InsurTech adherents must see- the Elephant is insurance

A common approach to InsurTech- describing insurance by parts, not the whole

I’ve noted in the past that InsurTech is not dissimilar to the fable of six blind men describing an elephant solely on touch- each man ‘sees’ the elephant from the perspective of his narrow exposure to a very large creature. One sees a rope because he has grabbed the tail, another a tree because he’s grabbed a leg, another a snake due to the feel of the trunk, and so on.

InsurTech is that similar situation- many firms ‘touching’ the initiative from a narrow perspective. Not blind, surely, but not from a vantage of ‘seeing’ the entire concept. Of course it would be very daunting to try to grasp the industry from all angles, and very expensive too.

So, there are the individual firms describing their unique parts- underwriting, pricing, distribution, administration, claims, agencies, customer acquisition, etc. And designing and/or applying technology- artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, IoT, algorithms, data science, actuarial science, behavioral economics, game theory, and so on. Using technology and new methods to help them see their part of the beast that is insurance innovation.

We get caught up in the thinking that InsurTech is a discrete concept– because each involved player has his unique approach to defining how change will be effected (and we can’t have multiple terms to describe what the movement is.) In the end each is convinced the efforts being made in their firm are defining the term. A recent article penned by Hans Winterhoff, KPMG Director, 3 Lessons European Insurers can Learn from Ping An, provides suggestions for legacy insurers based on successes Ping An has had in the China insurance market. The author makes three apt points but as with simply grabbing the Beast’s trunk and calling the animal a snake, is Ping An’s approach to insurance innovation the best InsurTech perspective for mature insurance markets?

Can the best innovative methods be applied to incumbent markets if a carrier’s staff are not engaged adequately in the evolution? 

Legacy markets are populated with customers who are content with the Beast that is insurance, and in spite of some years of InsurTech efforts the market penetration of innovative companies remains low.  Not that these customers don’t deserve the latest and best methods (surely most would trade the bureaucracy and cost of existing health care for the ease of service provided by a Ping An kiosk), but change must also come from within insurance company organizations.  If one looks at Fortune magazine’s best large employers by employee survey and finds two of the insurance market’s biggest employers, Allstate and Geico, not in the top 500 firms, one must consider absent employee engagement then innovative change may be inhibited for those major companies and their customers.

Virtually every week there is a significant conference of InsurTech enthusiasts, thousands of attendees per month, all seemingly with an idea of what InsurTech is, where it’s going, and how they will capture innovation lightning in the bottle they have designed. There are some very smart persons who are seen as champions of the effort, and these persons publish/travel/post and remind the industry of where it has been and where it’s going. They are adept at describing the beast in terms that most can understand, and in terms that help the holder of the ropy tail to see that there also is a snaky trunk, and that the two parts are of the same beast.

What is cool about how the InsurTech movement is evolving is that a solid recognition is being realized by most (not all) that InsurTech is comprised of multiple, important and integral parts, and even if your firm is not working with idea A, it can leverage the knowledge in developing idea B. We pick at the theories others espouse, nay say, comment, maybe even doubt or criticize, but at the same time all the knowledge is to the common goal- improving a product for the existing and as yet unidentified insurance customers.

And without belaboring the theme, we can be reminded that the elephant is not InsurTech; the elephant is insurance. InsurTech is the trappings with which the elephant is enhanced. And the elephant is the contractual agreement that comprises insurance, and the elephant’s handler must be the customer. 

Let’s all describe the beast well from our unique perspective, with the understanding that in the end the elephant’s handler- the customer- must be why we are touching the beast at all.


image source

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

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  1. What a great read! Sending to Daren Trousdell and the gang at NowVertical as they’re opening a Insurtech track this month to augment their FinTech work and Investments.

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