This is the third in a four-part series. The two first parts can be found here and here.
It’s well established that insurers understand the need to innovate. Accenture’s Technology Vision for Insurance 2017 revealed that “86% believe they must innovate at an increasingly rapid pace simply to retain a competitive edge,” and a full “94% of insurance executives agree that adopting a platform-based business model and engaging in ecosystems with digital partners are critical to their business.”
Increasingly, insurers are turning to insurtech, whose digital products and platforms can help them in their quest to innovate quickly and at scale. While the bulk of global investment in insurtech is still coming from outside the traditional insurance space, we do see a significant increase in investment from insurers over the past two years.
Which technologies are attracting the biggest investments? Accenture’s report, The Rise of Insurtechfound three key areas which accounted for more than half of the overall investment in 2016:
Artificial intelligence (AI)
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Let’s look at a few interesting examples of how insurtechs are leveraging these digital technologies to help them connect with customers in new and innovative ways.
U.S. insurance startup Lemonade uses AI as an intermediary at multiple touch points throughout the customer journey. At the beginning of the client relationship, the homeowners and renters insurance company has an algorithm to assess a new customer’s risk level (by cross-referencing neighborhood data, past claims and other factors).
While most insurance claims still require some level of human interaction, the bots are improving. Lemonade’s “AI Jim” helped the insurer set the standard for the fastest processing time when the bot reviewed, ran multiple anti-fraud programs on, then settled a claim for a policyholder’s stolen winter coat in three seconds. It typically takes traditional insurers 30 to 45 days to close a similar claim. Lemonade launched quickly and attracted $60 million in stable investment by the end of 2016; insurers and investors are watching the company closely.
SPIXII is both the insurtech business and the name of its chatbot, a virtual blue parrot that “sits on the customer’s shoulder and talks to you.” It’s an automated digital agent that assists customers on their retail journey via a chat window on their smartphones. As with other AI tools we’ve seen, SPIXII learns from its customer interactions and can offer personalized insurance products in real time. SPIXII’s interactions are friendly and conversational, making for a customer experience that is convenient and even pleasant.
Digital Fineprint uses analytics and social media data to provide insurers with insights into customer risk profiles and relationships. The startup uses digital technology to connect with customers where they are online, via social media, providing convenient and customized offerings and increasing sales by targeting a larger network. After receiving initial seed investment from venture capital, the insurtech is attracting attention from Allianz, which invited the company to its accelerator initiative.
What makes these startups such interesting entrants into the insurance space? They’re using digital technology to interact with and reach their customers where they are. They’re offering a customized, personal and interactive service, and investors and incumbents alike are paying attention.
As we reach the end of 2017, the first full 12 months where insurtech has been recognized as a standalone investment segment, we wanted to reflect on what has been an incredible year.
From the start, we at Eos believed that insurtech would be driven globally, and that has certainly played out. This year, we’ve visited: Hong Kong, Amsterdam, New York, Las Vegas, Nigeria, Dubai, India, Singapore, Bermuda, Milan, St. Louis, Munich, Vienna, Paris, Zurich, Cologne, Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Seattle and Toronto. We’ve expanded our geographic footprint to include the East and West coasts of the U.S. and India and have seen fantastic progress across our expanding portfolio. We’ve welcomed a number of new strategic partners, including Clickfox, ConVista and Dillon Kane Group, and launched our innovation center, EoSphere, with a focus on developing markets
At the start of the year, we published a series of articles looking at the key trends that we believed would influence insurtech and have incorporated these in our review of the year.
We hope you enjoy it! Comments, challenges and other perspectives, as always, would be greatly received.
2017: The year innovation became integral to the insurance sector
How are incumbents responding?
We are seeing a mixed response, but the direction of travel is hugely positive. A small number of top-tier players are embracing the opportunity and investing hundreds of millions, and many smaller incumbents with more modest budgets are opening up to innovation and driving an active agenda. The number sitting on the side lines, with a “wait and see” strategy is diminishing.
“If 2016 was the year when ‘some’ insurers started innovating, 2017 will be remembered as the year when ‘all’ insurers jumped on the bandwagon. And not a minute too soon! When I joined 3,800 insurance innovators in Las Vegas, we all realized that the industry is now moving forward at light speed, and the few remaining insurers who stay in the offline world risk falling behind.” Erik Abrahamson, CEO of Digital Fineprint
We are more convinced than ever that the insurance industry is at the start of an unprecedented period of change driven by technology that will result in a $1 trillion shift in value between those that embrace innovation and those that don’t.
Has anyone cracked the code yet? We don’t think so, but there are a small number of very impressive programs that will deliver huge benefits over the next two to three years to their organizations.
“We were pleased to see some of the hype surrounding insurtech die down in 2017. We’re now seeing a more considered reaction from (re)insurers. For example, there is less talk about the ‘Uber moment’ and more analysis of how technology can support execution of the corporate strategy. We have long argued that this is the right approach.” Chris Sandilands, partner at Oxbow Partners
Have insurers worked out how to work with startups? We think more work may be needed in this area….
“Investors are scrambling for a piece of China’s largest online-only insurer… the hype could be explained by the ‘stars’ behind ZhongAn and its offering. Its major shareholders — Ping An Insurance (Group) Co., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd.” – ChinaGoAbroad.com
“Tencent Establishes Insurance Platform WeSure Through WeChat and QQ” – YiCai Global
“Amazon is coming for the insurance industry — should we be worried?” – Insurance Business Magazine
“Aviva turns digital in Hong Kong with Tencent deal” – Financial Times
“Quarter of customers willing to trust Facebook for insurance” – Insurance Business Magazine
“Chinese Tech Giant Baidu Is Launching a $1 Billion Fund with China Life” – Fortune
We are already well past the point of wondering whether tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (GAFA) and Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (BAT) are going to enter insurance. They are already here.
Notice the amount of activity being driven by the Chinese tech giants. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are transforming the market, and don’t expect them to stop at China.
The tech giants bring money, customer relationships, huge amounts of data and ability to interact with people at moments of truth and have distribution power that incumbents can only dream about. Is insurance a distraction to their core businesses? Perhaps — but they realize the potential in the assets that they have built. Regulatory complexity may drive a partnership approach, but we expect to see increasing levels of involvement from these players.
Role of developing markets
It’s been exciting to play an active role in the development of insurtech in developing markets. These markets are going to play a pivotal role in driving innovation in insurance and in many instances, will move ahead of more mature markets as a less constraining legacy environment allows companies to leapfrog to the most innovation solutions.
Importantly, new technologies will encourage financial inclusion and reduce under-insurance by lowering the cost of insurance, allowing more affordable coverage, extending distribution to reach those most at need (particularly through mobiles, where penetration rates are high) and launching tailored product solutions.
Interesting examples include unemployment insurance in Nigeria, policies for migrant workers in the Middle East, micro credit and health insurance in Kenya, a blockchain platform for markets in Asia and a mobile health platform in India.
Protection to prevention
At the heart of much of the technology-driven change and potential is the shift of insurance from a purely protection-based product to one that can help predict, mitigate or prevent negative events. This is possible with the ever-increasing amount of internal and external data being created and captured, but, more crucially, sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that drive actionable insights from the data. In fact, insurers already own a vast amount of historical unstructured data, and we are seeing more companies unlocking value from this data through collaboration and partnerships with technology companies. Insurers are now starting to see data as a valuable asset.
The ability to understand specific risk characteristics in real time and monitor how they change over time rather than rely on historic and proxy information is now a reality in many areas, and this allows a proactive rather than reactive approach.
During 2017, we’ve been involved in this area in two very different product lines, life and health and marine insurance.
The convergence of life and health insurance and application of artificial intelligence combined with health tech and genomics is creating an opportunity to transform the life and health insurance market. We hope to see survival rates improving, tailored insurance solutions, an inclusion-based approach and reduced costs for insurers.
Marine insurance is also experiencing a shift due to technology
In the marine space, the ability to use available information from a multitude of sources to enhance underwriting, risk selection and pricing and drive active claims management practices is reshaping one of the oldest insurance lines. Concirrus, a U.K.-based startup, launched a marine analytics solution platform to spearhead this opportunity.
The emergence of the full stack digital insurer
Perhaps reflecting the challenges of working with incumbents, several companies have decided to launch a full-stack digital insurer.
We believe that this model can be successful if executed in the right way but remain convinced that a partnership-driven approach will generate the most impact in the sector in the short to medium term.
“A surprise for us has been the emergence of full-stack digital insurers. When Lemonade launched in 2016, the big story was that it had its own balance sheet. In 2017, we’ve seen a number of other digital insurers launch — Coya, One, Element, Ottonova in Germany, Alan in France, for example. Given the structure of U.K. distribution, we’re both surprised and not surprised that no full-stack digital insurers have launched in the U.K. (Gryphon appears to have branded itself a startup insurer, but we’ve not had confirmation of its business model).”– Chris Sandilands, partner, Oxbow Partners
Long term, what will a “full stack” insurer look like? We are already seeing players within the value chain striving to stay relevant, and startups challenging existing business models. Will the influence of tech giants and corporates in adjacent sectors change the insurance sector as we know it today?
Role of MGAs and intermediaries
Insurtech is threatening the role of the traditional broker in the value chain. Customers are able to connect directly, and the technology supports the gathering, analysis and exchange of high-quality information. Standard covers are increasingly data-driven, and the large reinsurers are taking advantage by going direct.
We expected to see disintermediation for simple covers, and this has started to happen. In addition, blockchain initiatives have been announced by companies like Maersk, Prudential and Allianz that will enable direct interaction between customers and insurers.
However, insurtech is not just bad news for brokers. In fact, we believe significant opportunities are being created by the emergence of technology and the associated volatility in the market place.
New risks, new products and new markets are being created, and the brokers are ideally placed to capitalize given their skills and capabilities. Furthermore, the rising rate environment represents an opportunity for leading brokers to demonstrate the value they can bring for more complex risks.
MGAs have always been a key part of the value chain, and we are now seeing the emergence of digital MGAs.
Digital MGAs are carving out new customer segments, channels and products. Traditional MGAs are digitizing their business models, while several new startups are testing new grounds. Four elements are coming together to create a perfect storm:
Continuing excess underwriting capacity, especially in the P&C markets, is galvanizing reinsurers to test direct models. Direct distribution of personal lines covers in motor and household is already pervasive in many markets. A recent example is Sywfft direct Home MGA with partnerships with six brokers. Direct MGA models for commercial lines risks in aviation, marine, construction and energy are also being tested and taking root.
Insurers and reinsurers are using balance sheet capital to provide back-stop to MGA startups. Startups like Laka are creating new models using excess of loss structures for personal lines products.
Digital platforms are permitting MGAs to go direct to customers.
New sources of data and machine learning are permitting MGAs to test new underwriting and claims capabilities and take on more balance sheet risk. Underwriting, and not distribution, is emerging as the core competency of MGAs.
Three of the trends driving innovation that we highlighted at the start of the year centered on the customer and how technology will allow insurers to connect with customers at the “moment of truth”:
Insurance will be bought, sold, underwritten and serviced in fundamentally different ways.
External data and contextual information will become increasingly important.
Just-in-time, need- and exposure-based protection through mobile will be available.
Over time, we expect the traditional approach to be replaced with a customer-centric view that will drive convergence of traditional product lines and a breakdown of silo organization structures. We’ve been working with Clickfox on bringing journey sciences to insurance, and significant benefits are being realized by those insurers supporting this fundamental change in approach.
Interesting ideas that were launched or gained traction this year include Kasko, which provides insurance at point of sale; Cytora, which enables analysis of internal and external data both structured and unstructured to support underwriting; and Neosurance, providing insurance coverage through push notifications at time of need.
As discussed above, we believe partnerships and alliances will be key to driving success. Relying purely on internal capabilities will not be enough.
“The fascinating element for me to witness is the genuine surprise by insurance companies that tech firms are interested in ‘their’ market. The positive element for me is the evolving discovery of pockets of value that can be addressed and the initial engagement that is received from insurers. It’s still also a surprise that insurers measure progress in years, not quarters, months or weeks.” – Andrew Yeoman, CEO of Concirrus
We highlighted three key drivers at the start of the year:
Ability to dynamically innovate will become the most important competitive advantage.
Optionality and degrees of freedom will be key.
Economies of skill and digital capabilities will matter more than economies of scale.
The move toward partnership built on the use of open platforms and APIs seen in fintech is now prevalent in insurance.
“We are getting, through our partnerships, access to the latest technology, a deeper understanding of the end customers and a closer engagement with them, and this enables us to continue to be able to better design insurance products to meet the evolving needs and expectations of the public.” Munich Re Digital Partners
Key trends to look out for in 2018
Established tech players in the insurance space becoming more active in acquiring or partnering with emerging solutions to augment their business models
Tech giants accelerating pace of innovation, with Chinese taking a particularly active role in AI applications
Acceleration of the trend from analogue to digital and digital to AI
Shift in focus to results rather than hype and to later-stage business models that can drive real impact
Valuation corrections with down rounds, consolidation and failures becoming more common as the sector matures
Continued growth of the digital MGA
Emergence of developing-market champions
Increasing focus on how innovation can be driven across all parts of the value chain and across product lines, including commercial lines
Insurers continuing to adapt their business models to improve their ability to partner effectively with startups — winners will start to emerge
“As we enter 2018, I think that we’ll see a compression of the value chain as the capital markets move ever closer to the risk itself and business models that syndicate the risk with the customer — active risk management is the new buzzword.” – Andrew Yeoman, CEO Concirrus
We’re excited to be at the heart of what will be an unprecedented period of change for the insurance industry.
A quick thank you to our partners and all those who have helped and supported us during 2017. We look forward to working and collaborating with you in 2018.
“Irresponsible”; “entitled”; “the gilded generation that never had it so good,.” It’s fair to say that society, in general, has a pretty dim view of the group of people currently aged between 18 and 34 – collectively known as millennials or Generation Y. Among the various criticisms leveled at the young professional cohort (immature, lazy, flippant — the list goes on), there is one theme that stands out. To quote a 2016 article from Ratesetter: “The YOLO generation is clueless about money.” (Disclosure – the authors of this article are both in their 20s.)
But is this criticism fair and accurate? We ask this question on the back of recent research from Aviva and others that suggests that the millennial generation might be more careful about what they spend their money on than they are given credit for. Perhaps surprisingly, the research showed that 50% of millennials categorized themselves as savers and that the average 18-to-34-year-old spends a great deal more time researching a purchase before clicking the Buy Now button than you might have thought.
This could be as a result of a number of things – the generation grew up amid one of the toughest recessions in living memory, are increasingly saddled with student debts and are facing the ever-increasing cost of housing. According to a study carried out by Aviva, millennials typically have just £156 left each month after basic living costs and repaying student loans. Regardless of fault or cause, the research seems to suggest that the average 18-to-34-year-old has less money to spend on, well, pretty much everything. Perhaps we have a case of “we’d love to save more — if we could.”
Notwithstanding all of the above, 70% of young people in the Aviva survey indicated that their main motivation for work was to be able to afford to travel. Pair this with that generation-transcending, young person’s mindset of “it’ll never happen to me”; one starts to realize why arranging adequate non-compulsory insurance cover does not appear very high on their lists!
However, with 16.2 million millennials in the U.K. alone, they now account for the largest generation in Western history, and this presents insurers with a great, significantly under-tapped market opportunity (we stop short of saying untapped, as some of the more innovative insurers have seen the light already).
The only slight problem (and it’s no secret) is that many insurers struggle to effectively engage with the young. Generation Y — technically savvy, independent, agile, synonymous with social media and the selfie — tend to be the polar opposite of most insurance companies. Unlike companies in many other industries, insurers don’t yet appear to have worked out the magic combination required to target, convert and retain business from the young — indeed, a recent Gallup web panel survey found that 69% of millennials said they are actively disengaged with or indifferent about their insurance provider.
Enter the insurtechs, which have come to the party with all manner of technological lotions and potions, and boy are they thriving. To paraphrase Sun-Tzu, “to engage your customer, you must think like your customer.” With a better understanding (and to a certain extent, empathy) of the common problems faced by Generation Y and how to solve them, and the ability to adapt quickly to changes without the hindrance of long decision-making processes and slow turnaround times, insurtech businesses are perfectly positioned not only to tap the gold mine themselves but to help the incumbents to do so, as well.
Spoiler alert: As much as we might hate to admit it, millennials are not known for their patience. In today’s world, where you can order food online in less than five minutes and book a holiday in just a few clicks, we want things now, and, where that isn’t possible, we want things quickly. As members of the rental economy, we are also averse to paying for something we aren’t using. The insurtech community has risen to the challenge and responded with the creation of no-fuss insurance policies, such as MetroMile, which allows you to pay for insurance for only the miles you drive, appealing to, among others, students at university who leave their cars at home while they study. On-demand protection is also the idea behind Trov, which enables users to simply turn on and off their insurance, in a few taps, as and when they need it. This shift in approach is something that is going to become more commonplace, with more solutions to insure a generation who view insurance as a luxury required as and when, not all the time.
So how do incumbent insurers compete in the increasingly digitized, by-the-minute economy? Beyond the creation of novel covers, it’s important for insurers to realize that millennials don’t want to be sold to — with so little disposable income, they want to feel as though they have made the buying decision themselves. Millennials want to feel connected to the product/service that they buy, and this starts during the purchasing journey.
Traditional sales methods are no longer effective in their own right. Insurance companies need to give their younger customers the tools to make purchasing insurance quick and personal — for example, by allowing them to autofill an online quote form using their social media data from Facebook or LinkedIn (with their permission), or by helping them to understand where they might be under- (or over-) covered. Here at Digital Fineprint, our focus is on helping the insurance community to disrupt itself from the inside out. We see ourselves as digital enablers, helping the oil tanker-esque behemoths to take on the mind of a jet ski. We firmly believe that if the major players lead from the front, adapting to the shift in the market and making the whole experience simpler and faster, all the while driving transparency between their customers and themselves, then we might just see millennials spending less time taking pictures of their food and more time getting covered!
Comments welcome – as long as they are 140 characters or less….
In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, risks are changing. The advent of technology has made digital assets more valuable than physical ones.
In this scenario, the insurance sector has been increasingly left to deal with technological change and disruption and is having to reconsider the way it defines itself. Having had the opportunity to discuss this transformation in more than 15 countries, I have seen that insurtech is helping to redefine the way the insurance industry is perceived.
Insurance is about providing protection for people in life and in employment. It is about providing a contract where someone promises to indemnify another against loss or damage from an uncertain event, as long as a premium is paid to obtain this coverage – the concept has been around since 1347.
It’s unthinkable for an insurer today not to ask how to evolve its business architecture by thinking which modules within the value chain should be transformed or reinvented via technology and data usage. I believe all the players in the insurance arena will be insurtech – that is, organizations where technology will prevail as the key enabler for the achievement of the strategic goals.
Insurtech startups have received more than $18 billion in funding to date, according to Venture Scanner data. Fantastic teams and interesting new insurance cases have been grabbing the attention of analysts.
Full-stack insurtech startups are generating a lot of excitement in the investor community and attracting relevant funds, and some have achieved stellar valuations, with Oscar, Lemonade, Sonnet, Alan, Element, Zhong An some of the most fascinating players. It looks like the aim of disrupting the status quo, combined with a skepticism about the incumbents’ ability to innovate, is focusing the attention on players to create new insurance products.
A business model adopted by more and more players is the MGA/MGU approach (Managing General Agents/Managing General Underwriter), a way to satisfy investor appetite for players covering a large part of the activities in the insurance value chain and partnering only with an incumbent for receiving underwriting capacity. Trov, Slice, so-sure, Insure the Box, Root, Bought By Many and Prima are some examples of this approach.
I am positive about the ability of the incumbents to innovate, and about the potential for incumbents and insurtech startups to collaborate. This view is based, for example, on the impressive international success of players such as Guidewire and Octo Telematics. I believe service providers for the insurance sector will be more successful in scaling at an international level than the other models described above. This kind of collaboration is leveraging on the incumbents’ technical knowledge and their customers’ trust, which has frequently been underestimated by insurtech enthusiasts. The most relevant opportunity is the collaboration between incumbents and specialized tech players capable of enabling the incumbents’ innovation in the different steps of the business model.
For insurtech startups to outperform traditional insurance companies, they need to have their business models concentrated in what I call the four axes (4 Ps): productivity, profitability, proximity and persistency.
An excellent example is Discovery Holding, with its Vitality wellbeing program. This has been replicated in different business lines and countries with different business models – they are carriers in some countries, operate joint ventures with local insurers in other regions and are a service provider in other nations. They are using state-of-the-art technologies such as wearables and telematics to create a model based on value creation outperforming on all the four Ps, enabling them to share value with their customers through incentives and discounts.
This article is the third in a series on key forces shaping the insurance industry. Parts One and Two can be found here and here.
Trend #3: Just in time: The majority of the simple covers will be bought in standard units through a marketplace/exchange, permitting just-in-time, need and exposure-based protection through mobile access.
Why can’t insurance work in the same way as Amazon, easy, seamless, one-click, no hassle, managed through your mobile and regular updates?
Actually, this is starting to become a reality. Insurers and start-ups have already taken up this challenge and significant progress is being made.
Aviva, for example, are piloting a home insurance product where customers won’t need to answer any questions and Digital Fineprint will autofill your insurance policy application form for you by using your social media information.
Data availability and technology are enabling ‘blind rating’ of risks by insurance companies, providing guaranteed acceptance and prices to customer through direct or broker-assisted channels.
Insurance still has many consumer challenges to overcome, from a lack of understanding, lack of trust and lack of perceived benefits. If it’s considered at all, it’s often as a grudge purchase. The comment that insurance is sold not bought remains true in many instances.
As the digital economy evolves, the opportunity to change this dynamic will multiply.
The key drivers of this change are:
Ability to interact with the customer through their mobile in real time
Ability to offer insurance at the point of sale or time of need
Ability to tailor the offering to the individual’s specific circumstances (location, time, activity, risk)
Ability to leverage available information to simplify the process
Innovative start-ups like Insure-A-Thing (IAT)are reinventing the insurance ecosystem by improving customer trust & transparency, and encouraging improved behavior through retrospective premium payments, based on actual claims.
Democrance is revolutionizing the distribution and servicing of micro-insurance products at POS through telcos and Uber-like shared economy technologies.
Other examples of where this is already happening include, Kasko which enables consumers to purchase insurance at the point of sale/demand – it’s relevant, it’s easy and it’s digital. Similarly, Spixii, an insurance focused chatbot knows if you’re in a ski resort and willout and let you know that your travel insurance doesn’t cover extreme sports and then allow you to purchase the additional protection – again it’s relevant, it’s easy and it’s digital.
Our view is that many relatively simple personal lines products will evolve over time to these types of interactive model. Rather than standard policies covering fixed periods of time, these new products will switch on and off for the period they are needed and will cover the specific circumstances/risk. This will encourage adoption at more affordable prices and importantly demonstrate that insurance is providing real value when it’s most needed.
The sharing economy is a further example of how innovative insurance solutions are being developed to meet new and emerging consumer needs. Start-ups like Slice and Oula.la are looking to provide tailored insurance protection for Airbnb property owners that switch on and off to cover the period when the property is rented.
We also expect to see market place or exchange platforms being developed to help facilitate the process. Again, this is already happening. As an example, Asset Vault allows customers to log their physical and financial assets in a secure online repository and can then help customers find and tailor optimal insurance coverage based on their specific circumstances.
We hope you enjoy these insights, and look forward to collaborating with you as we create a new insurance future.
Next article in the series: Trend #4: Solutions will continue to evolve from protection to behavioral change then to prevention – even across complex commercial insurance