Tag Archives: partnership

Why Small Carriers Need Insurtech

Effective customer relationship management (CRM) is key to successful business, especially when it comes to smaller insurance carriers, where the focus is on the client relationship. But smaller insurance carriers are falling behind on efficiency and speed. Larger carriers are gaining market share because of innovative digital tools and techniques, ranging from new data sources, robotic process automation (RPA), advanced data analytics such as machine learning and cognitive computing, to IoT (Internet of Things).

For instance, larger carriers can deliver quotes (whether personal or commercial lines) in real time and allow binding and paying online.

For small and mid-sized traditional insurance carriers, to stay relevant, and increase their growth and profitability, they need to partner with insurtechs and firms providing technological infrastructure to insurance firms.

Here are three reasons why this is necessary:

1. Competitive Edge

Insurtechs have a natural competitive edge over traditional insurance carriers, because of their lack of legacy systems and typically narrow focus. This leads to a much quicker service delivery model. What customers have expected traditional insurance carriers to deliver in weeks, insurtechs are now delivering in minutes or hours. To reduce the gap in service delivery models, smaller insurance carriers can partner with insurtech startups to yield innovation and improve efficiency.

See also: Insurtech: Unstoppable Momentum  

2. Internal Efficiency

Legacy insurance carriers have slow internal processes, i.e. the long cycle between brokers, carriers, underwriters and customers, and lack of digitization of customers’ requirements or customer files. If all the file work is still actually on paper and not digital or in the cloud, then searching for and acting on information does not take seconds but takes minutes or even hours. Thus, the more digitized carriers win again. The small and mid-sized insurance carriers can overcome this gap by strategically partnering with insurtechs in a very cost-effective manner.

3. Effective and Improved Service Delivery

Smaller insurance carriers need to have an effective service delivery model, which reduces the dependence on long communication channels and is completely customer-oriented. To do that, traditional smaller carriers need to show a willingness to adapt and innovate. They need to start by identifying and then partnering with startups that can improve their service delivery model.

Recommendation

Small and medium-sized insurance companies should start to track investments and advances that are emerging within the insurtech community and consider partnering with insurtechs to move from a traditional service delivery model to an innovative customer-centric and technologically enabled model. Such partnerships will be mutually beneficial — the carrier will benefit from new techniques and digital infrastructure such as cloud-based services in a very cost-efficient manner while the insurtech will benefit from the carriers’ legacy customer base and industry knowledge.

See also: Insurtech: The Approaching Storm

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.

pill

The PBM vs. the Drug Manufacturer

In today’s American healthcare system, employers can’t order Lipitor directly from Pfizer fortheir employees. Instead, employers and employees are forced to buy drugs through a middleman, the pharmacy benefits manager (PBM).

Fingers have long been pointed in both directions to blame the other for the high cost of prescription drugs. The PBMs blame the drug manufacturers, and the drug manufacturers blame the PBMs, not unlike two children arguing on the playground.

Eli Lilly, one of the world’s largest drug manufacturers, recently claimed that the average price increase on Humalog, its injectable insulin used to treat diabetes, has only been a modest 1% to 2% annually over the last five years. Tim Walbert, the CEO of small drug manufacturer Horizon Pharmaceuticals, said in a recent interview, that he expects the company’s actual price increases to be 4% or less over the next year.

PBMs, on the other hand, portray the drug manufacturers as greedy price gougers that fail to keep prescriptions costs under control. Anthem, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, works hard to convince its employer clients to leverage the buying process by joining Anthem’s negotiated PBM program with Express Scripts Inc. (ESI) instead of negotiating a direct deal with a PBM. This month, however, Anthem came out swinging, accusing its partner ESI of more than $3 billion in overcharges – all of which were passed along and paid by clients.

Who should the employers believe is at fault? Employers are aware of their prescription benefit bills. They clearly see that costs are escalating at an unprecedented rate. What can they do about the problem? How can they succeed if a buyer as large as Anthem failed for its thousands of employer clients?

Today’s healthcare market only permits employers to buy the employee drugs from two different platforms. They can choose to buy through a PBM partnership (Anthem partnered with ESI) or a large benefits broker’s partnership with a PBM. Secondly, they can choose to work with a consultant for high-level advice and contract directly with a PBM.

Regardless, the employer always gambles that it knows more about the PBM’s 120-page contract, pricing calculations and methodology than Anthem apparently did. It is a monumental sign of the times that Anthem publicly blamed ESI for its failure to contract effectively with the company, leading to overcharges for its clients.

Our healthcare system today is broken by design – not necessity – and virtually everyone in the chain lacks the incentive to fix it. In fact, people are financially motivated to maintain the status quo. Until drugs can be purchased directly from the manufacturers for a direct discounted price, employers are trapped in our national prescription benefit system.

Ready to Be an ‘Insurer of Things’?

The saying goes: The only constant is change-and, in our technologically enabled world, change continues to quicken in pace. For insurers grappling with legacy systems and striving to become more customer-centric, another shift is coming. In fact, many would argue it’s already here. Welcome to the Internet of Things.

Are you ready to be an Insurer of Things?

Accenture has outlined six facets of the Internet of Things, which has begun to connect homes, cars, people, organizations and even entire cities. For insurers, these developments raise important questions, such as:

  • Who or what is insured?
  • Where does liability begin and end?
  • What are the implications on claims in a market where an insurer’s discrete business gives way to the Internet of Things, ecosystems and partnerships?

For example, Volvo recently announced that it would accept full liability for its autonomous cars. In principle, these cars would be equipped with safety features that would decrease the incidence of collisions and claims. That may drive down premiums-and will certainly force insurers to consider what a “connected claim” might look like in this new marketplace.

IoT

Over the next few weeks, I’ll look at the Internet of Things and its implications for the insurance industry-and especially for the claims function.

Technology Companies to Watch in 2016

Here is a baker’s dozen (plus one) of technology firms that I find exciting or interesting and feel are companies to watch. Some, like Guidewire and Salesforce, I have followed and written about for many years. Others are technology firms I have recently written about (e.g. Clari). Some technology firms are public, and others are private.

Caveats:

  • The following 14 companies to watch (including two pairs of partnerships) are technology firms that I think insurers should be watching or possibly consider whether to use in 2016.
  • I didn’t use any “scientific reasoning” or market share data to include (or exclude) companies. Other than Apple, Google and IBM, I do not own shares in any of the technology firms. (Not that I own enough shares of any of these companies to retire to the beaches of Maui anyway….)
  • By including technology firms on this list, I am in no way implicitly or explicitly saying that I will only follow/research/write about these firms in 2016. That is not the case: I plan to write about other technology firms in 2016.

My personal list of exciting or interesting technology firms

Here is my list in alphabetical order:

  1. Apple-IBM partnership (specifically the insurance industry applications)
  2. Box
  3. CafeX
  4. Clari
  5. Dropbox
  6. Facebook
  7. Google (specifically, Google Compare)
  8. Guidewire
  9. Librestream-Symbility partnership (Symbility is Librestream’s partner to go to market in insurance)
  10. Salesforce
  11. Slack
  12. Vlocity

Going forward

Do with this list what you will.

Next year, I plan to create short snapshots of these firms (or partnerships) in which I discuss why insurers should care about these technology firms.

However, I do suggest that you – whether an insurer or technology firm – create your own watch lists. Add to them, delete from them and otherwise keep your lists (and the reasons you have certain firms on the list) vibrant.