Tag Archives: Ladder

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!

8 Start-ups Aiming to Revive Life Insurance

In my last post, I described the state of the life insurance industry, including the pain points where InsurTech entrants are poised for impact.

The life insurance industry is suffering from a dying (literally) distribution model, complex products and a flawed purchase funnel.

New entrants can transform the industry by bringing a clean-sheet approach to:

  • Putting the client at the center of the business
  • Prioritizing the direct-to-client experience, including simpler products and path-to-purchase
  • Launching businesses on a back-end that enables low-cost, fast issuance and personalized underwriting and offers
  • Creating business models that align carrier and client interests and flex beyond protection-after-the-fact to providing value through prevention services
  • Supporting multi-channel servicing and claims management that satisfy clients
  • Using data responsibly to be proactive, personalized, timely, cost-effective and relevant
  • Treating life insurance as part of the client’s broader financial plan, including the connection to anticipating one’s healthcare requirements and managing the drivers, to the extent these are controllable, of health problems
  • Aligning with the demographic trends (the boomer handoff to the millennial generation and the emergence of the new majority in the U.S.) and the technology trends (mobile as the main screen; the role of social media in the client experience; and the application of big data to change the experience and business model)
  • Disproving orthodoxies that have become barriers to innovation for the sector, i.e., “insurance is sold not bought,” “the agent is the customer,” et al.

As much as start-ups are emerging and being funded aiming at health, home and auto, much less attention is being paid to either life insurance or its sibling, long-term care.

One founder/CEO with whom I spoke this week had two possible explanations: (1) Life insurance is the stepchild of the sector, and (2) the “sold not bought” orthodoxy is embedded, even among start-ups, which are typically seen as better not only at casting aside such self-imposed obstacles but seizing upon them as open doors for disruption. These factors may be deflecting entrepreneurial energy and attention in other directions.

See Also: InsurTech Can Help Fix Drop in Life Insurance

Long-term care has been a challenging product for traditional carriers, with players either abandoning the product or re-pricing and reconfiguring their products as flaws in earlier underwriting have become clear. According to Consumer Reports, between 2007 and 2012, 10 of the 20 top long-term-care providers stopped selling the product, and those in the business began raising rates, some reportedly as much as 90%, to address high claims projections.

That said, there are new ventures worth watching, and the good news about the relatively low level of attention being paid to life insurance, for those who see ignored space as white space, is that there could be more opportunity to succeed for those who engage.

Here are a few start-ups focused on the valuable white spaces:

In stealth mode are three companies worth keeping an eye on:

  • Sureify Labs is focused on “bridging the gap between insurers and their current and future policyholders” through a B2B offering aimed at helping traditional carriers move into the new world. The company’s site states that the platform “starts with consumer web and mobile applications that drive engagement through device-integrated wellness, savings and rewards programs tied to a policy. Behind the scenes, we give you as the carrier all the tools necessary to engage, communicate and up-sell your policyholders through digital mediums.” This sounds as though it would be a dream come true for carriers that are serious about building client-centric businesses.
  • Ladder, formed just a year ago (see: CB Insights report) is reportedly starting with a mobile value proposition built around easier and faster access to term life insurance, using available, permissible data sources to improve the underwriting process. If, as the name suggests, the company is building a value proposition that redefines the traditional notion of an insurance ladder – a construct that lets you plan for extra coverage when you’ll need it the most and taper off coverage at other times – I would expect them to develop more dynamic, effective relationships with clients than those propagated by the traditional one-and-almost-always-done insurance sales model.
  • Human Condition Safety (HCS’ site is under construction) is an example of a start-up focused on expanding the value a life insurance carrier can provide by offering prevention services in addition to protection. AIG became a strategic investor in the company earlier this year. HCS is said to be “developing wearable devices, analytics and systems to improve worker safety.”

A number of start-ups are building capabilities to solve carrier problems improving on the traditional distribution and product models. An investor might ask if these are businesses or features:

  • Force Diagnostics is focused on “combining science and a customer-centric streamlined process” to transform health and wellness screening. The expense (to the carrier), hassle (to the applicant) and elapsed time (a burden to all) associated with today’s underwriting requirements for blood and urine samples are ripe for reinvention.
  • Insurance Social Media, part of Serious Social Media, is offering a “set it and forget it” capability to improve agent effectiveness on social media. Given the demographic profile of the average agent (57 years old, and accustomed to pushing product), kick-starting their social media presence and providing relevant content solve pain points for today’s distributors. Of course, two questions regarding any start-up aiming to mass-produce content are: first, can such content come across as authentic, and second, how does this model scale?
  • Insquik offers agents a white label solution to create their own online stores. The focus is on term life automatic issuance up to $350,000 face value, and, according to the company’s site, aims specifically to serve the sub-segment of agents who “have access to large populations of consumers i.e., focused on Worksite Employee Benefits, Affinity Groups, Unions, Groups and Associations.”
  • Fitsense is a start-up coming out of StartupBootcamp that is building a data analytics platform focused on enabling insurance companies to reduce premiums “for anyone with a smartphone or wearable device.”
  • Sure provides a digital front-end and a more real-time experience for an old idea – a micro-duration life insurance policy that provides coverage during air travel. (In the pre-digital era, this was simply called “per trip coverage”.) American Express is one company that for more than 30 years offered air flight life insurance policies at varying face amounts, as part of a portfolio of travel-related protection benefits.

The opportunity for Insurtech to expand efforts in the life insurance category is not simply the commercial potential of disrupting a model that has proven its limitations. It is also the prospect of addressing a societal need that has been neglected for decades. These are two compelling reasons to encourage more participation by investors and entrepreneurs, stimulating a bigger pipeline of entrants to take on the reinvention of the category.

trends

InsurTech Trends to Watch For in 2016

The excitement around technology’s potential to transform the insurance industry has grown to a fever pitch, as 2015 saw investors deploy more than $2.6 billion globally to insurance tech startups. I compiled six trends to look out for in 2016 in the insurance tech space.

The continued rise of insurance corporate venture arms

2015 saw the launch of corporate venture arms by insurers including AXA, MunichRe/Hartford Steam Boiler, Aviva and Transamerica. Aviva, for example, said it intends to commit nearly £20 million per year over the next five years to private tech investments. Not only do we expect the current crop of corporate VCs in the insurance industry to become more active, we also expect to see new active corporate VCs in the space as more insurance firms move from smaller-scale efforts — such as innovation labs, hackathons and accelerator partnerships — to formal venture investing arms.

Majority of insurance tech dealflow in U.S. moves beyond health coverage

Insurance tech funding soared in 2015 on the back of Q2’15 mega-rounds to online benefits software and health insurance brokerage Zenefits as well as online P&C insurance seller Zhong An. More importantly, year-over-year deal activity in the growing insurance tech space increased 45% and hit a multi-year quarterly high in Q4’15, which saw an average of 11 insurance tech startup financings per month.

In each of the past three years, more than half of all U.S.-based deal activity in the insurance tech space has gone to health insurance start-ups. However, 2015 saw non-health insurance tech start-ups nearly reach parity in terms of U.S. deal activity (49% to 51%). As early-stage U.S. investments move beyond health coverage to other lines including commercial, P&C and life (recent deals here include Lemonade, PolicyGenius, Ladder and Embroker), 2016 could see an about-face in U.S. deal share, with health deals in the minority.

Investments to just-in-time insurance start-ups grow

The on-demand economy has connected mobile users to services including food delivery, roadside assistance, laundry and house calls with the click of a button. While not new, the unbundling of an insurance policy into financial protection for specific risks, just-in-time delivery of coverage or micro-duration insurance has already attracted venture investments to mobile-first start-ups including Sure, Trov and Cuvva. Whether or not consumers ultimately want the engagement or interfaces these apps offer, the host of start-ups working in just-in-time insurance means one area is primed for investment growth in the insurance tech space.

Will insurers get serious about blockchain investments?

Thus far, insurance firms have largely pursued exploratory investments in blockchain and bitcoin startups. New York Life and Transamerica Ventures participated in a strategic investment with Digital Currency Group, gaining the ability to monitor the space through DCG’s portfolio of blockchain investments. More recently, Allianz France accepted Everledger, which uses blockchain as a diamond verification registry, into its latest accelerator class. As more insurers test blockchain technologies for possible applications, it will be interesting to monitor whether more insurance firms join the growing list of financial services giants investing in blockchain startups.

Fintech start-ups adding insurance applications

In an interview with Business Insider, SoFi CEO Mike Cagney said he believes there’s a lot more room for its origination platform to grow, adding,

“We’re looking at the entire landscape of financial services, like life insurance, for example.”

A day later, an article on European neobank Number26, which is backed by Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, mentioned the company would like to act as a fintech hub integrating other financial products, including insurance, into its app. We should expect to see more existing fintech start-ups in non-insurance verticals not only talk publicly but also execute strategic moves into insurance.

More cross-border blurring of insurance tech start-ups

Knip, a Swiss-based mobile insurance app backed by U.S. investors including QED and Route66, is currently hiring for U.S. expansion. Meanwhile, U.S. start-ups such as Trov are partnering and launching with insurers abroad. We can expect more start-ups in the U.S. to look abroad both for strategic investment and partnerships, and for insurance tech start-ups with traction internationally to expand to the U.S.