The third quarter of 2020 saw an unprecedented level of global funding into insurtech businesses, as $2.5 billion was raised by firms across 104 deals. Compared with the prior quarter, funding increased by 63% and deals by 41%.
With everyone working from home, never has the true value of technology been more real and manifest in our industry. Six mega-rounds of $100 million or more accounted for more than two-thirds of total funding, including Bright Health, Ki, Next Insurance, Waterdrop, Hippo and PolicyBazaar. Early-stage deal share grew to 57%, up 15 points to pre-COVID-19 levels, bolstered specifically by property & casualty startups.
With the huge amount of capital being deployed, and the rate at which it is being deployed, one can quite easily see this quarter as clear validation of investors (industry and non-industry) being prepared to put their money where their mouths are as it relates to the pursuit of digital operations – both for pure investment returns and also for securing digital capabilities.
What is particularly interesting is that a handful of well-established insurtechs have raised an enormous amount of capital (for example, Bright Health raised a seismic $500 million), and brand new entrants with very limited track records have also been successful in raising capital – 73% of those insurtechs that raised seed capital this quarter were raising any form of capital for the very first time.
There is no shortage of capital to support nascent businesses in the less expensive, earlier rounds and certainly no shortage of capital to support well-established insurtechs that are demonstrating their ability to deliver and that are in need of later-stage capital to support scale-up/growth mode. What we are also seeing, however, are the clearest examples of a (relative) drying up of Series B and C funding. Insurtechs struggled to secure funding in the $20 million to $50 million range, relative to the number of insurtechs looking to raise this amount of money.
This is a very natural evolution of any burgeoning space that requires investment – the novelty and promise of a new firm meets the reality of commercial success criteria. With so many fantastic insurtechs in our midst, investors can be pickier and hold the knowledge that the winners will be relatively few. Similarly, with so much clear reliance on technology, “less risky” bets are been fiercely sought.
This particular phenomenon is a version of the barbell strategy (a reluctance to support the intermediate growth of insurtechs with additional investment). While we try not to overinterpret any particular quarter and ascribe a theory as to why something might be happening in the short term, this particular issue is something we have been observing for a while – for want of a better description, we are seeing clear evidence of a widening funding gap.
As a result of these investment evolutions, relatively well-known but not particularly well-established insurtechs across the board could be about to face their toughest moment to date. With global markets preparing for one of the largest forecasted recessions in a generation, most insurers and reinsurers will look either to accelerate, conclude or temporarily slow down their ancillary technological endeavors to focus on ensuring that their core business functions are able to operate in this new digital and remote environment.
Consequently, (re)insurers’ appetite to support well-established insurtechs will be much greater than that of insurtechs that still have things to prove. Traditional investors, the principal drivers of the earliest stages of investment, are pushing extremely hard to make sure that they make the most of the digital revolution that our industry is undergoing at scale. This is creating an investment no man’s land in-between.
The toughest challenge that less well-established insurtechs will face pertaining to this expected slowdown of investment (and most likely partnership) activity is its duration. While this gap is undoubtedly a natural feature of investing, it is also a symptom of the current COVID-19-induced recession. This impending recession could be with us for a good while. Incumbent technology strategies will be clear: surviving this brave new world. The impact of an economic slowdown, coupled with a surge in remote operations, presents less-established insurtechs with a cruel irony: Never has the true value of technology been more real and manifest in our industry, and yet the lifeblood of budding insurtechs that rely on Series B and Series C rounds to scale is, relatively speaking, drying up.
For very well-established insurtechs, the situation could be quite different. The current climate presents a great opportunity to continue to support the incumbent landscape. Those insurtechs that originate remote risks can arguably write more business as their traditional competitors catch up. We are seeing a big push toward digitalization, and well-known insurtechs can play a big role in this process.
We also expect to observe in-house technological initiatives ramping up as technology and technologists become increasingly pervasive and synonymous with our industry, as (re)insurers grapple with the challenges of remote environments. As such, we will most likely see a growth of organic projects – this could well squeeze certain insurtechs that have, until now, enjoyed a lack of competition in certain areas. We also anticipate that (re)insurers and end consumers will continue to be increasingly better-informed and better-experienced with regard to judging successful engagements with technology.
Arguably, we are on the brink of a very healthy milestone, and this next step should be celebrated by those insurtechs that have a clear digital strategy and those that have been successful in building solutions for our industry. If nothing else, there will be greater scrutiny on what is out there and how technology can be leveraged most effectively. For both incumbents and established insurtechs alike, we expect that the more successful initiatives will be those that can react quickly to the changing environment and those that show a true appreciation for the direction in which our industry is headed.
Insurers are not big polluters in their own right. Nor do they typically have lots of physical assets at risk, except indirectly through investment portfolios either now or in the future when economic transition raises the possibility of stranded assets.
Yet the impacts of climate on insurance operations are only too evident. Losses from more frequent flood events and other climate-related events, such as the wildfires that have ravaged parts of the U.S. and Australia in recent months; changing attitudes toward insuring and investing in high carbon industries; burgeoning regulation and moves toward mandatory climate risk disclosure; and external ESG (environmental, social, governance) ratings that increasingly reflect assessments of climate risk management – are all changing insurers’ risk landscapes.
With the PRA letter to U.K. insurers also setting the expectation that “firms should have fully embedded their approaches to managing climate-related financial risks by the end of 2021,” it’s relatively unsurprising then that climate change has been rising rapidly up the rankings of the perceived most dangerous risks to an insurance enterprise. In the most recent Willis Towers Watson Dangerous Risks Survey, for example, climate change rose from 53rd position in 2019 to 9th in 2020.
On the other hand, the up-side should not be ignored: Climate risk also brings new insurable opportunities and insurance can often be an enabler of innovation, allowing new technologies to be developed as risks are shared. Insurers that are taking steps now to better understand the risks and opportunities and planning for changes in their mid- to long-term strategies will be better placed to deal with them. These insurers will have built up a body of data, tools, analytical capabilities, processes and frameworks, with experience of learning and refinement, to avoid having to play catch up with the rapidly evolving regulatory environment as our collective knowledge of climate impacts grows.
Climate risk is truly multi-dimensional
Much as loss events grab the headlines, climate risk for insurers is truly multi-dimensional (see Figure 1). Potential ramifications that may not be grabbing the headlines yet could have potentially devastating consequences in years to come, such as sea level rise or threats that destabilize fragile states. Equally, new pathways for mitigating climate risk and resilience that don’t exist now could offer respite from threats and open up business opportunities.
The need for a multi-dimensional risk approach simply reflects this expanding diversity of climate risk drivers.
Even if we confine those to the current day, from one angle there are market factors, such as regulation and investors’ lengthening ESG agendas. From another angle, there is the societal pressure to consume less and reduce environmental impact. Then there is the role of science and advances in climate understanding and adaptation, together with mitigation technologies and what these tell us about the need to adapt collective behavior. Notably, many of the world’s central banks and supervisors, through the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), have already upgraded their view on the financial risks from climate change. The risks from climate change are now increasingly seen as having “distinct characteristics,” which means these risks need to be “considered and managed differently.”
The potential impacts on operations are similarly diverse, not the least whether factors such as public policy and regulation may affect insurability of certain segments. Add in underwriting issues (risk assessment, pricing sufficiency/competitiveness), regulatory compliance (including solvency impact), capital considerations (risk accumulation for example) and emerging risks (and opportunities) – and you have a veritable cocktail of risk dimensions to consider.
In many ways, however, these risks are not new per se; they map onto existing categories of financial and non-financial risk such as credit, market, business, operation and legal risks that insurers have been managing for many years. But taking into account the vagaries of climate, the risks do present new challenges.
Specifically for ERM programs, they raise issues and questions that require explicit consideration:
Governance, including the board’s role in providing oversight of climate risk responses and defining management responsibility for climate risk and ESG integration.
Risk identification, identifying the key channels through which climate risks can affect the company and how these are articulated and monitored on a continuing basis.
Risk appetite, including forming a view as to whether climate risk should be considered as a separate element or part of aggregate risk and how this will be implemented in practice.
Risk measurement and reporting, including how to incorporate climate risk into financial risk models and reports and deciding on relevant metrics for decision making, a key element of Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) requirements, for example.
Investment – how does the investment approach meet ESG objectives and respond to investor pressure to reduce or eliminate funding of high-carbon industries, for example?
Reputation risk, including identifying public communications needs and a strategy for communicating a firm’s climate and ESG response.
And because all in turn feed through to strategic business considerations such as earnings, product development, long-term direction and acquisitions and divestments, having a solid understanding within the business of the connections between physical, transition and liability risks is increasingly essential. This also means that the risk and governance frameworks need to be holistic and that each aspect cannot be treated in isolation.
Conceptually, this all probably makes sense. Where it starts to get trickier is getting into the long weeds of risk impact and mitigation. For that, quantification is key.
This requires proven analytics tools and methods that are constantly being refreshed to reflect the latest science and predictive climate change scenario datasets and the expertise to provide the context of how business decisions can affect potential futures. Typically, quantification will also entail a collective, systematic and open data collection initiative to capture appropriate data to represent the key risk-related attributes of assets and, equally importantly, to include the valuations needed to feed through into balance sheet and other decision-making views.
Examples of the types of outputs needed will include hazard and climate risk scoring and mapping, determination of hazard- and climate-adjusted financial losses and advanced modeling of current and future climate risks. And beyond the numbers, transparency of models, scenarios and parameters is also key to the credibility and flexibility of the approach.
Our view is that there are some key analytical building blocks in helping build understanding of climate risk. Even if these may represent a kind of analytical nirvana at the moment, principally due to lack of data, there are options. Drawing parallels with emerging cyber risk, many insurers relied on scenario analysis and a sort of risk disclosure statement to not only quantify risks but also to set risk appetite metrics:
Identify hazards – review of the existing portfolio for exposure to climate and natural catastrophe perils to establish the hazard levels.
Quantify current climate risk for key perils – modeling of the current portfolio of risks, taking into account the vulnerability of assets and the level of hazard with reference to past events.
Quantify future climate risk for key perils – modeling of future portfolios of risks for key perils at different times (e.g. 2030, 2050) and climate development scenarios. This should also consider the connections between perils – compounding and cascading risks are difficult to model, but they are the real world.
Identify opportunities to mitigate climate risk – identification and assessment of loss drivers and mitigation opportunities to help reduce the financial loss potential of climate change.
Determine transition risk and opportunities – evaluation of potential transition routes in line with modeling and taking steps to embed them within the risk framework.
Quantify transition risks – through breakdown of the top transition risks by region/climate scenarios.
As they become armed with this sort of information, insurers should be able to identify the regions and perils that are driving climate risk now and how this distribution could change. Critically, this capability will help to quantify and reduce the cost of climate risk and enable insurers to feed the results into reviewing and updating the risk appetite and management frameworks on a regular basis.
Given the evolving investment focus on the “social contract” and sustainable returns, the capability will also be increasingly important for being able to inform potential investors of both the impact of climate change on an organization and steps being taken by the business to reduce its climate impact.
This need has been accelerated by recent regulatory moves focused around reporting and disclosure, including proposals and consultations in some countries to make TCFD reporting mandatory sooner rather than later. Add to this the idea that COVID-19 may accelerate the broader appetite for ESG as financial markets look to build resilience to systemic risks, and there is an even stronger case for enhancing understanding and response.
The upside is that the positive reputational impacts of disclosure, enforced or otherwise, are likely to be more far-reaching than just compliance – working through this process provides a holistic stress test of strategic decision making and company direction.
Eye to the future
So where might the gaps lie? To be truly strategic, thinking about climate risk needs to properly address current climate risks and project five, 10 and 20 years into the future, at least. That means developing the climate trajectory scenarios and metrics (the areas incidentally where insurers say they expect to need most help, according to our TCFD survey) that are increasingly being demanded by various stakeholders to assess a company’s climate transition plans and contribution.
Not all companies will be equally affected, but it’s apparent that, in relatively quick time, climate will have to be a central component of ERM and strategic direction. Those running ERM programs at insurers are uniquely placed to ensure their companies are prepared to meet those rising and multi-faceted expectations of investors, regulators, employees, customers and other stakeholders.
Embedding climate risk into existing frameworks and ensuring boards are taking a strategic approach to the changes that are already happening, and those to come, will put companies in a position to deal more effectively with the threats and embrace the opportunities of a future low-carbon economy .
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.
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.
Attend any insurance-focused conference, and you will undoubtedly hear about the high volume of angel and venture capital currently chasing the next unicorn in insurance – the industry equivalent of Facebook or Amazon. In the search for value, investors are first asking questions about how long it will take for innovation to transform the industry’s business model or who will be the major disrupters. Is it the new approach to distribution that will render the current ecosystem extinct? Is it a different approach to underwriting courtesy of new advancements in data and analytics? These are legitimate questions – but what if we are looking in all the wrong places? What if the next Uber of insurance has already arrived?
An important component of the value chain in consumer-facing markets is access to the customer. Creating a user-friendly application drives user engagement, and therefore retention. The critical difference in the insurance industry, however, is the lack of engagement. Insurers are challenged with a product that does not lend itself to a frequent interaction with clients. There are typically only two points of contact: sale and claim payment. Though both present opportunities to build customer relationships, this number is orders of magnitude lower than for consumer technology applications. This means insurers need a better solution to work around the value chain to gain control of the customer, one that involves driving down costs. Herein lies an unexpected solution – alternative capital.
Alternative capital refers to pools of capital available for the transfer of risk from an insurer to the capital markets, typically in the form of insurance-linked securities (ILS) or special purpose vehicles (SPVs). The impact of alternative (or third party) capital is well understood in the reinsurance world today as global risks have been packaged, turned into portfolios and offered to the very largest providers of capital in the world as an alternative, risk-bearing asset class. The size of the market has grown considerably in recent years, with alternative capacity reaching $86 billion, or 14% of global reinsurance capital, as of the first quarter end of 2017, according to Aon.
Alternative capital represents 14% of global reinsurance capital
The question, though, that investors should be asking is: Who has access to the cheapest capital? The answer to this question, the authors believe, will yield important insights as capital efficiency enables players in this space to get closer to the clients and, more specifically, the source of risk. After providing appropriate scale for disruption in the industry, along with an important framework to understand industry cost of capital, we consider evidence from the banking sector and anecdotal data from current trends in the market to argue that the Uber of insurance is already here.
In an era of rampant overcapacity, it is sometimes easy to forget the historical significance of access to risk-based capital. The explosion of new technology applications to challenge the gatekeepers in the industry, funded by a dramatic rise in venture capital for Insurtech startups, has taken a lot of interest among industry participants. Insurance and reinsurance applicants are still, though, fundamentally sending submissions and applications to be accepted as insureds and cedants. There is an offer of risk transfer for premium. Unless platforms that control the customer also start retaining the risk with an equal to or lower cost of capital, the incumbents are still likely to control the system. Until this happens, those who build the best capital platform can offer the best products to attract customers, with the lowest-cost capital translating to lower prices for consumers – a reality supported by the scale of alternative capital disruption.
Alternative capital currently on risk in 2016 dwarfs VC funding in Insurtech
While the scale of insurtech investment itself is enough to make serious people sit up and take notice, it is the speed, velocity, sources and efficiency of capital that will drive the future direction of the industry. To assess the long-term impact to the industry of these dueling solutions to disruption, an understanding of the drivers of industry cost of capital is required.
Insurance Company Cost of Capital
While ILS as a practice is nearly 20 years old, we are still in the first inning of how this once-niche part of the global reinsurance and risk transfer market will expand its influence. The current problem the industry is facing is that it does not do a good job of differentiating capital sources with specific levels of risk. Investors looking for a 5% or 7% or 11% return all fund risk whether at the 1-in-50 return period or 1-in-250 return period. This capital inefficiency not only lowers margins but also increases the cost of capital and perpetuates a system that hinders new product development at the expense of the end consumer. The use of third party capital gives underwriters the ability to cede remote, capital-intensive risk off their books and onto a lower-cost balance sheet. This matching of different types of risk with different pools of capital produces a leaner, more customer-focused, lower-priced risk transfer market, ultimately benefitting the end consumer from cheaper reinsurance products.
The industry also cares about returns. Meeting analyst expectations has become increasingly difficult as pricing and investment yields have declined. Because insurance companies operate in a market that is becoming more commoditized, insurers and reinsurers need to either find another way to increase returns or figure out a way to lower their cost of capital. Alternative capital providers have a fundamental advantage in this respect, as “…pension fund investors are able to accept lower returns for taking Florida hurricane risk than rated reinsurers, for whom the business has a high cost of capital.” Similarly, the opportunity cost of capital for a typical venture capital fund (17% before management fees and carried interest) outstrips the hurdle rate for pension fund investors who turn to catastrophe risk as a diversifying source of return.
Similarities to the Banking Sector
The importance of cost of capital in determining winners and losers in capital-intensive industries can be clearly seen in the banking sector. When banks accessed lower-cost capital through capital market participants, their balance sheets were essentially disintermediated as they no longer had to finance the bank’s capital charges. By going straight from the issuer to capital and removing the need to finance these expensive capital costs, the aggregate cost of the system (value chain) was reduced. This benefitted consumers and drove retention in the same way we normally associate technology disintermediating distribution in other industries to drive down costs.
Just as loan securitization transformed the banking industry, so, too, can risk securitization change the economics and value proposition of insurance for the end consumer. Capital disintermediation offers new operating models that connect the structurers of risk with the pricers of risk, until disrupters prove they can do this better. Because insurance underwriters and mortgage loan originators retain differing levels of risk ceded to the capital markets, gaining access to the most efficient forms of financing is an increasingly important battleground for players in the insurance space. When investors no longer tolerate capital inefficiency and increasing returns proves challenging, value chain disruption is a real threat because the lack of client proximity and customer engagement provides no competitive moat. A comparison between the recent growth in U.S. P&C industry direct written premiums and growth in U.S. P&C industry surpluses shows just why capital efficiency is so important.
Renewed focus on capital efficiency as industry surpluses overtake industry premiums
Industry surpluses have increased at a rate more than double that of industry premiums ($418 billion increase vs. $200 billion increase) since 2002. The surplus growth relative to premiums highlights the steep drop in capital leverage from 1.4 in 2002 to 0.8 in 2016. As insurers sit on larger stockpiles of capital, they are relying less on underwriting leverage to juice up returns to meet their cost of capital. Hence, pricing power and cost controls have taken on increased importance.
The Current Fall-out
The growth of alternative capital has fostered innovation, both directly and indirectly, among industry participants across the value chain. Under the weight of efficient capital, industry players can take a step beyond leveraging insurtech to create value within the system – they can collapse it. In fact, we are seeing this happen right now. ILS funds such as Nephila are bypassing the entire value chain by targeting primary risk directly. Nephila’s Velocity Risk Underwriters insurance platform enables the ILS manager to source risk directly from the ultimate buyer of insurance. From consumer to agent to the Nephila plumbing system, homeowners’ risk in Florida can be funded directly by a pension fund in another part of the world.
Innovation is a healthy response, and this evolution of the reinsurance business model, while producing losers, will produce a leaner, more customer-focused, lower-priced risk transfer market in the end, ultimately benefitting everyone. The opportunity set for alternative capital to benefit the industry is not just limited to retrocession and access to efficient capital. Leveraging third party capital to provide better products and services to clients allows insurance companies to not only expand their current product offerings but also extend the value proposition beyond price alone, with different capital sources offering different structural product designs, terms, durations and levels of collaterization.
Consider solar. The insurtech solution to creating a product that will provide protection for this emerging risk might include distribution and analytics. In contrast, partnering with third party capital providers can allow an insurance company to create a product with unique features such as parametric triggers that could solve a problem the traditional reinsurance industry, with its complicated and long casualty forms, has long struggled with. In doing so, third party capital can help grow the market for insurance in a way that insurtech has not yet achieved.
Two of the most common counterarguments for alternative capital’s Uber-like impact on the industry are that it remains largely untested capital in the face of a significant event and that we’ve hit a ceiling on the limit of third party capital in the traditional reinsurance market.
On the first point, as of this writing, it is still too early to assess how existing and new potential third party capital investors will respond to hurricanes Harvey and Irma in coming renewals. However, the combination of the ILS market’s established track record, experience paying claims and fund managers staffed by people who have long experience as reinsurers provides support that investor interest post-event will remain strong.
As for the second, in a static world, that claim may be true. But we believe there is plenty of room to grow in this market from both a supply and demand perspective. On the supply side, ILS accounts for only 0.6% of the global alternative investments market, with ample room to increase assets under management, according to the latest survey on alternative assets from Willis Towers Watson. On the demand side, around 70% of global natural catastrophe losses remain uninsured, and these risks are only growing. Insurers will require protection against aggregation and accumulation risk, and increasingly see the natural home for the tail risk in the capital markets and ILS.
We have witnessed alternative capital’s ability to attract risk to capital and lower aggregate cost of the entire value chain. Many in the industry are monitoring how insurtech will sustainably attract risk and attract customers over the long term. In the meantime, the companies that have used their time wisely in the soft market by increasing capital efficiency to source, return and attract new forms of capital the quickest will be well-positioned in the space and can happily partner with great distribution partners of their choice. Even so, the players with the lowest cost of capital can accept risk more quickly and easily and can develop products more cheaply and with unique technological features for consumers.
Insurtech will still play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the industry. Most of the participants in the insurtech space are in the early stages of capital formation. As investment scales and business models mature, insurtech should help leverage the proliferation of new sources of information and data pools to advance the securitization of different types of risk. Access to enhanced analytics helps make the underwriting and funding of more intangible risks, such as reputation and contingent business interruption, more sustainable, thereby increasing the participation of third party capital in lines of business outside property catastrophe.
In the mid-1990s, far less than 1% of global reinsurance capacity was alternative capital; by 2016, its influence had grown to nearly 15%. Here is our question for the next industry conference: What will alternative capital look like in 2030?
Employers looking to dial up the correct mix of benefits to retain valued employees are increasingly including identity theft protection services as a perk.
Research firm Willis Towers Watson predicts identity theft protection, offered by 35% of employers in 2015, could double to nearly 70% by 2018, making it the fastest-growing type of employee benefit over the next couple of years.
ThirdCertainty recently sat down with Joel Ray, the CEO of New Benefits, a Dallas-based employee benefits solutions provider, to discuss the drivers — and the arc — of this trend. The following text has been edited for clarity and length:
3C: Identity theft has become part of the lexicon of the world we now live in.
Ray: With all the hacking of corporations, health plans and government, there is a myriad of ways people can get their identities stolen and misused, whether it’s medical fraud, tax return fraud, stealing a Social Security number or a credit card information scam.
To me, not protecting yourself with an identity theft protection service is commensurate with not locking your door and setting an alarm when leaving home or not buying life insurance to protect your family. It just makes all the sense in the world, when you have the ability and a product is available to address identity theft, to include this as an employee benefit.
3C: So how do employers view this?
Ray: Employers were the first ones decades ago to offer health insurance to their employees, and early adopters have added other types of benefits over the years. The idea, of course, is to attract and retain good people . … Research shows an employee’s financial health is every bit as important as physical and mental health. If anything goes wrong (financially), they are not going to be a productive worker. Meanwhile, identity theft happens every two seconds in the U.S. to quite a large number of Americans. So, identity theft protection is something that, in today’s digital world, makes perfect sense to provide employees, either on an employer-paid or payroll deduction basis.
3C: How much of a challenge is public awareness?
Ray: The hard part is the education. Yet the almost daily reports about breach events have gotten employers more interested. We’ve had many (benefits) brokers representing our products say that, for the first time, employers are asking for identity theft protection.
It really is the brokers in today’s world who act as consultants regarding the latest and greatest new products. And, typically, identity theft is toward the top of the list — if not at the top of the list.
Ray: Identity theft protection is like any other benefit. Basically, anything you can do to provide financial security to your employee is a good thing. It’s a primary reason employers provide 401Ks. A lot of voluntary benefits, like cancer disability, critical illness and dental, charge a lot more for family coverage. This one charges a little bit more, but you get financial security and protection, not only for the employee but for the entire family, as well. It’s a very inexpensive benefit relative to the protection it offers, and I think it will become a staple of the industry in the very near future. The early adopters who provide this benefit to their clients now are going to have market advantage over those who wait.
3C: Sort of like supplying peace of mind as a benefit?
Ray: Yes. For example, employees buy life insurance for peace of mind so the family is protected in case of an untimely death. With identity theft protection, employees and their families are protected from something that happens every day from thieves who always seem to be one step ahead and out of reach from the law. If you’re an employer, wouldn’t you rather offer your employees a benefit that will meaningfully protect them from financial harm versus other benefits that, based on the historical record, may not add any real value?