Tag Archives: Munich Re

Who Will Win: Startups or Carriers?

Who will win: carriers or startups? It’s a question that has dominated conference panels, opinion pieces and many of the conversations I’ve had with insurance industry friends and colleagues throughout 2018. On the surface, this question feels appropriate. For many consumer-facing insurtech startups, their valuation is rooted in the promise of capturing market share from large carriers. While this has led to a major boom in the number of direct-to-consumer (DTC) insurtechs, in reality, 2018 hasn’t yielded any new startups that are able to make a significant dent in the collective portfolios of the large insurers (Lemonade aside). As many carriers are awaiting the fruits of their multiyear organizational transformation programs, the lack of inroads may prompt a sigh of relief. If the trends we have seen this year continue, perhaps there will be enough time for the product innovation to spring from within the old guard, keeping the industry pecking order intact.

Not so fast.

Reframing the Debate

Before breathing their sigh of relief, carriers might start asking themselves another question: If not carriers, then whom? As far as innovation goes, we continue to see resistance across the large carriers to properly invest in a “test and learn” approach for their internal product development teams. At the end of the day, standing up a new product that would generate only $10 million in additional annual premiums just doesn’t get the runway it would for a startup. Instead, we’re seeing the rise of venture groups, innovation labs and incubators (Metlife Techstars, NYLV, SOMPO Digital Labs, etc.) that are to innovate, then potentially bringing the work in-house.

Adrian Jones, who leads investment and reinsurance terms to insurtech startups for SCOR, recently wrote about changing market conditions for reinsurers and their increased exposure to getting “disrupted.” Jones outlines how simpler and leaner startups have eaten away at the markets with the highest profit margins for reinsurers. This has the potential to become one of the most significant factors affecting the consumer space in 2019. Given their new financial exposure, reinsurers will be highly motivated (in a way that carriers currently are not) to adapt and discover new ways to increase their returns. This very well could be the fuel needed to truly ignite the customer experience (CX) advancements the industry has been promising. For a reinsurer, $10 million in annual premium from a startup is not only $10 million. It’s a path to diversify their risk portfolio and, more importantly, to develop an acquisition channel that can yield much higher margins than the current carrier model.

See also: Insurtech: Revolution, Evolution or Hype?

In the larger conversation, reinsurers are generally seen as key observers in the carrier vs. insurtech showdown, not major players. But given their advanced underwriting capabilities, global footprints, lack of direct customer acquisition workforce and substantially less technical debt compared with their carrier siblings, with the right set of partners reinsurers can provide the scale and expertise the new players typically lack. This enables startups to focus on their differentiators: seamless customer experiences and innovative acquisition strategies.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that this trend isn’t new. Many insurtech “darlings” are already taking advantage of this partnership model. Jetty is backed by Munich Re, Root Insurance by Odyssey Re and Ladder Life by Hannover Re. Noteworthy is what these startups can offer consumers outside of the coverage itself. Jetty offers financial resiliency for renters. Root has an IoT-powered auto insurance underwriting model based on mobile data. Ladder Life has significantly trimmed their underwriting questions for term life. Yes, there may be flaws in each value-add example, but that is beside the point. These startups are able to experiment with modified underwriting parameters, and, once they fine tune these products for the masses, the major carriers will pay heavily either by losing market share or by acquiring the startups.

In a recent conversation with an executive from one of the largest P&C insurance companies, the executive told me that he sees reinsurers like Munich Re as very strategic partners, yet an ever-growing risk because, in his words, Munich Re could “start cutting us out.” The threat is real.

What Should Carriers Do?

For starters, carriers need to identify how to enable a top-notch customer experience (CX). In 2018, there has been plenty of talk about improving customer journeys, but few incumbents have released anything remarkable. The time is now for mid-sized insurers and MGAs. There is no reason not to take a cue from the reinsurer playbook. Whether it’s backing an insurtech, creating a direct-to-consumer channel (like our friends at ProSight) or forming platform integration partnerships (as AP Intego is doing), there are opportunities to jump into the fray because the space is perfectly fragmented. Identifying a similarly positioned insurtech is a promising strategy for carriers with a wealth of data in niche markets. But working with an insurtech or building a DTC offering requires underwriting customization and collaboration. If that’s not something a carrier excels at, determining how to leverage existing technology or marketing capabilities is critical. For those with a technology strength, parametric insurance, such as Jumpstart and Floodmapp, may be a better fit. It’s an emerging market I especially have an affinity for.

See also: How to Partner With Insurtechs  

Regardless, it’s important that carriers develop a set of hypotheses on what will make them successful in whatever their new venture may be. At Cake & Arrow, we heavily rely on design thinking and qualitative research as a low-cost approach to validate strategies. Overall, being nimble, cross-functional and exceptionally tactical will be critical to success, which is why I consider large-scale organizational transformations not applicable here.

If all else fails, get the pocketbooks ready, because we will see no shortage of bidding wars in the coming year.

This article originally ran at Cake & Arrow

What Is Really Disrupting Insurance?

In a recent SMA blog, Karen Furtado, SMA partner, posed this question: “Have you ever found yourself hearing a word so frequently that it begins to lose its meaning?” The word she was referring to was “transformation,” but I think that everyone who reads that question immediately has a specific word of their own that pops into their heads. For me, it is the word “disruption” or any iteration of it – disrupt, disruptor, disruptive, etc. In the insurtech movement, those “disruption” words surface again and again.

At SMA, we love the word “transformation.” It’s this year’s umbrella theme of the annual SMA Summit. We spend a significant amount of time with our insurer customers helping them with transformation strategies. We help our technology customers dig deep into their transformation messaging and outcomes. But disruption – well, not so much! SMA believes that it is very difficult to truly disrupt the insurance industry (even though there is a tendency among some people to throw the word about with unwarranted abandon). So, you can imagine how surprising it was that, after a long and detailed research initiative earlier this year, we actually hung the “disruptor” tag on Munich Re!

See also: How Analytics Can Disrupt Work Comp  

The goal of the research was to analyze annual reports, quarterly analyst statements, magazine articles and public presentations to gain insight into, and maybe some best practices from, the innovation and transformation journeys of some of the largest insurers – Munich Re among them. SMA’s recent research brief, Who Is Really Disrupting the Insurance Industry? And What You Can Learn from Munich Re’s Journey, reviews the findings. There are many lessons to be learned from their journey, but three things in particular resonate:

  • Munich Re did not let traditional reinsurance roles place rails around their innovation strategies and tactics. For example, they worked with a broker (Marsh) to develop a pandemic product. Neither of the participants is a traditional player in the product development process.
  • Munich Re has stayed true to its heritage and traditional competencies of risk knowledge and risk management but approached change through a new lens of innovation and brave technology exuberance. We also saw this with Chubb as it has stayed true to its deep underwriting heritage in its innovation strategies.
  • Business units are focused on specific innovation and emerging technology initiatives. They have not cordoned off these responsibilities within IT or stand-alone innovation organizations. Business is an active force, not simply a recipient of innovation outcomes.

It’s a bit surprising and even inspiring that a reinsurer is an industry disruptor. Insurers need to study innovation and transformation activities at all industry levels because the traditional (or hyped) competitors may not be the ones that are changing the industry landscape.

See also: Innovation: ‘Where Do We Start?’

To be clear, Munich Re is not the only reinsurer that is on an innovation and transformation path. Others are, as well, most notably Swiss Re. However, early on, Munich Re noted unprecedented external forces emerging and, rather than reverting to traditional and frequently successful strategies, the company boldly placed new lenses on business challenges. And the results are – and continue to be – disruptive. (There, I said that word again!)

10 Insurtech Trends at the Crossroads

The emergence of insurtech has reshaped the strategic insurance agenda. Here are the top 10 insurtech trends as we enter 2018.

Insurtech Trend #1 – Automation will replace human effort across the entire insurance value chain

This is a trend that is not unique to insurance. But it is a trend that will significantly affect the insurance sector. This is because much of the insurance industry still operates in pre-internet ways. It is also because many personal lines are being atomized. Small parcels of insurance protection cannot be packaged and sold with human input and remain cost-effective. It is also because customers demand it. They want a purely digital experience that does not require human contact when a machine will do nicely, thank you.

One to watch: ZhongAn

Insurtech trends article: Is the Rise of the Digital Advisor the new InsurTech Game Changer?

Insurtech Trend #2 – Insurance premiums will become highly personalized based on greater tech-enabled insight on customers and their individual risk

When you add together the massive growth in new sources of data together with tech-enabled data science, it is inevitable that premiums will become highly personalized. This will be enabled by tech such as wearables, telematics, IoT and smartphone apps. Not to mention the ability to build insights through relationships that exists across data sets. Gone will be the days when people of the same age and gender, with identical cars or homes living on the same street, will pay the same premium. In the future, other factors will apply to reflect greater granularity in their individual risk profiles. Data science will become a key set for underwriters and actuaries.

One to watch: Sherpa

Insurtech trends article: Insurance distribution is about to get personal

Insurtech Trend #3 – The blockchain era has begun, and there will be a rapid shift from pilot to production of distributed ledger technology

It is hard to find a major insurer that is not involved one way or another with a blockchain initiative. This will only continue as this disruptive tech continues to prove its ability to provide a viable solution. Of course, there are still some big questions to answer in terms of scale, performance and security, but those answers will come. The big breakthrough in insurance for blockchain will be in the back office for the complex and global world of wholesale, commercial and reinsurance (which is desperately in need of moving into the internet age).

One to watch: ChainThat

Insurtech trends article: R3’s partnership with ChainThat is one giant leap for insurance

See also: Insurtech: The Year in Review  

Insurtech Trend #4 – The lines between the old and new will blur as insurtech becomes mainstream by 2020

The defining characteristic of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is speed of change. This certainly applies to insurtech and its impact on the world of insurance. The rate at which insurtech startups are popping up all over the world is not surprising. Everyone wants a piece of this $7 trillion cake. The incumbents have responded, too. By investing in, partnering with and acquiring insurtechs, the incumbent insurers have wholly embraced the movement. This will lead to the creation of whole new digital brands, designed to cannibalize traditional business. And because it is simply too expensive and takes too long to transform legacy operations, the incumbents will ring fence and run them down.

One to watch: Munich Re

Insurtech trends article: Digital transformation is the strategic imperative no insurer can ignore

Insurtech Trend #5 – Digital engagement through lifestyle apps will change the relationship dynamic between insurer and insured

Lifestyle apps are the norm. It is hard to find anywhere in the world where this is not the case, so lifestyle apps are the perfect vehicle to provide the peace of mind that customers want when they buy insurance. Instead of the annual chore of hunting for the lowest-priced insurance then having nothing more to do with it unless you suffer a loss, lifestyle apps offer value on a daily basis. This makes them sticky, which, for insurers, means less churn. They also give insurers greater insight into their customers’ behavior, which means better-informed risk assessments and personalized premiums. And they build brand loyalty, which, if you believe in behavioral economics, will result in lower levels of claim embellishment and fraud.

One to watch: Metromile

Insurtech trends article: Metromile, the pioneers of digital engagement

Insurtech Trend #6 – The all-in-one insurance policy is here to stay

It has taken longer than I predicted back in 2015, but the all-in-one insurance policy is here. From a customer’s perspective, the all-in-one policy makes perfect sense. Especially for the millennials and Gen Y’s. Why can’t they simply have one relationship with one insurer and have everything covered in one go? And it’s not just for younger generations. Imagine giving the insurer the details about your car, home, health, travel, pets and possessions. The insurer gives you one overarching policy, a fair price and the ability to flexibly adjust the cover as needed. Operating on a membership model, the platform can provide safeguards and advise the customer on good and bad decisions. This is AI territory and relatively straightforward to automate. IMHO, this is a winner; watch this space!

One to watch: Getsafe

Insurtech trends article: Getsafe take the Lemonade model one step further

Insurtech Trend #7 – New models will challenge the traditional insurance value chain 

In the digital economy, where insurance is embedded into lifestyle products or distributed through ecosystems, the traditional insurance model doesn’t work. The inherent inefficiency in a highly intermediated value chain, too dependent on human effort, makes insurance products expensive. When as much as 80% of premium is lost on distribution, leaving barely a fifth for the risk pool, you know something has to change. In the words of Jeff Bezos, “your fat margin is my opportunity.” These new models will see the carriers squeezed as the reinsurers provide risk capital directly to digital brands. Regulatory frameworks will be reworked to reflect these shorter value chains that don’t require the many layers they have today.

One to watch: Amazon

Insurtech trends article: Redefining the insurance value chain

Insurtech Trend #8 – Lemonade has set the pace in Insurtech 2.0; copycats will follow

The first phase of insurtech was all about distribution and data. Then came Lemonade. In September 2016, they launched in New York, and a year later they cover around 50% of the U.S. population with their renters and home insurance products. For me, Lemonade have defined Insurtech 2.0. Many insurtech startups claim to redefine or reinvent insurance, but they simply don’t, whereas Lemonade has. It is inevitable that the copycats will appear. Some will be insurtech startups, although they will need to be as well-marshaled, experienced and funded as the Lemonade team to have any chance of success. And some will be the incumbents, which will have a go at creating a Lemonade model from within. These will almost certainly fail!

One to watch: Lemonade

Insurtech trends article: Lemonade really do have a big heart, killer prices and instant everything

See also: Top 10 Insurtech Trends for 2018  

Insurtech Trend #9 – Claims settlement will become an automated, self-service and quick-to-pay experience for customers

Insurers spend too much of a customer’s premium on handling the claims process. This is because the process is manual. And because the carrier wants to double-check the claim. And because customers don’t always tell the truth. And because there is too much time in the whole process. And and and and and. The insurtech solution is to put the claims process in the hands of the customer. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it isn’t. Taking a self-service approach, the customer provides video and images at FNOL and is in control of the claims process. Automated reviews of claims handle the vast majority of cases and award instant payouts. The money can be with the customer in a matter of hours. No long processing cycles, no time to embellish the claim and high levels of customer satisfaction. Those that fail the automated review are the exceptions handled by the carrier, which is what they’re looking for anyway! This will become the norm for claims management, once the fears and resistance of the lifelong claims directors can be overcome.

One to watch: Rightindem

Insurtech trends article: Democratizing insurance claims restores trust for customers

Insurtech Trend #10 – Tech-enabled loss prevention will become a key feature in the insurance product

Advances in everyday technology are increasing the ability to predict the likelihood of an event or outcome occurring. In home and motor, tech is being used to model behavior and identify exceptions. Sensors and phones and devices are all collecting data that define our individual norm (as opposed to a collective norm). As a result, any deviation can be instantly assessed, and action can be taken. To handle scale, this is 100%-automated, driven by AI and machine learning. Which means the opportunity for insurance is immense, because, instead of being a passive risk taker (which carriers are today), insurers will become active risk managers.

One to watch: Surely

Insurtech trends article: Digital implementation is the strategy insurers have been looking for

Insurtech prediction lists from previous years 

Looking forward with insurtech Insights – 10 predictions for 2017

Daily Fintech’s 2016 predictions for InsurTech

Sign up for more insurtech Insights here

Insurtech: The Year in Review

As we reach the end of 2017, the first full 12 months where insurtech has been recognized as a standalone investment segment, we wanted to reflect on what has been an incredible year.

From the start, we at Eos believed that insurtech would be driven globally, and that has certainly played out. This year, we’ve visited: Hong Kong, Amsterdam, New York, Las Vegas, Nigeria, Dubai, India, Singapore, Bermuda, Milan, St. Louis, Munich, Vienna, Paris, Zurich, Cologne, Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Seattle and Toronto. We’ve expanded our geographic footprint to include the East and West coasts of the U.S. and India and have seen fantastic progress across our expanding portfolio. We’ve welcomed a number of new strategic partners, including Clickfox, ConVista and Dillon Kane Group, and launched our innovation center, EoSphere, with a focus on developing markets

At the start of the year, we published a series of articles looking at the key trends that we believed would influence insurtech and have incorporated these in our review of the year.

We hope you enjoy it! Comments, challenges and other perspectives, as always, would be greatly received.

2017: The year innovation became integral to the insurance sector

How are incumbents responding?

We are seeing a mixed response, but the direction of travel is hugely positive. A small number of top-tier players are embracing the opportunity and investing hundreds of millions, and many smaller incumbents with more modest budgets are opening up to innovation and driving an active agenda. The number sitting on the side lines, with a “wait and see” strategy is diminishing.

“If 2016 was the year when ‘some’ insurers started innovating, 2017 will be remembered as the year when ‘all’ insurers jumped on the bandwagon. And not a minute too soon! When I joined 3,800 insurance innovators in Las Vegas, we all realized that the industry is now moving forward at light speed, and the few remaining insurers who stay in the offline world risk falling behind.” Erik Abrahamson, CEO of Digital Fineprint

We are more convinced than ever that the insurance industry is at the start of an unprecedented period of change driven by technology that will result in a $1 trillion shift in value between those that embrace innovation and those that don’t.

Has anyone cracked the code yet? We don’t think so, but there are a small number of very impressive programs that will deliver huge benefits over the next two to three years to their organizations.

“We were pleased to see some of the hype surrounding insurtech die down in 2017. We’re now seeing a more considered reaction from (re)insurers. For example, there is less talk about the ‘Uber moment’ and more analysis of how technology can support execution of the corporate strategy. We have long argued that this is the right approach.” Chris Sandilands, partner at Oxbow Partners

Have insurers worked out how to work with startups? We think more work may be needed in this area….

See also: Insurtech: An Adventure or a Quest?  

The role of the tech giants

“Investors are scrambling for a piece of China’s largest online-only insurer… the hype could be explained by the ‘stars’ behind ZhongAn and its offering. Its major shareholders — Ping An Insurance (Group) Co., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd.” – ChinaGoAbroad.com

“Tencent Establishes Insurance Platform WeSure Through WeChat and QQ” – YiCai Global

“Amazon is coming for the insurance industry — should we be worried?” – Insurance Business Magazine

“Aviva turns digital in Hong Kong with Tencent deal” – Financial Times

“Quarter of customers willing to trust Facebook for insurance” – Insurance Business Magazine

“Chinese Tech Giant Baidu Is Launching a $1 Billion Fund with China Life” – Fortune 

We are already well past the point of wondering whether tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (GAFA) and Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (BAT) are going to enter insurance. They are already here.

Notice the amount of activity being driven by the Chinese tech giants. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are transforming the market, and don’t expect them to stop at China.

The tech giants bring money, customer relationships, huge amounts of data and ability to interact with people at moments of truth and have distribution power that incumbents can only dream about. Is insurance a distraction to their core businesses? Perhaps — but they realize the potential in the assets that they have built. Regulatory complexity may drive a partnership approach, but we expect to see increasing levels of involvement from these players.

Role of developing markets

It’s been exciting to play an active role in the development of insurtech in developing markets. These markets are going to play a pivotal role in driving innovation in insurance and in many instances, will move ahead of more mature markets as a less constraining legacy environment allows companies to leapfrog to the most innovation solutions.

Importantly, new technologies will encourage financial inclusion and reduce under-insurance by lowering the cost of insurance, allowing more affordable coverage, extending distribution to reach those most at need (particularly through mobiles, where penetration rates are high) and launching tailored product solutions.

Interesting examples include unemployment insurance in Nigeria, policies for migrant workers in the Middle East, micro credit and health insurance in Kenya, a blockchain platform for markets in Asia and a mobile health platform in India.

Protection to prevention

At the heart of much of the technology-driven change and potential is the shift of insurance from a purely protection-based product to one that can help predict, mitigate or prevent negative events. This is possible with the ever-increasing amount of internal and external data being created and captured, but, more crucially, sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that drive actionable insights from the data. In fact, insurers already own a vast amount of historical unstructured data, and we are seeing more companies unlocking value from this data through collaboration and partnerships with technology companies. Insurers are now starting to see data as a valuable asset.

The ability to understand specific risk characteristics in real time and monitor how they change over time rather than rely on historic and proxy information is now a reality in many areas, and this allows a proactive rather than reactive approach.

During 2017, we’ve been involved in this area in two very different product lines, life and health and marine insurance.

The convergence of life and health insurance and application of artificial intelligence combined with health tech and genomics is creating an opportunity to transform the life and health insurance market. We hope to see survival rates improving, tailored insurance solutions, an inclusion-based approach and reduced costs for insurers.

Marine insurance is also experiencing a shift due to technology

In the marine space, the ability to use available information from a multitude of sources to enhance underwriting, risk selection and pricing and drive active claims management practices is reshaping one of the oldest insurance lines. Concirrus, a U.K.-based startup, launched a marine analytics solution platform to spearhead this opportunity.

The emergence of the full stack digital insurer

Perhaps reflecting the challenges of working with incumbents, several companies have decided to launch a full-stack digital insurer.

We believe that this model can be successful if executed in the right way but remain convinced that a partnership-driven approach will generate the most impact in the sector in the short to medium term.

“A surprise for us has been the emergence of full-stack digital insurers. When Lemonade launched in 2016, the big story was that it had its own balance sheet. In 2017, we’ve seen a number of other digital insurers launch — Coya, One, Element, Ottonova in Germany, Alan in France, for example. Given the structure of U.K. distribution, we’re both surprised and not surprised that no full-stack digital insurers have launched in the U.K. (Gryphon appears to have branded itself a startup insurer, but we’ve not had confirmation of its business model).” – Chris Sandilands, partner, Oxbow Partners

Long term, what will a “full stack” insurer look like? We are already seeing players within the value chain striving to stay relevant, and startups challenging existing business models. Will the influence of tech giants and corporates in adjacent sectors change the insurance sector as we know it today?

Role of MGAs and intermediaries

Insurtech is threatening the role of the traditional broker in the value chain. Customers are able to connect directly, and the technology supports the gathering, analysis and exchange of high-quality information. Standard covers are increasingly data-driven, and the large reinsurers are taking advantage by going direct.

We expected to see disintermediation for simple covers, and this has started to happen. In addition, blockchain initiatives have been announced by companies like Maersk, Prudential and Allianz that will enable direct interaction between customers and insurers.

However, insurtech is not just bad news for brokers. In fact, we believe significant opportunities are being created by the emergence of technology and the associated volatility in the market place.

New risks, new products and new markets are being created, and the brokers are ideally placed to capitalize given their skills and capabilities. Furthermore, the rising rate environment represents an opportunity for leading brokers to demonstrate the value they can bring for more complex risks.

MGAs have always been a key part of the value chain, and we are now seeing the emergence of digital MGAs.

Digital MGAs are carving out new customer segments, channels and products. Traditional MGAs are digitizing their business models, while several new startups are testing new grounds. Four elements are coming together to create a perfect storm:

  1. Continuing excess underwriting capacity, especially in the P&C markets, is galvanizing reinsurers to test direct models. Direct distribution of personal lines covers in motor and household is already pervasive in many markets. A recent example is Sywfft direct Home MGA with partnerships with six brokers. Direct MGA models for commercial lines risks in aviation, marine, construction and energy are also being tested and taking root.
  2. Insurers and reinsurers are using balance sheet capital to provide back-stop to MGA startups. Startups like Laka are creating new models using excess of loss structures for personal lines products.
  3. Digital platforms are permitting MGAs to go direct to customers.
  4. New sources of data and machine learning are permitting MGAs to test new underwriting and claims capabilities and take on more balance sheet risk. Underwriting, and not distribution, is emerging as the core competency of MGAs.

Customer-driven approach

Three of the trends driving innovation that we highlighted at the start of the year centered on the customer and how technology will allow insurers to connect with customers at the “moment of truth”:

  • Insurance will be bought, sold, underwritten and serviced in fundamentally different ways.
  • External data and contextual information will become increasingly important.
  • Just-in-time, need- and exposure-based protection through mobile will be available.

Over time, we expect the traditional approach to be replaced with a customer-centric view that will drive convergence of traditional product lines and a breakdown of silo organization structures. We’ve been working with Clickfox on bringing journey sciences to insurance, and significant benefits are being realized by those insurers supporting this fundamental change in approach.

Interesting ideas that were launched or gained traction this year include Kasko, which provides insurance at point of sale; Cytora, which enables analysis of internal and external data both structured and unstructured to support underwriting; and Neosurance, providing insurance coverage through push notifications at time of need.

See also: Core Systems and Insurtech (Part 3)  

Partnerships and alliances critical for success

As discussed above, we believe partnerships and alliances will be key to driving success. Relying purely on internal capabilities will not be enough.

“The fascinating element for me to witness is the genuine surprise by insurance companies that tech firms are interested in ‘their’ market. The positive element for me is the evolving discovery of pockets of value that can be addressed and the initial engagement that is received from insurers. It’s still also a surprise that insurers measure progress in years, not quarters, months or weeks.” – Andrew Yeoman, CEO of Concirrus

We highlighted three key drivers at the start of the year:

  • Ability to dynamically innovate will become the most important competitive advantage.
  • Optionality and degrees of freedom will be key.
  • Economies of skill and digital capabilities will matter more than economies of scale.

The move toward partnership built on the use of open platforms and APIs seen in fintech is now prevalent in insurance.

“We are getting, through our partnerships, access to the latest technology, a deeper understanding of the end customers and a closer engagement with them, and this enables us to continue to be able to better design insurance products to meet the evolving needs and expectations of the public.” Munich Re Digital Partners

Where next?

Key trends to look out for in 2018

  • Established tech players in the insurance space becoming more active in acquiring or partnering with emerging solutions to augment their business models
  • Tech giants accelerating pace of innovation, with Chinese taking a particularly active role in AI applications
  • Acceleration of the trend from analogue to digital and digital to AI
  • Shift in focus to results rather than hype and to later-stage business models that can drive real impact
  • Valuation corrections with down rounds, consolidation and failures becoming more common as the sector matures
  • Continued growth of the digital MGA
  • Emergence of developing-market champions
  • Increasing focus on how innovation can be driven across all parts of the value chain and across product lines, including commercial lines
  • Insurers continuing to adapt their business models to improve their ability to partner effectively with startups — winners will start to emerge

“As we enter 2018, I think that we’ll see a compression of the value chain as the capital markets move ever closer to the risk itself and business models that syndicate the risk with the customer — active risk management is the new buzzword.” – Andrew Yeoman, CEO Concirrus

We’re excited to be at the heart of what will be an unprecedented period of change for the insurance industry.

A quick thank you to our partners and all those who have helped and supported us during 2017. We look forward to working and collaborating with you in 2018.

Easy Pickings in Southeast Asia

With GDP rates in SE Asia exceeding 6.3% per annum, with premium growth for life, accident and other policies higher than 13% last year in the region and with insurance penetration rates of 5% or less, we seem to be looking at a slow, fat rabbit.

But we don’t seem to be able to shoot it. Why?

See also: Innovation — or Just Innovative Thinking?  

While numerous global and regional insurance carriers have created venture capital funds, insurtech incubators and grand initiatives, the carriers’ fundamental view of the world has not changed. Consider the following: In 2016, there were approximately 75 deals in private tech investment by reinsurers and insurers, up from three deals in 2013. On the face of it, this is encouraging. However, of the total tech deals completed in 2016, more than 72% involved U.S.-based startups and only 12% involved ones in Asia. In other words, the fastest-growing markets of the world received only a fraction of the total tech investments from the insurance industry, which is not exactly transformational.

You can’t shoot even a slow, fat rabbit if you don’t aim at it.

If we assume an average of a $2 million for each of those private deals, this equates to $150 million in total capital commitments. Let’s be generous. If the average deal size was $10 million, the total industry commitment would have been $750 million, or less than .02% of the industry’s $4.5 trillion in annual premium.

Can you imagine a private equity firm like Blackrock investing only two-hundredths of a percentage point of its assets in products and ventures for the future? Neither can I.

In all fairness, it is not easy to disrupt the status quo in insurance.  After all, for well over a century, insurance was a game the house almost always won. Other than catastrophic events (hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, etc. — many of which are co-insured by local and federal governments), insurance has been a safe bet if, of course, you are the house.

In the face of change, many insurers have recently undertaken initiatives to break the mold. MetLife recently created LumenLab in Singapore, where a 7,800-square-foot facility is an incubator for innovative startups from outside the insurance industry. But with MetLife’s earning declining more than 19% from 2015 to 2016, is it enough? Aviva, a British multinational with more than 33 million customers across 16 countries, recently launched an initiative to encourage entrepreneurs to develop disruptive solutions. The mission statement reads: “Our mission is to connect with extraordinary talent, uncover breakthrough innovations and give those breakthrough innovations the opportunity to thrive.”  That’s very passionate, but what is the end game?

See also: Insurers Are Catching the Innovation Wave  

True innovation, transformation and disruption are cultural issues, and must be cultivated and encouraged from the top. Most insurance CEOs do not engage in high-altitude mountain climbing, scuba diving or any other extreme sport, nor do they hang out at the Google campus. Most importantly, they do not spend a lot of time in Bangkok or Shanghai. But they should, because that is where the new markets are forming.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. The first is Axa, which has created Axa Ventures, a true, well-funded venture capital subsidiary with a mission to invest in disruptive ventures that can actually get to market. The fund is led by Minh Tran, who has a successful history in venture capital and disruption. The second and less obvious group is Munich Re, based in Germany, which has launched numerous digital and venture initiatives. Germany has become a center for insurtech, and, while Munich Re’s efforts are, in my opinion, still not completely coordinated, it is clearly making a company-wide effort.

If insurance carriers want to lead the pack, they must embrace models similar to the one Axa has created, and they must make a corporate commitment to transformational change — especially in emerging markets. Disruption does not happen overnight, but it does happen. And, in a legacy industry ripe for change, it will happen sooner rather than later.

The question is whether it will be led from the inside or whether the industry will be dragged kicking and screaming into the future from the outside.