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10 Predictions for Insurtech in 2017

It’s time to reflect on the passing year, mark my predictions from last year and throw some light on what I see 2017 holding in store.

In my post from this time last year, I made a number of predictions, so, now, I wanted to look at how I did. Feel free to jump in and see how close to the mark I was and share your perspectives.

Reviewing 2016 — How did I do?

1. Fintech and insurtech.  In last year’s piece, I said that 2015 was the year of the zone, loft, garage and accelerator and that this would continue in 2016 with more focus. Regarding fintech and insurtech, I was right. We have seen some heavyweight investment (more so in the U.S. and Asia) and no major failures, to my knowledge. Trending up. Points: 1. 

2. Evolution of IoT. In 2015, I wrote, “2016 will be the year we all realize (IoT) is just another data/automated question set.” Evolution here is continuing, but not at the pace I expected. New firms such as Concirrus (and many others) have come up with some great examples of managing and leveraging the ecosystem. Points 2.

3. Digital and data. At the end of last year, I said 2016 would continue to be a big area of growth for both. There’s been progress, yes, and pace and traction ahead of what’s expected. Points 3.

4. M&A will continue but will slow. I think this has slowed this year, with two of the three major regions in the latter half of the year focused on Brexit and the U.S. election. Now, folks are trying to work out where that leaves fintech/insurtech. Points 4.

5. Will the CDO Survive? I said I thought we’d see a move back to the chief customer officer. Well, no sign of my chief customer officers yet! (Although, after writing this, I came across three chief customer officers, so it’s a start). Have you ever asked an insurance company or people inside the company “who owns the customer?” To me, we’re still product-centric rather than customer-centric. Points 4.

6. New business models. I said last year that we’d need to be clear on what the new business model will be — and what it needs to be. This year, there’s been lots of talk in this area, including here at Deloitte in our Turbulence Ahead report. We identified four business models for the future: 1) Individualization of insurance, 2) Off-the-shelf insurance, 3) Insurance as utilities and, finally, 4) Insurance as portfolio. It may take longer for this to materialize, but, without doubt, these models are coming. See my colleague Emma Logan describe these here. Points 5.

7. What we buy and sell. I believed that, last year, we’d move away from a product mindset to become more relevant and convenient. But we’re still in talking mode, although the ideas here are evolving rapidly. Expect an all-risks policy in Q2 2017. Points 5.

8. Cyber is the new digital. There has been an increase in the number of products and players, but there still hasn’t been any personal cyber policy. I expect that to come in 2017 still. Points 6.

9. Partnerships and bundling. In 2015, I thought we’d see a big rise in the partnerships between insurers and third parties. That’s happened. Points: 7.

So I’m marking my 2015 predictions as 7/9 (or 78% ) — a good effort, but I may have been a bit too ambitious.

See also: 4 Marketing Lessons for Insurtechs  

Moving into 2017

Re-reading the above, I still feel all my predictions are valid, be it the end of the CDO, the birth of personal cyber or an all-risks policy. I’ve been involved in enough conversations over the last 12 months to say these are all very real, although some are closer to seeing the light of day than others.

Moving into 2017, here are my top 10 trends to watch:

  1. Speed. Almost all conversations about insurance start with a statement that we’re not moving quickly enough — from transforming and modernizing the legacy estates to quite simply getting products to market quicker. We can no longer wait six months to launch new or updated products. Look at those who managed to capitalize on Pokemon Go insurance cover. In insurance, we’ll move from fast walking to jogging and sprinting. But take caution: This is still a marathon, and there’s still a long way to go. In fact, as Rick Huckstep wrote recently, the sheer speed at which the insurance market has grown in the last 21 months is part of the challenge and attraction.
  2. AI, cognitive learning and machine learning. AI has been long bandied around as a material disruptor. On the back of collecting/orchestrating the data, it’s critical to drive material insight and intelligence from this and allow organizations, brokers and consumers to make subsequent decisions. In 2017, AI will come of age with some impressive examples, including voice. In 2016, we saw Amazon’s Echo and Google Home product launches, as well as some insurers — like Liberty Mutual — giving voice a try. Imagine asking freely, “Am I covered for…?” or, “What’s the status of my claim?” Adding this skill to the mix will likely be table stakes. In addition, AI will augment other solutions to drive value, e.g. robotic process automation, which I wrote about here. All this boils down to getting a better grip on the amazing data we have already while leveraging the vast open data sets available to us.
  3. Line of business focus shift. The insurtech world will make a definitive shift from all the wonderful personal line examples to SME (the next obvious candidate) and to more specialty and complex commercial examples. Will Thorne of the Channel Syndicate wrote a great piece on this in November. While the challenges are harder and more complex, I believe the benefits are greater once we get to them.
  4. Believers. The market has polarized somewhat between those who believe in major innovation and are pushing hard, and those who don’t (or have a different focus and near-term objectives). The range is from those who worry about the next 90 days/half-year results to those who are actively looking to cannibalize their business and investing to find the most efficient way to do this. Here, there’s no right or wrong, with hundreds of organizations strewn across the path. I still believe more will move to the cannibalization route as the first carriers start to unlock material value in 2017, including continued startup acquisition. Oliver Bate (Allianz) had an interesting and positive perspective on this during his company’s investor day in November.
  5. Scale and profitability. Over the last 12 to 18 months, I’ve seen some great startup organizations; internal innovation and disruption teams; VCs; and more. Now is the time to work out how we industrialize and scale these. This is the very same challenge the banking and fintech communities are going through. If you’re an insurance company with 30 million or 80 million global customers, should you be worried about Startup X that has 10,000 or 100,000 customers? If they do manage to scale, can they do so profitability? This reminds me of a recent article about how unprofitable Uber is, but, with millions of engaged customers, they have our attention now. Profitability will become front and center. In fact, Andrew Rear over at Munich Re Digital Partners put together a good post on what the company looks for and why he and the team chose the six they did.
  6. Orchestration. With all of these startups in insurtech, we’ll need to quickly understand what role they play. Are they a platform play, end product play, point disruptor or something else? Regardless, given the volume and velocity of data generation, the importance of both API connectivity and the ability to orchestrate it will increase dramatically. For me, these are table stakes.
  7. External disruptors. In the Turbulence Ahead The Future of General Insurance report released earlier this year, we identified six key external disruptors that are happening regardless of the insurance industry. These are 1) the sharing economy, 2) self-driving cars and ADAS, 3) the Internet of Things, 4) social and big data, 5) machine learning and predictive analytics, and 6) distributed ledger technology. The key for me within insurance is to identify what role we’ll play. I believe we’ll continue to firmly be the partner of choice for many given our societal and necessary position in the global economy.
  8. Micro insurance. Here, I specifically mean the growth of micro policies, covering specific risks for specific times. Whereas we typically annually see 1.1 policies per customer, we’ll see eight to 10 micro policies covering a shorter period (episodic or usage-based insurance) as per our business models described in the Turbulence Report. This will be true for all lines of business. We’ve already seen some great launches in this space — including Trov, which partnered with Munich Re in the U.S., AXA in the U.K. and SunCorp in Australia. There’s been global access through partnering with established players that has created a new way to market to the next generation. While we switch this on manually by swiping left and right (given some of the external disruptors and location based services), this will very much be automatic going forward. Insurers will need to find new ways to orchestrate, partner and find value to bring in clients. It won’t be just one policy, it will be many that they orchestrate to deliver clients everything they need.
  9. Blockchain and DLT. I almost didn’t include blockchain here, but two factors have led me to include this for the first time: 1) the number of requests we’re now seeing in the market for both specific solutions and more education/use cases and 2) the fact that nine of the 18 startups in the FCA’s new Sandbox are blockchain-related. In 2016, we saw lots of PoC examples, trials and the first live insurance product on the blockchain (see: FlightDelay). Some use cases are more developed than others, and some markets are more suitable than others (I’m still looking for good examples in personal lines), so I believe this will evolve in 2017 but that there won’t be scale breakthroughs. However, along with the World Economic Forum, I firmly believe that “The most imminent effects of disruption will be felt in the banking sector; however, the greatest impact of disruption is likely to be felt in the insurance sector.” We still must ask, “why blockchain?” Just because you can use it? It needs to be the right solution for the right business problem. Horizontal use cases such as digital identity or payments offer compelling use cases that can easily be applied within insurance. In many ways, blockchain, for me, feels much more like an infrastructure play in the same way we would do core systems transformation (policy, claims, billing, finance, etc.)
  10. Business as usual — for now! Partly related to No. 4, we still need to run our business. How we do this and how we set up for the future will be another challenge — not just from a technology perspective but from a people and organization design perspective. (How we work, collaborate and more.) What are the transition states from our current models to a new world in 12, 24 or 36 months. Forward-thinking organization are putting plans in place now for their organizations in the years to come. This will become more important as we embed, partner and acquire startups and move toward new ways of engaging and working with customers.

Interestingly, there are now also so many accelerators, garages, hubs, etc. that startups all now have a lot of choices regarding where to incubate and grow. This presents a whole new challenge on the rush to insurance disruption.

See also: Asia Will Be Focus of Insurtech in 2017  

Finally, there are two other observations I wanted to share:

  1. China. While I don’t spend any time in China, it’s hard not to be in awe of what is going on — specifically, the speed and scale at which things are happening. China’s first online insurer, Zhong An, did an interview with Bloomberg regarding what the company is doing with technology (including blockchain) and, more importantly, its scale ($8 billion market cap in two years, 1.6 billion policies sold) — and the only concern from the COO, Wayne Xu, is that the company isn’t moving quickly enough! Step away from this and look further to what’s happening with disruption in general with Alipay and others from the BAT (China’s equivalent of GAFA — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) is simply amazing. There’s a good FT article on Tencent, the killer-app factory, and the sheer speed and scale of disruption.
  2. Community. The global insurtech (and fintech) community is an amazing group of people from around the world who have come together across borders and time zones to further challenge and develop the market. Each geography has its own unique features, mature players, startups, labs, accelerators, regulators and, of course, independent challenges. We don’t always see eye to eye, which makes it all that more rewarding because you’re challenged by industry veterans and outside-thinking entrepreneurs. This year’s InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas with more than 1,600 people was truly amazing to see. Things have clearly moved far beyond a small isolated hive of activity with varying levels of maturity to a globally recognized movement. It was great to meet and to see so many carriers, startups, VCs, regulators and partners looking to further the conversation and debate around insurance and insurtech. This community will, no doubt, continue to grow at a fast pace as we look for insurtech successes, and I look forward to seeing how the 2017 discussion, debate and collaboration will continue.

As always, I look forward to your feedback! What I have I missed?

Here’s to an exciting 2017!

Are You on Your Game, or Is Your Game Over?

Weeks ago, Jim and I met for coffee to solve all the world’s problems. We didn’t, but he did hand me an article about Sudoku and said, “There may be a story in here.” He was right. I just didn’t realize how quickly it would appear on my computer screen.

Later that day, when I was driving down Main Street in New Iberia, La., I saw mobs of “geeks” (the politically correct term is “millennials”) playing Pokémon Go. My wife works Sudoku puzzles. I had read about Pokémon Go, but I have never even seen it played before.

See also: Pokémon Go Highlights Disruptive Technology  

I was impressed with the marketplace’s embrace of Pokémon Go. One hundred million devotees in less than a year is a game-changer.

If, like Sudoku, your business is manual, local- and pencil- and paper-dependent, your universe is limited to yesterday. If you are global and virtual like Pokémon Go, there are no boundaries — only opportunities. Your future depends on the choices you make, local or global, manual or virtual.

Now let’s quit playing around and get serious about the insurance industry and your place, if any, in tomorrow’s world.

Whether you prefer the metaphor of revolution or evolution, our world is changing. The change is going to be structural, revolutionary and transformational. The reason is that when one thing is different it’s change; when everything is different it’s chaos.

In terms of natural disasters, think 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, the Japanese tsunami, etc. For economic crises, consider the 2008 economic collapse, the stock market crash, the GM bailout, the demise of AIG, Lehman Brothers, etc. — and then remember the past and current reshuffling of the retail and distribution systems in our world (Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Expedia, WebMD, Netflix, etc.) I could go on, but I won’t. I can’t remember all the changes, nor can I outrun the pace of change.

These changes from yesterday were triggered by systems, big data, technology, global competition and corruption, the internet and a marketplace that has evolved over time — from the corner store, to Main Street, to strip shopping centers, to malls, to box stores and even to a virtual presence in cyberspace. The big change now and tomorrow is not place but rather people and pace.

See also: Look Up, Look Out, Think New!

Our industry was built for a “father knows best” world. The youngest of the Greatest Generation are now 70 years old. Their progeny are the Boomers, who are 52 and older. Those in Gen X are age 32 and above, and the Gen Y and millennials are somewhere between 12 and 34.

In tomorrow’s market, age doesn’t matter — wiring does. Every preceding generation was born to analog; these Gen Yers/millennials are digital natives. What we “old” folks see as aberrations, they see as the norm — and they and the market ain’t going back ever again. By 2025 (which is nine years away) millennials will be 75% of the working people. The next nine years may bring more technological advances than we’ve seen in our collective lifetimes.

Our options are simple: We can go enjoy a smoke and a Sudoku on the bank of the nearest tar pit and wait for a meteor to end our pain and frustration, or we can shift into high gear and catch up with the roaming hordes of Pokémon Go folks and play in — and with — the world as it’s going to be!

THE MARKET IS CHANGING BECAUSE BUYERS CHANGE!

Change or die! Carpe mañana!

Think Twice Before Playing Pokémon Go

In upstate New York, a distracted driver crashes into a tree. Elsewhere, safety officials warn of an uptick in pedestrians walking into stationary objects, and even traffic. The connection, according to news reports: the latest gaming sensation, Pokémon Go.

The game connects the digital and real worlds through augmented reality (AR) technology, and downloads are skyrocketing in the U.S. and globally. But for all the fun, risk professionals need to keep in mind that AR and other “disruptive technologies” can create safety risks and potential liability issues.

Distractions Increase Risk

Pokémon Go players seek to capture “Pocket Monsters” in real-world locations, from homes to businesses. However, as with other engrossing technologies, players can become so focused on their mobile devices that they lose track of the real world. Regulators have even posted signs to warn drivers of potential dangers.

See also: An Eruption in Disruptive InsurTech?  

For risk professionals, distractions are no game. If you haven’t already, consider assessing the potential impact from mobile apps in such areas as:

  • Employee safety: Gamers can put themselves and others in harm’s way.
  • Visitor/customer management: If your establishment is tagged as a Pokémon Go hot spot — with or without your consent — you may see increased traffic.
  • Fleet safety: Gaming apps bring much the same risk as texting.
  • Cyber risk: Data privacy and related risks stand out.

As you assess AR and other disruptive technologies, lean on basic risk management steps, including a review of insurance coverage in such areas as:

  • Workers’ compensation: Although an injury suffered while playing a game would generally fall outside coverage, an employee may hide that game-playing was involved. Any spike in claims could affect how much you pay for coverage.
  • General liability: If a customer or other person is injured on your premises because they are distracted, there could be a claim against your general liability policy. If you invited people to play the game on-site, could that affect the claim?
  • Automobile liability: Distracted driving is a known factor in auto accidents. How will your policy respond to an accident in which game-playing was involved?

But don’t wait for an insurance claim before taking action.

For example, remind employees to pay attention to their surroundings. Review and update driver safety programs, pointing out the dangers from mobile phones, navigation systems and other distractions. Remind drivers of the risks from other drivers and distracted pedestrians.

See also: A Mental Framework for InsurTech  

Additionally, it may be worth specifically mentioning Pokémon Go and other distractions in workplace safety programs. Be sure to include remote workers, for whom the lines between occupational and non-occupational injuries may be especially blurry.

Disruptive technologies promise many benefits, but risk professionals can’t be distracted from managing the accompanying risks.

Pokémon Go Highlights Disruptive Technology

If you hear employees talking about spending their stardust and candies, chances are they’re caught up in the latest pop culture fixation: Pokémon Go. The mobile phone game sensation has fans roaming the country with their handhelds out to capture the “Pocket Monsters” scattered virtually throughout the real world.

The kid in me chuckles at this innovative use of augmented reality (AR) technology. But my cyber risk side looks at AR and sees potential issues involving malware, privacy, data disclosure and employee safety.

Real-World Risks

Computer and online games become instant targets for malware, through such things as fake and cracked versions in app stores. Hackers could gain control over a phone and thus a wealth of data about its user. For companies with bring your own device (BYOD) programs, enterprise email accounts and other data could be exposed.

See also: Better Way to Assess Cyber Risks?

Of course, BYOD risks are not limited to Pokémon Go. For example, sensitive information can be exposed through employees’ social media postings and other activities.  But apps that are addictive and seemingly innocent can blind users to the risks of downloading.

AR technology combines elements of the digital and physical worlds into a single view, allowing data, text or images to be superimposed on a live video feed. In Pokémon Go, AR allows for the game map to align with a real-world map and players to find and even photograph their monsters in physical locations.

What if a Pokémon is located inside your company’s office? If a user shares a photo or screenshot of such a location, it poses a risk of inadvertent loss of sensitive company or customer information. And there are issues around invasion of privacy for people/places that don’t want to be involved in the game.

Managing Risk

As surely as Pikachu evolve into Raichu, technology like AR will morph and bring new risks. Businesses may try to block or limit employees’ access to AR and similar technology, but that may only provide temporary relief before the next threat emerges.

See also: Cyber Risk: The Expanding Threat  

So as with all cyber risks, when it comes to Pokémon Go, organizations should make sure they don’t focus only on prevention. Among the steps to bolster response and recovery, businesses can:

  • Educate employees about the risks.
  • Conduct regular cyber risk assessments and audits to identify threats and assets at risk.
  • Develop and test disaster recovery, business continuity and incident response plans in conjunction with law enforcement, regulators and others.
  • Purchase cyber insurance to deal with the inevitable risks that slip through the cracks.

AR and other disruptive technologies are here to stay, and promise to benefit companies and consumers. Risk professionals will need to be nimble as they manage the accompanying risks.