Tag Archives: insuretech

A Simple Model to Assess Insurtechs

“The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula necessarily cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be innovative.”

― Peter Thiel, Zero to One

Whether we’re talking about telematics, artificial intelligence (AI), digital distribution or peer-to-peer, investing in insurance-related technology (commonly termed “insuretech” or “insurtech”) is no longer considered boring. In fact, insurtech is one of the hottest investable segments in the market. As a 20-plus-year veteran in insurance, I find it surreal that insurance has become this hip. Twenty years ago, I gulped as I sent an email to the CFO of my company, where I proposed that there was a unique opportunity in renters insurance. That particular email was ignored. Today, that idea is worth millions of dollars.

What changed?

Insurance seems to be the latest in a string of industries caught in the crosshairs on venture capital. With the success of Uber and AirBnB, VCs are now looking for the next stale industry to disrupt, and the insurance industry carries the reputation of being about as stale as they come. The VCs view the needless paperwork, cumbersome purchasing processes, dramatic claims settlement and overall old-school look and feel of the industry and think they can siphon those trillions of dollars of premium over to Silicon Valley. It seems like a reasonable thesis.

The problem is, it’s not going to happen that way. Insurance will NOT be disrupted. While insurance looks old and antiquated on the exterior, it is actually quite modern and vibrant on the interior. The insurance industry is actually the Uncle Drew of businesses; it’s just getting warmed up!

The Model

Much of the reason I think VCs are unaware of their doomed quest for insurance disruption is that they are looking at the market from a premium standpoint and envisioning being able to capture large chunks of it. $5 trillion is a lot of money. Without an appropriate model, an outsider coming into insurance can naively think they can capture even a fraction of this. But premium is strongly tied to losses. Those premium dollars are accounted for in future claims.

I once had a VC ask me what the fastest way to $100 million in revenue was. The answer is easy, “slash the premium.” I had to quickly follow up with, “and be prepared to be go insolvent, as there is no digging yourself out of that hole.” He didn’t quite get it, until I walked him through what happens to a dollar of premium as it enters the system. And it was this that became the basis of the model I use to assess new product formation and insurtech startups.

There are four basic components to my model. Regardless of new entrants, new products or new sources of capital, these four components remain everpresent in any insurance business model. Even if a disruptive force was able to penetrate the industry veil, that force would still need to reflect its value proposition within my four components.

Component 1 – EXPOSURE

This is the component that deals with insurance claims: past, present and future. Companies or products looking to capture value here must be able to reduce, prevent, quantify or economically transfer current or new risks or losses. Subcomponents in this category include expenses arising from fraud and the adjustment of claims, both of which can add substantially to overall losses.

See also: Insurance Coverage Porn  

Startups such as Nest are building products that increase home security by decreasing the likelihood of burglary (or increasing the likelihood of capturing the criminals on video) and thus reduce claims associated with burglary or theft. Part of assessing the value proposition of Nest is to first understand the magnitude of the claims associated with burglary and theft and then quantify what relief this product could provide (along with how that relief should be shared among stakeholders).

Another company that is doing some interesting things in this model component is Livegenic (disclaimer: I have become friends with the team). Livegenic allows insurers to adjust claims and capture video and imagery using the mobile phone of the insured. This reduces the expenses associated with having to send an adjuster out to each and every claim. Loss adjustment expenses can be in excess of 10% of all claims, so technology that reduces that by a few basis points can be quite valuable to an insurer’s bottom line and ultimately its prices and competitiveness.

Component 2 – DISTRIBUTION

This component focuses on the expenses associated with getting insurance product into the hands of a customer. Insurtech companies in this space are typically focused on driving down commissions. This can be done by eliminating brokers and going directly to customers. Savings can also be achieved by creating efficient marketplace portals that allow customers to easily buy coverage.

Embroker is one of many companies trying to do just that in the small commercial space by creating a fully digital business insurance experience. Companies such as Denim Labs are providing social and mobile marketing services to companies in insurance. And then there is Lemonade, which is developing AI technology that it hopes will reduce the friction of digitally purchasing (its) insurance and making the buying process “delightful.”  Peer-to-peer (P2P) insurance is a fairly new insurtech distribution model that attempts to use the strength of close ties via social methods for friends and close associates to come together to make their own insurance pools.

Distribution expenses in insurance are some of the highest in any industry. As with the risk component, reducing expenses in this component by even a few basis points is incredibly valuable.

Component 3 – CAPITAL

This component focuses on the expenses associated with providing capital or the reinsurance backstop to a risk or portfolio. For many insurers, reinsurance is the largest expense component in the P&L. Capital is such an important component to the business model that the ramifications of it almost always leak into the other components. This was one of my criticisms of  Lemonade recently. Lemonade will have a lot of difficulty executing some of the aspects of its business model simply because it cedes 100% of its business to reinsurers. So, when it comes to pricing or its general underwriting guidelines, its reinsurance expenses will overwhelm other initiatives. Lemonade can’t be the low-cost provider AND a peer-to-peer distributor because its reinsurance expenses will force it to choose one or the other. This is a nuance that many VCs will miss in their evaluation of insurtechs!

For those seeking disruption in insurance, we have historical precedent of what that might look like based on the last 20 years of alternative capital flooding into the insurance space. I will devote space to this in future articles, but, in brief, this alternative capital has made reinsurance so inexpensive that smaller reinsurers are facing an existential crisis.

Companies such as Nephila Capital and Fermat Capital are the Ubers of insurance. Their ability to connect investors closer to the insurance customer along with their ability to package and securitize tranches of risk have shrunk capital expenses tremendously. Profit margins for reinsurers are collapsing, and new business models are shrinking the insurance stack. It is even possible today to bypass BOTH veritable insurers and reinsurers and put the capital markets in closer contact with customers. (If you are a fan of Michael Lewis and insurance, you will enjoy this article, which ties nicely into this section of the article).

In the insurtech space, VCs are actually behind the game. Alternative capital has already disrupted the space, and many of the investments that VCs are making are in the other components I have highlighted. Because of the size of this component, VCs may have already missed most of the huge returns.

Component 4 – OPERATIONS

The final component is often the one overlooked. Operations includes all of the other expenses not associated with the actual risk, backing the risk or transferring the risk from customer to capital. This component includes regulatory compliance, overhead, IT operations, real estate, product development and staff, just to name a few.

It is often overlooked because it is the least connected to actually insuring a risk, but it is vitally important to the health and viability of an insurer. Mistakes here can have major ramifications. Errors in compliance can lead to regulatory problems; errors in IT infrastructure can lead to legacy issues that become very expensive to resolve. I don’t know a single mainstream insurer that does not have a legacy infrastructure that is impinging on its ability to execute its business plan. Companies such as Majesco are building cloud-based insurance platforms seeking to solve that problem.

See also: Why AI Will Transform Insurance  

It is this component of the business model that allows an insurer to be nimble, to get products to market faster, to outpace its competitors. It’s not a component that necessarily drives financial statements in the short term, but in the long run it can be the friction that grinds everything down to a halt or not.

SUMMARY

I have presented a simple model that I use when I assess not just new insurtech companies but also new insurance products coming into the market. By breaking the insurance chain into these immutable components, I can estimate what impact the solution proposed will provide. In general, the bigger the impact and the more components a solution touches the more valuable it will be.

In future articles, I will use this model to assess the insurtech landscape. I will also use this model to assess how VCs are investing their capital and whether they are scrutinizing the opportunities as well as they should, or just falling prey to the fear of missing out.

Originally published at www.insnerds.com,

5 Topics to Add to Your List for 2017

As an industry, we are knowledgeable. In fact, I think one could say that insurers may know more about the way the world works than most other industries. We hold the keys to risk management and the answers to statistical probability. We underpin people, businesses and economies world-wide. We have centuries of real-world experience and decades of real-world data dealing with individuals, groups, businesses, property, life, investments and health.

Yet, in 2017, none of that experience will matter unless we are willing to embrace an entirely new field of knowledge. The convergence of technology with digital, mobile, social, new data sources like the Internet of Things (IoT) and new lifestyle trends will make insurers better, smarter and more successful IF we are willing to “go back to school” and audit the class on modern, innovative insurance models, generational shifts in needs and expectations and disruptive technologies.

This class is largely self-taught. Between you, Google, traditional and new media (think Coverager, Insurance Thought Leadership and InsurTech News), social networks and a few hours each week, you can expand your horizon toward the future to become a knowledgeable participant in 21st century insurance. It will help, however, if you know what to search for. In this blog, I’m going to give you five high-level areas to keep tabs on in the coming months. These are the places where technology and market shifts are going to create massive competitive energy in the coming year.

Insurtech, Greenfields and Startups

As of this writing, AngelList (a startup serving startups,) lists 1,069 insurance-related startups. Many of these are new solution technology companies. Others are new insurance companies or MGAs focusing on new market segments, new products and new business models. The influx of capital from venture capital firms, reinsurers and insurers has advanced the proliferation of startups and greenfields based on new tech capabilities. Business model disruption will continue to be mind-boggling, exciting and scary all at the same time — bringing insurtech into the mainstream and powering the industry-wide wave of innovation.

Whether you are sifting through ideas to improve your competitive position, launch a new insurance startup or greenfield, seek partners actively engaged in insurtech or invest or acquire a new technology startup, insurtech companies and their growing numbers are to be watched. Reading through these types of lists will give you a feel for the expansive nature of insurance. You’ll see how marketing minds are turning traditional insurance concepts into relevant products and solutions that fit today’s and tomorrow’s lifestyles. Be inspired to engage in insurtech in 2017, because time is of the essence. For background, start by reading Seed Planting in the Greenfields of Insurance.

See also: 10 Predictions for Insurtech in 2017  

Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing

AI and cognitive computing technologies like IBM’s Watson have been touted as the link between data and human-like analysis. Because insurance requires so much human interaction and analysis regarding everything from underwriting through claims, cognitive computing may be insurance’s next solution to better analyze, price and understand risks using new data sources and add an engaging and personalized advisory interface to their services to achieve efficiency and improvements in effectiveness as well as competitive differentiation. Cognitive computing’s speed makes it a great candidate for underwriting, claims and customer service applications and any task requiring near-instant answers. IBM and Majesco recently announced a partnership to match insurance-specific functionality with cloud and cognitive capabilities. This will be an area to watch throughout 2017.

On-Demand, Peer-to-Peer and Connected Insurance

Trov allows individuals to insure the things they own, only for the periods during which they need to insure them. Cuvva is betting that people will want to have insurance on their friend’s cars during the time in which they borrow them. Slice launched on-demand home-share insurance to hosts using homeshare platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway, OneFineStay and FlipKey. Verifly offers on-demand drone insurance. Insurance startups are filled with companies that are providing insurance to the new spaces, places, behaviors and lifestyles where insurance is needed.

Other startups are using social networks and the Internet of Things to bring parity to insurance, often lowering premiums. Peer-to-peer insurers like Friendsurance and Lemonade put customers into groups where the group’s members pool their premiums, payment for claims come from the pool and, in the case of Lemonade, leftover premium is contributed to social causes. Metromile uses real usage data to provide fair auto insurance premiums.

Here is a space where insurers must keep their eyes open for opportunities. How can P&C insurers cover those who don’t own a car, but who still drive periodically? How will group health insurers help employers lower their rate of medical claims? How will life insurers promote wellness and reduce premiums?  Many of the answers will be found in digital connections, social knowledge, IoT data and an ability to provide timely, instant and on-demand coverage.  For more insight, start reading 2016’s Future Trends: A Seismic Shift Underway and the soon-to-be-released update.

The Revival of Life Insurance

One area that will receive a much-needed insurtech stimulus will be life insurance. The life insurance industry ranks last as noted in the recent research, The Rise of the New Insurance Customer: Shifting Views and Expectations; Is Your Business Ready for Them?, which is likely reflected in the decline of life insurance purchases over the past 50 years. The 2010 LIMRA Trends in Life Insurance Ownership report notes that U.S. individual life insurance ownership had dropped to the lowest rate in 50 years, with the ownership rate at just 44%. As new simplified products are introduced, new data streams proliferate and real-time connections improve, life products are poised to change. Already, new life insurers and traditional life insurers are positioning to use connected health data as a factor in setting premiums. John Hancock’s Vitality is perhaps the best current example, but other players are entering the mix — many simply claiming to have a better methodology for selling and servicing life policies. Haven Life, owned by Mass Mutual, and companies such as Ladder, in California, are reinventing term insurance … from simplifying the product to creating an “Amazon-like” experience in buying in rapid time. Ladder, in particular, uses a MadLibs-type underwriting form that’s not only relevant but fun to use.

The life insurance industry is hampered by decades-old legacy systems and the cost of conversion and transformation is taking too long and costing too much. As a result, look for existing insurers to begin to launch new brands or new businesses with modern, cloud core platforms to rapidly innovate and bring new products to market for a new generation of customers, millennials and Gen Z. As we saw in 2016, most new entrants are aimed at term products that will sell easily and quickly to the underserved Gen Z and millennial markets. New life players and products, as well as existing life insurers, reinsurers and even P&C insurers seeking to capture this opportunity will be interesting to watch in 2017.

See also: What’s Next for Life Insurance Industry?  

Cloud and Pay-As-You-Use

If your company is underusing or not using cloud computing with pay-as-you-use models, 2017 should be a year for assessment. Though cloud use isn’t new, its business case is picking up steam. Search “cloud computing and insurance” and you’ll find that the reasons companies are seeking cloud solutions are evolving.

The case for core system platform in the cloud reached the tipping point in 2016 … from nice to consider to a must have, and it will be the option of choice in 2017. The logic has grown as capabilities have improved, cost pressures have increased and now the demand for speed to value and effective use of capital on the business rather than infrastructure is gaining priority. Incubating and market testing new products in a fail-fast approach allows insurers to see quick success and capitalize on pre-built functionality with none of the multi-year implementation timeframes.

Increasingly, many insurers are taking advantage of the same pay-as-you-use principles of cloud as consumers themselves. 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 downtime, capital, resources and budgets. They 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. Major insurance research firms advocate cloud as a smart approach to modernizing infrastructure and building new business models. Keeping cloud on your company’s radar is crucial and good place to start is reading The Insurance Renaissance: InsureTech’s Pay-As-You-Go Promise.

These are just a few of the areas we should all be watching throughout 2017, but the vital step is to take your new knowledge and apply your “actionable insights” throughout your organization, powering a renaissance of insurance.

Make 2017 your company’s Year of Insurance Renaissance and Transformation!

This Is Not Your Father’s Life Insurance

Soon-to-be published editions of dictionaries will list “InsureTech” as one of the newest words. We all own a piece of that new word and all that comes along with it. More than a new word, it is becoming a new world in the insurance industry. We’re on an InsureTech expedition.

Having spent decades of my life developing products, marketing programs and delivery systems in the life insurance vertical, I feel compelled to share some insights into the unique characteristics of the life insurance segment within the InsureTech movement. I will offer a recipe for an end-to-end digital system that bypasses legacy system quagmires and shifts digital life insurance sales into warp speed in both the consumer-direct and agent-broker categories.

But first a few words about what makes life insurance different from other types of insurance, along with some commentary on the state of affairs in today’s market.

Life Insurance Is Optional

Let’s think about the major types of insurance that consumers buy. Auto, home, health and life. We are required by law in all but two states to have auto insurance. If you have a mortgage on your home, you are required by the lender to have homeowners insurance. Federal law now requires that most of us must have a health insurance policy. These types of coverage are not optional. You don’t see articles about a trillion-dollar middle market coverage gap in the auto and homeowners insurance segments.

See also: What’s Next for Life Insurance Industry?  

But there is a trillion-dollar life insurance coverage gap in the middle-market today in the U.S. Why is that?

First, the process of obtaining a life insurance policy for typical middle-market needs is overwhelming, tedious, intimidating and mysterious for consumers. We’re talking about a basic term life policy with coverage of $250,000 or $500,000 or, OK, perhaps a million dollars of coverage in some cases in the middle market. Seems like it should be easy. But, even though we have seen price reductions across the board during the past 20 years for term life, individual life insurance ownership has actually decreased. The buying process is broken.

Second, combine the antiquated buying process with the fact that the purchase of life insurance is optional, and consumers repeatedly push the chore of buying life insurance to the bottom of their to-do lists. To make matters worse, because the fulfillment process for these smallish policies is so expensive for brokers and agents, they cannot make a profit focusing on the middle market. You end up with an unmotivated distribution system and a trillion-dollar coverage gap.

You Also End Up With a Trillion-Dollar Opportunity

I’ve taken it upon myself to write down the recipe for a digital process for capturing a sizable share of that opportunity.

This is what we need to mix together to end up with a complete system that is capable of starting with “Hello” and ending minutes later with a completed transaction: an “in-force” policy for the consumer.

  • User-friendly graphical user interface for both consumers and agents. (You would be surprised.)
  • Easy quote engine — provides all relevant price quotes so you don’t jump back and forth looking at one quote at a time. First thing I notice about most designs is that you have to keep re-entering inputs to see different quotes instead of being able to scan all of them on one screen.
  • Digital life insurance application process. Simple application language. Find just the right balance between just enough questions and not too many questions per screen.
  • Decision time. Consumer-direct or agent-assisted? Both models will become more numerous in the marketplace. Carriers need to understand that many consumers need and want some level of assistance. So, carriers need to be prepared to offer chat and over-the-phone assistance to complete the online process. Perhaps even full-blown call center agent “take over” of the application process when the applicant calls for help. Or some combination of these.
  • Collection of contact information from website visitors who are “just looking” so that carriers can conduct email and phone nurturing campaigns. Carriers need to understand and appreciate the tremendous dollar value of these campaigns and not leave a huge percentage of potential revenue on the table.
  • Compliance with Do Not Call and telecommunications statutes and CAN-SPAM. By the way, CAN-SPAM is widely misunderstood, and many marketers do not understand the generous powers it provides to contact potential customers via email. Email is still the “killer app” it was labeled as many years ago. Text messaging is a first cousin for certain market segments. Special language is needed on website(s) dealing with consumer permissions to use their mobile number.
  • Secure payment gateway to provide PCI-compliant credit card processing and deliver premium payments to the carrier. The ability to accept consumers’ checking or savings account numbers for payment is also necessary. Payment screens need to be seamless, transparent and simple.
  • Secure digital signature interface for consumer-direct and face-to-face sales as well as agent-assisted phone sales. All are slightly different. All are important. Again, seamless, transparent and simple.
  • Behind-the-scenes secure interfaces to the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), motor vehicle records (MVR) provider and pharmacy records (Rx) provider must be built to provide capability for real-time queries and retrieval of third-party data.
  • If the life insurance product being purchased does not require a medical exam (“non-medically underwritten,” which requires no blood or urine tests), then the process can proceed to the next step, which is the underwriting decision engine. If the design and pricing of the life insurance product do require blood and urine testing (“fully underwritten”), then the system will present a screen in the process for an appointment to be scheduled. Many designs are getting away from blood and urine testing, but, to be realistic, these tests will still be needed in many cases for years. This topic deserves to be considered in the system design sessions.
  • Underwriting decision engine that compiles all answers provided by the consumer on the digital application form with the MIB, MVR and Rx data. In real time, the underwriting engine then renders a decision on the application. Some straight-through systems are considering using third party software for this. Others have their own, proprietary engines that afford much faster adjustments to the underwriting engine rules and settings. Controlling the underwriting engine technology also can be the difference between a “go” or a “no go” answer when seeking to add features, change processes, edit code and take other similar actions, which are needed on a continuing basis, and sometimes quickly.
  • As applications are approved, the system must package the approved policy for the state of issue with all the necessary additional pages, such as HIPAA forms, Consent to Do Business Electronically forms and other pages, which can vary from state to state. This policy package must be provided to the new customer, the policyholder, in real time using a secure link for downloading.
  • All data pertaining to the new customer’s file must be transferred to the carrier’s administrative system in real time. A new customer is born.
  • Finally, a deep and broad suite of analytics must be baked into the system’s DNA and designed to manage the business being put on the books on a daily basis. Take this data in real time and reinforce what is working. Correct that which is not. Just this one necessary component alone could be the topic of an article several times the length of this one. We’ll get right on that.

See also: InsurTech Can Help Fix Drop in Life Insurance  

These are the many pieces that I truly believe are necessary to work together perfectly to achieve the kind of disruption that is so necessary. We’re already all over this one.