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Insurtech: The Year in Review

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….

See also: Insurtech: An Adventure or a Quest?  

The role of the tech giants

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Digital platforms are permitting MGAs to go direct to customers.
  4. 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.

Customer-driven approach

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.

See also: Core Systems and Insurtech (Part 3)  

Partnerships and alliances critical for success

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

Where next?

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.

How Is Marine the Heart of Insurtech?

Who would have thought marine insurance would be at the center of the insurtech revolution? The relationship between insurtech and marine insurance is not an obvious one for many people.

Marine is one of the oldest and most traditional classes of business, the origins of Lloyds of London, when from 1686 members of the shipping industry congregated in the coffee house of Edward Lloyd to arrange early forms of marine insurance.

However, two recent announcements firmly place marine in the center of the technology revolution affecting insurance.

First, Maersk announced they are building a blockchain-based marine insurance platform with EY, Guardtime, Microsoft and several insurance partners. Second, a U.K.-based technology company, called Concirrus, announced the launch of the first AI-powered marine insurance analytics platform.

At Eos, this was not surprising.

See also: Insurance Needs a New Vocabulary  

In the first half of 2017, as part of our thesis-driven investment approach, we highlighted commercial insurance as a key area of focus and within that our first product vertical to focus on was marine insurance. What led us to this conclusion?

Commercial marine insurance is a $30 billion premium market, it’s complex and fragmented, and through our analysis we identified a significant potential shift in profit pools over the next few years. Importantly, the emergence of IoT and other devices has created a wealth of data within the industry. Marine also sits at the heart of global supply chain logistics.

During our deep dive into the sector and having spoken with more than 40 market participants across various parts of the value chain, it became apparent that marine insurers (and shippers) have never had so much data (internal and external) available to them, and many don’t have the tools or skill set to take advantage of it.

Growing competition, underwriting capacity and downward pressure on pricing has given little room to maneuver, but we were intrigued and kept digging.

The ability to gather and analyze these new information sources is helpful, but more important will be driving actionable insights through well-informed decision making based on high-quality, real-time data and analytics to improve risk selection, pricing and claim management while helping the insured better manage risk. As with many parts of insurtech, the underlying driver is the move from pure risk transfer to risk mitigation, and from prevention to prediction.

The creation of marine analytics solution platforms provide tailored insights to users, which is an important first step. Currently, software and tech providers to the marine industry are fragmented, with no dominant vendors and no joined up, end-to-end solutions.

As the market matures, the ability to harness analytics capability at the front end with improved efficiency at the back end through blockchain or other initiatives creates an even more compelling story and is an area we will be watching with interest.

Key Trends in Innovation (Part 7)

This article is the sixth in a series on key forces shaping the insurance industry. The other parts can be found at these links: Parts One, Two, Three, Four/Five and Six can be found Part OnePart Two, Part Three, Parts Four and Five and Part Six.

 

Trend #7: Partnerships and alliances are the way forward in internal innovation; incubation and maturing of capabilities will no longer be the optimal option. And dynamic innovation will require aggressive external partnerships and acquisitions.

As such, a model that encourages collaboration and embraces partnerships and alliances with third parties has the best chance of driving successful innovation.

Incumbents can innovate from within, but this is often difficult because of the challenges of innovating within an existing business, the risk of disrupting BAU activities and the different motivations that drive individuals.

See also: The One Thing to Do to Innovate on Claims  

At Eos, one of the core principles underlying our vision is that insurtech will deliver the most value through a collaborative approach between incumbents and startups. Identifying common goals will be key to ensure the collaboration is a success, particularly given significant cultural differences.

Another challenge in the current environment is that the sales cycle is painfully long. The average is 12 months, an awfully long time for a typical startup. Even with senior buy-in and a decision to proceed, it can still take six months to get a startup to launch. In many instances, the process adopted by an insurer to onboard a large technology provider — like Guidewire or SAP for a major transformation project — seems to be the same as for the startup.

In response, an increasing number of startups have decided to apply for a license and set up a full-stack insurer. This is a challenging model and will require significant investment capital, but many are succeeding, and others will, too. However, it would be a real shame if insurers cannot find a way to become more open, agile and responsive. They bring customers, distribution, products, underwriting capacity and a wealth of experience that can be applied. They are also working on internal innovation projects that can play a key role.

The Eos model has been designed to address this challenge; we have created a bridge between incumbents and startups. The investors in our fund are from within the insurance sector, are reinsurers, are insurers and are brokers. They make the investment for two reasons: the prospect of strong financial returns and, more importantly, an opportunity to create a strategic partnership that gives them the ability to access and engage with cutting-edge innovation. By creating an ecosystem that supports collaboration and embraces development, we significantly shorten the adoption cycle.

One of the interesting dynamics as we embrace new technology is that AI sits at the center of three exponential forces:

  • Moore’s law refers to the fact that computing increases in power and decreases in relative cost at an exponential pace;
  • Kryder’s law refers to the rapid increases in density and the capability of hard-drive storage media over time; and
  • Metcalfe’s law refers to the community value of a network that grows as the square of the number of its users increase.

Those laws mean that change happens so fast that, if you miss the boat, there will be no way of catching up….

The cost of sitting on the sidelines and not embracing insurtech could mean the death of your business.

See also: 10 Reasons to Innovate — NOW!  

We hope you enjoy these insights, and we look forward to collaborating with you as we create a new insurance future.

The next article in the series, “Trend #8: Simple ‘Grow or Go,’” will showcase how decisions of the last decade will be sub-optimal as the dust settles in insurtech and how degrees of freedom will be the key.

Key Trends in Innovation (Part 6)

This article is the fifth in a series on key forces shaping the insurance industry. Parts One, Two, Three and Four/Five can be found here, here, here and here.

Trend #6: Delivering on the customer promise is the key

The ability to dynamically innovate (new risk pools, new segments, new channels) and deliver on the customer promise will become the most important competitive advantage as known risks continue to get commoditized and move to the direct channels.

One of the key forces driving the growth of insurtech is the current lack of engagement and, in some instances, the lack of trust between consumers and the industry. In our view, the ability to combine innovation with a model that improves the way individuals perceive and interact with insurance is critical in driving value creation.

Claims is at the heart of the customer promise

At the heart of the customer promise is the claims process. In many ways, it’s surprising that innovation in this area has been relatively modest given its economic importance (representing 60% to 70% of the overall cost base) and its importance in driving customer satisfaction. Our analysis has shown that the impact on renewals rates between a poor or positive claims experience is as high as 50%.

See also: Can Insurance Innovate?  

In most cases, claims acceptance rates are very high (often more than 90%). Despite this, individuals are skeptical. This is driven, in part, by the approach taken by the industry. As a minor example, often while you wait for your call to a claims center to be answered, you are reminded of the consequences of making a fraudulent claim. The insurance company seems to imply the most likely scenario is a fraudulent one. The interaction is off to a bad start before it’s even properly begun.

We have positioned claims innovation as one of our four key pillars with a solution built around a customer-managed claims platform called RightIndem. RightIndem allows an inefficient analog process to be converted into a digital one, resulting in significant cost savings for the insurer — both in claims handling costs and cost of claim. More importantly, though, the platform significantly enhances customer satisfaction by placing him or her at the heart of the process and by being easy, mobile-enabled, transparent and quick. (As an example, total loss motor claims were settled in a matter of days rather than the 21-day average that exists in the U.K.).

New models, new channels, new risk pools

Customer engagement is another important area of innovation, with several new approaches being tested. It’s important that insurance becomes more relevant and tailored to individuals’ needs and circumstances. As this happens, insurance moves from being a “sell” decision to a “buy” decision. Our earlier article on just-in-time insurance explored some of these trends in more detail.

Innovation is also allowing new ways to interact with customers, and we see potential in solutions that enable insurance at point of sale or point of demand.

In addition, new risk pools that allow niche or tailored solutions make insurance more relevant to individuals.

Finally, there are a number of models that are looking to change the nature of the customer promise. Insure A Thing (IAT), for example, has turned the traditional insurance process on its head. Rather than pay an upfront premium, customers are placed in affinity groups where cost of claims is shared among members, with a safety net provided by an insurance carrier. All parts of the value chain are aligned; IAT only earns fees when it pays claims.

Innovation, if insurers embrace it, will allow them to fundamentally change the customer dynamic and to create a new value proposition that is truly appreciated and valued by the customer.

See also: InsurTech: Golden Opportunity to Innovate  

We hope you enjoy these insights, and we look forward to collaborating with you as we create a new insurance future.

Next article in the series: Trend #7: Internal innovation, incubation and maturing of capabilities will no longer be the optimal option; dynamic innovation will require aggressive external partnerships and acquisitions.

Key Trends in Innovation (Parts 4, 5)

This article is part of a series on key forces shaping the insurance industry. Parts One, Two and Three can be found herehere and here.

Trend #4 and #5: Innovation in commercial lines

Solutions will continue to evolve from protection to behavioral change, then to prevention — even across complex commercial insurance. Although proliferation of data and increasing transparency of both the buyer and seller will cause disintermediation for simple covers, it will also create opportunities for brokers and intermediaries to innovate solutions and channels for their B2C (non-standard risk pools, retirees/older generation, healthcare gaps) and B2B (emerging and unknown risks, cyber, global supply chains, cross-border liability, terrorism).

We believe the potential for innovation in commercial lines is actually larger than personal lines. Because of the complexity of the commercial insurance ecosystem and new emerging risks, however, the level of innovation seen so far has been relatively modest.

See also: 3 Ways to Leverage Digital Innovation  

Demand and supply of commercial insurance solutions is evolving, driven by:

  • developing markets looking for new solutions
  • the digital economy driving a move away from property risks (which are decreasing as a proportion of the overall economy) to casualty
  • increasing demand for catastrophe insurance (driven, in part, by increasing concentration)
  • macro trends creating emerging and “uninsurable” risk classes
  • new sources of structured and unstructured external data that are changing how commercial insurance is sourced, bought, underwritten/priced and serviced

The competitive landscape is also changing with large global conglomerates setting up captives to self-insure emerging market champions and the continued involvement of alternative sources of capital. Excess underwriting capacity is placing strain on profitability.

In addition, new entrants and primary distributors are seeking to take greater control of the value chain, including pricing and risk selection. This impact is further enhanced by primary carriers retaining more risk as a result of global scale and balance sheet strength providing diversification and increased understanding of their own risk from solvency modeling.

Many incumbents are already starting to respond.

In the London market, a key component of the modernization program being driven by Lloyds is PPL, a new platform where face-to-face negotiation is supported and facilitated by electronic risk capture, placing, signing and closing. Brokers are also aggressively evolving their risk analytics capabilities through the creation of open architecture platforms that deliver a two-way information flow while leveraging knowledge to shape future risk transfer solutions for evolving needs.

Many carriers are piloting monitoring technology in property (partnerships with security, pest control and energy companies) as well as casualty (sensors and wearables) to drive improvements in risk selection and risk mitigation.

How innovation will drive value creation

Risk monitoring, mitigation and prevention

One of the key trends driving change is the move from risk transfer to risk monitoring, mitigation and prevention.

Organizations are looking for risk prevention and mitigation solutions as they move away from traditional risk transfer mechanisms.

We see three main areas:

  • Telematics for commercial lines (for example in property and marine);
  • Real-time, contextual data capture and AI for risk selection, risk mitigation and monitoring, client on-boarding as well as re-underwriting; and
  • Use of preventive technologies (health tech, slip and fall, work place safety) to mitigate lost time injury and workers’ compensation losses.

Insurance sourcing, buying and selling

As businesses gain greater transparency into their risks, they will continue to optimize their risk management solutions. While direct SME cover, self-insurance and use of captives will continue to grow, emerging risks will provide opportunities for intermediaries and brokers to carve out and source new solutions for their customers. Examples of these will include global supply chains, cross border liability, cyber, catastrophe and terrorism.

Operating model improvements

The commercial market has always been very strong around product innovation, but the operating model has largely stagnated. In some parts of the market, the underlying process hasn’t really changed for more than a hundred years. System limitations further reduce the ability to leverage the data that is captured. There are significant opportunities to enhance operational efficiency in many of the basic functions, including payments and regulation and also in automating underwriting and claims.

Application of technology and data to enable digitalization

There are a number of risk classes where there is significant potential to harness technology and data to improve underwriting, risk selection and pricing, as well as to help businesses understand and then manage their exposure. These include cyber, flood and SME.

Platform-based solutions

Platform-based solutions (rather than point solutions) have the greatest potential to create value, and incumbents will need to assess how to incorporate innovative solutions based on a build, buy or partner strategy.

See also: Q&A With Google on Innovation, Risk  

We hope you enjoy these insights, and we look forward to collaborating with you as we create a new insurance future.

Next article in the series will be about Trend #6. The ability to dynamically innovate (new risk pools, new segments, new channels) and deliver on the customer promise will become the most important competitive advantage (as known risks continue to get commoditized and moved to the direct channels).