Global Insurance Symposium showcases innovation focused on the Customer


Last week, I attended the Global Insurance Symposium (GIS) in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was the first of 6 conferences I’m attending in an 8 week blitz.  Throughout the next few weeks, you will see an influx of articles in which I share information learned from these conferences.  

The GIS gathered over 650 people from 20 countries.  There was a myriad of topics discussed and presented, from digital trends, genomics, the opioid epidemic, catastrophes, IoT, Blockchain and much more (if you could believe it).  It even included a very exciting session in which the graduating class of this year’s Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) cohort gave their final presentations to the audience.  

Though there were such a wide array of topics, some common themes emerged throughout the conference.  Innovation was top of mind and everyone was focused on the customer – most specifically the expectations, engagement and experience that they have with customers.  

Digital Disruption: Threat and Opportunity

The session started off with a keynote from Dr. Robin Kiera of  


How many people are still using a Nokia phone?

Robin set the stage of the event by asking two simple questions, ‘Who ever had a Nokia phone as personal phone?’ and ‘Who still uses Nokia phone today?’.

For those of you reading this, you can imagine the number of hands for each of those questions.  

Back at the beginning of 2007, Nokia had around a 50% market share in the global cell phone market.  In June 2007, the first iPhone was released.  A few years later, in 2009, Samsung released their first smartphone.  

We still have cell phones and they have become a big part of our lives.  However, consumers are not using Nokia as much anymore.

Robin explained that he strongly believes that insurance will continue to be around and relevant for many years to come and the key question being pondered now is ‘who will provide the coverage in the future?’.  Will incumbents stay relevant, or as with telecommunications, will new players rise?

What are Insurance companies focused on?

Robin shared a story of a conversation that he recently had with an Insurance executive of a large carrier.  The executive was going on and on about how they are spending billions of dollars on innovation. When Robin asked to look at the portfolio of projects that the carrier was working on, he was surprised (and a bit disappointed) that the majority of the projects were legacy replacement.  He shared the slide below and stated that ‘if carriers spend over 90% of their budget, resources and time in the bottom left, then they are in the ‘zone of death’. For example, if they are so occupied in replacing a 40 year old CRM with a 20 year old CRM then they won’t see what is coming from new solutions/services that are available.

I encourage all people reading this that are on the ‘incumbent’ side of the equation to have a good hard think about this ‘honest look in the mirror’ and how it relates to what your organization is doing when it comes to ‘innovation’.


Don’t love products, love customers

Robin ended with a theory that in order to really change within the industry, incumbents need to focus wholeheartedly on their customers.  What is it their customers want and need?

If a family has a new child, they are typically going to ask their friends, family and Google about how best to take care of their baby.  Why don’t they ask their insurer?

Robin explained that due to claims statistics, healthcare and accident data, insurers are experts in babies and a whole host of other life events (both good ones like marriage and unpleasant ones like dealing with death).  We have information and knowledge that we can share with our existing and prospective customers to help them live better and safer lives (both in their personal and business).

He argues that we should be giving this information, in a nice consumable way, for free. The more we do this, we will not only win the hearts and minds of our customers, but also their home screen.  That real estate is one that all companies strive for (not just insurance), and the more that companies, especially in our industry, can do that, and become daily companions to their customers, the more loyal our customers will become.

He ended his presentation by saying, ‘if we are to do it as industry, we will be unstoppable.’

GIA 2018 Cohort Final Presentations

Day 1 of the conference ended with the GIA 2018 Cohort presentations.  It was exciting to see for a few reasons:

  1. I am a Mentor with the GIA and it was great to see how far the startups had come from their initial pitches to being on the grand stage.
  2. The GIS and GIA have a rule that for every presenter that comes up, a standing ovation and loud cheers have to be given by the whole audience.  This was awesome to see.

The GIA was launched 4 years ago and has now graduated 26 companies through its mentor-centric accelerator.  The GIA offers participants a 100-day program and $40k seed investment (for 6% equity). They offer mentors from around the world, both in Insurance and outside.


What sets GIA apart from many of the other accelerators out there, as summed up by Jeff Russell, CEO of Delta Dental and Chair of the Board of GIA, is their ‘laser-focus on innovation in the Insurance market’.  While other accelerators offer Insurance verticals, GIA only focuses on Insurance and all the investors within the program are from the Insurance industry. They now have 14 investors, all of which are Insurance companies.  

Jeff also explained that their focus is on helping their portfolio companies on building (their) an income statement, meaning, real customers paying real money for real value.  They will start adding additional focus on helping these companies to raise funds, which they will do more of during their GIA Insurtech Week in October.

I chose to be a mentor with the GIA personally because of this ‘laser-focus’ on the industry.  It is great to be a part of it and the startups that were part of this year’s cohort showed how they are building solutions to specifically address some problems both for carriers and customers alike.  

Authority Data

AuthorityData is a platform that aggregates data from both IoT devices and external sources, integrates that data with the operations of the Insurance company and enables Insurance companies to offer programs aimed at reducing risk, lowering losses and improving customer relationships.

For example, for property lines (either personal or commercial), AuthorityData can help to create property risk profiles for the properties a carrier insures.  In addition to the publicly available information available on properties, they can also layer in IoT device data to understand what safeguards are in place at the property.   They can use this to categorize what types of perils they help to protect, what is being mitigated well and identify areas for improvement.


Sonny Patel, CEO and Founder of Insurmi, is the youngest member of the GIA at 23 years old.  At his young age and already having sold Insurance himself, Sonny realized that there needed to be some changes in the engagement process in regards to the sale of Insurance, specifically for people in his generation (i.e. millennials)

Insurmi is a white labelled platform built for Insurers allowing them to perform needs analysis, quotes, recommendations and applications on potential consumers.  The platform has a conversational interface, allowing consumers to feel comfortable when engaging with it. The platform can be built for multiple lines of business and also gives carriers lead analytics data, the ability to route leads with agents.  It can be integrated with CRM systems as well, allowing for agents & carriers who use a CRM to have the ability to continue to see all their customer data in one place.


JAUNTIN’ is a white labelled mobile platform designed to offer microinsurance in the on-demand world.  They target ‘micro-consumers’ which include gig-workers, short-term renters, short-term travelers, athletes and over a dozen other categories.  

They are partnered with AIG Canada to distribute on-demand travel Insurance to Canadians travelling abroad.  Their platform allows consumers to turn their coverage ‘on’ or ‘off’ if they are travelling. In addition to this feature, for their current in-market solution, they have included every major border crossing and airport geofenced to remind users to turn on when they leave and off when they return.

The increments of time can be configured and their platform is product agnostic.  


Byeo helps consumers to protect their legacy and loved ones in an easy and secure environment.  They have a digital vault where individuals can store information and important documents (such as insurance policy info/documents) that can be shared with the person that they select as a ‘digital executor’ when that individual passes away.  In addition to documents, the platform also allows individuals to record videos and messages to pass along to their loved ones.

For Life carriers this is a great value-add to offer to their customers.  

Byeo offers both a white labelled solution as well as a co-branded one, depending on the requirements/needs of the carriers they work with.  


‘Risks are not static and can change during the policy term.  Present day underwriting techniques do not always capture these changes.’  This was the opening statement of Mike DeSiato, CEO and Co-founder of RiskPossible.

RiskPossible offers continuous underwriting solutions to carriers by pulling publicly available information from the web on in-force policies and layers triggers to help Insurance companies identify if a possible risk has changed on the business they are insuring.  

Their focus is on 4 industries – food and liquor, contractors, elder care and child daycare. 


InsuredMine provides a digital suite of products for both agents and customers.  These products aim to help agents sell and retain more.

Their customer-facing app includes an Insurance wallet which gives both the agent and customer a 360 degree view of their Insurance policies and a chatbot for easy customer service.  Their agent portal provides agents with the analytics derived from the wallet and chatbot in addition to social media triggers which help them to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.


ProtectRisk is a marketplace for Specialty Commercial Insurance.  Their Platform enables Brokers & Underwriters to communicate & collaborate , filter insurance companies by risk, and the ability to quote, bind and deliver the policy to customers. 

They have also implemented a social networking element to the platform which allows Brokers & Underwriters to Market Transact with each other.


Alex Devoto, CEO and Founder of LVLFi started his presentation by stating that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and ‘over 74% of americans are overweight and 36% obese.’  

LVLFi is out to tackle this problem by offering a platform of games which encourage and reward players for exercising. These games, designed for different demographics, drive up engagement for corporate wellness programs and get employees more involved.

They aim to help lower healthcare costs, lower rate of diseases and incentivize individuals to be more active.  


The GIS was a great way to start my upcoming conference blitz.  

While the most recent conference I attended was ReFocus, this was the first conference that I attended that was a bit more horizontal’ in nature since InsurTech Connect 2017 (ReFocus was particularly focused on Life Insurance).

I’m seeing the nature of the conversations at these events becoming much more in-depth and attendees are focused more on ‘how to make things happen’ vs. ‘what the heck is happening’.  

This is a great trend to witness and I look forward to being part of it.

Stephen Goldstein is an experienced Insurance executive and Insurtech dealmaker with a core focus on growing revenue, launching go to market initiatives and advising industry leaders.

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  1. There needs to be a culture change and big insurers need to wean themselves off brokers and be willing to deal direct . I can tell you that that issue of disintermediation is the real barrier to customer engagement which big insurers outsource . They don’t have the bandwidth at the moment to be able to seize the initiative and allow customers to deal with insurers direct and not through ‘claims management ‘ companies or indeed ambulance chasers

    • I agree cultural change is needed, but cutting out distribution intermediaries (agents, brokers and/or financial advisors) is not going to solve that. Customers should have choice to engage with their carriers the way they want to, whether it be direct, through an agent or even through a bot.

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