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Gradually and Then Suddenly…

Excerpted from MSA’s Q1-2018 Outlook Report (June 2018)

The insurance industry has been compared to the proverbial frog in the pot of ever hotter water. While things appear on the surface comparable to what they were like 10 years ago, perhaps with some nuanced variations, there appears to be little in the way of differences. Yes, mergers continue happening at the carrier level, and direct insurers are slowly gaining market share, but the band plays on. Industry associations continue holding conventions, insurers, reinsurers and brokers continue their traditions and year-end pilgrimages to London, Monte Carlo, Baden-Baden, NICC and the Aon Rendezvous, and the various other stations still welcome a familiar crowd. But signs that fundamental changes are afoot are becoming ever harder to ignore.

In Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” there’s a snippet of dialogue that seems apropos:

How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

The primary driver of the change is technology. The less noticeable catalyst, but no less important, is changes in regulatory mindsets. Let’s tackle both.

The two most influential market conduct regulators in Canada are readying themselves for technological disruption of the industries they oversee.

Quebec’s regulator, the AMF, has publicly expressed that it is “open for business” in terms of insurtech/ fintech under CEO Louis Morisset and Superintendent of Solvency Patrick Déry.

FSCO has recently moved to be more flexible within the tight bounds of its mandate, and its successor, FSRA, will be a modern independent agency purposely built for adaptability; it emerges from its cocoon under the guidance of a professional board and the stewardship of its CEO, Mark White, in April 2019.

FSRA and the AMF are positioning themselves to allow experimentation via regulatory sandboxes, whereby players can test initiatives in the field. This sandbox methodology is modeled after the Ontario Security Commission’s LaunchPad initiative.

See also: Global Trend Map No. 19: N. America (Part 1)  

You may not have noticed it, but the regulatory ground in two of Canada’s largest provinces has shifted, and the stage is being set for ever-faster innovation in the Canadian insurtech space. In fact, in conversations with Guy Fraker, chief innovation officer at California-based Insurance Thought Leadership and emcee for the InsurTech North Conference in Gatineau in October, he advises that Canada is being looked at as a regulatory innovation hub by the global insurtech community.

Even under the old FSCO regime, Canada’s largest insurer, Intact, pulled off what might be a master stroke in July 2016 when it issued a fleet policy to Uber, providing coverage to tens of thousands of Uber drivers when engaged in Uber activities. So, in one fell swoop, a single insurer swept up tens of thousands of drivers. Intact pulled another coup by partnering with Turo in Canada. Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace that is busy disrupting the sleepy and sloppy car rental industry. This again gives Intact access to thousands of drivers with the stroke of a pen. Further, Intact may be able to leverage the access it has to those drivers to provide full auto coverage and even residential coverages. When these risks are gone, they’re lost to the rest of the market. Striking deals with the likes of Uber and Turo changes the game. In the U.S., Turo partners with Liberty Mutual, and with Allianz in Germany. Uber partners with Allstate, Farmers, James River and Progressive in the U.S. Aviva has pulled off a similar deal in Canada with Uber’s nemesis, Lyft.

Further afield, B3i, the industry blockchain initiative has been established with the support of 15 large insurers/reinsurers. It is just starting up, but its mission is to remove friction from insurer/reinsurer transactions and risk transfer. When friction goes, so will costs. It is starting out slowly, but things may change suddenly – reshaping whole segments of the market. In addition to the original 15, the initiative has been joined by 23 industry testers.

In the U.S., The Institutes (the educational body behind the CPCU designation) launched a similar blockchain consortium called RiskBlock, which currently counts 18 members:

  • American Agricultural Insurance
  • American Family Insurance
  • Chubb
  • Erie Insurance
  • Farmers Insurance
  • The Hanover Insurance Group
  • Horace Mann Educators
  • Liberty Mutual Insurance
  • Marsh
  • Munich Reinsurance America
  • Nationwide Insurance
  • Ohio Mutual Insurance Group
  • Penn National Insurance
  • RCM&D
  • RenaissanceRe
  • State Automobile Mutual Insurance
  • United Educators
  • USAA

There is talk of establishing a Canadian insurance blockchain consortium, as well. You can hear from leaders of B3i, RiskBlock and parties involved in the Canadian initiative at the NICC in October.

Even further afield, if one was to look for an industry that makes the insurance sector look futuristic, one need not look further than the global supply chain shipping industry, with antiquated bills of lading, layers of intermediation and massive administrative overheads. Well, that industry is getting a serious wakeup call thanks to determination and drive of the world’s largest shipping company, Maersk. The company is taking its industry by the scruff of the neck and pulling it into the future whether it likes it or not – long-standing tradition, relationships and methods notwithstanding.

First, in March 2017, Maersk teamed up with IBM to utilize blockchain technology for cross-border supply chain management. Using blockchain to work with a network of shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities, the intent is to digitize (read automate/disintermediate) global trade.

More recently (May 28, 2018) and closer to home, Maersk announced that it has deployed the first blockchain platform for marine insurance called insurwave in a joint venture between Guardtime, a software security provider, and EY. The platform is being used by Willis Towers Watson, MS Amlin and XL Catlin (got your attention?). Microsoft Azure is providing the blockchain technology using ACORD standards. Inefficiencies, beware! Microsoft and Guardtime intend to extend insurwave to the global logistics, marine cargo, energy and aviation sectors.

See also: How Insurance and Blockchain Fit  

Insurers that find themselves locked out of these types of large-scale initiatives will be left out in the cold.

We’re witnessing “SUDDENLY,” and we’d better get used to it.

Sharing Economy: Playing Out in Canada

According to a new study from the Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC), the sharing economy presents both an opportunity and a threat to the insurance industry. In the U.S., the sharing economy has already created 17 companies valued at $1 billion or more, including Uber and Airbnb. Some 27% of the U.S. population participate in this type of consumption. Now, with millions of Canadians who use the sharing economy seeking unconventional coverage as a result, innovative startups are threatening Canadian insurers.

See also: Opportunities in the Sharing Economy  

Opportunity – Widespread Use

Forty-five percent of Canadians report being interested in sharing underutilized assets to generate income. In Montreal alone, Uber provides roughly 300,000 rides per month. This means that new types of insurance policies are needed to support the emerging car-sharing and home-sharing industries. For example, because the sharing economy often includes short-term asset sharing, there is an opportunity for insurance companies to provide unconventional coverage options.

Some insurers are already creating products to satisfy this demand. For instance, Aviva Canada has a policy for ride-sharing drivers, and Square One Insurance developed a product specifically for Airbnb hosts.

Threat – New Competition

All of this new opportunity is fueling the creation of nimble and mobile-friendly insurtech startups such as Prvni Klubova, Lemonade, and Metromile. These companies provide insurance in innovative ways using mobile and AI-driven technology. Companies like these three are potential threats to traditional insurers in Canada. In fact, Lemonade has already gained more than $59 million in funding and is quickly becoming a major player in the industry.

According to a recent study, nearly half of traditional insurance companies are concerned that as much as 20% of their businesses could be lost to new insurtech players. If insurers fail to adapt to new competition, these fears could become reality. And insurance carriers are not the only companies experiencing disruption. Insurance brokers also face competition from new platforms such as Friendsurance.

The Solution

There are two options for traditional insurers to consider when it comes to dealing with swift insurtech startups — compete or partner. Competition has been attempted by a number of traditional insurers, such as Economical Insurance, who launched Sonnet Insurance, an online-only insurance provider. However, due to the rapid pace of emerging technologies, head-on competition presents many challenges. Launching an insurtech solution from the ground up is resource-intensive, especially for companies who are not as familiar with a technological terrain.

See also: Sharing Economy: The Concept of Trust  

Partnering can be a more productive endeavor. Many traditional insurers have recognized this and have already formed key partnerships. For example, Intact and Aviva Canada have partnered with Uber. Intact is also a partner with Turo and an investor in Metromile. Additionally, Northbridge has partnered with RideCo, a Waterloo-based ride-sharing startup. Through this partnership, ride-share drivers can receive as much as $1 million in third-party liability coverage.

Final thoughts

Sharing economy valuation is projected to top $335 billion by 2025. Its impact on the Canadian insurance market will only continue to grow. While many Canadians will benefit from the expansion of the sharing economy, traditional insurance companies will need to adapt in order to keep up with new competition from insurtech newcomers. As a result, we are likely to see more partnerships between traditional insurers and insurtech companies in the years to come.

What Implications From Car Sharing?

Although ride sharing and home sharing are the mainstays of the sharing economy, a new field is rapidly presenting challenges and opportunities. This is the rise of car sharing.

Car sharing refers to an online marketplace where travelers can connect with a community of local car owners and rent any car they want, wherever they want it.

Two Types of Car Sharing

1. Fleet car sharing

This is where businesses such as car2go or communauto purchase and insure a large fleet of vehicles. These may be based in one location or free-floating. There are even companies that specialize in car sharing at airports.

2. Peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing

The second type of car sharing is where individual car owners rent their personal vehicles to private individuals.

They do this using a peer-to-peer company that acts as a broker and insurer. Currently, two of the largest players in the peer-to-peer car sharing industry are Turo and GetAround.

See also: What to Learn From Sharing Economy  

How does it work?

Once car owners have registered their cars with Turo (for instance), they can use an app on their smartphone to notify potential clients that their vehicle is available for hire at a set location and for a set period.

For example, the owners can drive to work in the morning and park their cars; while they are at work, a renter can pick up a car to run a few errands and then return it before the end of the workday.

Turo Offers Significant Benefits

Based on U.S. statistics in 2015, Turo anticipates that Canadian drivers can expect to earn approximately CAN$500 per month. Of course, individual earnings will vary depending on the value of the vehicle and how often it is available.

In the U.S., one authority claims that car sharers can earn anywhere between $600 and $1000 a month, depending on the type of car. Might not get much for this:

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 6.03.17 PM

But this:

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 6.03.52 PM

Oh, baby!

Turo also offers insurance packages for its participants. According to its website, Turo provides “protection against physical damage up to its actual cash value, for collision and most ‘comprehensive’ causes, including theft.” Turo also promises that participants will be covered by $1 million in liability insurance.

The Love-Love-Love Relationship of Car Sharing

Car Owners Love It

This marketplace allows car owners to earn extra money to help offset the cost of owning a vehicle. And because technology has made it possible to connect people with little or no advance notice, we are seeing a growing number of car owners capitalizing on the trend and using their vehicles to generate extra income.

Consumers Love It

Consumers without cars also love car sharing. Whether they live locally or are traveling for business or pleasure, car-sharing is an attractive option because it’s a great alternative to typical rental companies. In some cases, it even allows people to forgo car ownership altogether because they can simply rent a vehicle whenever they need it.

Pete Moraga, the spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California, says, “You’re seeing it primarily in college cities because it works very well for a college campus where students just need cars to do errands and not for the full day.”

Further, recent research found that car sharing services are now available in more than 33 countries and account for almost 5 million users. Not bad… and the growth continues.

See also: The Sharing Economy and Accountability

Environmentalists Love It

Those who care deeply about our environment love car sharing because it means fewer vehicles on the road, less money invested in non-renewable resources and a reduction in the carbon footprint on the environment.

Unique Challenges for Insurers

So what does this mean for the insurance industry? A lot.

Not surprisingly, car insurance companies haven’t quite fallen in love with this new world of car sharing as they are finding that it poses some interesting challenges.

Here are several problems that could affect basic coverage for clients:

  1. LIVERY – Will clients’ personal policies cover their cars if they rent out their vehicles? Most P2P companies understand the need for commercial auto insurance, but it’s always best to confirm that the coverage is adequate.
  2. WHO IS DRIVING? Vehicles that are involved in car sharing are exposed to a greater risk of accidents because they are being driven by drivers who are unfamiliar with the vehicles. Add bad weather and heavy traffic, and owners are putting their vehicles at serious risk. The concern for insurers is whether the client’s premiums are accurately reflecting the increased risk involved.
  3. LIABILITY – This is one of the most significant issues for personal auto insurers. Who pays if the car is involved in an accident while participating in car-sharing? Some car-sharing companies are facing this challenge by offering primary coverage in the event of an accident; some are offering comprehensive and collision coverage; and some are even offering third-party liability coverage.
  4. TRANSITION – Who is going to pay for damages if there is a dispute about when an accident happened? Did it happen when the owner was using it, or when the renter was? To help alleviate the confusion, some P2P companies are developing data recorders and phone apps to track mileage, time and who is driving the vehicle.
  5. DEPRECIATION – Who will cover the cost of depreciation if a car-sharing driver wrecks a vehicle? Will it be the P2P company’s insurance plan or the car owner’s?
  6. EXCLUSIONS – Most insurance policies contain exclusions that will deny coverage if a person has an accident while driving a lent or rented vehicle.

Some of these questions have simple answers, but many will not.

Ron Burns, vice president at Guarantee Company of North America, said this concerning this issue, “Unless we have some changes in the actual policy wordings, there are going to be a lot of insurers who stand up and say we won’t pay for that loss.”

Intact Offers Insurance to Car Sharers

In response to these concerns, Turo has partnered with Intact to offer commercial auto insurance specifically for car owners who are participating in car sharing.

How does it work?

While the vehicle is being delivered to the renter and during the rental period, the vehicle is covered by Turo’s commercial insurance. When the vehicle is not being delivered or rented, the owner is protected as usual under her Intact personal auto insurance policy.

All car owners who are planning to participate in peer-to-peer car rental through a company such as Turo MUST inform their insurance broker to ensure that their coverage is sufficient and accurate.

Does Turo Insurance Replace Personal Auto Insurance?

No. Car owners need to make sure that they have personal auto insurance, as well. In fact, to even list their car on the Turo marketplace, they need to investigate insurance plans with any of the following carriers:

Do Car Sharers Need Separate Insurance Plans?

Yes. The Turo insurance card does not satisfy state or provincial “financial responsibility” requirements and cannot be used to register a personal vehicle.

Do Insurance Providers Need to Change Their Strategy?

Yes. With more car sharing startups entering the marketplace, and the relative ease with which savvy car owners can use their assets to generate income, it is clear that the sharing economy is poised for significant growth.

See also: Sharing Economy: The Concept of Trust  

Insurance carriers need to ask themselves some honest questions as they boldly face this new customer climate:

  • How can we adequately face the new challenges in this sharing economy?
  • Should we create a unique policy just for car sharers?
  • Should we offer them a commercial policy, an excess policy or a base limit?
  • How can we stay innovative and capture the changing marketplace?

At a minimum, insurance carriers have a responsibility to engage with and educate policy-holders on many of the issues associated with car sharing.

Car sharing may not be the biggest concern in the minds of insurance carriers, but it should at least be on their radar.

The Sharing Economy and Auto Insurance

Carpoolers and hitchhikers were the original ridesharers. Now, ridesharing has become much more sophisticated. Riders and drivers can now be partnered through smartphone applications, which is changing how we think about insurance and liability.

The promise of the sharing economy, people making money from things they already own, is a noble one. Especially during tough economic times such as the 2008 recession, flexible job options in the sharing economy provide many with a financial safety net.

But what do these new collaborative marketplaces, particularly ridesharing ones, mean for traditional insurance carriers? This is a great question, and one I hope to help unpack here.

The Rise of the Sharing Economy

People were tired of waiting long periods for unreliable taxis and poorly run public transportation. The idea of ridesharing quickly caught on and has grown steadily ever since. There’s a reason why ridesharing giant Uber has been valued at more than $60 billion; it’s serving a significant customer demand. And whether we like it or not, sharing economy companies like Uber are here to stay.

See also: 9 Impressive Facts on Sharing Economy  

Although sharing economy platforms have caught on quickly, laws and regulations have been sorely lagging. Many sharing economy companies currently operate in the legal and regulatory vacuum as decision-makers try to figure out how to handle this new form of economic exchange.

The Growing Acceptance of Ride-Sharing

The insurance industry is in a different stage of acceptance, however. Recently, we have seen a growing acceptance by insurance carriers of the ride-sharing phenomenon through the development of innovative policies and products.

Why is ridesharing so popular? Convenience. Instead of having to pick a taxi company, calling them and waiting an untold amount of time, ride-sharers can now log into a smartphone app to book a ride. Once a driver accepts, you can see in real-time where your driver is, and even communicate with him.

An advantage of ridesharing is that you don’t have to exchange cash or card information for payment. Most ridesharing apps allow you to prepay into an account and simply deduct the amount of the ride from that account. Or, even connect your credit card to your account for a seamless transaction.

And insurance carriers are catching on. For instance, Aviva, State Farm, GEICO, Intact and others, have introduced hybrid rideshare specific policies for those who want to drive for Uber or Lyft.

But there are other aspects of auto insurance coverage that relate to the sharing economy: car-sharing.

The Growing Acknowledgment of Car-Sharing

For car-sharing, instead of sharing rides, users share the use of their personal vehicles in much the same way as a car rental agency operates.

The biggest car-sharing platform is Turo, which allows people to rent out their vehicle to screened drivers for a fee. Think of it as a car rental agency, but on the individual level.

Both car and ridesharing platforms have built-in insurance, but many questions have been raised as to liability in a sharing world.

The Issue of Insurance Coverage

There are certain stages of engagement in sharing economy work like ridesharing. When you are matched with a passenger, pick her up and drive her somewhere, there is no doubt you are “working.” What about when you are waiting for a passenger? Or driving around looking for one? Are you covered then? And which coverage counts, yours or the platform’s?

But for the most part, these issues have been settled through innovative gap coverage and hybrid policies.

A problem arises, however, in the form of insurer knowledge. Many sharing economy workers don’t realize that they’re not covered under traditional auto insurance policies. By definition, paying for the use of a vehicle, whether it’s an Uber ride or renting someone else’s car, is a commercial transaction.

See also: Why to Embrace the Sharing Economy  

That means that private insurance won’t cover you for accidents or incidents involving the vehicle in question if the vehicle is being used for commercial sharing. That can be a rude awakening. Educating ride-sharers must be priority number one for sharing economy platforms and insurance carriers.

Unfortunately, the law hasn’t caught up to the sharing economy. In many jurisdictions for instance, ridesharing is still illegal even if you have the right insurance coverage.

That is changing, however, as municipalities ease restrictions and slowly change laws to get with the times. Remember, the sharing economy is here to stay, and we must get on board, safely of course.

The insurance industry is ahead of the curve, and will be much better once municipal, state and federal decision-makers better understand and intelligently regulate this new form of economic exchange.