Tag Archives: HiPPO

Why Haven’t More Startups Failed?

We’re about five years into the insurtech boom, but we’re also in the middle of a pandemic. Excitement around emerging technology and startup innovation has taken a backseat as the insurance industry shifted its focus to COVID-19. 

Yet startups have not failed as quickly as the industry might have predicted. It’s possible that some startups will begin to outrun their funding and close their doors in the next year or two. But for the time being, the insurtech market and funding remain relatively stable. What’s driving this?

COVID-19 and Insurtech Partnerships

The pandemic has altered insurers’ approach to insurtech investment. Insurers appear to be focused on tactical initiatives that can produce more immediate results. This contrasts with the R&D that was more prominent pre-pandemic. 

Yet it turns out that startup activity and the global pandemic are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Insurer priorities most notably changed focus to cloud computing and digital strategy — with digital covering both external channels and internal workflows. Cloud and digital are two areas in which almost every insurtech excels and have led to additional opportunities in many cases. Insurers expect that these areas will continue to be prioritized even when the pandemic is over. 

Lemonade’s IPO and What It Means for Insurtech  

Lemonade’s IPO cemented one of the most notable insurtech players as a certified unicorn. IPOs validate the potential returns of insurtech and will help attract more investment dollars into the space, whether from venture capitalists or insurer investment arms. Few other startups have gained the investment attention that Lemonade has, but others — like life insurance startup Ethos or property insurer Hippo — have received funding over $100 million. Each of these startups’ successes helps attract dollars for the rest of the insurtech ecosystem.

See also: How Startups Will Save Insurance

New Growth Paths 

Many insurtechs, especially startup MGAs, are exploring new revenue streams. For some, this means selling a wider variety of coverages directly online or embedding at different points of sale. Some MGAS are also moving to become full-stack carriers, like Buckle and Clearcover. Still other startup carriers, like Slice, Trov and Metromile, have gotten into the software business and are licensing their platforms out to other insurers. 

Platform and analytics players are also finding success proving value to insurers in the current environment. Atidot, for example, partnered with Pacific Life to analyze product and pricing changes to help optimize market penetration for the insurer. In addition, Principal is licensing Human API’s medical records platform to circumvent paramedical exams for disability insurance during the pandemic. 

Many startups have interesting ideas but haven’t thought through long-term financial or regulatory hurdles. The goal of many startups is to validate a business model first, then work out the details later. It’s possible that some startups will start to outrun their funding and eventually close their doors. But it will be interesting to see how insurtech evolves in a post-pandemic world, especially as new realities cause insurers to rethink processes that were manually intensive. For startups that can show value to insurers, this new normal may be an opportunity.

Why Isn’t Customer Experience Better?

Whether you’re browsing an article about the latest trends in insurtech or listening to a panel of insurance industry disrupters discussing customer acquisition strategies, it’s hard to avoid references about emerging technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, chatbots and data analytics. But, have these digital advancements truly transformed the experience for customers shopping for insurance? Are insurers, agencies and consumers benefiting from such enhancements in technology?

Arguably, the answer is yes. The insurance buying experience has evolved dramatically in the last decade, and insurers, their agents and consumers have all benefited. However, when we examine the underlying products and the various touchpoints throughout the customer journey, we can see there are significant opportunities for improvement.

Insurance Shopping: Consumer shopping patterns and expectations have changed in all industries, and insurance is no exception. The enormous dollars spent by top insurers are pushing more consumers to start their shopping process in a digital format, where speed and accuracy are paramount in keeping customers engaged. Consumers have become accustomed to choosing from multiple product options and to one-click shopping, but replicating an Amazon experience in the insurance industry is extremely challenging.

For one thing, insurance products are highly complex and regulated, and premiums can change based on a multitude of variables that are not immediately transparent to consumers. Variables such as: age, coverage limits, credit, driving history, prior claims or age of home can dramatically affect eligibility or policy premium. And while these factors are key data points for underwriting, verification of these inputs often leads to lengthy question sets and inaccuracies in pricing at point of sale and beyond. Then there are the costs associated with verifying reports such as credit, MVR, CLUE and prior carrier through third party vendors, which add friction and cost in the shopping process.

These are among the challenges that a few digitally focused, independent insurance agencies such as Gabi Insurance are aiming to overcome. Such digital platforms can simplify the quote process while representing both traditional carriers and newer entrants to the market like Clearcover. Digital agencies stay engaged with the customer throughout the life of the policy and may help reduce the cost of third-party reports, which are currently passed on to consumers.

See also: Is Insurtech a Game Changer? It Sure Is  

Beyond the Quote: While the point-of-sale experience is critical in effective customer acquisition, the entire customer journey — meaning all the touchpoints along the way — help maintain customer loyalty. Digital distribution channels that leverage emerging technologies can track customer interaction and use the data to identify improvement opportunities up- or downstream. While some insurers have made significant improvements in their frontline underwriting and product design, most still rely on products that were designed for traditional distribution channels (brick and mortar) and require some level of post-sale verification of policy attributes. As a result, customer experience can quickly shift from digital to paper-intensive, snail mail and the requirements can vary based on the type of products purchased. Consumers may be required to send proof of discounts, photos or evidence of insurance that were unverified at the time of the quote.

In such cases, digital agencies like Gabi may be better equipped to quickly engage customers via text, chat or email and expedite requirements on behalf of their insurance partners while contributing to higher net promoter scores (NPS) and improved overall retention.

Ultimately, to create an optimal insurance shopping experience that’s more aligned with customer expectations, insurers need to invest in revamping their products and processes for digital distribution channels. That’s easier said than done, as bringing products to market takes multiple years to deploy and millions of dollars in investment. Large, established insurers may require additional investment in core technologies, rebranding and potentially cultural and ideological transformation, while new insurers such as Clearcover, Hippo and Lemonade are not encumbered by legacy systems.

Adopting the entire digital transformation ecosystem is difficult and costly for insurers and involves multiple departments within an organization, which often have competing objectives and operate in silos. Insurers may have much to gain from partnering with digital agencies as their distribution models provide growth opportunities and turnkey access to customers who are less likely to buy from brick and mortar agencies. Further, insurers can gain valuable insight into customer demographics and behavior that are unique to online shoppers and use this information in future product development and process improvement strategies.

Why Is Data on U.S. Property So Poor?

How a building is constructed and maintained and where it is located all have a massive impact on its potential to be damaged or destroyed. That knowledge is as old as insurance itself.

So why do so many underwriters still suffer from lack of decent data about the buildings they insure?

And when better data does get collected for U.S. properties, why does it seem to get lost as it crosses the Atlantic?

London is an important marketplace for insuring U.S. risks. It provides over 10% of the capacity for specialty risks — those that are hard, or impossible, to place in their home market through admitted carriers. Reinsurers of admitted carriers, insurers of homeowners and small businesses in the excess and surplus markets and facultative reinsurers of large corporate risks all need property data.

The emergence and growth of a new type of property insurers in the U.S. such as Hippo and Swyfft has been driven by an expectation of having access to excellent data. They are geared up to perform fast analyses. They believe they can make accurate assessments and offer cheaper premiums. The level of funding for ambitious startups shows that investors are prepared to write large checks, tolerate years of losses and have the patience to wait in the expectation that their companies will displace less agile incumbents. If this works, it’s not just the traditional markets in the U.S. that will be under threat. The important backstop of the London market is also vulnerable. So what can established companies do to counter these new arrivals?

Neither too hot nor too cold

The challenge for any insurer is how to get the information it needs to accurately assess a risk, without scaring off the customer by asking too many questions. The new arrivals are bypassing the costly and often inaccurate approach of asking for data directly from their insureds, and instead are tapping into new sources of data. Some do this well, others less so. We’re already seeing this across many consumer applications. They lower the sales barrier by suggesting what you need, rather than asking you what you want. Netflix knows the films you like to watch, Amazon recommends the books you should read, and soon you’ll be told the insurance you need for your home.

Health insurers such as Vitality are dramatically improving the relationship with their clients, and reducing loss costs, by rewarding people for sharing their exercise habits. Property insurers that make well-informed, granular decisions on how and what they are underwriting will grow their book of business and do so profitably. Those that do not will be undercharging for riskier business. Not a viable long-term strategy.

Fixing the missing data problem would be a good place to start.

We recently brought together 28 people from London Market insurers to talk about the challenges they have with getting decent quality data from their U.S. counterparts. We were joined by a handful of the leading companies providing data and platforms to the U.S. and U.K. markets. Before the meeting, we’d conducted a brief survey to check in on the trends. A number of themes emerged, but the two questions we kept coming back to were: 1) Why is the data that is turning up in London so poor, and 2) what can be done about it?

This is not just a problem for London. If U.S. coverholders, carriers or brokers are unable to provide quality data to London, they will increasingly find their insurance and reinsurance getting more expensive, if they can get it at all. Regulators around the world are demanding higher standards of data collection. The shift toward insurers selling direct to consumer is gathering momentum. Those that are adding frictional costs and efficiencies will be squeezed out. This is not new. Rapid systemic changes have been happening since the start of the industrial revolution. In 1830, the first passenger rail service in the world opened between Liverpool and Manchester in the northwest of England. Within three months, over half of the 26 stagecoaches operating on that route had gone out of business.

See also: Cognitive Computing: Taming Big Data  

Is the data improving?

Seventy percent of those surveyed believed that the data they are receiving from their U.S. partners has improved little, if at all, in the last five years. Yet the availability of information on properties had improved dramatically in the preceding 15 years. Why? Because of the widespread adoption of catastrophe models in that period. Models are created from large amounts of hazard and insurance loss data. Analyses of insured properties provide actionable insights and common views of risks beyond what can be achieved with conventional actuarial techniques. These analytics have become the currency of risk, shared across the market between insurers, brokers and reinsurers. The adoption of catastrophe models accelerated after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Regulators and rating agencies demanded better ways to measure low-frequency, high-severity events. Insurers quickly realized that the models, and the reinsurers that used the models, penalized poor-quality data by charging higher prices.

By the turn of the century, information on street address and construction type, two of the most significant determinants of a building’s vulnerability to wind and shake, was being provided for both residential and commercial properties being insured for catastrophic perils in the U.S. and Europe. With just two major model vendors, RMS and AIR Worldwide, the industry only had to deal with two formats. Exchanging data by email, FTP transfer or CD became the norm.

Then little else changed for most of the 21st century. Information about a building’s fire resistance is still limited to surveys and then only for high-value buildings, usually buried deep in paper files. Valuation data on the cost of the rebuild, another major factor in determining the potential scale of loss and what is paid to the claimant, is at the discretion of the insured. It’s often inaccurate and biased toward low values.

If data and analytics are at the heart of insurtech, why does access to data appear to have stalled in the property market?

How does the quality of data compare?

We dug a bit deeper with our group to discover what types of problems they are seeing. In some locations, such as those close to the coast, information on construction has improved in the last decade, but elsewhere things are moving more slowly.

Data formats for property are acceptable for standard, homogeneous property portfolios being reinsured because of the dominance of two catastrophe modeling companies. For non-admitted business entering the excess and surplus market, or high-value. complex locations there are still no widely adopted standards for insured properties coming into the London market, despite the efforts of industry bodies such as Acord.

Data is still frequently re-keyed multiple times into different systems. Spreadsheets continue to be the preferred medium of exchange, and there is no consistency between coverholders. It is often more convenient for intermediaries to aggregate and simplify what may have once been detailed data as it moves between the multiple parties involved. At other times, agents simply don’t want to share their client’s information. Street addresses become zip codes, detailed construction descriptions default to simple descriptors such as “masonry.”

Such data chaos may be about to change. The huge inefficiency of multiple parties cleaning up and formatting the same data has been recognized for years. The London Market Group (LMG), a powerful, well-supported body representing Lloyd’s and the London company market has committed substantial funds to build a new Target Operating Model (TOM) for London. This year, the LMG commissioned London company Charles Taylor to provide a central service to standardize and centralize the cleaning up of the delegated authority data that moves across the market. Much of it is property data. Once the project is complete, around 60 Lloyd’s managing agents, 250 brokers and over 3,500 global coverholders are expected to finally have access to data in a standard format. This should eliminate the problem of multiple companies doing the same tasks to clean and re-enter data but still does nothing to fill in the gaps where critical information is missing.

Valuation data is still the problem

Information on property rebuilding cost that comes into London is considered “terrible” by 25% of those we spoke to and “poor quality” by 50%.

Todd Rissel, the CEO of e2Value, was co-hosting our event. His company is the third-largest provider of valuation data in the U.S. Today, over 400 companies are using e2Value information to help their policy holders get accurate assessments of the replacement costs after a loss. Todd started the company 20 years ago, having begun his career as a building surveyor for Chubb.

The lack of quality valuation data coming into London doesn’t surprise Todd. He’s proud of his company’s 98% success in accurately predicting rebuilding costs, but only a few states, such as California, impose standards on the valuation methods that are being used. Even where high-quality information is available, the motivation may not be there to use it. People choose their property insurance mostly on price. It’s not unknown for some insurers to recommend the lowest replacement value, not the most accurate, to reduce the premium, and the discrepancy gets worse over time.

Have the losses of 2017 changed how data is being reported?

Major catastrophes have a habit of exposing the properties where data is of poor quality or wrong. Companies insuring such properties tend to suffer disproportionately higher losses. No companies failed after the storms and wildfires of 2017, but more than one senior industry executive has felt the heat for unexpectedly high losses.

Typically, after an event, the market “hardens” (rates get more expensive), and insurers and reinsurers are able to demand higher-quality data. 2017 saw the biggest insurance losses for a decade in the U.S. from storms and wildfire — but rates haven’t moved.

Insurers and reinsurers have little influence in improving the data they receive.

Over two-thirds of people felt that their coverholders, and in some cases insurers, don’t see the need to collect the necessary data. Even if they do understand the importance and value of the data, they are often unable to enter it into their underwriting systems and pipe it digitally direct to London. Straight-through processing, and the transfer of information from the agent’s desk to the underwriter in London with no manual intervention, is starting to happen, but only the largest or most enlightened coverholders are willing or able to integrate with the systems their carriers are using.

We were joined at our event by Jake Hampton, CEO of Virtual MGA. Jake has been successful in hooking up a handful of companies in London with agents in the U.S. This is creating a far stronger and faster means to define underwriting rules, share data and assess key information such as valuation data. Users of Virtual MGA are able to review the e2Value data to get a second opinion on information submitted from the agent. If there is a discrepancy between the third party data that e2Value (or others) are providing and what their agent provides, the underwriter can either change the replacement value or accept what the agent has provided. A further benefit of the dynamic relationship between agent and underwriter is the removal of the pain of monthly reconciliation. Creating separate updated records of what has been written in the month, known as “bordereau,” is no longer necessary. These can be automatically generated from the system.

Even though e2Value is generating very high success rates for the accuracy of its valuation data, there are times when the underwriter may want to double-check the information with the original insured. In the past, this required a lengthy back and forth discussion over email between the agent and the insured.

JMI Reports is one of the leading provider of surveys in the U.S. Tim McKendry, CEO of JMI, has partnered with e2Value to create an app that provides near-real-time answers to an underwriter’s questions. If there is a query, the homeowner can be contacted by the insurer directly and asked to photograph key details in his home to clarify construction details. This goes directly to the agent and underwriter enabling the accurate and fast assessment of rebuild value.

What about insurtech?

We’ve been hearing a lot in the last few years about how satellites and drones can improve the resolution of data that is available to insurers. But just how good is this data? If insurers in London are struggling to get data direct from their clients, can they, too, access independent sources of data directly? And does the price charged for this data reflect the value an insurer in London can get from it?

Recent entrants, such as Cape Analytics, have also attracted significant amounts of funding. They are increasing the areas of the U.S. where they provide property information derived by satellite images. EagleView has been providing photographs taken from its own aircraft for almost 20 years. CEO Rishi Daga announced earlier this year that their photographs are now 16 times higher-resolution than the best previously available. If you want to know which of your clients has a Weber barbeque in the backyard, EagleView can tell you.

Forbes McKenzie, from McKenzie Insurance Services, knows the London market well. He has been providing satellite data to Lloyd’s of London to assist in claims assessment for a couple of years. Forbes started his career in military intelligence. “The value of information is not just about how accurate it is, but how quickly it can get to the end user,” Forbes says.

See also: How Insurtech Helps Build Trust  

The challenges with data don’t just exist externally. For many insurance companies, the left hand of claims is often disconnected from the right hand of underwriting. Companies find it hard to reconcile the losses they have had with what they are being asked to insure. It’s the curse of inconsistent formats. Claims data lives in one system, underwriting data in another. It’s technically feasible to perform analyses to link the information through common factors such as the address of the location, but it’s rarely cost-effective or practical to do this across a whole book of business.

One of the barriers for underwriters in London in accessing better data is that companies that supply the data, both new and old, don’t always understand how the London market works. Most underwriters are taking small shares of large volumes of individual properties. Each location is a tiny fraction of the total exposure and an even smaller fraction of the incoming premium. Buying data at a cost per location, similar to what a U.S. domestic insurer is doing, is not economically viable.

Price must equal value

Recently, the chief digital officer of a London syndicate traveled to InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas to meet the companies offering exposure data. He is running a POC against a set of standard criteria, looking for new ways to identify and price U.S. properties. He’s already seeing a wide range of approaches to charging. U.K.-based data providers, or U.S. vendors with local knowledge of how the information is being used, tend to be more accommodating to the needs of the London insurers. There is a large potential market for enhanced U.S. property data in London, but the cost needs to reflect the value.

Todd Rissel may have started his career as a surveyor and now be running a long-established company, but he is not shy about working with the emerging companies and doesn’t see them as competition. He has partnerships with data providers such as drone company Betterview to complement and enhance the e2Value data. It is by creating distribution partnerships with some of the newest MGAs and insurers, including market leaders such as Slice and technology providers like Virtual MGA, that e2Value is able to deliver its valuation data to over a third of the companies writing U.S. business.

Looking ahead

It is widely recognized that the London market needs to find ways to meaningfully reduce the cost of doing business. The multiple organizations through which insurance passes, whether brokers, third-party administrators or others, increase the friction and hence cost. Nonetheless, once the risks do find their way to the underwriters, there is a strong desire to find a way to place the business. Short decision chains and a market traditionally characterized by underwriting innovation and entrepreneurial leaders means that London should continue to have a future as the market for specialty property insurance. It’s also a market that prefers to “buy” rather than “build.” London insurers are often among the first to try new technology. The market welcomes partnerships. The coming generation of underwriters understands the value of data and analytics.

The London market cannot, however, survive in a vacuum. Recent history has shown that those companies with a willingness to write property risks with poor data get hit by some nasty, occasionally fatal surprises after major losses. With the increasing focus by the regulator and Lloyd’s own requirements, casual approaches to risk management are no longer tolerated. Startups with large war chests from both U.S. and Asia see an opportunity to displace London.

Despite the fears that data quality is not what it needs to be, our representatives from the London market are positive about the future. Many of them are looking for ways to create stronger links with coverholders in the U.S. Technology is recognized as the answer, and companies are willing to invest to support their partners and increase efficiency in the future. The awareness of new perils such as wildfire and the opening up of the market for flood insurance is creating opportunities.

Our recent workshop was the first of what we expect to be more regular engagements between the underwriters and the providers of property information. If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved, whether as an underwriter, MGA, provider data, broker or other interested party, let me know.

In Age of Disruption, What Is Insurance?

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

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

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

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

In the new age of disruption …

1. Insurance is data

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

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

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

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

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

See also: Is Insurance Really Ripe for Disruption?  

2. Insurance is in the background

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

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

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

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

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

3. Insurance is first and foremost a customer experience

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

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

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

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

4. Insurance is trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also: Disruption of Rate-Modeling Process  

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

5. Insurance is a social good

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

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

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

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

You can find the article originally published here.

What’s in a Name? Art of Insurtech Naming

What is it with insurtech brand names? Among the insurtechs that SMA is tracking (well over 1,000) are a wide range of names ranging from the clever to the practical to the bizarre. Having personal experience with naming, I can understand the challenges of finding something memorable, not already used, and lacking any negative connotations. There is always the option of functional naming; for example, Insuresoft clearly creates software solutions for the insurance industry.

When I was recently in a whimsical mood, I decided to do an exercise to categorize insurtech brand names by a number of topics or areas, including food, animals and human names. This is a sampling of what I found:

Food

One could make a whole meal out of insurtech names. The main course could be Oyster, focused on workers’ comp. Fruit sides might be Pear Insurance or Pineapple. There are plenty of drink options with H2O, Lemonade and Soda Insurance. And dessert – everyone’s favorite – is not lacking in options, with Cake or Pie, or maybe even Marshmallow.

See also: 3 Insurtech Firms Take a Star Turn  

Animals

Comic George Carlin used to wonder who took all the blue food. (Blueberries are not blue; they are purple!) But there are plenty of blue animals in insurtech, including Blue Owl, Blue Leopard and Blue Zebra. Then we have animals with descriptors like Bold Penguin, Pandadoc and PrecisionHawk. The insurtech menagerie also includes Hippo, Dolphin, Canary, Rhino and even a hybrid in CatDogFish. There is even a regular Zebra to go along with Blue Zebra.

Human Names

Why not anthropomorphize insurtechs? We do it with everything else. There is Bob – and if he gets lost there is FindBob. Abe, Albert, Frankie, Gabi and many others are named after people. Then there is Hi Marley, which does a nice job of creating something unique that also relates to the company’s solution – leveraging texting and messaging platforms to communicate with policyholders and claimants.

There is no question that many of these names are becoming known in the insurance industry, but there are pros and cons for using these types of names. One caution for those selecting names – think about search engine optimization (SEO) and how individuals will discover your site. With enough money, brand visibility can be built for any name. But in many cases funding is limited in the beginning stages, and the focus is more on building the solution and getting successful partnerships and projects underway. I have personally had great difficulty finding any information on some of these insurtechs – even just navigating to their websites – due to names that are so common that SEO is difficult.

See also: Insurtech’s Act 2: About to Start  

Another piece of advice (although I don’t claim to be a branding expert): Two-word names (separate or conjoined) offer more options for uniqueness than one-word names – Cake Insure, Young Alfred and TechCanary would be examples. Of course, brands are built, and companies succeed, based on the strength or their offerings, their innovation, their customer relationships/experience and many other factors. But I, for one, am glad that insurtechs are choosing names that are fun and interesting. So, what’s in a name? I guess it’s what you make of it.