquired in the meantime. We’re cheering for them and think that we will see rapid growth and also profitability improvements in future quarters.

We were asked a few times about other companies, particularly in non-U.S. markets. Many countries have similar filings to the U.S. statutory filings, but we’ve not published anything on them yet. Also, agencies and brokers typically do not file public financials. We have begun to observe a trend, such as with Next Insurance, of insurtech agencies converting to carriers or at least exploring the idea seriously. There are many reasons why this makes sense at a certain point in a company’s development, and it will provide more insurtech carriers’ financials to analyze in years to come.

To be notified of future articles, please follow Matteo and Adrian Jones on LinkedIn or subscribe to Insurance Thought Leadership’s Six Things weekly newsletter. You can also find us at the leading conferences, including:

Adrian: Plug and Play Summer Summit in Silicon Valley, InsurTech Insights in London, Rendez-Vous de Septembre in Monte Carlo and InsureTech Connect in Vegas.

Matteo: InsiderTech London, Connected Insurance Summit in London, InsurTech Insights in London, NAIC Insurance Summit in Kansas City, Rendez-Vous de Septembre in Monte Carlo, Annual North America Re/Insurance Conference in New York and InsureTech Connect in Vegas.

The World Is Flat; Insurance Is Round

Why Lemonade is Going Global

It’s a curious thing: Most insurance companies stop at the water’s edge. Europe’s largest insurance companies operate in dozens of countries, but most don’t offer insurance to consumers in the U.S. Same is true for those operating out of Asia Pacific and Africa.

And it cuts both ways: American consumers buy insurance from American firms, most of which don’t have any operations to speak of outside of the Land of the Free. It’s odd. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are vast, but they can be crossed. And bits and bytes can cross them in milliseconds.

As a tech company doing insurance, we see no reason that a body of water should be an obstacle to reaching new markets and expanding beyond the 50 states. In fact, within the U.S., we’re finding that being digital has allowed us to cross the country without enlarging our physical footprint.

Consider this: California is our largest market at the moment, but our nearest employee to the Golden State is 3,000 miles away in the Empire State.

Our announcement of a $120 million Series C funding round led by SoftBank sets the stage for our global expansion.

See also: Lemonade’s Latest Chronicle  

See, to bring AI-powered insurance to Mumbai, London, Rio de Janeiro or Sydney, there’s no need to invest in thousands of people in towering skyscrapers. Like Airbnb or Spotify, our services require little more than a mobile phone and a credit card. In our largest markets, we have zero employees.

Sure, we’ll need to invest time with regulatory bodies and learn to adapt to local culture, customs and languages. But our mission is a global one, and our means to go global lie in our being a digital pure-play.

When Tom Friedman wrote about the waves of globalization and the “flattening” benefits of it in the 21st century, he declared that the world went from being small to tiny. He dubbed the change Globalization 3.0, following the previous rounds of globalization, in the 15th century and later when multinational companies emerged.

At the turn of this century, Globalization 3.0 moved the needle in such an enormous way that it’s not only a difference in size, it’s a difference in kind.

Fast forward almost two decades, and insurance powered by bots and data-driven algorithms means we can reach endless people in all corners of the globe and provide them with a similar yet customized experience, without the heavy bureaucracy and costs that discourage the traditional insurance carriers of venturing across the ocean.

Digitally enabled folks have a common denominator: They tap to get a ride, order a meal, get groceries delivered, find a soulmate… and they’d readily do the same to get insurance. We may be divided by international borders, but our connectivity is so intertwined that it has become the natural fabric that weaves us together.

It’s not only the technology that makes international prospects so enticing. We believe our mission of trust and transparency is universal, too.

Through his behavioral economics research, our Chief Behavioral Officer Dan Ariely reminds us that the way the insurance system is designed brings out the worst in us humans. Whether you’re in New York or Paris or Tokyo, that inherent conflict between insurance company and its customers brings out bad behavior from all sides. Bad behavior is rooted in the same human nature all over the world.

See also: Lemonade Really Does Have a Big Heart  

So we’re not stopping at the water’s edge. We believe that being built on AI and behavioral economics means that, at a profound level, we’re building something with universal appeal. The world is flat; it’s time insurance was, too.

4 Insurers’ Great Customer Experiences

McKinsey research has found that insurance companies with better customer experiences grow faster and more profitably. In 2016, 85% of insurers reported customer engagement and experience as a top strategic initiative for their companies. Yet the insurance industry continues to lag behind other industries when it comes to meeting customer expectations, inhibited by complicated regulatory requirements and deeply entrenched cultures of “business as usual.”

Some companies–many of them startups–are setting the gold standard when it comes to customer experience in insurance, and are paving the way for the industry’s biggest insurers to either fall in line, or risk losing out to smaller competitors with better experiences. Through a combination of new business models, clever uses of emerging technology and deep understanding of customer journeys, these four companies are leading the pack when it comes to delivering on fantastic experiences:

1. Slice – Creating insurance products for new realities.

Slice launched earlier this year and is currently operating in 13 states. The business model is based on the understanding that, in the new sharing economy, the needs of the insured have changed dramatically and that traditional homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies don’t suffice for people using sites like AirBnB or HomeAway to rent out their homes.

According to Emily Kosick, Slice’s managing director of marketing, many home-share hosts don’t realize that, when renting out their homes, traditional insurance policies don’t cover them. When something happens, they are frustrated, angry and despondent when they realize they are not covered. Slice’s MO is to create awareness around this issue, then offer a simple solution. In doing so, Slice can establish trust with consumers while giving them something they want and need.

Slice provides home-share hosts the ability to easily purchase insurance for their property, as they need it. Policies run as little as $4 a night! The on-demand model allows hosts renting out their homes on AirBnB or elsewhere to automatically (or at the tap of a button) add an insurance policy to the rental that will cover the length of time–up to the minute–that their home is being rented. The policy is paid for once Slice receives payment from the renter, ensuring a frictionless transaction that requires very little effort on the part of the customer.

See also: Who Controls Your Customer Experience?  

Slice’s approach to insurance provides an excellent example of how insurers can strive to become more agile and develop capacities to launch unique products that rapidly respond to changes in the market and in customer behavior. Had large insurance companies that were already providing homeowners’ and renters’ insurance been more agile and customer-focused, paying attention to this need and responding rapidly with a new product, the need for companies like Slice to emerge would have never have arisen in the first place.

2. Lemonade – Practicing the golden rule.

In a recent interview, Lemonade’s Chief Behavior Officer Dan Ariely remarked that, “If you tried to create a system to bring about the worst in humans, it would look a lot like the insurance of today.”

Lemonade wants to fix the insurance industry, and in doing so has built a business model on a behavioral premise supported by scientific research: that if people feel as if they are trusted, they are more like to behave honestly. In an industry where 24% of people say it’s okay to pad an insurance claim, this premise is revolutionary.

So how does Lemonade get its customers to trust it? First, by offering low premiums–as little as $5 a month–and providing complete transparency around how those premiums are generated. Lemonade can also bind a policy for a customer in less than a minute. Furthermore, Lemonade has a policy of paying claims quickly–in as little as three seconds–a far cry from how most insurance companies operate today. When claims are not resolved immediately, they can typically be resolved easily via the company’s chatbot, Maya, or through a customer service representative. But perhaps the most significant way that Lemonade is generating trust with its customers is through its business model. Unlike other insurance companies, which keep the difference between premiums and claims for themselves, Lemonade takes any money that is not used for claims (after taking 20% of the premium for expenses and profit) is donated to a charity of the customer’s choosing. Lemonade just made its first donation of $53,174.

Lemonade’s approach to insurance is, unlike so many insurers out there, fundamentally customer-centric. But CEO Daniel Schreiber is also quick to point out that, although Lemonade donates a portion of its revenues to charities, its giveback is not about generosity, it is about business. If Lemonade has anything to teach the industry, it is this: that the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated, holds true, even in business.

3. State Farm – Anticipating trends and investing in cutting-edge technology.

The auto insurance industry has been one of the fastest to adapt to the new customer experience landscape, being early adopters of IoT (internet of things), using telematics to pave the path toward usage-based insurance (UBI) models that we now see startups like Metromile taking advantage of. While Progressive was the first to launch a wireless telematics device, State Farm is now the leading auto insurer, its telematics device being tied to monetary rewards that give drivers financial incentives to drive more safely. The company also has a driver feedback app, which, as the name suggests, provides drivers feedback on their driving performance, with the intent of helping drivers become safer drivers, which for State  Farm, equals money.

By anticipating a trend, and understanding the importance of the connected car and IoT early on, State Farm has been able to keep pace with startups and has reserved a seat at the top–above popular auto insurers like Progressive and Geico–at least for now. If nothing else, unlike most traditional insurers, auto insurance companies like State Farm and Progressive have been paving the way for the startups when it comes to innovation, rather than the other way around. For now, this investment in customer experience is paying off. J.D Powers 2017 U.S Auto Insurance Study shows that, even as premiums increased for customers in 2017, overall customer satisfaction has skyrocketed.

4. Next Insurance – Automating for people, and for profit.

Next Insurance believes that a disconnect between the carrier and the customer is at the heart of the insurance industry’s digital transformation problem. In essence, it’s a communication problem, according to Sofya Pogreb, Next Insurance CEO. The people making decisions in insurance don’t have contact with the end customer. So while they are smart, experienced people, they are not necessarily making decisions based on the actual customer needs.

Next Insurance sells insurance policies to small-business owners, and the goal is to do something that Next believes no other insurer is doing–using AI and machine learning to create “nuanced” and “targeted” policies to meet specific needs.

An important aspect of what makes the approach unusual is that, instead of trying to replace agents altogether, Next is more interested in automating certain aspects of what agents do, to free their expertise to be put to better use:

“I would love to see agents leveraged for their expertise rather than as manual workers,” Pogreb told Insurance Business Magazine. “Today, in many cases, the agent is passing paperwork around. There are other ways to do that – let’s do that online, let’s do that in an automated way. And then where expertise is truly wanted by the customer, let’s make an agent available.”

See also: Smart Things and the Customer Experience  

While innovative business models and cutting-edge technology will both be important to the insurance industry of the future, creating fantastic customer experiences ultimately requires one thing: the ability for insurance companies–executives, agents and everyone in between–to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. It’s is a simple solution, but accomplishing it is easier said than done. For larger companies, to do so requires both cultural and structural change that can be difficult to implement on a large scale, but will be absolutely necessary to their success in the future. Paying attention to how innovative companies are already doing so is a first step; finding ways to bring about this kind of change from within is an ambitious next step but should be the aim of every insurance company looking to advance into the industry of the future.

This article first appeared on the Cake & Arrow website, here. To learn more about how you can bring about the kind of cultural and institutional change needed to deliver true value to your customers, download our recent white paper: A Step-by-Step Guide to Transforming Digital Culture and Making Your Organization Truly Customer Focused.