Tag Archives: P2P

Complexity Theory Offers Insights (Part 1)

In the first of this series of four segments, we will look at the current state of the risk markets and the insurance industry; the emerging peer-to-peer (P2P) segment of the risk markets; how blockchain technology is enabling a new taxonomy in the risk markets; and what changes may occur as a result of these new technologies and methods.

The purpose of this series hails from the open source movement in the software industry. Key to the open source philosophy is the transparent and voluntary collaboration of all interested parties. While this work has been kept fairly close to the vest for the past few years, I have taken meetings with two Fortune 500 insurance companies’ strategy and venture teams, both of which asked for a proof of concept — as well as with a handful of other large international insurance companies and one of the big four accounting firms.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have also spoken with other founders of P2P insurance startups around the world, and I have participated in the communities surrounding blockchain technology. I feel that these handful of folks have already enjoyed early access to these concepts, and my motivation with this series is to achieve a more level playing field for all parties interested in the future of the risk markets.

There are links at the bottom of this article to join the conversation via a LinkedIn group and get access to the whole series.
To begin, let’s take a look at the current state of risk markets. It is important to distinguish between drivers of economic systems and the impact they have on business models in the industrial age vs. in the information age.

See also: Should We Take This Risk?  

Hardware and technology was a key driver throughout the industrial age, which saw a growing batch of new technologies — from cars and planes, to computers and smart phones, to industrial robots, etc.

Industrial age business models were almost always “extractionary” in their nature. The business model engages with some market, and it profits by keeping some portion of the market’s value.

Extracting value from the market

The strategies of the industrial age were:

  • Standardization — interchangeable parts
  • Centralization — big factories, vertical integration, economies of scale
  • Consolidation —an indication that an industry is about to experience a phase change

In the information age, business models almost always embody some creation of “network effect.” When the business model engages with a market, the individual actors all benefit as more actors engage with the business model. The value creation is usually tied to a network’s graph, and the value creation will grow exponentially as the network’s density grows.

Creating value for the market, not extracting value from the market

The strategies and efficiency-drivers in the information age are:

  • Cheap connections — enabling multiple paths through the network’s graph
  • Low transaction cost — in terms of time, effort and money
  • Lateral scaling — not vertical structures, which will be flattened out (“top down” increases network fragility)
  • Increase in node diversity — and in the ways each node can connect

All of these drivers lead to increasing network density and flow. Things are moving away from large, brittle centralized organizational structures and toward “distributed,” P2P, “crowd” or “sharing economy” types of organizational structures.

Moving away from command-and-control organizational structures is almost impossible for organizations that profit from efficiency gains derived from a centralized effort. It is this attribute of their business model that necessitates startups and new business models coming in and bringing improvements to the market — challenging incumbent economic and business models.

The information age is all about networks (not technology), and building graphs that create positive network effects.

The conceptual framework best suited to understanding networks and the networked world we now live in is complexity science. The study of complex adaptive systems has grown out of its roots in the 1940s and has proliferated since the 1990s and the explosion of computer networks and social networks. Here is an introduction:

When looking at complex systems, we start by looking at the system’s graph. To get an idea of what a graph is, let’s look at a few examples of “graph companies.”

  • Facebook built the “social graph” of acquaintances; it did not create acquaintances.
  • Linkedin built the “professional graph” of coworkers and colleagues; it did not create coworkers and colleagues.
  • Google built the “link graph” for topics searched; it did not create back links for the topics searched.

Notice that, in each of these cases, the company built and documented the connections between the things or nodes in the network and did not create the things or nodes themselves. Those already existed.

To start looking at the risk markets, we must first understand what is being connected or transferred between the nodes (a.k.a. the users). It should be of little surprise that, in the risk markets, it is risk that is being transferred between nodes, like a user transferring risk to an insurance company. In terms of risk graphing, there are currently two dominant graphs. A third is emerging.

Let’s take a look at the graphs that make up the risk markets and the insurance industry.

  1. Insurance — is the “hub and spoke” graph.
  2. Reinsurance — is the decentralized graph connecting risk hubs.
  3. P2P Coverage — will be formalized in a distributed graph. (This is the one that does obviously not exist formally, but, informally, you see people calling parents/friends and using GoFundMe/their church/their office/other community organizations to spread risk out laterally.)

In today’s risk markets, insurance companies act as centralized hubs where risk is transferred to and carried through time.

The reinsurance industry graph is enabling second-degree connections between insurance companies, creating a decentralized graph. In the current industry’s combined graph structure or stack, only these two graphs formally exist.

While an insurance company’s ledgers remain a hub where risk is transferred to and carried through time, reinsurance enables those risk hubs to network together, achieving a higher degree of overall system resilience.

See also: Are Portfolios Taking Too Much Risk?  

The P2P distributed graph currently exists via informal social methods.

Stack all three graphs, and you can observe how total risk is addressed across all three graph types. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, which leads to its existing in its proper place within the risk markets.

The fact that insurance as a financial service gets more expensive per $1,000 of coverage as coverage approaches the first dollar of loss means that, as a financial service, there is a boundary where insurance’s weaknesses will outweigh its strengths.

My expectation is that much of the risk currently being carried on the hub-and-spoke insurance graph will accrue to the P2P distributed graph because of improved capital efficiency on small losses via a trend of increasing deductibles. This may lead to some of the risk currently carried on the reinsurance decentralized graph being challenged by centralized insurance.

The proportion of total risk — or “market share” — that each graph carries will shift in this phase change.

When people say insurance is dropping the ball, they are expressing that there is a misunderstanding or poor expectation-setting about how much of total risk the first two graphs should be absorbing. Users are unhappy that they end up resorting to informal P2P methods to fully cover risk.

To increase the resilience of society’s risk management systems and fill the gaps left by the insurance and reinsurance graphs, we need the third risk distribution graph: a distributed P2P system.

Society needs a distributed system that enables the transfer of risk laterally from individual to individual via formalized methods. This P2P service must be able to carry un-insurable risk exposures, such as deductibles, or niche risk exposures that insurance is not well-suited to cover.

Much of this activity already occurs today and, in fact, has been occurring since the dawn of civilization. KarmaCoverage.com is designed to formalize these informal methods and enable end users to benefit from financial leverage created by the system’s network effect on their savings.

When observing a system through the complexity paradigm, another key measure to observe is a system’s level of resilience vs. efficiency. Resilience and efficiency sit on opposite sides of a spectrum. A system that is 100% resilient will exhibit an excess of redundancy and wasted resources, while a system that is 100% efficient will exhibit an extreme brittleness that lends itself to a system collapse.

When we look at the real world and natural ecosystems as an example, we find that systems tend to self-organize toward a balance of roughly 67% resilient and 33% efficient. Here is a video for more on this optimum balance.

Industrial-age ideas have driven economics as a field of study to over-optimize for efficiency, but economics has, in recent years, begun to challenge this notion as the field expands into behavioral economics, game theory and complexity economics — all of which shift the focus away from solely optimizing for efficiency and toward optimizing for more sustainable and resilient systems. In the risk markets, optimizing for resilience should have obvious benefits.

Now, let’s take a look at how this applies practically to the risk markets, by looking at those three industry graphs.

Centralized network structures are highly efficient. This is why a user can pay only $1,000 per year for home insurance and when her home burns down get several hundred thousand dollars to rebuild. From the user’s point of view, the amount of leverage she was able to achieve via the insurance policy was highly efficient. However, like yin and yang, centralized systems have an inherent weakness — if a single node in the network (the insurance company) is removed, the entire system will collapse. It is this high risk of system collapse that necessitates so much regulation.

In the risk markets, we can observe two continuing efforts to reduce the risk of an insurance system collapse. We observe a high degree of regulation, and we see the existence of reinsurance markets. The reinsurance markets function as a decentralized graph in the risk markets, and their core purpose is to connect the centralized insurance companies in a manner to ensure that their inherent brittleness does not materialize a “too big to fail” type of event.

Reinsurance achieves this increase in resilience by insuring insurance companies on a global scale. If a hurricane or tsunami hits a few regional carriers of risk, those carriers can turn to their reinsurance for coverage on the catastrophic loss. Reinsurance companies are functionally transferring the risk of that region’s catastrophic loss event to insurance carriers in other regions of the globe. By stacking the two system’s graphs (insurance and reinsurance), the risk markets’ ability to successfully transfer risk across society has improved overall system resilience while still retaining a desired amount of efficiency.

Observations of nature reveal what appears to be a natural progression of networks that grow in density of connections. Therefore, it makes sense that the reinsurance industry came into existence after the insurance industry, boosting the risk markets’ overall density of connections. Along the same line of thought, we would expect to see the risk markets continue to increase in the density of connections from centralized to decentralized and further toward distributed. A distributed network in the risk markets will materialize as some form of financial P2P, “crowd” or “sharing economy” coverage service.

A network’s density is defined by the number of connections between the nodes. More connections between nodes mean the network has a higher density. For example, a distributed network has a higher density of connections than a centralized network. However, a higher density of connections requires more intense management efforts. There is a limit to how much complexity a centralized management team can successfully organize and control.

See also: 5 Steps to Profitable Risk Taking  

When a network’s connections outgrow centralized management’s capacity to control, the network will begin to self-organize or exhibit distributed managerial methods. Through this self-organization, a new graph structure of the network’s connections will begin to emerge. As this process unfolds, an entirely new macro system structure will emerge that shows little resemblance to the system’s prior state, much like a new species through evolution.

What emerges is a macro phase change (aka “disruption”) that does not necessitate any new resource inputs, only a reorganization of the resources. For example, the macro state of water can go through a phase change and become ice. The micro parts that make up water and ice are the same. The macro state, however, has undergone a phase change, and the nature of the connections between the micro parts will have been reorganized.

In his book “Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order from Atoms to Economies,” MIT’s Cesar Hidalgo explains that, as time marches forward, the amount of information we carry with us increases. That information ultimately requires a higher density of connections as it grows. This can be understood at the level of an individual who grows wiser with experiences over time. However, as the saying goes, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

In the history of human systems, we have observed the need for families to create a tribe, tribes to create a society and society-organizing-firms to achieve cross-society economic work. We are now at the point of needing these firms to create a network of firms that can handle increased complexity and coordination.

It is this network of firms that will be achieved via distributed methods because no individual firm will ever agree to let another single firm be the centralized controller of the whole network — nor could a single firm do so.

In the next segment of this series, we will look more closely at the distributed graph that will become formalized, creating a P2P system in the risk markets.

I have started a LinkedIn group for discussion on blockchain, complexity and P2P insurance. Feel free to join here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8478617

If you are interesting exploring working with KarmaCoverge please feel free to reach out to me.

Examining Potential of Peer-to-Peer Insurers

Recently, I wrote an article where I outlined a simple modeling framework I use when I try to predict how a new insurance product or new insurtech startup is likely to perform. In this article, I will walk through an example to give you a play-by-play on how to put this simple mental model to use.

Can Peer-to-Peer Insurance Succeed?

Peer-to-peer business models really came into their own in the financial arena, where companies such as Prosper and Lending Club were able to create platforms that allowed individuals to loan funds directly to one another. As a Prosper investor, I still recall how neat it was that I could loan a family $25 and be part of a pool of like-minded people who were looking to help others and make a little bit more money than a bank account. (Disclaimer: You can lose your money, too. I have had several borrowers default, and you will need to make up for it on those accounts that don’t default).

Investors, always a group looking for the next unicorn, have applied principles of P2P to others businesses, as well, such as car sharing and file sharing. Even digital currencies such as Bitcoin are P2P-based. Not surprisingly, investors and entrepreneurs are looking into whether P2P would work well in the seemingly tattered insurance industry. Companies such as Lemonade, Guevara and Friendsurance are already selling policies and making a name for themselves. InsNerds.com was very lucky to have Dylan Bourguignon of So-sure insurance, a complete P2P insurer, write an article for us on the topic (be sure to read this article if you want a breakdown from the point of view of an insurer).

See also: 3rd Wave of P2P Insurance  

Let’s walk P2P insurance through the model framework and see what all stakeholders need to see.

Exposure

The exposure component is the one that deals with claims; past, present and future. The P2P model looks to reduce the frequency and severity of losses by reducing the desire among policyholders to make bogus claims. Because policyholders in a P2P model have some affiliation with each other, the hypothesis is that this connection will prevent policyholders from harming their peers. This seems intuitively possible. If it is true, what would that mean to the insurance coverage?

Fraud is estimated to add 10% to losses in property/casualty insurance. That would equal approximately $34 billion a year! Fraud is most typically investigated in workers’ compensation, auto and health insurance (not necessarily in this order). Traditional insurers spend a lot of money rooting out fraud. Big data vendors such as Verisk and Valen have commercial models available for both workers’ compensation and auto — even homeowners insurance isn’t immune. Reports of widespread false claims after Hurricane Katrina were documented.

The difference between what traditional carriers do and what P2P offers is that P2P subtly promises to remove the fraud BEFORE it happens, while today’s fraud is only caught during the fraud or afterward. If P2P can fulfill this promise, there is a tremendous amount of value it can provide to the market.

If I were an investor, I would look for companies that can show that their P2P network has very tight ties. As the network gets larger, it seems unlikely that the strong ties can be maintained, and you begin to lose the ability to have shame or other social pressures keep fraud under control. Any technology that can strengthen the ties to large portfolio scale could be immensely valuable.

I’ve written about Lemonade, and while the company no longer considers itself P2P, the initial “technology” was to group like-minded homeowners or renters together, and give any excess year end profits to a charity of their choice. If you are following along with where I am going with this, you may see some of the flaws in the model. First, homeowners insurance isn’t in the big three for fraud, so the potential benefits are not nearly as big as they would be in auto or workers’ compensation. Second, I didn’t really see any proprietary technology that could give Lemonade a leg up on any competitors. From all of the press releases, the P2P networks seemed easy to copy, as is Lemonade’s charity angle. That Lemonade dropped its P2P marketing seems to have confirmed that that part of the business model probably would not have produced worthwhile value. As an investor, I’d like to see a direct line to fraud reduction and truly big potential to drop the investments now being committed to detecting fraud, post-event.

P2P needs to bring some new type of configuration of insurance that meets needs not currently being met. The insurers mentioned above are tackling industries with heavyweight competition. I see an opportunity for P2P to unite common insureds in a way that provides coverage or risk reduction in areas where coverage is difficult to obtain or just doesn’t exist. In California, earthquake deductibles are very large. It seems reasonable that property owners could unite to buy coverage to protect each other against losses arising from the combined deductibles. There’s a similar case to be made for flood. I imagine these P2P insurers almost acting as public captives covering very niche risks for similar insureds.

Distribution

The distribution component of the framework deals with how companies market to and sell to customers. In the P2P model, there is a heavy emphasis on the social element, like-minded insureds telling other like-minded insureds to join. Most P2P insurers are direct to consumer. Thus, P2P insurers must depend heavily on their insured network to do much of the heavy lifting for them, whether that’s through word of mouth or via social media.

If I were an investor looking into this area, I’d want to see some proof of concept that value can be created here to some scale. Brokers get paid well for a reason: it is expensive to find and maintain insurance customers. Advertising on Facebook is more expensive than you think, and, if you are using Adwords, you are competing against GEICO, State Farm and other large insurance companies. Good luck with that.

See also: Is P2P a Realistic Alternative?  

Ultimately, I think distribution will directly depend on the product development and what was discussed in EXPOSURE above. P2P insurers must be able to differentiate themselves. Take Lemonade. As a home and rental insurer, is Lemonade different than a traditional home insurer? Yes. Is it 10x better? I don’t think so. The product is nearly identical; only the customer experience is truly different. It is exceptional, but will that alone be enough to drive customers to buy policies? I think it will, but not by enough of a margin for Lemonade to deliver Uber-like returns. That’s not happening.

Capital

Insurance is a capital-intensive business. To start a plain-vanilla company in most states requires $5 million to $10 million in surplus capital. This is capital that is above and beyond capital that is used to pay for claims. That capital must be invested into the highest-quality securities (generally government bonds and AA corporates). Any startup that is more complicated than “vanilla” needs more capital. And any expansion into other states will require still more capital.All of this capital is needed even if you only have one on your books and even if you are ceding all of your business to reinsurers. Startup insurers are behind the eight ball right from the get go and are at a massive disadvantage when compared with the big guns.

State Farm has surplus in the tens of billions of dollars. Those are funds State Farm can invest and through which it can generate investment income that can be used to offset other costs in their. Startup insurers can’t do that and are very vulnerable to any large loss and thus require heavy partnerships. And that isn’t cheap! For startups, cost of capital is very high, and those costs must be reflected in the premium.

This is why Lemonade’s expansion across the U.S. is head-scratching. Though Lemonade is not a P2P, as a startup much of its newly acquired capital for this expansion is sitting in bonds. Unless there is some other news that we are not privy to, using B-round capital as a portfolio does not seem to be a great use of funds. This is a lesson for other P2Ps. An entire P2P strategy can collapse if the capital structure is not maximized. If I were an investor looking at this field, I’d want the P2P to be partnering with a capital source that already has scale, so that the P2P can focus on product differentiation and distribution.

Operations

P2P insurers have a terrific advantage in this area. Being born in the digital age means that these insurers can skip over legacy systems and go directly to an entirely modern platform. I would want to see seamless integration and movement of data between marketing, binding, policy issuance, accounting and claims management. I would want to see the ability to easily capture data at the front end, augment data during the lifecycle and put that data to work in integrated plug-and-play models.

See also: P2P Start-Ups From Around the World  

For P2P insurers, Lemonade is providing the blueprint for how this should be done. (By the way, big-time kudos to Lemonade for being so transparent and allowing curmudgeons like me to nitpick the business model). Lemonade’s integration of chatbots to eliminate human intervention in the purchasing of and the filing of claims seems to be an operations winner thus far. In this model, we should expect to see overhead expenses drop. Expenses associated with losses should also drop. If the P2P was not able to show significant decreases in expense, then something is terribly wrong.

Summary

I love the concept of P2P. But I don’t think it will ultimately become a great way to invest venture funds. I just don’t think the returns will justify the risks. P2P insurers should be able to provide significant value in operations. If they can differentiate product development, they should be able to attract customers who would be interested in their products. BUT…I think P2P insurers are not going to find very large markets for their niche products. Because of this, distribution costs will be higher than they expect, and they will suffer from capital costs unless they form the right partnerships. Those really inexpensive Lemonade rates likely won’t last. P2P prices may not end up cheap as capital and distribution costs overwhelm advantages obtained in potential decreases in fraud costs and operational efficiencies.

P2P insurance is full of potential, and as a model, will behave more like traditional MGAs. The potential for supersized returns is not high.

This article first appeared at InsNerds.com.

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,

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 Future of Insurance Is Insurtech

The insurance sector has entered a phase of profound transformation. Numerous insurtech startups—around 1,000, according to Venture Scanner map—have popped up to challenge the traditional model.

I believe that we will see a completely changed insurance sector in the medium term. But I’m convinced that insurance companies will still be relevant in the future, or will become even more relevant than they are now, but these companies will have to be insurtechs, or players who use technology as the main enablers for reaching their own strategic objectives.

The reach of this digital transformation goes way beyond the elimination of “the middle man” from a distribution point of view. The direct digital channel dominates very few markets and deals only with compulsory insurance. In the vast majority of markets, a multichannel-oriented customer continues—with variations from country to country—to choose at least at some point of the customer journey to interact with an intermediary. But the digital transformation happening in the insurance industry is widespread and encompasses all of the phases of the insurance value chain, from underwriting to claims.

See also: Insurtech Has Found Right Question to Ask

Every insurance sector player—whether it’s a reinsurer, a carrier or an intermediary—ought to pose this question: How should the insurance value chain be reshaped by using the new technologies at hand? There are numerous relevant technologies that come to mind, including: the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and advanced analytics, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, autonomous agents, drones, blockchain, virtual reality and self-driving cars.

To take full advantage of these technologies, there has to be a structured approach that begins with identifying use cases that can have an actual contribution to reaching strategic business goals, then maximizes their effects inside the insurance value chain of each player. Finally, the approach should look at the software/hardware selection or the “make vs. buy” choices. The essential idea is that “one size does not fit all. Each player needs to create customized use cases based on their individual strategy and characteristics.

To date, there are several types of approaches to mapping insurtech initiatives. I have developed my own classification framework based on six macro areas (awareness, choice, purchase, usage, IoT and peer-to-peer (P2P)).

Insurance IoT, also known as connected insurance, represents one of the most relevant and mature insurtech trends.

Connected Insurance represents a new paradigm for the insurance business, an approach that fits with the mainstream Gen C, where “C” means connectivity. This novel insurance approach is based on the use of sensors that collect and send data related to the status of an insured risk and on data usage along the insurance value chain.

Auto telematics represents the most mature insurtech use case, as it has already passed the test and experimentation phase within the innovation unit. It is currently being used in daily work within motor insurance business units. In this domain, Italy is an international best practice example: According to the SSI’s survey for the Connected Insurance Observatory, more than 70% of Italians show a positive attitude toward motor telematics insurance solutions. According to the Istituto per la Vigilanza sulle Assicurazioni (IVASS), about 26 different insurance companies present in Italy are selling the product, with a 16% penetration rate out of all privately owned insured automobiles in the second quarter of 2016. Based on information presented by the Connected Insurance Observatory—a think tank I created in partnership with Ania that brings together more than 30 European insurer and re-insurer groups—the Italian market will surpass 6 million telematics policies by the end of the year.

See also: Insurtech: One More Sign of Renaissance  

Based on this data, we can identified three main benefits connected insurance provides to the insurance sector:

  1. Frequency of interaction, enhancing proximity and interaction frequency with the customer while creating new customer experiences and offering additional services
  2. Bolstering the bottom line, improving insurance profit and loss through specialization,
  3. Knowledge creation and consolidating knowledge about the risks and the customer base


The insurance companies that are part of the Observatory are adopting this new connected insurance paradigm for other insurance personal lines. The sum of insurance approaches based on IoT represents an extraordinary opportunity for getting the insurance sector to connect with its clients and their risks. The insurers can gradually assume a new and active role when dealing with their clients—from liquidation to prevention.

It’s possible to envision an adoption track of this innovation by the other business lines that are very similar to that of auto telematics, which would include:

  • An initial incubation phase when the first pilots are being put into action to identify use cases that fit with business goals;
  • A second exploratory phase that will see the first rollout by the pioneering insurance companies alongside a progressive expansion of the testing, to include other players with a “me, too” approach;
  • A learning phase in which the approach is adopted by many insurers (with low volumes) but some players start to fully achieve the potential by using a customized approach and pushing the product commercially (increasing volumes);
  • Finally, the growth phase, where the solution is already diffused and all players give it a major commercial push.

After having passed through all the previous steps in a period spanning almost 15 years, the Italian auto telematics market is currently entering this growth phase. The telematics experience teaches us three key lessons regarding the insurance sector:

  • Transformation does not happen overnight. Telematics—before becoming a relevant and pervasive phenomenon within the strategy of some of the big Italian companies—needed years of experimentation, followed by a “me, too” approach from competitors and several different use cases to reach the current status of adoption growth.
  • The companies can be protagonists of this transformation. By adding services based on black box data, telematics has allowed for improvements in the insurance value chain. Recent international studies show how this trend of insurance policies integrated with service platforms is being requested by clients. It also shows that companies, thanks to their trustworthy images, are considered credible in the eyes of the clients and, thus, valid to players who can provide these services.
  • If insurance companies do not take advantage of this opportunity, some other player will. For example, Metromile is an insurtech startup and a digital distributor that has created a telematics auto insurance policy with an insurance company that played the role of underwriter. After having gathered nearly $200 million in funding, Metromile is now buying Mosaic Insurance and is officially the first insurtech startup to buy a traditional insurance company. This supports the forecast about how “software is eating the world”— even in the insurance sector.