April 22, 2016
The Insurance Renaissance (Part 1)
by Denise Garth
In insurance, radical shifts in business, technology and culture are not terribly different than in the Renaissance of the 1400s and beyond.
It was in 14th century Florence that an epic awakening happened. It was all-pervasive. It wasn’t just art that began to thrive. Philosophy, economics, culture and science began rapid change, too.
Education, technology and literature were thrown into a cauldron of modernization, and world-shaking disruption and advancements spread rapidly. Fast-forward to today, and the comparison is striking. As we enter a new era of disruption and change underpinned by new technologies, business models and more (see Future Trends: A Seismic Shift Underway), the past offers an opportunity to guide and inform our future. The insights may help us see opportunities from a new perspective.
We’ve identified dozens of parallels and lessons from the Renaissance that can give insurers and technology experts food for thought as they prepare for this journey. Over the coming months, we will be taking a look at the renaissance unfolding in insurance and reflecting on when the world was shifting from the “dark ages” to a future of opportunities, possibilities and enlightenment.
See Also: The Five Charts on Insurance Disruption
As a preview, consider the original Renaissance and these modern parallels to today’s:
Focus on People
In the dark ages, individuals didn’t matter on the level they did during the Renaissance, when individual thought was cultivated and education encouraged. People gained freedoms to act and create in ways they hadn’t thought of before.
Today, technology and connectivity have brought a new level of individualism to insurance. We are moving from mass standardization to hyper-personalization for everything from marketing to product pricing. The individual voice, rather than groups, matters more than ever.
The Renaissance changed communication. Moveable type and printing allowed communication to be more widely disseminated to the larger population.
In today’s world, we can reach nearly everyone, any time, anywhere and in any way. Transactions take place on mobile devices. Social media has made it so customer thoughts and decisions are not hampered by distance or hours of operation. The enlightened and prepared insurer has nothing standing between it and its customer. “Trade” has blossomed in the city of the internet.
Reality and Empiricism
Art and science in the Renaissance shared a trait — the drive for a “real view.” Artists approached painting and sculpture from the standpoint of realism, while science began to revisit the idea of research and empirical evidence.
In our era, at least for the last several decades, insurers have also attempted to operate from a standpoint of mathematical certainty — pricing products based on historical data trends. Yet the digital era is bringing with it an entirely new set of real-time data streams and, with those, real-time, personalized analysis, pricing and decision-making. Our new perspectives will soon allow us to see into individual lives and habits with striking clarity. (For more on this, see John Johansen’s blog series on Data Symmetry.) We will enjoy enhanced levels of insight to engage and service customers as never before. And all of this reality will be brought to us with dramatic speed. Insurers that are prepared with the agility to consume and analyze data in real time will have the advantage over their competitors to better serve their customers.
The Renaissance didn’t happen overnight. It was spurred by a convergence of factors, the greatest of which was increased wealth. Trade in Florence had produced a new class of financier who was willing to fund artistic and scientific endeavors. Wealth created ease; ease allowed time for thought and innovation.
Our modern businesses are also the beneficiaries of affluence. Population and economic growth have created a culture where even many of the economically disadvantaged have access to digital and mobile technologies. Those technologies provide online access to insurance to protect them against a growing array of risks.
Likewise, investments in the 20th century helped insurers become more efficient and more accessible, fueling an improved product and service landscape within the traditional insurance business model.
Today’s renaissance, however, is moving well beyond the traditional model. Significant capital investment in new insurance greenfield or start-up companies is fueling massive innovation in products, services and business models. For reference, simply consult the CB Insights Periodic Table of Insurance Tech. CB Insights has indicated that Q1 2016 has already topped the record for most early-stage insurance tech deal activity (Seed/Series A). This includes two start-ups: a peer-to-peer insurance company, Lemonade, and a small business insurance start-up, Next Insurance. Interest and investment is also expanding beyond venture investors to carriers and reinsurers such as Guardian Life’s GIS Strategic Ventures investment in health benefits startup, Maxwell Health and many more. For the 130-plus start-ups and private companies in the insurance tech space, CB Insights indicates that more than $3.5 billion in aggregate funding has been raised. Money is the seed and the fuel for the massive innovation taking hold in insurance.
In the coming weeks, we will dig deeper into the details of the insurance renaissance. We will uncover some of the philosophy behind modernization, while also thinking about the practical aspects of improved operations, digital capabilities and customer service. In each case, we’ll be keeping our focus on agility, innovation and speed so that we won’t just be learning about the renaissance, but we’ll be living out its lessons within our organizations.