Personal musings from one of the world’s first InsurTech incubators

Personal musings from one of the world’s first InsurTech incubators
Last Friday (and flowing into the weekend), I was privileged to take part as a mentor in the final selection process for the first “InsurTech” cohort of the StartupBootcamp’s accelerator programme targeted at the insurance industry. This programme claims to be one of the first specialist “InsurTech” accelerators to be run globally by an independent firm. The programme has attracted pretty impressive backing from the industry with firms like Admiral, Allianz, Ergo, Intesa SanPaulo, LV=, Momentum, LBG/Scottish Widows, Tryg and UnipolSai taking partnership roles. To give you an idea around the scale of achievement of those who got through, the process started with circa 1.3k interviews, 250+ applications, 42 short-listed ideas and then whittled down to just 18 finalists…from which just 10 could be accepted onto the program. These ten firms will now go on to be mentored during their start-up phase, have their ideas challenged and further developed from people within the industry and independent entrepreneurs and, in doing so, build the network they will need to both attract funding and find new clients. Over the two days that I spent with the finalists, there were a number of themes that came through the submissions. Here are my personal musings: Data featured strongly across nearly all of the initiatives. Having access to either unique sources of data (whether from a home move, from a travel plan or from connected world) and a model for assessing underwriting risk appeared to be a winning combination. Digital engagement, aggregation and ‘robo-advice’ are hot topics. What I found most interesting was the focus on underserved markets, whether targeting prospects with poor health records, in difficult to reach populations around the world, or educating Gen-Y/Z of the value of insurance. Addressing underserved markets profitably is a big issue that the industry often struggles with. A fertile area if tackled well. What impressed me the most, however, was the passion and sense of purpose displayed by the teams in fixing something that just feels ‘plain wrong’ to them. The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to change the industry’s client engagement experience and liability profile. Five initiatives related to the IoT were submitted. Three were focused on wellbeing, one on the connected home and one on drones. Although it didn’t quite make it into the final ten, I found the drone initiative fascinating. With Amazon and others itching to launch commercial drone services at scale, this is a market that is set to grow. Drone insurance could be the next ‘fleet’ or ‘auto insurance’ (as was pointed out by my fellow mentor Charles Radclyffe). Certainly, the current risk models in use today are immature and unlikely to be adequate for a world where autonomous vehicles are delivering packages across our heads 24×7 (assuming the regulator allows it). Sadly, the drone initiative didn’t quite make it into the final ten. Personally, I wonder if it’s just maybe a little too early, but perhaps still one to watch for the future? As with anything IoT related in insurance currently, each initiative will face a shared challenge. Although the proposition concepts may be compelling, the instrumentation rate of adoption will ultimately set the pace for growth. The IoT is still in its infancy across the industry and convincing prospective clients to share their instrumented personal data is no small undertaking. Data permissions are a growing concern for both individuals and regulators. It was refreshing to see some of the propositions pitch personal digital vaults as part of their propositions, whether for managing data from connected devices, personal wellbeing or personal belongings. Although it’s not yet clear how the market will develop for these services or how they will be monetised beyond a simple subscription model, services like these may suddenly find themselves in the limelight once regulators step in to protect personal privacy. Regulatory compliance. It wouldn’t be the insurance industry unless there was at least one idea focused on regulatory compliance. What if you took all of your regulatory compliance reports produced, aggregated them, and then analysed them? A really simple idea without a huge amount of cost involved. It was a refreshing couple of days. I look forward to seeing how their ideas and propositions develop over the next year. If you’d like to know more about each of the final ten, details can be found here.

Kanban Insurance will replace UBI as we know it

Kanban Insurance will replace UBI as we know it
The Internet of Things (IoT) has evolved and matured to a point where pilots and programs are already in place around the world for every major line of business: Auto, P&C, Life and Health. The most mature market unarguably is auto insurance in part because sensors have been in place for many years and the auto industry is driving the use of telematics for its own sake, not just insurance. But it is not just telematics; vehicles are becoming smarter. Collision avoidance and secure driving aids are more common now, and not only in luxury cars. At the end of the road we already know that vehicles will evolve to the extreme of being smart enough to become autonomous. A Celent Report “A Scenario: The End of Auto Insurance” by Donald Light back in May 2012 predicted the end of auto insurance as we know it. Donald’s prediction is now a reality. Smarter vehicles make smarter (and safer) drivers reducing significantly the driving risk. Autonomous vehicles take away the driving risk almost entirely (we still have the risk of the system being hacked or that there is a flaw in the programming). All this is happening while telematics driven auto UBI hasn’t yet become the norm in the insurance industry; and already has an expiration date. So should we continue to invest in auto UBI programs to cover driving risk knowing it will inevitably be disrupted? Is there another approach to consider? Some of you may be familiar with Kanban; a method (and term) used in manufacturing, first introduced by Toyota, for a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time (JIT) production. Is a system to control the logistical chain from a production point of view, and is an inventory control system. I believe insurance is changing in a way it will be lean and just in time also; think of “Kanban Insurance”, driven by IoT and digitally delivered and serviced. Kanban insurance is not limited to auto insurance but can be applied across all LOBs, moving away from the traditional concept of insurance pre-defined products where the customer chooses from a limited set of options (and within an existing LOB), to flexible insurance solutions which are a bundle of coverages, regardless of LOB. Kanban insurance is digitally sold and serviced, tailored to the specific needs of each customer with the solution being created automatically on the fly. Kanban insurance allows customers to easily opt in/out and connect devices and sensors to activate the insurance and monitor in real time the changing aspects of the risk. Imagine a solution that is created on the fly based on your specific needs and will follow your daily journey. A solution that for example could cover your commute, whether you use public transportation, Uber/Lyft, an autonomous vehicle you own or share, or that you decided to drive the old fashioned way (manually). This solution will activate a set of coverages for your home which is in autonomous mode as you left the house (as nobody is at home and sensors are active) which are different coverages to the ones you have when people is there; while your life insurance coverage and insured sum (and premium) automatically adjusts depending on what driving mode you are using (or if you are in a train, cruise or air trip). Kanban insurance makes more sense to me than just UBI programs. Insurers that agree with my view should focus on the implications and requirements to be able to support this approach. These will include core systems functionality, digital solutions, data integration, analytics, machine intelligence, 3rd party partnerships, and deciding on infrastructure and data ownership.  

Free advice for auto manufacturers: how to sell the experience of driving an autonomous car

Free advice for auto manufacturers: how to sell the experience of driving an autonomous car
I rarely, actually never, give advice to automobile manufacturers because I am an insurance technology analyst, and not an automotive analyst. But as more and more and more auto manufacturers make announcements about their plans to get autonomous cars on the road, ready or not—the dire implications for automobile insurance cannot be ignored. So on occasion I do find myself thinking about what autonomous cars will mean for manufacturers. In particular, since the marketing of cars emphasizes the driving experience so heavily, what will the automakers do when all they can offer is a riding experience? I mean a rolling home office, or family room, or man cave, or walk-in closet only has so much appeal.  And yes I know that all these cars will be totally connected, but still how many touchscreens will entertain a car buyer/driver during the morning commute? So I do have an answer: virtual reality! Not just any virtual reality, but a virtual reality that makes the passenger in an autonomous car believe that he or she is actually driving that car—with appropriate physical artifacts (steering wheel, pedals, brakes, dashboard, etc.); and a choice of scenic and challenging routes.  If Disney can create rides that make people feel like they are accelerating, de-accelerating, steering, and cruising, why not GM and Toyota? As mentioned, this advice is free. But if any manufacturer reading this post is so inclined, please send a large check to Celent (not to me, alas). Thanks.

In the quest of making fintech a reality in Latin America

In the quest of making fintech a reality in Latin America
The fintech ecosystem has been evolving and maturing in Latin America for the last three years mainly due to the effort of some participants, including Celent, to connect all key players of the fintech ecosystem. Unlike the USA where there are geographical pockets of Innovation, as Silicon Valley, that brings the actors together based on proximity, nothing like this exists in Latin America Furthermore, the individual (country) market size is significantly smaller when compared to the USA. Fortunately technology allows business to be conceived global or at least regional and therefor provide the scale needed for a fintech start-up to be viable. For these reasons, it is essential to work an ecosystem, a network of participants, regardless of their geographic location in Latin America. I do not foresee a sustained and increasing development of fintech start-ups and initiatives in the region without the existence of this ecosystem. In this last three years we have seen many cases of “me too” fintech start-ups. While this is not bad, it doesn’t show creativity either. Happily we have also seen completely innovative ventures, especially around blockchain, but without this being the sole focus. There are all kinds of fintech start-ups; in payments, leveraging the use of data and focusing on customer experience; in loans, traditional and new models such as crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer (P2P); in insurance distribution and risk management leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) just to mention a few. How is this playing for the insurance industry? I believe that the insurance industry is at a tipping point in fintech although I see it more developed out of Latin America. I believe there is a great opportunity gathering and using data for underwriting, claims, and fraud detection; taking advantage of the IoT to develop new personalized products and working on claims prevention; in distribution enabling new channels and becoming more digital and technology reliant, and even using P2P models; engaging with customers in new and improved ways; and discovering how disruption in payments can be leveraged in insurance. In insurance (P&C, life and health) we are seeing that traditional players start moving towards digital environments and interactions, experimenting with technologies such as telematics and with the opportunities arising of the IoT. In Latin America this is incipient, but we see that it improves every year. According to our most recent research 41% of insurers in the region have a formal innovation program which has been running, as minimum, for 2 years and 35% indicated that it doesn’t have a formal program yet. The fact that only 8% of them are focusing on disruptive innovation allows us to think that change will be slow, mostly based on incremental innovation, unless some external factor can accelerate change. The main insurance companies globally are either funding accelerators, have created their Innovation labs, or have established funds to invest in fintechs. However, innovation is often difficult for established players and initiatives of new players appear seeking mainly to innovate in product, distribution, customer experience and looking to benefit from the IoT for both underwriting and claims. Ingenie, one of the pioneers in offering a pay-per-use model based on telematics alongside its strategy of risk prevention, is not really an insurer but a technology company that was forced to go direct as a consequence of the lack of interest from established insurers in adopting a pricing and underwriting model based on the use and individual behavior of the insured. This model is no longer a novelty and has been adopted by many insurers around the world; it is even being replicated in property, life and health insurance. Recently John Hancock announced the launch of an incentive program based on the insured to share data related to its health, but it is not the only one; Discovery was one of the pioneers to launch it many years ago in South Africa. Oscar offers it for health, along with a digital-only user experience. Friendsurance, in Germany, has adopted a model based on social networks and P2P insurance that although it is oriented to auto, it could be applied to other risks (including microinsurance). In parametric insurance (aka index based insurance) using sensors and data, we have seen initiatives as Kilimo Salama aiming to market agriculture insurance massively, in segments that otherwise was not viable to serve. This is indeed an interesting case of extreme digital, with innovation applied in all the insurance life cycle. An area that we still see relegated in Latin America is the widespread use of data, a historic deficit that in many cases can be represented by the difficulty of something as simple as not having a claims database at industry level. Blockhain, for its novelty, is another area where insurers haven’t yet stepped in. Distribution, in the region, is mostly not under the control of the insurer; the direct channel is insignificant in volume when compared to the intermediated business, therefore innovation depends to a large extent of the capabilities of the distribution channels to adopt new technologies and rethink their own models. In this sense banks distributing insurance, where bancassurance is permitted, as well as the largest brokers seem to be in a privileged position to capitalize this opportunity, but suffer the same challenges that other large established players and the final word has not been said yet. Could an external player, someone that understands digital, data and customer experience, change the market dynamics? They are certainly doing so in banking, especially around payments. Google has already entered the insurance industry, on the distribution side, in United Kingdom and the USA. The founders of Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd acquired shares of Ping An Insurance Group Co of China Ltd in a deal valued at $4.7 billion of dollars in December 2014, in what I see as another major threat to the industry from the outside, but taking positions to be able to integrate the business, from distribution to assuming and managing risks.
Three Giants in Internet Finance

Three Giants in Internet Finance

I foresee that in personal lines insurance we will get used to buy from companies that offer the best digital shopping experience, being these insurers and intermediaries that were able to adapt by learning how to compete in a digital world, or new players coming from the digital retail sector. In commercial lines I don’t foresee a threat from the outside in the short or medium term regarding distribution, but a deeper use of technology by insurance companies to become more efficient in the marketing of insurance. The level of advisory and specialization required makes it difficult to envision it can be transformed into a digital experience of purchase and servicing in a short-medium time frame. Nevertheless, in both cases, insurers will continue to be the one assuming risks, just as how banks fund and service credit lines. In this sense insurers must offer flexibility and agility in creating new products, but mainly with the ability to do it based on the use of data, the IoT, and easily integrating with its ecosystem. We will be meeting on February 16th 2016 in Bogotá – Colombia at Finnosummit to discuss the opportunities and challenges for the fintech ecosystem in Latin America. Fintech start-ups can participate of the Finnosummit Challenge, a great opportunity and very interesting prizes for winners. If you want to attend Finnosummit be sure to use Celent discount code: C3L3NT20%. See you there!  

Insurance IoT – you can sense the disruption: Innovation Roundtable summary

Insurance IoT – you can sense the disruption: Innovation Roundtable summary
We held another in our series of Innovation Roundtables in NYC last Friday. These are small gatherings, attended by insurers and banks, meant to provide an open forum for a deep discussion of a chosen topic. As Mick Simonelli, one of the facilitators put it: “The format provides a chance for innovators to come out of their day-to-day battles, take a tactical pause, gain some perspective and share their knowledge with other practitioners.” This edition was focused on the Internet of Things in insurance. More than any other previous Roundtable, the threat of disruption amongst the group was very prominent. The discussion was best summarized by one participant: “We have been doing the business of insurance according to “effects analysis” for 300 years. That is, actuaries and underwriters have been looking backwards and projecting what contract terms (rates, guidelines, etc.) should be going forward. IoT in insurance will provide new territory, which is as yet unclaimed by any provider. It will allow insurance to move toward “causal analysis”: what are the true causes of loss and in what interventions can be undertaken to avoid them?” Much of the discussion was about how insurance risk professionals can accomplish casual analysis using IoT tools and techniques. However, there was also a recognition that other entities, outside insurance, may figure this new approach out before insurers. This may be the well-know data firms such as Google, Amazon, etc., or may be a group of data scientists yet unknown. Other main points from the session include:
  • These practitioners report that they sense that the velocity of change around IoT is different than what has been seen before. Unlike other changes in insurance, decision-makers cannot wait for the data to roll in and the “case to be proved” or it will be too late to respond. Companies reported that they have lost partnership deals with start-up firms because they were unable to make a decision in a timely manner. This dynamic supports the need for a “dual governance track” that has been reflected in Celent’s innovation research.
  • Donald Light presented Celent’s model of IoT, and the group engaged in a good deal of discussion about what part of that ecosystem insurers will want to “own”. There was recognition of the incredible predictive value of the data that will be produced by IoT. However, it was pointed out that what has happened in commercial lines fleet IoT applications is that insureds prefer to retain control over the data as the value for them of using it to manage their fleet vastly outweighs any premium discount that might be awarded. It remains to be seen if this will play out in other lines of business.
  • Regarding commercial lines applications of IoT, it was notable that the group spent as much or more time discussing these opportunities as it did discussing the usual suspects – auto telematics, connected home, and health/lifestyle. Celent sees this as a further maturation of IoT in insurance. The consensus of the group was that commercial IoT is not yet widely addressed and is beginning to be a focus for their companies going forward.
  • A lack of cross-industry integration standards was recognized as a significant barrier to expansion. The participants expressed that there is a need (and opportunity) for a data standards group to facilitate this between insurers and potential device providers. Without such agreement, progress will be more expensive and will take longer than it should.
A final discussion point was perhaps the most exciting. The group is tracking the manner in which IoT is changing the profile of the skills required in insurance. Actuarial science is giving way to data science as more predictive techniques and more non-traditional data sources are used. The participants discussed forming a consortium of insurers to partner with NYC-area universities to establish an insurance data scientist training program. Stay tuned!