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10 Insurtechs for Dramatic Cost Savings

Winning insurtechs tap into the key challenges that insurance carriers are facing. In this post, the second of seven different flavors of winners in fintech insurance: insurtechs that drive dramatic cost savings.

Although emerging markets are witnessing significant growth, most mature markets are saturated and experience margin pressure. This will show little or no change in the years to come.

Insurers are looking for ways to operate more efficiently in every major part of the costs column: in claims expenses, costs of operations and customer acquisition costs.

Technology purchases and investments by insurance carriers will further explode in these areas. And so will the number of fintech solution providers that want to cater to that need.

Learn from digital pure players

Technology definitely eroded the barriers to entry. Successful pure-play digital insurers know how to leverage technology to defy the conventions related to cost drivers that incumbents still work with. According to McKinsey research, incumbents for instance are not able to operate profitably with fewer than 1 million policies. They hardly seem to benefit from scale economies, and for incumbents the costs of using broker channels barely differ from using digital channels.

“The difference with pure-play digital insurers like InShared could not be bigger,” says Irene van den Brink, director of business development at InShared, the first fully digital insurer player on the Dutch market. In only five years, it achieved 10% market share in online car insurance, the highest NPS score in the market as well as the lowest cost ratio. “We run 500,000 policies with a core team of only 35 FTE [full-time employees]. But the scalability becomes even clearer when I tell you that 1 million policies could be managed by just a few more FTE and not the doubling of FTE you would see in a traditional model. With our digital model, we have proven to run a portfolio of P&C (non-life) at a 10% cost level, where we see that more traditional direct players have a cost level between 20% and 30% and broker models even higher than that. And this is just the beginning: Adding volume to our operations means we can go as low as 75 to 8% expense ratios, leveraging the full potential of a digital model.”

Apart from how digital new entrants leverage technology, we believe that two other factors are essential that explain the difference with incumbents.

First, having started from a clean slate, digital new entrants lack the complexity of a wide product portfolio, multichannel operations and having to comply with existing processes and IT infrastructure. Second, they understand this and stick to it. Successful digital new entrants are complexity-averse by nature. That is why they succeed in scale economies where incumbents don’t, and that is why they succeed in keeping their cost base that much lower. This is where many incumbents go wrong. Van den Brink says: “Virtually every insurance companies has embraced the need for a digital solution. But merely adding a digital channel or an app is not the way forward. In fact, this only adds costs and increases complexity in the IT landscape, it adds databases, systems and the links needed become an even bigger spaghetti.”

This is important to keep in mind when implementing fintech solutions to achieve substantial cost savings. The fintech solutions should address the root cause; they should dramatically reduce the complexity of current operations.

See also: Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2018  

Go where the money is

Insurers spend between 60 and 80 cents of each euro of premium on claims. This means ample opportunities for fintechs that provide innovative solutions that reduce this amount. Think of solutions for improved claims management and fraud detection. Due to insurance fraud, 60 billion euro is lost each year in Europe and the U.S. alone. Of all fraudulent claims, 65% go undetected. Insurers spend no less than 240 million euro annually to tackle fraud.

10 insurtech solutions that dramatically reduce such costs

Everledger is using the technology behind bitcoin to tackle the diamond industry’s expensive fraud and theft problem. The company provides an immutable ledger for diamond ownership and related transaction history verification for insurance companies, and uses blockchain technology to continuously track objects. Everledger has partnered with different institutions across the diamond value chain, including insurers, law enforcement agencies and diamond certification houses across the world. Through Everledger’s API, each of them can access and supply data around the status of a stone, including police reports and insurance claims.

OutShared recently launched the CynoSure digital insurance platform, a complete head-to-tail digital insurer-in-the-box. CynoSure is a SaaS solution that covers the back-office system-of-record to all front-end web and app interfaces. For instance, with CynoClaim (one of CynoSure’s key modules) more than 60% of all claims can be managed automatically, resulting in lower costs as well as increased customer satisfaction. The platform can be used for both new market offerings and the renovation of established operations migrated to the platform. Results of the first implementations are promising: as much as a 50% decrease in costs and 40% increase in customer satisfaction. CynoSure takes six to nine months to implement, whether it is new or a migration – quite spectacular in the insurance industry, as well. (InShared is powered by OutShared)

EagleView Technologies provides aerial imagery, data analytics and geographic information solutions. Thanks to a fleet of 73 aircraft (and drones) that capture images on a year-round basis, EagleView’s library contains more than 250 million images spanning 12 years. This provides the most comprehensive current and historical view of properties available. Insurers use the library, data and visualization tools for instance to identify pre-existing conditions and estimate storm damage to roofs, leading to better decision-making in claims adjusting. In most cases, it is not necessary anymore to visit the site. In addition to these cost reductions, faster closing of claims leads to increased customer satisfaction

Enservio software uses demographic and other information to estimate the value of contents in a home. The software is, for instance, used to settle claims. Imagine a house being destroyed by a hurricane. The software allows the insurance company to reduce time-consuming negotiations, to eliminate discussions and to pay the claim three times faster.

Lexmark health insurance solutions provide carriers with the tools to expedite claims processing, simplify communications and reduce costs. The solutions extract data from claims forms with an accuracy rate of 90% or more, eliminating most manual data entry and boosting straight-through processing. Specific content management solutions integrate with legacy systems to provide health insurance document management for unstructured content in any form – paper, email, web forms, faxes, print streams and industry-standard formats – giving instant access to for instance claim adjusters.

AdviceRobo solutions use a machine-learning platform that combines data from structured and unstructured sources to score and predict risk behavior of consumers. AdviceRobo, for instance, provides insurers with preventive solutions applying big behavioral data and machine learning to generate the best predictions on default, bad debt, prepayments and customer churn. Predictions are actionable because they are on an individual level.

Shift Technology leverages data science to detect and model weak and strong signals of fraud, including fraud by organized gangs.
Shift Technology has developed algorithms to model data analysis of insurance policies and insurance claims, and external data while integrating the expertise of insurers. To be implemented and configured, the solution requires limited technical or financial investment. The solution is provided in a SaaS model and charged based on the volume of claims processed. The platform is used by general insurance companies as well as other actors in the insurance ecosystem, such as expert networks.

Not really insurtech, but too interesting not to include: PartsTrader is an online car parts marketplace that U.S. insurer State Farm is using to dramatically improve the repair process.

Repair delays caused by parts ordering issues result in millions of dollars in rental vehicle expenses daily across the industry, and high parts costs are reducing the number of vehicles that can be repaired. Using PartsTrader addresses both problems. The objective is to improve parts availability, quality, order accuracy, competitive pricing and process efficiency.

The LexisNexis Intelligence Exchange data platform allows insurers, among others, to review an incoming claim, for instance against claims made with other insurers, resulting in faster settlement of genuine claims and coordinated investigations of suspicious claims. The platform also detects potential insurance fraud; e.g. misrepresentation and non-disclosure of relevant facts, and lapsing of a policy in the second or third year due to, for instance, deliberate churning by an agent.

QuanTemplate is a cloud platform to analyze, report and communicate bespoke insurance information between parties. The software is built for the complex, collaborative world of the wholesale reinsurance markets. The users can manage their whole workflow within one app.

The platform reduces time and cost spent on reporting and analytics, while increasing speed and transparency.

See also: Global Trend Map No. 7: Internet of Things

The Internet of Things potentially has a huge impact on claims – by preventing an incident or by warning so that the damage doesn’t get worse. Connected devices provided by companies like Nest deploy sensors and Wi-Fi technologies to detect and report things like a leak under the sink before a pipe burst or to automatically shut off the stove when someone leaves home – so that house owners can handle burning toast before it becomes a burning toaster and insurers can avoid hefty claims later. Liberty Mutual and American Family Insurance already teamed up with Nest to decrease costs.

Similar preventive measures are promoted in ever-more-connected cars.

VitalHealth Software develops cloud-based eHealth solutions in particular for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The company was founded 10 years ago by, among others, Mayo Clinic. The impact is huge because chronic diseases account for the majority of healthcare costs. VitalHealth Software features include care providers participating and collaborating in health networks, gaining web-based access to shared, protocol-driven disease management support based on established clinical guidelines, seamlessly integrated to and accessed from within existing electronic health records. Clients and partners of VitalHealth Software include top five health insurance carriers in Latam, Europe and China, eager to improve patient care and health costs management simultaneously.

All solutions that we featured in this blog have one thing in common: On the one hand, they contribute to significant cost savings, but on the other hand they improve customer engagement. Combining the two should be a leading design principle in digital transformation efforts.

Nest, OutShared, Everledger, AdviceRobo and VitalHealth Software are among the insurtechs that will showcase their innovative solutions at DIA Barcelona.

In our next post, we will focus on the third flavor of winners in fintech insurance: insurtechs that play new roles in the value chain. So stay tuned!

You can find the article originally published here.

5 Favorite Innovators in Blockchain

Blockchain technology is being hyped as ‘internet’s superlative’. Some even think that blockchain promises to be a new infrastructure for financial services by 2020. The essence is that it facilitates peer-to-peer exchange of value, that is without the intervention of a third party, and that indeed renders the possibilities endless. Applications include identity validation, risk reduction, dramatic process improvement (on speed, accuracy, transparency and cost efficiency), fraud prevention, effective and efficient compliance and a lot more we can’t possibly know about at this point. In this blogpost we listed our favorite blockchain showcases.

All five have been selected for DIA editions in Barcelona or Amsterdam. All five match our key criteria; they significantly contribute to operational excellence and customer engagement innovation.

1. Tradle: KYC on blockchain

New York-based Tradle is using the blockchain to build a ‘know your customer’ (KYC) requirements network to secure both intrabank and external transfers. Current technology has moved little beyond pen and paper but the blockchain provides a secure digital infrastructure. Tradle’s system, ensures the transfer of data is verifiable. It’s about transferring trust, not assets. With KYC on blockchain, Tradle is building a global trust provisioning network to give retail, wealth, SME and institutional customers of financial institutions faster access to capital and risk allocation. Tradle helps financial institutions to turn the pain of compliance into commercial opportunity.
Read more …
Check demo …

See also: Blockchain: Basis for Tomorrow  

2. Everledger: blockchain-based diamond fraud detection

Everledger is a digital, permanent, global ledger that tracks and protects items of value by using the Bitcoin blockchain as a platform for provenance and combating insurance fraud. The London start-up is starting with diamonds, with a view to expanding into other luxury goods – high value items – whose provenance relies on paper certificates and receipts that can easily be lost or tampered with. With Everledger, the record is tamper-free; it’s immutable and can therefore be trusted. It also provides a Smart Contracts platform to facilitate the transfer of ownership of diamonds to assist insurers in the recovery of items reported as lost and/or stolen. Smart Contracts will also enable a fundamental change in the diamond marketplace and the way they’re financed. Diamonds are a global problem in terms of document tampering and fraud. In London it’s a 2 billion USD problem, meaning it is realistic to generate revenue with a blockchain-based diamond fraud detection system.
Read more …
Check the keynote of Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp …

3. Eris Industries: The smart contract application platform to solve big problems

The London start-up Eris Industries has built a universal platform for smart contracts and legal applications of blockchain technology. This platform is the first that allows the full potential of blockchain-based technologies to be realized in business. By combining blockchains and systems of smart contracts, businesses can take any data-driven human relationship and reduce it to code – guaranteeing accurate and consistent execution of functions that hitherto required human discretion to manage. The free software allows anyone to build secure, low-cost data infrastructure with run-anywhere applications. By using permissionable, smart contracts’ capable blockchains developers can easily solve commercial data driven problems.
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Check demo …

4. Guardtime: the world’s largest blockchain company

Guardtime is a cyber-security provider that uses blockchain systems to ensure the integrity of data. The company has its roots in US defense systems and expertise in state-level digital security (Estonia). Guardtime uses Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI), a blockchain technology that provides massive-scale data authentication without reliance on centralized trust authorities. Unlike traditional approaches that depend on asymmetric key cryptography, KSI uses only hash-function cryptography, allowing verification to rely only on the security of hash functions and the availability of a public ledger. In this way, Guardtime guarantees data integrity without the need to keep secrets. In short, instead of putting all of the data up in the blockchain, they only take fingerprints of the data.
Read more …
Check demo … 

See also: 5 Main Areas for Blockchain Impact  

5. Kevinsured: blockchain powered chatbot insurance for sharing economy

Kevin, Traity’s new chatbot, provides micro-insurance for online P2P transactions. Created in collaboration with Australia’s financial services conglomerate, Suncorp, Kevin protects buyers on online marketplaces such as Gumtree, Facebook and Craigslist. From buying football tickets to renting a bicycle, Kevin insures any P2P transactions against theft, fraud, scams, etc. Anything. Millions of transactions happen between strangers every day. Most of them work out really well, but the small percentage of scams make people fear strangers. Kevin brings trust to people buying, selling and renting from one another, Kevin ‘insures the use of internet’. To help stop scammers, startup chatbot Kevinsured is here to support online buyers. For any transaction under $100, Kevin validates the integrity of parties to insure the transaction between the buyer and seller. Once a purchase is made and Kevinsured is notified of it, the chatbot reaches out to both the buyer and seller to verify everything is legitimate. $100 may not sound like much, but it covers most of the transactions online. Furthermore, at Kevinsured they think that this is not just about insurance but about prevention. Users who buy and sell through Kevin will be subject to a reputation check, and scammers will simply try to avoid it, so they are likely to see a low level of scams, because scammers prefer to be anonymous.

Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017

The beginning of a new year is usually the time to predict key trends for the year to come, and so it goes with the insurtech sector as well. Most lists focus on the latest sexy technologies and applications. But, after a year, we find these have hardly gained any traction and so cannot really be considered “trends” in our view. To call something a key trend, new and innovative is not enough. It requires adoption at scale. We, therefore, decided to take a different approach, resulting in quite a different kind of list.

Being consultants for several blue chip insurers, speaking at conferences and attending boardroom meetings, we meet insurance executives on a daily basis. Consequently we have a fairly good idea about what’s at the top of their agenda as well as the pace in which change will take place, and in turn what insurtech solutions are most likely to fit into those plans. These insights resulted in our Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2017, illustrated by some awesome insurtechs that joined us at the previous DIA event.

Trend 1. Massive cost savers in claims, operations and customer acquisition

Already a major trend, of course, but one that will gain even more importance in 2017. Quite a few insurers face combined ratios that are close to 100, or even exceed that number. Digitizing current processes is absolutely necessary, for operational excellence and to cut costs. Digital transformation of insurance carriers started in 2015, really took off in 2016 and will be mainstream by 2017 and beyond. Virtually every insurer, big or small, that takes itself seriously will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently in every major part of the costs column: in claims expenses, costs of operations and customer acquisition costs. Technology purchases and investments by insurance carriers will further explode in these areas, as will the number and growth of insurtechs that cater to that need.

With OutShared’s CynoClaim solution more than 60% of all claims can be managed automatically, resulting in lower costs as well as increased customer satisfaction. Results of the first implementations: as much as 50% decrease in costs, 40% increase in customer satisfaction. The solution takes six to nine months to implement, whether it is from scratch or a migration of established operations to the platform, which is quite spectacular in the insurance industry. Check this out.

See also: How Insurtechs Will Affect Agents in 2017

Trend 2. A new face on digital transformation: engagement innovation

At the end of the day, digitized processes and a lower cost base are table stakes. It is simply not enough to stay in sync with fast changing customer behavior, new market dynamics and increasing competitiveness. No insurer ever succeeded in turning operational excellence into a competitive advantage that is sustainable over the long term. More and more carriers realize that engagement innovation is the next level of digital transformation. From a customer point of view, this is not about a new lipstick or a nose job but about a real makeover. Engagement innovation not only includes customer experience, but customer-centric products, new added value services and new business models, as well. Insurtechs that really innovate customer engagement for incumbents have a great 2017 ahead.

Amodo connects insurance companies with the new generation of customers. With Amodo’s connected customer suite, insurers leverage on digital channels and connected devices such as smartphones, connected cars and wearables to acquire and engage new customers. Amodo collects data from smartphones and a number of different connected consumer devices to build holistic customer profiles, providing better insights into customer risk exposure and customer product needs. Following the analysis, risk prevention programs, individual pricing as well as personalized and “on the spot” insurance products can be placed on the market, increasing the customer’s loyalty and lifetime value.

Trend 3. Next-level data analytics capabilities and AI, to really unlock the potential of IoT

Many insurance carriers have started IoT initiatives in the last few years. In particular, in car insurance it is already becoming mainstream, with Italy leading the pack. Home insurance is lagging, and health and life insurance is even more behind. All pilots and experiments have taught insurers that they lack the right data management capabilities to cope with all these new data streams — not just to deal with the volume and new data sets, but more importantly to turn this data into new insights, and to turn these insights into relevant and distinctive value propositions and customer engagement. Insurtechs that operate in the advanced analytics space, machine learning and artificial intelligence hold the keys to unlock the potential of IoT.

2016 DIAmond Award winner BigML has built a machine-learning platform that democratizes advanced analytics for companies of all sizes. You don’t have to be a PhD to use its collection of scalable and proven algorithms thanks to an intuitive web interface and end-to-end automation. Check this out.

Trend 4. Addressing the privacy concerns

To many consumers, big data equals big brother, and insurers that think of using personal data are not immediately trusted. Quite understandable. Most data initiatives of insurers are about sophisticated pricing and risk reduction really. Cost savers for the insurer. However, the added value of current initiatives for customers is limited. A chance on a lower premium, that’s it. To really reap the benefits of connected devices and the data that comes with it, insurers need to tackle these data privacy concerns. On the one hand, insurers need to give more than they take. Much more added value, relative to the personal data used. On the other hand, insurers need to empower customers to manage their own data. Because at the end of the day, it is their data. Expect fast growth of insurtechs that help insurers to cope with privacy issues.

Traity (another 2016 DIAmond Award winner) enables consumers to own their own reputation. Traity uses all sorts of new data sources, such as Facebook, AirBnB and Linkedin, to help customers to prove their trustworthiness. Munich Re’s legal protection brand DAS has partnered with Traity to offer new kinds of services. Check this out.

See also: 10 Predictions for Insurtech in 2017  

Trend 5. Contextual pull platforms

Markets have shifted from push to pull. But so far most insurers have made hardly any adjustments to their customer engagement strategies and required capabilities. In 2017, we will see the shift to pull platforms, as part of the shift to engagement innovation. Whereas push is about force-feeding products to the customer, pull is about understanding and solving the need behind the insurance solution and being present in that context. Risk considerations made by customers usually don’t take place at the office of an insurance broker. Insurers need to be present in the context of daily life, specific life events and decisions, and offer new services on top of the traditional products. Insurtechs that provide a platform or give access to these broader contexts and ecosystems help insurers to become much more a part of customers’ lives, be part of the ecosystem in that context and add much more value to customers.

VitalHealth Software, founded among others by Mayo Clinic, has developed e-health solutions, in particular for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Features include all sorts of remote services for patients, insurers and care providers collaborating in health networks, access to protocol-driven disease management support. All seamlessly integrated with electronic health records. VitalHealth Software is used by insurers that are looking to improve care as well as reduce costs. Among other OSDE, the largest health insurer in Argentina and Chunyu Yisheng Mobile Health, a fast-growing Chinese eHealth pioneer with around 100 million registered users that is closely linked to People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC).

Trend 6. The marketplace model will find its way to insurance

Marketplaces: We already see the model emerging in banking, and insurance will follow fast. Virtually every insurer offers a suite of its own products. Everything is developed in-house. More and more carriers realize that you simply cannot be the best at everything, and that resources are too scarce to keep up with every new development or cater to each specific segment. In the marketplace model, the insurers basically give their customers access to third parties with the best products, the most pleasant customer experience and the lowest costs. The marketplace business model cuts both ways. Customers get continuous access to the best products and services in the market. And costs can be kept at a minimum through connecting (or disconnecting) parties almost in real time to key in on new customer wishes and anticipate other market developments. In 2017, we will witness all sorts of partnerships between insurtechs and incumbents that fit the marketplace model.

AXA teamed up with the much-praised 2016 DIAmond Award winner Trōv to target U.K. millennials. Trōv offers customized home insurances by allowing coverage of individual key items rather than a one-size-fits-all coverage set with average amounts. Check this out.

Trend 7. Open architecture

A new ecosystem emerges, with parties that capture data (think connected devices suppliers) and parties that develop new value propositions based on the data. Insurers will have to cooperate even more than they are currently doing with other companies that are part of the ecosystem. When an insurer wants to seize these opportunities in a structural way, it is no longer only about efficiently and effectively organizing business processes, but it is also about easy ways to facilitate interactions between possibly very different users who are dealing with each other in one way or another. Again, banking is ahead of insurance. For our new book, “Reinventing Customer Engagement: The next level of digital transformation for banks and insurers,” we spoke to many executives in banking, as well. German Fidor Bank has set up an open API architecture called fidorOS, enabling fintechs to develop financial services themselves on top of an existing legacy system. Citi says that “any financial institution that doesn’t want to rapidly lose market share needs to start working in a more open architecture structure.”

The Backbase omnichannel platform is based on open architecture principles. It leverages existing policy administration systems capabilities and adds a modern customer experience layer on top, creating direct-to-consumer portals and giving the opportunity to integrate best-of-breed apps as well as improving agent and employee portals. Swiss Re, Hiscox and Legal & General are some of the insurers that use the Backbase platform. Check this out.

Trend 8. Blockchain will come out of the experimentation stage

When Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Banco Santander decided to leave the R3 Blockchain Group many thought this was proof that blockchain technology apparently was not as promising as initially expected. The contrary is true. It is not uncommon to join a consortium to speed up the learning curve, and then drop out and use the newly acquired knowledge to build your own plans and gain some competitive advantage, especially with a technology as powerful as blockchain. We believe a similar scenario will not take place in the B3i initiative launched by AEGON, Allianz, Munich Re, Swiss Re and Zurich. Thinking cooperation and ecosystems are just much more in the veins of the insurance industry. Plus there are plenty of use cases that cut both ways: improve operational excellence and cost efficiency as well as customer engagement. That is good news for the insurtech forerunners in blockchain technology.

Everledger tackles the diamond industry’s expensive fraud and theft problem. The company provides an immutable ledger for diamond ownership and related transaction history verification for insurance companies, and uses blockchain technology to continuously track objects. Everledger has partnered with all institutions across the diamond value chain, including insurers, law enforcement agencies and diamond certification houses across the world. Through Everledger’s API, each of them can access and supply data around the status of a stone, including police reports and insurance claims. Check this out.

A worker inspects a 5.46 carat diamond before certification at the HRD Antwerp Institute of Gemmology, December 3, 2012. HRD Antwerp analyses diamonds with specially designed machinery, as even for experts it is impossible to visually tell the difference between a synthetic stone and a naturally grown one. Picture taken December 3, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM – Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) – RTR3B8HW

See also: 5 Predictions for the IoT in 2017  

Trend 9. Use of algorithms for front-liner empowerment

Algorithms that are displacing human advisers generate headlines. Robo advice will for sure affect the labor market’s landscape. For a costs perspective, this may seem attractive. But from a customer engagement perspective this may be different. To relate to their customers, financial institutions need to build in emotion. Humans inject emotion, empathy, passion and creativity and can deviate from procedure, if needed. Banks and insurers need to create a similar connection digitally. With so many people working at financial institutions, there is also an opportunity to create the best of both worlds. We see the first insurers that deploy robo advice to empower human front-liners. This is resulting in better conversations, higher conversion and, finally, greater solutions for customers.

AdviceRobo provides insurers with preventive solutions combining data from structured and unstructured sources and machine learning to score and predict risk behavior of consumers — for instance, predictions on default, bad debt, prepayments and customer churn. Predictions are actionable, because they’re on an individual customer level and support front-liners while speaking to customers.

Trend 10. Symbiotic relationship with insurtechs

Relationships between insurers and insurtechs will become much more intense. All the examples included in the previous nine trends make this quite clear. Insurers will also look for ways to learn much more from the insurtechs they are investing in — whether it is about specific capabilities or concrete instruments they can use in the incumbent organization, or whether it is about the culture at insurtechs and the way of working. We see an increasing number of insurers that are now using lean startup methodologies and that have created in-house accelerators and incubators to accelerate innovation in the mothership.

The Aviva Digital Garages in London and Singapore are perfect examples. They are not idea labs, but the place where Aviva runs its digital businesses, varying from MyAviva to some of the startups Aviva Ventures invests in – all under one roof to build an ecosystem and create synergies on multiple levels.

This Top 10 of Insurtech trends that we will witness in 2017 sets the stage for the Digital Insurance Agenda. It reinforces the need to connect insurance executives with insurtech leaders, which is basically our mission. It helps us to create an agenda for DIA 2017 Amsterdam that is in sync with what insurers need and what the latest technologies can provide. Check Digital Insurance Agenda for more info.

Why Blockchain Matters to Insurers

First, a definition. Distributed ledger/blockchain technology, increasingly abbreviated as “DLT,” transfers value in a decentralized, consensus-based and immutable manner using cryptographic tools and is different from technology today because it offers transactions occurring between unknown counterparties that are mathematically trusted in real time. DLT is at once a network and a database that can host applications like Smart Contracts, with the potential to be interoperable across trade ecosystems. This technology seems tailor-made to help administer the claims end of insurance.

Let’s talk about claims. It is well known that insurance claims are the storefront of an insurance business. Claims processing and resolution provide touchpoints for extended customer engagement, and a bad experience can poison an insurer in a customer’s mind, which can affect policy renewal. The claims experience should be seamless and easy to manage for all.

Imagine if you could smooth out your claims process so that it is more accurate, frictionless and cost-efficient and can even provide easy access to data for benchmarking and analysis to improve your customer’s digital experience.

See also: What Blockchain Means for Insurance  

I had my “aha” moment when I first learned about DLT technology. I was struck with an immediate vision of how things could be made better within the insurance industry. As a prior general counsel of an insurer, and now a consultant specializing in the strategic use of this technology, I understand how it can be implemented (once fully developed) and can envision how it can change and improve business from end to end.

Practically speaking, on the claims side, at the very least, the industry would never again have to suffer “the dog ate my homework” excuse for lost documents, duplicate or other document mishaps and related lawsuits. Claims provenance could be automatically established and adjudicated by so-called “smart contracts” (in the most general sense, they are protocols that have deterministic outcomes) in real time with an easily auditable and immutable trail. Identity proof would be less onerous. Those developments alone go a long way to reducing fraud and risk and their associated costs.

While modernizing claims processes is not a “sexy” thought, it is one that directly affects all insurers and their bottom lines by reducing risk. A small shift in the actuarial calculation based on a risk reduction goes a long way. There is not a business person on earth who does not want to increase revenue.

While there is a lot of hype, I believe we are only seeing the beginning of its potential. Education is needed. Imagination is needed. And innovation and execution are needed. The financial services industry has looked at this technology over the past year and is engaging with it, and some practical applications are expected to go into production in 2017. Insurers/asset managers should take notice. For instance, Delaware will begin using blockchain technology for UCC filings powered by Symbiont. Financial industry regulators, both domestically and internationally, are evaluating this technology and are listening and learning. In part, we owe the financial services sector a debt of gratitude for creating awareness overall.

Generally speaking, insurers have been slow to the table to learn about this technology, but it is imperative that they engage as early as possible because DLT has the potential to be very valuable for them. Some reinsurers already understand this and are experimenting. The diamond industry understands this and is experimenting with digital representation of hard assets on a blockchain for asset management and insurance purposes through Everledger. Other insurers have made some attempts to test similar concepts.

Indeed, the insurance industry can benefit on more than just the claims side.

We all know customer acquisition is the most uncertain and expensive part of the process in any business. Well-designed digital processes can prove invaluable in customer acquisition and retention. On the front end of the insurance industry, smart contracts can aid in creating easy-to-manage customer policies, which can be fed into databases and tailored and segmented in any way that makes business sense. Data management and security can be enhanced using blockchain technology. In fact, the Estonian company Guardtime has embraced the cyber security end of this technology and evolved a keyless signature infrastructure (KSI) that DARPA is verifying.

See also: Blockchain: What Role in Insurance?  

Blockchain/DLT technology is not a panacea for all. But it is worth exploring as the technology evolves. We are at an inflection point in the development of this technology—a point in time where insurers and others can have a say in how it evolves. Once standards emerge and practical applications are in production, it may be too late.

Time to get on board, insurers, and weigh in! All you need do is participate to make sure your interests are heard and accounted for.

To the insurance industry, I ask you: How do you see this technology affecting insurance?

In Search of a New ‘Dominant Design’

There is little in the world of insurtech happening today that insurers couldn’t arguably choose to do for themselves if they were motivated to do it. They have the capital to invest. They have resources and could hire to fill gaps in any new capabilities required. They understand the market and know how to move with the trends. And yet insurers readily engage with the startup community to do the things that arguably they could do for themselves.  Why is that?

In Making the Most of the Innovation Ecosystem, Mike Fitzgerald observes the main cultural differences between insurers and the startups they court. These differences give us a strong clue as to why insurers engage with startups, even though on paper they do not and should not need them.

Alongside these deep cultural differences, I believe that there is another angle worth exploring to help answer the question. That’s the market’s maturity stage and, with it, the strategies required to succeed.

One model that helps explain this relates to the work of Abernathy and Utterback on dynamic innovation and the concept of the “dominant design.” To accept the argument, you first need to believe that we’re on the cusp of a shift from an old world view of the industry based on a well-understood and stable design toward one where substantial parts of the insurance proposition and value network are up for grabs. You also need to believe that, for a period at least, these two (or more) worlds will co-exist.

See also: Insurtech Has Found Right Question to Ask  

So, here’s a quick overview of the model (in case you’re not familiar with it)…

Settling on a ‘dominant design’

First introduced way back in the mid-1970s and based on empirical research (famously using conformance toward the QWERTY keyboard as an example), Abernathy and Utterback observed that when a market (or specifically a technology within a market) is new, there first exists a period of fluidity where creativity and product innovation flourishes. During this period, huge variation in approaches and product designs can co-exist as different players in the market experiment with what works and what does not.

In this early, “fluid” stage, a market is typically small, and dominated by enthusiasts and early adopters. Over time, a dominant design begins to emerge as concepts become better understood and demand for a certain style of product proves to be more successful than others. Here, within an insurance context, you’d expect to see high levels of change and a preference for self-built IT systems to control and lower the cost of experimentation.

Once the dominant design has been established, competition increases and market activity switches from product innovation to process innovation – as each firm scrambles to find higher-quality and more efficient ways to scale to capture a greater market share. This is the “transitionary” stage.

Finally, in the “specific” stage, competitive rivalry intensifies, spurred on by new entrants emulating the dominant design; incremental innovation takes hold; and a successful growth (or survival) strategy switches to one that either follows a niche or low-cost commodity path. Within an insurance context, outsourcing and standardization on enterprise systems are likely to dominate discussions.

Applying the ‘dominant design’ concept to the world of insurance and insurtech

Building on the co-existence assumption made earlier, within the world of insurtech today there are broadly (and crudely) two types of firms: (1) those focused on a complete proposition rethink (such as TrovSlice and Lemonade); and (2) those focused on B2B enablement (such as Everledger, Quantemplate and RightIndem). The former reside in the “fluid” stage (where the new dominant design for the industry has not yet been set and still may fail) and the latter in the “transitionary” stage (where the dominant design is known, but there are just better ways to do it).

Figure: Innovation, Insurance and the ‘Dominant Design’

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(Source: Celent – Adapted from Abernathy and Utterback (1975))

Outside of insurtech, within the “specific” stage, there is the traditional world of insurance (where nearly all of the world’s insurance premiums still sit, by the way), which is dominated by incumbent insurers, incumbent distribution firms, incumbent technology vendors and incumbent service providers.

So what? 

What I like about this model is that it starts to make better sense of what I believe we’re seeing in the world around us. It also helps us to better classify different initiatives and partnership opportunities, and encourages us to identify specific tactics for each stage – the key lesson being “not to apply a ‘one size fits all’ strategy.”

See also: 8 Exemplars of Insurtech Innovation  

Finally, and more importantly, it moves the debate from being one about engaging insurtech startups purely to catalyze cultural change (i.e., to address the things that the incumbent firms cannot easily do for themselves) toward one begging for more strategic and structural questions to be asked, such as: Will a new dominant design for the industry really emerge? What will be its timeframe to scale? A what specific actions are required to respond (i.e. to lead or to observe and then fast-follow)?

Going back to my original question: What does insurtech have to offer? Insurers can do nearly all of what is taking place within insurtech as it exists today by themselves…but, as stated at the start of this article, if, and only if, they are motivated to do so.

And there’s the rub. Many incumbents have been operating very successfully for so long in the “specific” stage, optimizing their solutions, that making the shift required to emulate a “fluid” stage is a major undertaking – why take the risk?

This is not the only issue that is holding them back. For me, the bigger question remains one of whether there is enough evidence to show the existence of an emerging new dominant design for the industry in the “fluid” stage that will scale to a size that threatens the status quo. Consequently, in the meantime, partnering and placing strategic investments with insurtech firms capable of working in a more fluid way may offer a smarter, more efficient bet.

In a way, what we’re seeing today happening between insurers and insurtech firms  is the equivalent of checking out the race horses in the paddock prior to a race.  Let the race begin!