Tag Archives: Global Insurance Accelerator

Model for Collaboration and Convergence

The Global Insurance Accelerator, based in Des Moines, Iowa, has just participated in the fourth Global Insurance Symposium. Two of the big takeaways are that the insurtech movement is maturing, and there is indeed convergence happening between the traditional industry and the entrepreneurial startups that have new ideas and business models. For the insurance industry to advance, there must be a great deal of collaboration between all types of participants in the marketplace. The GIA represents a great example of how this collaboration can be facilitated.

Since its inception, the GIA has promoted collaboration instead of disruption. There is a clear focus on insurtechs and their potential to bring transformative ideas to the industry, but not with the objective of displacing the existing industry players. The model is designed to look for mutual benefit for insurers and insurtech startups. Insurance companies, regulators, investors, academia and other industry experts like SMA are actively involved with insurtechs to guide and support them as they mature.

See also: Insurance Coverage Porn  

The idea is that there is a win-win situation when the strengths of the traditional industry (capital, regulatory experience, scale, risk knowledge, etc.) can be blended with the strengths of insurtechs. The startups bring an entrepreneurial spirit, speed, innovation and new business models to the game. The best ways to partner and take advantage of these combinations require hard work and are enhanced by facilitating organizations like the GIA.

As the transformation of the insurance industry continues, more and more insurers are seeking to actively partner with insurtechs, leverage emerging technologies and institutionalize innovation. At the same time, the insurtech community in general is maturing and has a greater understanding of the insurance industry and the need to collaborate than it had a couple of years ago. This evolving formula creates the potential to provide new ways to deliver the customer experience, improve operational efficiencies and assist customers in risk management and wealth accumulation, resulting in success for insurers, insurtechs, and other market participants.

Startups Take a Seat at the Table

In an industry where experience matters, and where specific domain knowledge has traditionally been prized above all other things, startups are increasingly being included in strategic conversations, and given a seat at the insurance table. Insurtech startups are bringing important emerging technology innovations and smart business solutions to a stalwart industry, and interest and investment in insurtech is climbing steadily. With the pace of change and competition increasing, as well, leading industry incumbents are beginning to pursue collaboration with fresh partners and platforms.

Age Is Just a Number

There is no right age for launching a startup, or for undertaking an innovation initiative, but many naively assume that younger is always better. In fact, some mix of experience in the industry being targeted along with an innovative idea and entrepreneurial state of mind are likely the best combination.

The Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) in Des Moines, for example, provides support to insurtech startups worldwide through a mentoring system that matches industry professionals with startups for a chance to better focus product-market fit. The average age of program participants working from Des Moines has increased each year since inception in 2015. The average age was 35 in the first year. It bumped one year to 36 in 2016, and jumped to 40 in 2017.

See also: Will Startups Win 20% of Business?  

This mix of new voices and seasoned experts proves that innovation doesn’t have to come exclusively from one generation. Leveraging industry knowledge and experience with ideas from newcomers can lead to great things when attacking problems worth solving.

Everyone Needs Mentors

Over the course of three cohorts at the GIA, a shift has occurred in the amount of insurance experience the entrepreneurs had coming into the program. In 2015, only a couple of participants had worked in the industry. Now, in 2017, the pendulum has swung to the other end of the spectrum, and almost every member of the cohort has worked in insurance at some point during his or her career.

However, this prior industry experience hasn’t diminished the impact the GIA’s mentors have on any given startup’s evolution. The amazing pool of mentors who have raised a hand and taken a front seat in helping these early-stage InsurTech startups navigate a complex industry remain critical to the program’s success. Although the mentor role is largely to guide and advise, almost all of the GIA’s more than 100 mentors have reported learning as much from the startups.

Collaboration Is Key

There are six companies currently participating in the 100-day GIA program from a combination of the United States, Canada, Germany, and Serbia. The ideas and products offered by these InsurTech startups differ, as do the technologies powering the innovation, but these startups are all entrepreneurs who understand the vast opportunities within the insurance sector.

Moving to the main stage, GIA’s InsurTech startup cohort members gain a seat at the table this Spring during the fourth annual Global Insurance Symposium in Des Moines. Sitting alongside peers in one of the global hubs of the insurance industry, these startups will be able to both learn from seasoned industry experts and share wisdom as well.

See also: 5 Challenges Facing Startups (Part 5)  

The Global Insurance Accelerator experience will culminate in a panel discussion at the Global Insurance Symposium which will discuss lessons learned, and provide an opportunity to network with leaders from around the industry. This experience will allow GIA’s cohort to better understand the industry so transformation can continue from the inside out.

Collaborative efforts like these will not only allow insurance industry players to remain relevant and competitive, but to transform the insurance industry by meeting customers’ needs through new and improved methods.

6 Minutes of History From 2016

We knew that 2016 would be big.

To capture the flavor of the pace and magnitude of change, I wrote a series of blogs where I likened the dramatic shifts in insurance technology to what happened during the original Italian Renaissance, when education, money, art and science combined to create quantum leaps forward and redefined trade and the economy, the social scene and technological advancement.

So here we are at the end of 2016, and I think we can make a case that 2016 was not only pivotal and groundbreaking but that it was historic on the scale of a Renaissance. At no time in the history of insurance can we find one year that includes this many game-changing events AND a rapid pace of continuing advancement.

My thinking is that if the 525,000 minutes of 2016 were actually historic, then perhaps they deserve their own six-minute look back. To keep things short, I’ve split the 2016 trends into one-minute discussions.

Insurtech — From independent ideas to industry-wide imperatives

Do you remember where you were when you first heard the term “insurtech”? Its first connotations were regarding those out-in-the-stratosphere ideas from independent tech and insurance startups as an extension of fintech regarding important-but-not-disruptive ideas in insurance. You may have heard the term “insurtech” in 2015, but it certainly went mainstream in 2016 as its own vertical focus separate from fintech.

Conversations around insurtech grew, but, more importantly, the influx of capital that advanced the proliferation of startups and greenfields based on new tech capabilities and business model disruption were unprecedented — bringing insurtech from its fintech roots into a completely mainstream, independent, industry-wide wave of innovation. Many traditional insurers and reinsurers hopped on the insurtech wave and showed interest in capturing their own slices of the creative pie. From accelerators like the Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator (SVIA), Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) and Plug and Play to the first InsureTech Connect meeting in Las Vegas in October with more than 1,500 executives in attendance, insurtech became the “hottest” thing in the industry, giving insurers of all sizes and lines of business pause to consider their strategies. Even S&P recognized the impact of insurtech as having “a complementary place in the traditional insurance world, despite remaining uncertainty in the industry about how it will function on a wide scale.”

See also: The Insurance Renaissance, Part 5  

The insurance industry may never have had this much activity, excitement and concern on the promise and potential of insurance disruption and reinvention.  From the launch of Lemonade, Slice, Haven Life and more insurers and MGAs, the shift to a customer-centric rather than product-centric view is creating a customer experience not unlike the Amazon experience. 2017 will continue to see existing insurers and reinsurers looking to stand up a new brand and business model to capture the next generation of customers and position for growth.

Emerging technology engages insurers

What emerging technologies are we seeing as having made an impact in 2016 with real operational impact? There is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. There are new sensors and their ability to capture the unseen aspects of operation and life. Protective technologies in vehicles, property and health are growing. There is live streaming data and video from smart phones and drones. Data’s organizational and visual capabilities are improving with new tools.

We could drone on.

But the reality is that the mobile, connected and ethereal digital world is using real-time data to gain insight and manage, reduce or eliminate risk in the physical world to a greater degree than ever before. There used to be “an app for that.” Now, there’s a sensor for everything on the Internet of Things. The world is fast becoming an omni-channel portal into daily life. The distance from “emerging technology” to mainstream tech usage is measured in months, not years, shattering Moore’s Law.

Emerging technologies span a diverse realm for insurers — if you consider that new technology can be worn on a wrist, flown pilotless through the sky or operate entirely within the digital networks of processors and servers. It’s no wonder that an insurance renaissance is in full swing. The space age has given way to the digital age, where it seems like anything may be possible — it just takes imagination, creativity and thinking outside the traditional box. Digital technologies have penetrated previously untapped data mines, allowing machine failure to be predicted and prevented; human risk to be captured and calculated; and insurer risk to be managed, mitigated and eliminated, creating a new value proposition, new products and new services for customers.

New and innovative businesses launches

Disruption makes use of plug-and-play ideas and technologies. Traditional insurance organizations were tightly wound balls of string, operating everything within that ball. Connections were immovable. Processes attempted to be neat and tidy, but they were always struggling with the “messiness” of adaptation. Today’s insurtech resembles Legos in insurtech’s ability to fulfill conceptual opportunities. Imagine a pile of sensors, another pile of devices and yet another “pile” of data streams. Then ask yourself, “What can your mind dream up today?” In 2016, businesses were busy dreaming up enough disruptions to disturb the sleeping giants of insurance.

Slice made a mobile app that integrates with a hybrid homeowner/commercial product. Lemonade used an AI bot to act as agent on a peer-to-peer insurance platform. Haven Life (launched in 2015 but entered 33 new states in 2016) reconsidered how data streams could improve the life underwriting experience for term life.  And then there were new distribution options with companies like Ask Kodiak, Insurify and PolicyGenius — to name a few — deconstructing and redefining the insurance value chain/business model.

Just like building with Legos, there seem to be no end to the combinations of startup and greenfield businesses that can launch using new business models, technologies and great ideas across all aspects of the insurance value chain to meet new customer needs, expectations and demands. This is one area where 2017 will certainly trump 2016 — we may only be seeing the beginning of the innovation wave — but expanding from venture-capital-backed to existing insurers standing up their own greenfield and startup businesses.

Reinsurers invest in insurtech and startups

With the reinsurance market having excess capital, reinsurers took big moves to be major players in insurtech — from investing in technology companies to new startup insurance and MGA businesses. In addition, many are looking at all the disruption around and within insurance and developing, incubating and testing new insurance products to take to market, either directly or through customers or partners.

Consider reinsurers’ investment in Trov, Lemonade, Root and Slice; Munich Re’s investment and focus on mobility and autonomous vehicles; or XL Group and the establishment of XL Innovate, a specialized venture capital fund pursuing investments in financial technology, new opportunities for insurance underwriting and related analytics, globally. Swiss Re, Hannover Re, Odyssey Re, Maiden Re and others are rapidly making moves as well.  Consistently, these investments are in new operational models, new products or meeting new risks — creating a path to underserved or new markets.

See also: Insurtech: One More Sign of Renaissance  

As noted in a recent article, all this insurtech activity is raising the expectation on the importance of reinsurance capital to support new business models and back technology startups. In the process, insurtech startups are looking to disrupt the risk to capital value-chain in insurance by deconstructing and collapsing the value chain and by cutting out primary carriers or brokers, as well as costs, and placing the risk directly with reinsurers, leveraging unused capital. We expect to see increased activity from reinsurers that will likely begin to look at partnering with existing insurers/customers to collaborate on new products and with emerging technologies or by standing up a new brand or greenfield, continuing the deconstruction of the traditional insurance value chain.

Cloud goes mainstream

In 2016, the case for core system platform in the cloud reached the tipping point — from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Its logic has grown as capabilities have improved and cost pressures have increased. Though cost is a consideration and modern functionality is important, rapid industry change is fueling a renaissance in insurance models. The startup insurer or the greenfield insurance concept needs a system solution built for rapid deployment. New products often need new processes, making cloud capabilities a catalyst for creative product development. Nothing can make an insurer feel more cutting edge than moving from idea to rollout in the short timeframes that cloud solutions provide.

Many insurers are taking advantage of the same pay-as-you-use principles as consumers themselves. They are sharing system solutions with cloud-based technology. They are paying as they grow, with agreements that allow them to pay per policy or pay based on premiums. They are using data-on-demand relationships for everything from medical evidence to geographic data and credit scoring. They use technology partners and consultants in an effort to not waste time, capital, resources and budgets.

Insurers are rapidly moving to a pay-as-they-use world, building pay-as-they-need insurance enterprises. This is especially true for greenfields and startups, where a large part of the economic equation is an elegant, pay-as-you-grow technology framework. They can turn that framework into a safe testing ground for innovative concepts without the fear of tremendous loss, while having the ability grow if the concepts are wildly successful. The window of opportunity is open to insurers that wish to prepare their business models, products, processes and systems to embrace the pay-as-you-go culture

This makes cloud a nearly-universal solution, fitting the needs of both startups and traditional insurers with plans for growth and expansion. In 2016, cloud became a mainstream option — an imperative for insurers needing a competitive edge.

Perspectives on the Pace of Change

The world recently lost John Glenn, a famous American astronaut and long-time U.S. senator. Glenn was born in 1921, only 18 years after the Wright Brothers tested flights at Kitty Hawk. He lived to pilot jets, was the first person to orbit the earth in a spacecraft, then later flew on two Space Shuttle missions at the age of 77. His life is a great example of the growing pace of change — in a world that moved from mechanization to digitization.

See also: A Renaissance, or Just Upheaval?  

Yet as much as changed in Glenn’s lifetime, today’s advancements are eclipsing all of them in pace and disruption. The systems that create knowledge through data and analysis are truly powerful forces that will ignite perpetual improvement and a new world of connected living. Insurance, once concerned with risk management on a large scale, will be focused on learning and understanding risk down to an individual policy-level, with a craving for more knowledge as it becomes available. If 2016 proved to be an insurance renaissance fueled by insurtech, it is very likely that 2017 will provide us with an even greater shift in the midst of an industry rebirth.

How much will change?

We have all of 2017 to find out!

Observations From InsurTech Week

InsurTech Week 2016 hosted by the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines was a great experience. It is quite interesting to see the energy, excitement, new ideas and investment in the insurance industry. Brian Hemesath and his team at the GIA have done a great job of harnessing this activity and being a positive force for change in the industry.

There are two themes I would like to highlight. The first is that the ingenuity and sheer variety of the startups is astounding – and will ultimately be a great thing for the industry. The second theme, and perhaps the more subtle one, is that there is a collegial atmosphere and a common sense of purpose about the role of insurance in society and business.

See also: Insurtech Has Found Right Question to Ask  

Variety and Ingenuity

The 11 insurtech startups participating in this InsurTech Week are a microcosm of the larger movement. A few examples are illustrative.

  • Abaris – an innovative, direct-to-consumer solution for retirement planning, starting with income annuities.
  • Insure A Thing – an idea for a revolutionary new business model for insurance that includes making payments in arrears (post-claim).
  • Denim – a social media ad platform for insurance with a vision to ultimately reimagine marketing and distribution.
  • ViewSpection – a mobile app for DIY property inspections to help to inexpensively provide more information to agents and underwriters.

The other participants also had innovative solutions for various lines of business and addressed key business issues in insurance today. They are: Ask Kodiak, Gain Compliance, Montoux, InsureCrypt, Elagy, CoverScience and Superior Informatics.

Some are in the early stages. Some originated outside North America and may or may not enter the market here. Some may not even be approved by regulators in their current form. But that is true of the broader set of the hundreds of insurtech companies that are active today.

The main point is that there is a great deal of innovation here, and many of these companies will play a role in the evolution of insurance, one way or another.

Collegial Atmosphere

The founders and investors in insurtech companies certainly desire to make money. Insurers that are engaging with these firms hope to gain competitive advantage. But in keeping with the culture of the insurance industry, there is also a great atmosphere of collaboration and even a sense that there is a higher purpose.

I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but there is a sense of altruism here – a sense that there are great opportunities to make the world a better place. Many of the insurtech companies see opportunities to improve safety in homes, in businesses, in factories and on the roads. The potential to significantly reduce accidents and deaths is tangible. Providing new services and capabilities to enhance lifestyles, improving individual well-being and just making it easier for customers to do business with the industry are also common purposes.

There is a spirit of cooperation among insurers, insurtech and other industry players, even in cases where companies are competitors. Not to criticize other industries, but insurance is about a lot more than selling a widget and making a buck.

See also: Calling all insurtech companies – Innovator’s Edge delivers marketing muscle and social connections

A Bright Industry Future

Overall, I believe this is cause for optimism for the insurance industry. It is not easy to transform from today’s business models, processes and systems into a future that embraces all the new ideas coming from insurtech. But many in the industry are now actively involved in building strategies, experimenting with new ideas and technologies, launching ventures and generally being willing to think differently.

While many industries are being disrupted, insurance is more likely to morph into a better version of itself, with incumbent players learning from and partnering with new players.

The Start-Ups That Are Innovating in Life

In my last post, I provided categories within which to organize the innovation players within life insurance. Both start-ups and legacy businesses are pursuing solutions to industry pain points. Attention is being paid to distribution, product, client experience, speed, productivity, big data, compliance and other areas within the life category where inefficiency exists or where client needs are not met today.

The very complexity of life insurance will be a deterrent, at least in the near term, to the volume of innovations versus what we have seen in other areas of InsurTech. Much of the innovation, including the examples presented here in my April post, aim at specific issues with the current model for life insurance, versus taking a clean-sheet approach.

Entrants into the space aim to solve adviser problems, become the new intermediaries between the carriers and the client or assist the carriers themselves. For their part, carriers are funding and leading transformation efforts. They know they must adapt, but because it’s almost impossible to drive massive change from within an established business model and culture, it is likely that start-ups creating differentiated value that avoid becoming mired in complexity can do well.

Here are examples of opportunities:

Adviser conversations will move from the kitchen table to digital channels.

The Global Insurance Accelerator aims to drive innovation in the insurance industry. Of note in GIA’s 2016 cohort is InsuranceSocial.Media, a tiered offering that automates adviser participation in social media. Based on a user-defined profile, advisers are provided with algorithm-driven content that they can distribute via their social media identities.

Hearsay Social is a more evolved startup also enabling adviser social media. The company boasts relationships with seven out of 10 of the largest global financial services companies, among these New York Life, Pacific Life, Farmers and AXA. Hearsay addresses the compliance requirements that carriers have so their advisers can participate in social media: (1) archiving every instance of social media communication and (2) monitoring all adviser social conversations, intercepting compliance breaches. While not sexy, this capability is critical and commands C-suite attention.

An early-days market entrant also targeting adviser digital presence, LifeDrip claims to offer an automated marketing platform, including a personalized agent site, targeted content, signals on client readiness to buy and product recommendations.

Advisers as intermediaries are unlikely to disappear any time soon, but their role, engagement approach and capabilities must be more tech-savvy to appeal to virtually any consumer segment in this market with buying power. Expect additional new entrants that continue not to write off live intermediaries, and bring to market solutions to reshape the adviser relationship.

See also: How to Turn ‘Inno-va-SHUN’ Into Innovation

The new intermediaries are digital.

Smart Asset promises to simplify big financial decisions, including the purchase of life insurance, with an orientation toward how people make these decisions vs. pushing product. Shoppers can input data to a calculator and determine a coverage target; they are then encouraged to request a quote from New York Life. Smart Asset’s experience will be more credible when it includes multiple providers. It will require marketing investment to scale participation. Its basic approach could appeal to a large segment that will demand simple, low-cost product.

PolicyGenius has developed a consumer-friendly interface including instant quotes for life, as well as pet, renters and long-term disability insurance, following completion of an “insurance checkup.” As with other start-ups, this is a data-gathering exercise undoubtedly important to the company’s business model. AXA is an investor in PolicyGenius; the site promotes several major carriers as product providers.

Slice Labs is worth calling out because it is a direct-to-consumer play defining itself against a specific, important market segment – the 1099 workforce whose growth is being stimulated by the “on-demand economy.” Think not only about the Uber and Airbnb phenomena, but also the reality of more Americans moving away from traditional employer relationships where automatic access to benefits was a given.

Carriers will be viewed as start-up clients.

All of the companies mentioned already focus in and around the acquisition of new clients. InforcePro offers an automated solution for agents and carriers providing insights into sales opportunities and potential risks that exist within their current books.

Why does this matter? Insurance contracts are inordinately complex – even for the experts. Carriers and agents, particularly in recent years, have been forced to focus more heavily on maximizing the performance of the policies they have issued, versus just trying to sell more. The focus on the relationship with the policyholder has been skimpy. Life insurance policyholders can cancel a policy but cannot be “fired,” and represent continuing exposure, as their future claims can be on the carrier’s balance sheet for decades. With the risks and potential value now more obvious, in-force management has become a priority for focus and investment.

See also: Start-Ups Set Sights on Small Businesses

Carriers will drive efforts to innovate beyond incremental moves.

Haven Life owned by Mass Mutual but operated separately is a digital business whose product line is term life up to a $1 million benefit. The company operates in more than 40 states and represents a bold move for a 165-year old carrier. Nerdwallet rates Haven’s pricing as “competitive” – not the cheapest but well within range.

What is interesting about Haven is that it is not just implementing a shift of the same old approach to digital channels: Quotes are available in minutes, and coverage can become effective immediately, with the proviso that medical testing be completed within 90 days of policy issuance. In this space, this approach represents meaningful experience innovation.

Last year, John Hancock initiated an exclusive relationship in the U.S. with Vitality, marketing a program that gives rewards to clients who demonstrate healthy habits such as having health screenings, demonstrating nutritious eating habits, getting flu shots and engaging in regular exercise. Rewards range from cash back on groceries to premium reductions. This program is strategically significant because it aims at prevention, not just protection, linking preventative behaviors that clients control to cost savings.

Numerous carriers are participating in innovation accelerators, establishing their own incubators or forming dedicated venturing and innovation units. It remains to be seen which of these are what a colleague refers to as “innovation theater” and which are for real — drivers of new business opportunity. As with any early-stage plays, their stories will emerge over years, not quarters.