Tag Archives: Roost

To Be or Not to Be Insurtech

It is probably a bit presumptuous to liken the insurtech startup movement to Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy. It is, after all, a well-known and historical Shakespearean reference. However, the similarity is in the questions asked, and such a question has probably been asked prior to many defining moments. And just as Hamlet pondered many questions, there are many questions that revolve around the state of the insurtech movement. At this juncture, some five years into this movement, the one question that has most likely gone by the board is – Is it real?  You can debate whether we are at the beginning of the insurtech cycle or at the end. However, there are several strong points in favor of the fact that it is real.

See also: Convergence in Action in Insurtech  

SMA has been following the insurtech startup trends since 2013. Currently, we track approximately 1,200 insurtechs. It is definitely a fluid number. Some startups go out of business, and others come in to fill the void at a regular pace. In the 2013-2015 timeframe, the insurtech startup landscape was a tsunami of activity – it was difficult to get one’s arms around what was happening. In the latter half of 2017, some strong realities emerged. SMA’s recently released research findings have revealed several major insurtech trends or themes that are specific to insurance and have meaningful implications for the industry. In response to the “is this real” question, three of the 10 themes anchor the insurtech movement firmly in reality.

  • Insurtech has spread to all tiers and lines of business – Originally, most of the activity was in personal lines and health. Now, of the P&C contingent, which SMA data indicates is 39% of all the activity, a little over half is personal lines; 35% is commercial lines; 13% is workers’ comp. Historically, technology providers have targeted particular tiers for their sales efforts. The startup community targets insurance business problems without a specific tier focus. What this means is that insurers of all sizes are able to adopt insurtech-provided technology. SMA partnering data shows that there are insurtechs with customers ranging from top 10 insurers down to single-state insurers. The bottom line: The fact that insurtech is not focused on the top echelon of global players but rather on business problems across the insurance ecosystem lends itself to the “it’s real” theme.
  • Live implementations are increasing – Not surprisingly, in the beginning of the startup movement, most of the activity was around fundraising and proofs of concept. In 2017, and continuing at an accelerating pace in 2018, insurer “go lives” are happening. Some insurtechs have 10, 12 or more insurer logos on their websites. These are not investor listings; they are the names of insurers that are rolling out capabilities in the marketplace. In particular, drone usage, smart home/connected property and connected vehicle initiatives are common and growing. The “it’s real” indicator is that insurers are not going to roll out technology that affects their customers just for the fun of it – customers are not guinea pigs. Insurers are seeing the value in insurtech offerings and are executing.
  • Insurtechs are partnering – While there is nothing wrong with a technology provider staying in their space, a long-standing trend within the insurance industry has been partnering for greater value. This has not escaped the attention of a number of insurtechs. For example, Bold Penguin and Ask Kodiak have partnered, as have Elafris and Hippo and Betterview and Understory. Mature technology providers also see the value of startup partnering; for example, Willis Towers Watson and Roost, Verisk Analytics and Driveway. Majesco partners with a network of insurtechs. The “it’s real” factor is that insurtechs are not simply attempting to see what they can do just for today – but, rather, what they can do for the long haul, to become strategic contributors within the insurers they work with.

While there are still questions about the insurtech movement, one of them should not be – Is it real? Business value is being generated by many startups – and no insurer is going to walk away from that. New channels and service opportunities are emerging that are generating interest and execution. New products are sprouting up at a regular pace. Not every startup and every idea is going to be a winner, but many will be. And some already are. Bottom line? Both Hamlet and Shakespeare would be proud of the insurance industry for seeing the possibilities and not just the questions.

See also: 4 Key Qualities to Leverage Insurtech  

IoT: Collaboration Is Now Mandatory

The definition of collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. That seems far too simplistic a way to describe the many types of collaboration already at work in the insurance industry and moreover does not begin to convey the looming and enormous demand for working together that will be required for success in implementing the Insurance Internet of Things (IoT).

Historically, the insurance industry has had to use a wide variety of collaboration tools to succeed as data, information, consumer behavior, products and regulations changed with increasing velocity. These tools included e-mail, texting, instant messaging, content management systems, enterprise social platforms and formal enterprise collaboration software. Insurers have even begun to leverage the use of digital technology and web-based collaboration tools such as Slack to empower employees, enhance user experiences, improve internal communication and strengthen agent and broker relationships.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

Looking beyond insurance companies themselves, we note the emergence of insurtech accelerators and incubators, both independent and captive. What is becoming apparent is that there is a convergence taking place between these entrepreneurial startups and the traditional carriers, sparking collaboration between the new, small and fast market entrants with the old, big and slow incumbents. Much more of this kind of collaboration will be required for the insurance industry to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s world.

New forms of collaboration are emerging in the insurance ecosystem, some more formal than others. Strategic alliances and partnerships are being announced daily, as are vendor-vendor and carrier-carrier arrangements. Recent examples are plentiful; CoreLogic joined the Guidewire PartnerConnect program to deliver more accurate property risk pricing and residential estimating more efficiently to Guidewire’s property insurance customer base, and Insurity collaborated with Allstate Business Insurance to quickly deliver a new self-service quoting app with convenient data pre-fill.

Co-opetition is a more innovative form of collaboration that has been gaining traction. Former competitors work together to leverage a common, defined opportunity that yields better results for each company than either could have achieved on its own. In the world of insurance IoT, of which the connected car is a major subset, we increasingly see original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) participating in programs with auto insurers with telematics data exchanges and with each other in developing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication standards.

In other areas of insurance IoT, we are seeing a rapidly increasing number of health and property insurtech partnership announcements with insurers delivering innovative new risk-management products and services to consumers (e.g. Vitality-John Hancock, Roost-Liberty Mutual, True Motion-Progressive, etc.).

As the number of connected things expands exponentially, so, too, will the frequency and velocity of data generated by these sensors and devices. The ability to receive, normalize, manage and use all of this digital data will quickly exceed the capacity and expertise of even the largest insurers, so collaboration with a new generation of information management and data science providers will be mandatory.

See also: 12 Issues Inhibiting the Internet of Things  

For insurers and others to successfully navigate this burgeoning ecosystem, access to relevant knowledge and competitive information will also be mandatory, and one effective way to gain these insights is participation in subject-specific industry conferences where expert speakers and industry thought leaders share their experiences and insights. One such event is the Insurance IoT USA Summit taking place in Chicago on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

So critical will be effective collaboration in the future that it is conceivable that formal courses, certifications and degrees in collaboration will be offered by business schools in response to the exploding demand for this set of business skills and expertise driven by IoT proliferation and adoption. In any event, participants in the insurance ecosystem that best master the art of collaboration are sure to be the market leaders of the IoT future.

What Limelight Shows on InsurTech’s Future

Limelight Health, the winner of our start-up Showcase at our first Insurance Disrupted | Silicon Valley, gives a sense of what’s to come with innovation in insurance.

Limelight Health has a product called QuotePad, which is one of the first real-time, mobile, all-in-one quoting platforms for health insurance and benefits professionals. (The others highlighted at the Showcase are RigGroupHubroostJumpstart RecoveryZenehomeSureify.)

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Jason Andrew, CEO of Limelight, says what his company is doing is a harbinger of even bigger changes: “We are witnessing one of the largest transformations in the history of a multitrillion-dollar industry. New technology is changing the game for the entire insurance ecosystem. Quicker, more seamless data integration is changing the insurance process, from the way consumers research and purchase insurance to how claims are underwritten. As a result, companies large and small are sprinting to keep up with the demand for agile and integrated technology platforms that can harness this growing data volume and extract real value from it.  The largest carriers are now paying attention to big data, spending more money on research and bringing on data scientists to analyze and shape the future of insurance. “

As the industry moves from a legacy framework to a series of more connected systems with intelligent logic built in, all parties involved in the selling and decision-making process will be allowed to spend more time executing decisions and much less time on the administrative work that is a large and protracted part of the process today.

Andrew says, “For the health insurance market, which is fragmented with a lot of outdated systems that don’t connect or communicate easily, and where redundancy often leads to a high probability of error, we see this as being where QuotePad will make a significant impact on the insurance industry.”

Limelight Health was born in February 2014. Before that, the insurance technology boom had not fully launched, and it took several years of pitching, partnering and persistence to gain the attention of an industry that now supports the cause. Prior to 2014, no one was really interested in investing in insurance.

What we now know as #insuretech and #fintech was not the sexy vertical it is today. And we’re just getting started.

If you’re in the industry you are probably keenly aware of some of the changes that are coming, but not all. Please consider joining us for future Insurance Disrupted conferences, with our start-up Showcases. The next will be held March 22-23 in Silicon Valley. ITL readers receive a 15% discount here.

Organizer and host of Insurance Disrupted Conference: Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator – SVIA

Innovation Partner: Insurance Thought Leadership

Conference sponsors: Aflac, Munich RE, Captricity, Zendrive, XL Innovate, Saama Technologies, CRC Insurance Brokers, Novarica

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No, Insurance Will Not Be Disrupted

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Insurance Disrupted conference in Palo Alto (put on by the Silicon Valley Innovation Center in partnership with Insurance Thought Leadership). This was the single best insurance conference I have ever attended. I was surrounded by hundreds of hopeful, smart, problem-solving professionals from disparate backgrounds and industries all trying to make a difference in insurance without money being the prime motivator.

I was so encouraged by what transpired at the conference, the connections that I made and what I believe would be the promise of a new future that I began to pen this article on my flight home. But something just did not sit right with me as I wrote. Three weeks have gone by, and I am beginning to understand why I felt the way I did; at the end of the day, insurance will NOT be disrupted.

For all the promise of big data, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and peer-to-peer insurance, there was nothing presented at this conference that struck me as disruptive in the way the tech industry is generally thinking of the term today. When technologists think of disruption, they immediately point to Uber and Airbnb, which disrupted the taxi/livery and travel accommodations industries. The taxi industry is literally fighting for its survival. No, that will not be the fate of insurance. Insurance will be a lot more difficult to shake up or disrupt.

Here’s why:

  1. At the core, insurance customers are leasing the potential to access capital. That capital is sitting in predominantly liquid assets. Not real estate, not taxi medallions. How do you make a big pile of money irrelevant?
  2. The modern form of the industry is 300 years old, and the math is pretty solid (that’s why they call it actuarial science). We sell a product whose costs are unknown at the time of purchase. That means scale and immense capital is required to cover worst-case scenarios, which rules out any new business model not having that potential. Peer-to-peer providers just won’t be able to get sufficient scale to efficiently use capital to cover risk. And if they aggressively get scale, then they just become another insurance company, so what’s the point?
  3. Getting a better glimpse into those unknown expenses can create massive competitive advantages. This is where big data and the IoT creators are looking to disrupt, as big data and IoT will generate incredibly large data sets to be used to accurately predict, avoid and mitigate future losses. I have no doubt that these new technologies will make an impact on the industry, but I am less convinced of their disruptive nature. Insurers have already established non-actuarial, big data departments where fraud detections and credit scoring are just a couple of many predictive models being created. IoT devices will slowly be adopted by most insurers as they look to get competitive edges, but the follow-the-leader paradigm of the industry will mean that any edge will disappear quickly, and we will all be running hard just to stay in place. These technologies are impressive. I would classify them as a solid innovations to the industry, but not disruptive. (Disclaimer: I bought a smart battery from Roost.)
  4. Autonomous vehicles represent the one area where some chaos can occur. But notice I use the word “chaos” and not “disruption.” If autonomous vehicles can live up to expectations, then they will be a great service to society, reducing deaths and increasing efficiency. Risk will transfer from a personal lines business to commercial lines, and that could be chaotic for heavy personal lines auto writers such as State Farm and Progressive. But will this be disruptive? Will State Farm or Progressive be fighting for their survival the way that medallion owners in the New York City taxi system are? Again, I doubt it. State Farm is sitting on about $70 billion in surplus capital, and it generally writes at a 100 combined ratio, working the float and cash flow model. I think State Farm and large auto insurers like them will be just fine, and technologies such as autonomous vehicles will be more of an annoyance than an existential threat. And like others, I don’t think autonomous cars are nearly as ready to take over our roads as many seem to think.
  5. For better or worse, state-by-state regulation of insurance is intense and nebulous. Ask Zenefits. The battlefield is already uncertain, and scrutiny by a regulator with political ambitions can kill your disruptive product quickly. Any technology that you think you can create that could potentially benefit the majority of buyers while subsequently raising the price for some other group, alone, would be grounds for a regulator to squash you, as that vocal minority raises their collective voices. In Florida, the state may even create a company to compete against you, writing business at a loss. Insurance regulation might be the ultimate disruption killer.
  6. There was not one presentation on natural catastrophes, which happen to be my area of expertise. How we underwrite, manage and think about natural catastrophe risk has changed quite a bit over the past 20 years. In fact, CAT models have been and may continue to be the most disruptive force in insurance, and yet there is little technology can do to disrupt that area of the industry. I would have been very excited if we had discussions about new business models to help customers with the problems the industry is currently facing with getting adequate flood or earthquake cover to homeowners. If someone had proposed a new product that removed the exclusions of flood and earthquake from the homeowners policy, now, THAT would be disruptive! Alas, nothing on NatCat, and so we will continue to have thousands of homeless families following big storms and earthquakes.

I don’t think insurance will be disrupted, not in the way folks from Silicon Valley are used to doing it. But the future of insurance will look very different than today. Very digital. Streamlined. Less clunky, more efficient. If “disruption” comes to insurance, it is likely going to require the replacement of the current set of leaders with new ones cultured in this digital age and influenced by the successes of technology to make change happen to their business models.

Paul Vandermarck from RMS (a CAT modeling vendor) perhaps summed it up best when he said that no matter how all of this change to the industry plays out, we know of one sure winner: the customer. And that’s how it should be.