Midyear Insurtech reflections

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Happy Independence Day to those celebrating in the U.S.!

I’m not sure about you, but for me, it’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through the year.  

For those of you that follow Daily Fintech regularly, you will know that I’ve attended a number of conferences over the past few months (8 to be exact).  I promise this will be my last article about conferences for a while!  

Attending these conferences has been interesting for a couple of reasons.  

Firstly and more personally, it’s been really great to explore the US after spending 8 years away.   It really is like 50 different countries here.

Secondly, I’ve met tons of great people, seen a lot of cool and meaningful solutions and heard of numerous different Insurtech strategies (from reinsurers, carriers, VCs, startups/tech solution providers and consultants alike).  

The conversations and knowledge of all the various participants in the ecosystem are increasing at a nice pace too.  By this, I mean that the innovators are starting to understand Insurance more and the Insurance folks are starting to understand the technologies more.  This is allowing for much more constructive dialogue.

Some of this is translating to more action than others.

This week’s article focuses on:

  1. How to choose a conference
  2. Key themes I am seeing
  3. What is Insurance?

How to choose a conference

I’ve received a few messages from some of my readers stating that they have been using the individual reviews to help them determine which events to attend later this year/next year.  Thanks for the feedback!  This section is for you.

From the conferences I have attended, I would classify them into 3 groups:

  1. General Insurance/Insurtech Conferences: These have more of a broad-based theme. These are good if you are new to the conference circuit as they have plenty of options in terms of content to choose from.  These are also great opportunities to network as you will often see all the players attend these conferences (reinsurers, carriers, VCs, startups/tech solution providers and consultants).  You can find these various players at the other conferences too, but I find people to be more focused on prospecting and deal-making at the general-themed conferences.
  2. Association/Trade Group Conferences:  These are more narrow in focus, with an agenda varying depending on the association/trade group hosting the event.  These conferences often offer Continuing Education (CE) credits for some of the attendees and as such, will tend to offer some more technical sessions too (not necessarily technology).  The networking at these events is also good, however I have found that, in contrast to the General events, where more partnerships are trying to be made, the association and trade group conferences are often catered more to those that have existing relationships with each other.  Sure, there are new business/sales opportunities at these too. However, I have found that the attendees are there for some education and catching up with old clients and friends.
  3. Value Chain/Specific Technology focused Conferences:  These are the most narrow of focus. These conferences are typically focused on one area of the value chain and/or one specific type of technology and how that can be used across different areas of the value chain.  Insurance Nexus seems to be one of the top organizers in this regard.  There are good networking opportunities if you happen to be operating in and/or looking for more information/solutions within the specific theme of the conference being offered.

While these are specific to the US and there are (what seems like) more conferences here, I believe the same grouping can be applied to other regions too. 

When choosing a conference, take a look at the speakers, the location and the topics. Choose the ones that interest you the most (location included) and which ones will also have your target audience in attendance  

Here is a list of conferences for the rest of the year from Insurance Thought Leadership and another one from InsurTech News.  I’ll likely be at InsureTech Connect in Vegas if you’re going to be there!

Key themes I am seeing

I’ve written about some of these themes through the individual reviews I have done over the past couple of months.  

In general, there are a few topics being discussed at many of the conferences which are consistently being discussed at each conference (both during panels and in hallway conversations):

  • Data – How to use new and existing data, alongside the different analytic and predictive tools becoming more and more available, are amongst one of the top areas of focus for most carriers and reinsurers.  Insurance is no stranger to data. We have multitudes of data at our disposal and have been using it for pricing, engagement and claims for decades. The current conversations surrounding data are:
    • The Internet of Things (IoT) – How do we as an industry leverage IoT for ourselves (i.e. pricing, underwriting, etc) as well as our customers (i.e. prevention, detection, claims, etc).  Insurtech influencer Matteo Carbone has spoken on this topic at many of the conferences I have attended. You may find one of his presentations here (slide 25 and 28 are good summaries of the opportunities that exist across the value chain).
    • Advanced analytics & predictive modelsThere are a number of use cases for both of these across the value chain ranging from underwriting, pricing, managing in-force books, claims, customer segmentation and more.  There are a plethora of vendors offering solutions to reinsurers and carriers as well.
    • Concerns with how data is used – While Big Data and Analytics presents some of the largest opportunities, they also presents some of the biggest concerns and challenges.  Some of the questions I have heard are:
      • What if analytics are used and a model spits out a result that can not be reasonably justified?
      • How do you ensure that predictive models do not create discriminatory results?
      • How do you ensure data is secure?
      • Insurance has always had an element of pooling to it, if more sources of data are used to individualize risk, how does this change the nature of offerings and how do companies and regulators deal with that?

I think these are valid concerns that people that are working with data solutions should be thinking about.

  • APIs – APIs seem to be one of the biggest buzzwords I hear.  Carriers are talking about how they are upgrading their systems to accommodate for more API integrations.  Startups and tech solution providers are both offering their solutions via API connection for both value-chain plays as well as for e-commerce vendors to enable them to sell Insurance (more on this later).  
  • AIAI is another buzzword I hear often.  I think initially people were just enamored with the concept of AI, but now we are seeing some real use cases in terms of customer engagement (purchasing, servicing and claims), automation (in some cases RPA is being used and in more advanced companies/processes, AI is used to supercharge it) and analytics.  The adoption is still relatively low, mainly due to the concerns about not fully understanding it yet.
  • Blockchainevery conference has a blockchain panel.  There are still a lot of questions on what it is and how it is being used in the industry.  Similar to AI, I think we are starting to see some real use cases, but the adoption is still relatively low.  
  • How to ‘do’ innovationthere are typically at least 2-3 sessions (depending on the length of the conference) dedicated to planning/strategies for, implementing and monitoring, innovation efforts.  The main topics around this are:
    • The build, partner or buy question – The discussion of the pros and cons plus how companies can approach the various options.
    • CultureEveryone believes culture is important and imperative to driving change.  Some are taking more action than others.
    • TalentSimilarly, how do we attract and retain new talent to our industry?

In this regard, carriers and reinsurers are being more careful and diligent about the solution providers they parter with.  Additionally, there are so many to choose from and they (the carriers and reinsurers) are getting bombarded by them, so they need to also take time to assess them all.

  • Increasing regulation – There are numerous new regulations around financial solvency, use of data and consumer protection being put in place around the globe. How these affect innovation are topics that are items that all players in the ecosystem should constantly be aware of.

What is Insurance?

The question of ‘What is Insurance?’ was brought up during my discussion with Nick Gerhart two weeks ago and has been in my mind a lot.  

Traditionally, our industry has been a transfer of risk, helping people to get back on their feet when something unexpected happens to them.  

Now, with customer expectations and behaviors changing, the conversation is starting to go into another direction, in terms of better engagement, processes as well as how we can help our clients with risk mitigation, prevention and additional value-add services.

Omnichannel engagement solutions across the value chain are a must for all entities offering Insurance.  

Further, with IoT, data and analytics, we are now able to help customers with better risk mitigation and also the claims process when an event does happen (assuming they are OK to give us the data).

These risk mitigation and prevention solutions being put in place can also be gamified, rewards-based and educational.

All of these things though, are evolutionary aspects of the existing products and services we offer.  

What about changing business models fundamentally?

In Insurance, we in the industry typically help with the coordination and payment of services.  The ‘providers of care’ (contractors, mechanics, hospitals, etc) are the ones who actually do the fixing.  

If we are going to fundamentally rebuild and enhance Insurance, they need to be in the conversation (which, at least from the conferences I have attended, are not).

If models become so precise that risk can be predicted per individual, these providers may start partnering more with primary carriers or reinsurers directly to offer some sort of protection to customers.  We are seeing this with InsureMyTesla and a version of this with the number of API Insurance product offerings being made available by startups. 

From a customer perspective it may make more sense and be more seamless to work with one party rather than have a ‘third party’ Insurance company protecting you.  A customer may also feel more comfortable sharing their data with the ‘providers of care’ rather than Insurers.  After all, the providers may be able to help them more directly than the Insurers can.

This is what scares so many people about Amazon coming into the Insurance Industry.  They’ve already made a number of moves in financial services and would love nothing more than to be the service provider of virtually everything in a persons life.

Summary

While the conversations, dialogue and solutions currently are increasing, I also find some feelings of fatigue, frustration and criticism.

Fatigue from carriers, reinsurers and VCs having to go assess and vet so many Insurtech solutions.

Frustration from startups having to deal with long sales cycles.

Criticism from both sides towards each other and their understanding of their particular business models and solutions.

All of these things, the good and the bad, are what will continue to drive the conversations forward and put more meaningful solutions in place.

It will allow us to see what works and what doesn’t, which will enable us to better think outside of the box and come up with fundamentally new business models for our business.

It will also drive some out of the solutions that did not have product-market fit and/or could not adapt to the new world.

All of this, should, make Insurance better.

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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