The Real Value from Insurtech — A New Way to Develop Products

The Real Value from Insurtech — A New Way to Develop Products

The long-term sustainable value from insurtech lies in its ability to change how insurance products are created. The economic model behind how startups bring their products to market is bending — no, breaking — the traditional development cost curve. Insurers which recognize this dynamic and adjust their innovation activities accordingly will create more value form insurtech than their competitors.

Insurtech has already gone through at least two iterations in its short lifespan. A little more than a year ago, the market was abuzz about widespread disruption. Now that it is recognized that there is value in integrating insurtech, partnership is the rage. The next phase will see an increase in greenfield operations. Over the next 12 months, the economics of insurtech development will result in a significant increase in spin-offs and stand-alone propositions.

The reasoning is this – economics will motivate different behavior. Traditional insurance product development is typically characterized by these approaches/tools/techniques:

  • Product or process-centered design
  • Waterfall development (although agile techniques are catching on)
  • Centralized, on-premise infrastructure
  • Package or custom-built software
  • Periodic release and control procedures
  • Service-oriented architecture (SOA) integration

Contrast that with insurtech operations. They are typically characterized by these approaches/tools/techniques:

  • Customer-centered design focused on delivering a minimal viable product as quickly as possible to the market
  • Agile development using small teams
  • Cloud infrastructure
  • Microservices architecture
  • Use of DevOps to control updates
  • Use of open source software
  • API integration

Here is where the economics comes in. Without reading ahead, answer the following question:

If you spend $1 delivering a specific set of functionality in the traditional approach,
what amount would be needed to deliver exactly the same functionality using the new development approach?

I have been asking this question for the last two months. It is a tricky one, because the best input comes from the limited number of people who have delivered insurance products in both the traditional and the new development approach. These few professionals have “lived” both environments. My sample size is small so far, but I have polled about 30 people.

The answer ranges between 20 and 30 cents on the dollar. So, call it a quarter. That means that a $4 million dollar project delivered with the traditional approach is only $1 million using the new tools/techniques. Or, better yet, entire propositions, which include changes to both the insurance product and a new automation platform, can be delivered for under $4 million. (For more on this, see the @Celent_Research report Slice Labs: A Case Study of Insurance Disruption.)

With this cost profile, a greenfield startup approach becomes much more attractive. Investing in a new product/market approach is much less risky given the smaller level of investment. If we marry this with the innovation fatigue expected as incremental efforts fail to deliver sufficient value to the core business, the environment is ripe for spin-offs.

This is not to say that the current “partner with a promising insurtech firm” or the “we want to make innovation part of our culture” approaches will go away. However, expect to see significantly more stand-alone efforts than we have seen in the past.

Immediate adjustments to this opportunity include:

  • Insurers should include multiple start ups in their innovation portfolios
  • Insurance software/IT services providers and venture groups should help both insurers and insurtech firms to set up greenfield propositions
  • Insurtechs should look beyond incremental solutions and apply their talent and techniques to entire insurance propositions

As some of the spin-offs succeed (and most of them fail), insurers will learn how to develop in the new environment and will transfer these techniques to their core business. As a result, the true value of insurtech will not be an either/or choice, but change through absorption of new approaches and techniques.

Insurtech = new way to develop insurance products

Slice Labs Case Study: New Economics at Work

Slice Labs Case Study: New Economics at Work

Just published: a detailed case study on the first year of Slice Labs. (see @Celent_Research http://bit.ly/2pgJ65b ) This insurtech delivers a tailored insurance contract to sharing economy operators on a digital platform. Homeshare coverage is live in production in multiple states and rideshare was just released to pilot. The experience of Slice Labs provides a valuable benchmark against which insurers, insurance technology providers, and insurtech firms can measure their innovation efforts.

Truly disruptive insurance innovations are rare. Most insurtech propositions are service improvements for current products in existing markets.  Slice Labs is disruptive in that it targets an underserved customer niche with a proposition that involves changes to the core insurance product using new technology tools and development methods. The solution was delivered to pilot within one year at a predicted and managed cost within the limits of their initial capital raise. This combination of insurance expertise, new tech skills, and dev ops processes illustrates a new model for insurance development.

Some of the key lessons from the case study include:

  • A one-year timeframe and an accurately predicted investment delivered a minimum viable insurance product and IT platform. This low-cost threshold and speed challenge in-house insurance innovation approaches and argue for wider use of greenfield initiatives.
  • The effort and elapsed time necessary to identify a risk sharing partner are significant and should not be underestimated.
  • Affinity groups/communities of interest can create significant pull demand.

This model is repeatable. The challenge for incumbent insurers is to develop approaches which allow them to benefit from the new economics at work in insurance product development.

I like it when I am proved wrong (at least a little)

I like it when I am proved wrong (at least a little)

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Celent's annual Innovation & Insight day in Boston. It was my third year and I can honestly say it gets better every year. The reason for the title of this blog post is simple. I recently published a report Why Are There No Drones in Life Insurance? In this report, I took the industry to task a bit for the lack of innovation, particularly in the Life insurance space. The fundamental position is that the industry is behind in technology investment and exciting new Insurtech investments are skewed towards P&C and Health and not Life.

Some of the key points of the report include:

  • The Life insurance industry still relies on aging back-end systems, with the age of many measured in decades. They have multiple, disparate systems, collected over the years, with a lack of coherent direction towards a single, modern system.
     
  • Life insurance is inherently risk adverse, leading to the gathering of huge amounts of information to price the product.
     
  • The process is still paper based on the majority of the issued policies.
     
  • New product innovation is stagnant.

I could go on, but you get the point.

While still true, it is easy to understand the complexities of a risk adverse industry, with contracts that can last 70 or more years.

What has me excited, and has at least proven me wrong a little, are the submissions and winners for our Model Insurer Awards. I have the pleasure, and honor, of reading them every year and am always impressed with the quality of the entrants. The judging process is always challenging, but even more so this year was the sheer volume of entries. We certainly want to recognize every submission, but had to choose a limited number of winners. What a tough job!

The life winners came from companies of all sizes, such as New York Life, Lincoln Life, CUNA Mutual, and AFLAC. (Full list of Winners) Life companies were represented across the categories, from Data Master and Analytics to Operational Excellence to a virtual dominance of the Digital and Omnichannel category.

Even more exciting was the number of entries that could have won, but were part of such a huge number of entries that we had to choose from unbelievable projects.

So my hat (if I wore one) is off to everyone that participated. Keep it up. Prove me wrong, over and over and over.

I can’t wait until next year.

One final comment: If you’re reading this and work for an insurer and are not a Celent client, drop me a note. I’d love to spend some time on the phone with you and share more insights. I’d even be happy to share the No Drones report, to give you an idea of our coverage. If you’re reading this and are a customer, then you have access to the report.

 

A Day to Celebrate: Celent 2017 Model Insurer Winners

A Day to Celebrate:  Celent 2017 Model Insurer Winners

Last April 4, Boston, a city surrounded by history of patriotism and independence, was witness of Celent Innovation and Insight Day (I&I day), an event in which 16 insurers were recognized as Model Insurers for their technological initiatives that, I’m sure, inspired more 280 professionals of the Financial Service industry by the efforts and ideas on how other insurers could implement them within their organizations.

Andrew Rear, chief executive of Munich Re Digital Partners was the Model Insurer keynote speaker. He discussed the role of Insuretech for large insurers and spoke of how these insurers could acquire agility, the pathway that they needed to choose, and more importantly, the risks they had to bear. He also discussed how Financial Services were redefining the way financial products are sold, delivered, and serviced.

No sensible website asks you for your email address anymore. They should know who you are by other means

~Andrew Rear

 

In the afternoon, our analysts participated in a series of debates focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT); Artificial Intelligence (AI); and Blockchain which was lively discussion. In between, Celent presented its Model Insurers for five categories and the Model Insurer of the Year.

Digital and Omnichannel

  • CUNA Mutual Group

The rapid development and launch of a simplified-issue term life insurance product that enables members to apply entirely online, answering only two health questions supported by a completely automated underwriting platform that delivers an instant decision in minutes.

  • Lincoln Financial Group

Lincoln Financial created a digital process to meet customer expectations of doing business, automate underwriting, reduce cycle time, and minimize human touch.

  • New York Life

The New York Life Portal initiative utilized digital connectivity and a ratings engine cloud-based platform to achieve a faster process and empower various actors across the organization.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation

  • Republic Indemnity

Republic Indemnity’s previous home-grown, legacy policy administration system was implemented in 1994 as a single state, Workers Compensation policy administration system. As the previous system could not issue multi-state policies and with the concern of technology obsolesce, Republic Indemnity looked for a new solution to replace its home-grown, legacy system.

  • ERS

Under new management, the business had to transform itself rapidly and replace 20-year-old technology. It had a major license renewal date in two years and would have been locked in by the vendor to a prohibitively expensive contract. It set about transforming claims first, and then policy with full data migration and scheme rationalization, all while growing the underlying gross written premium

  • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

At the beginning of 2013, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) launched the Insurance Sales and Administration System (ISAS) policy transformation program. This was the last project in ICBC’s overall $400 million Transformation Program, which had already successfully replaced legacy claims systems and implemented a new Enterprise Data Warehouse and an enterprise service-oriented architecture.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Innovation and Emerging Technologies

  • Suramericana de Seguros S.A.- Wesura

Wesura (Sura) created a peer-to-peer Insurance platform around social networks. It develops private insurance communities so final users can share risk and underwrite people who wants to belong to the private community, the bigger the community the more benefits one can receive.

  • Church Mutual Insurance Company

Church Mutual Insurance Company has partnered with The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of Munich Re, to provide temperature and water sensors connected to a 24/7 monitoring system. This innovative Internet of Things (IoT) technology solution is designed to alert customers to take action before damages and disruptions to their ministries can occur.

  • Markerstudy Insurance

Markerstudy launched VisionTrack in February 2016 to tackle the challenge insurers are facing with rising fraudulent motor claims and to help improve driver behavior.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Operational Excellence

  • Aflac

Aflac was in need of some modernizing and is still likely to undergo more change as the industry continues to capitalize on social, mobile, and wearables. In response, the Aflac IT Division implemented an Agile Transformation to its projects and processes to meet the changing needs of the customers.

  • Saxon

Saxon serves the Cayman island community. With a limited pool to hire from or sell product to, Saxon realized that to remain viable in the insurance market, it needed to employ technology to better serve the needs of its customers and grow the business.

  • MassMutual

MassMutual offers a Data Science Development Program (DSDP) in Amherst, MA that trains promising, recent graduates to become well-rounded data scientists over a period of three years. The program combines rigorous academic coursework and practical data science projects for MassMutual — a unique and valuable combination.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

Data Analytics

  • The Savings Bank Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts

SBLI implemented an advanced risk assessment solution using predictive modeling and data analytics to help reduce cycle times, decrease dropout rates, and eliminate the need to pull fluids and conduct exams, while pricing policies more competitively, placing applicants into appropriate risk classes, and improving customer experience.

  • StarStone Specialty Insurance Company

The initiative is based on the implementation of analytics tools to measure and reduce risk. The solution uses data from internal and external sources. The data may be structured or unstructured. This tool helps underwriters make better decisions.

  • Meteo Protect

Although a broker, Meteo Protect gives clients a means to evaluate how climate variability contributes to their companies’ results by analyzing the relationship between each business activity and the weather. It couples this with a platform to price and underwrite fully customized index-based weather insurance, for any business anywhere in the world.

To learn more of these Model Insurers, please read our report here.

CSE, Model Insurer of the Year

In 2017, CSE has been awarded Model Insurer of the Year for its aspiration to achieve “the best product in the industry.” This meant they had to overcome legacy thinking and practices to re-think all the features including coverage, pricing, rules, process, and communications To do so, they sought inputs from customers and analyzed the market using two common analyses: 5 Cs and SWOT. From this point on, CSE assembled and adapted its core system.

To learn more of the Model Insurers of the Year, please read our report here.

The quality of the submissions this year is a clear indication the industry is turning a corner and embracing transformation, digital initiatives, innovation and valuing data analytics.  It is inspiring to see the positive results the insurers have achieved and a pleasure to recognize them as Model Insurers for their best practices in insurance technology.

How about your company? As you read this, are you thinking of an initiative in your company that should be recognized? We are always looking for good examples of the use of technology in insurance. Stay tuned for more information regarding 2018 Model Insurer nominations.

Why Not a Bot? Adjuster Bots for Connected Cars

Why Not a Bot? Adjuster Bots for Connected Cars

We’re not quite there yet. But there is a path to get there—probably in only a few years.

We’re already at the point where fender bender claims can be estimated with a set of smart phone photos (offered by esurance and many other carriers)

But what more serious accidents which involve damage to a car’s mechanical systems? 

Here is one element of an Adjuster Bot solution: electonic control units, ECUs. For years, automobiles have been manufactured with dozens ECUs which control, monitor, and diagnose a broad away of systems within the vehicle, including its engine, power train, brakes, steering, airbags, electronic stability control. Information from ECUs can be accessed from vehicle’s On-board Diagnostic Port (OBD-II). The primary purpose of the OBD-II is to enable maintenance and repair of the various systems. (Telematics devices–aka dongles–plugged into the OBD-II port have been the primary method to gather and transmit telematics data to insurers.)

A second critical piece of the puzzle falls into place: communication. Automobile manufacturers are racing towards creating connected cars—typically using 3G or even 4G LTE cellular modems.

So this is what an automobile Adjuster Bot ecosystem would look like:

  • A cellular modem which tells the Adjuster Bot that an accident has occurred
    • And transmits data from ECUs describing the functional/non-functional status of major car systems
  • The AI-powered Adjuster Bot which, through deep learning, identifies the probability of repairing or replacing components within those systems; and which:
    • Alerts police and/or medical assistance as warranted (e.g. if airbags deployed)
    • Queries repair estimation and total loss systems
    • Integrates with the insurer’s Direct Repair Program
    • Creates an initial estimate of cost and time to repair
    • Presents a customized video to the driver, describing:
      • Arrival of tow trucks, transportation to a rental car facility, the split of insurer and policyholders financial responsibility; links to download a claimant app

Next up: Adjuster Bots for Connected Homes

Would you spot the warning signs of a failing project?

Would you spot the warning signs of a failing project?

Every large project I have been involved with began with enthusiasm and high hopes. The go decision concludes a sizable project of its own — creating and receiving approval for the business case. The initiative begins in a celebratory fashion. The project sponsors are overrun with volunteers for the project. There are numerous kick-off meetings with a festive tone. Communication about the project occurs often promoting the merits of the project. It is sunshine and roses ahead!

Flash forward, the project communication may have slowed down to a trickle. The project team members have lost their enthusiasm, and the project has become mundane. Many times there have been as many failures as successes. It is not unusual to lose a key sponsor. At times, it may become necessary to revise the goals of the project, or, in the direst situations, abandon the future phases.

I am sure that readers are thinking, “This will not happen to my project.” I certainly hope that is true! But, if your project is on a downhill slide, there are steps that can be taken to get back on course. An important first step is a project health check.

A project health check is designed to provide an independent and impartial evaluation of a program or project. The health check evaluates the overall health or risk profile, assesses stakeholder satisfaction, and provides practical recommendations that the team can use for reducing risk and in extreme situations, for project audit, recovery, or rescue. The health check covers all levels of the project from the business executives and sponsors to the technical team members to provide a comprehensive view. It focuses on:

• Business objectives, scope, and requirements assessment.
• Contracting and financials.
• All processes, deliverables, and communications quality.
• Exception management that includes issues, changes, and risks.
• Project data and plan assessment.
• People assessment.
• Best practices effectiveness.
• Evaluation of the technology and its feasibility and compatibility with the current and/or planned environment.

Very often, those closest to a project are the ones that have difficulty in seeing the progress. Health checks are best undertaken by third party assessors, who can provide an unbiased and balanced view and opinion.

My new report,  Staying on Track when the Transformation Road Changes, has more information on project health checks as well as the do’s and don’ts of running a successful project. I hope all of your projects are success ones!
 

Long Live Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation

Long Live Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation

When I started working at Celent back in November 2007, one of the research topic we were covering extensively was the legacy system modernization or replacement topic. Nowadays, legacy modernization remains a topic that has still a high importance in insurance CIOs’ agenda across the globe. Indeed based on our 2017 insurance CIO survey and out of 150 responses received across the globe, 57% of insurers are currently working on legacy modernization system projects. Another 10% are in the planning process and 11% will begin new legacy transformation projects next year.

It is therefore important for us to help our insurance customers understand what embarking in a core system replacement or modernization project means. While the benefits of modernizing core legacy systems are clear and compelling (gaining a competitive advantage — or achieving competitive parity, reducing operational and IT costs, making better underwriting and claims decisions, seizing analytic advantages when information and processes become completely digital), there are a lot of factors at play from the definition of the new system requirements, the approach to be chosen between the development of a new system and the purchase of a package or a best-of-breed component, to the selection of the optimal partners. Another crucial part of a legacy system replacement is the implementation of the new system as it can represent a major challenge notably in terms of project management, customization effort and migration. Implementations are particularly challenging when they involve multiple vendors and integrations.

To help our insurance customers figure out all the factors at play, every year we describe some cases in the frame of our Model Insurer program. This year we will be presenting the three cases we have received among more than 20 submissions in the frame of our Innovation & Insight Day event, which will take place in Boston on the 4th of April 2017. In addition to presenting the legacy modernization category award winners, we will also explain why they have decided to replace their legacy systems and what opportunities have been identified. We will also describe the implementation effort and draw out lessons learned. For those of you who will not be able to make it in person, we will publish a report profiling the three winners but I hope to meet you in big number at our event in Boston.

DOL Fiduciary rule delayed

DOL Fiduciary rule delayed

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that begins the process of rolling back Dodd-Frank. He also signed an executive memorandum that directs the Labor Department to review the effect of its fiduciary rule on investors’ ability to access financial advice. If there is an adverse effect, the memorandum authorizes the DOL to rescind and revise the rule.

The DOL rule has been a point of particular discussion since the inauguration between a group of us at Celent and our parent company, Oliver Wyman. The discussion focused not on whether the rule would be implemented but instead on how insurers should plan and react. It would be easy to believe that President Trump’s executive memorandum is the first step in the revocation of the rule because it is delaying it. It is certainly a believable outcome; however, we believe delaying preparation would be the wrong decision for a number of reasons.

Most prominent among them is that there is considerable uncertainty as to what Friday’s delay actually means. Insurers are, by definition, in the business of assessing and hedging risk and not knowing how the DOL review will turn out has risk associated with it. We believe that the right response is to hedge this risk by continuing to prepare for the implementation of the rule, even if the rule is likely to be modified or even rescinded.

Why? Because the fiduciary rule as it written today might happen. It might go into effect with a modest delay. It is easy to see a path that results in changes in compensation in the qualified market. It is even conceivable that this rule, or a similar one, would ultimately affect the entire life insurance and annuity market. There is considerable precedent, globally. For example, the UK implemented their Retail Distribution Review (RDR) in 2013.

In simple terms, the end consumer, ultimately, will believe that a rule that requires advisors to make decisions in their best interests would be popular. We suspect most of them expect that their advisors already do this!

There is clearly a cost of implementing the new rules and this cost is significant. However, most companies have already made the majority of their investment and completing these efforts makes sense. We are even hearing from advisors that they believe that conforming to the rules of a fiduciary could be a competitive advantage. You can see it now: “I work in your best interests. My competitors don’t”.

This is not the time or place to debate the topic in detail, but we would welcome the conversation. We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Feel free to email me directly at tscales@celent.com. If I get enough feedback, I’ll post a summary soon.

You might also find a few publicly available reports from Oliver Wyman interesting:

Implications of the Trump administration for financial regulation

The State of the financial services industry in 2017

How Insurity’s Acquisition of Valen Could Create a Virtuous Analytics Circle

How Insurity’s Acquisition of Valen Could Create a Virtuous Analytics Circle
It’s open season on insurance technology acquisitions in general, and for Insurity in particular. Today’s announcement of Insurity’s acquisition of Valen Analytics is now Insurity’s fourth acquisition in a multi-year string: Oceanwide, Tropics, and in rapid succession Systema and Valen.   The potential for crossing selling among the five customer bases is obvious.   Less obvious, but of potentially even greater value, is Insurity’s ability to invite all of its insurer and other customers to use its Enterprise Data Solutions IEV solution as the gateway to Valen’s contributory database and Valen’s InsureRight analytic platform.   Insurity now has the scale and the means to create a virtuous analytics circle: individual customers contributing a lot of data through IEV to Valens and receiving back analytic insights to feed into their pricing, underwriting, and claims operations.   Good move.

A History of Model Insurer

A History of Model Insurer
I have had the great privilege of running Celent’s Model Insurer program for four of its eleven years. I also participated in the evaluation of the winners in three other years, so it’s fair to say I am Celent’s Model Insurer historian. It is only right that I give a brief history of the program! Since the beginning, the vision for Celent’s Model Insurer research has been to try to answer an apparently simple question: “What would it look like for an insurer to do everything right with today’s technology?” As we all know, technology plays an integral role in every insurer’s strategy to grow its business and remain competitive, so learning about other companies’ initiatives helps you learn if you are doing the right thing. Our inaugural “Model Carrier” report recognized 39 insurer technology initiatives as “Model Carrier Components.” Our approach was to offer, at a high level, some best practices in the use of technology across the product and policyholder lifecycle (product definition, distribution, underwriting, policy administration, service, billing, claims, reinsurance) and in IT infrastructure and management that a “model carrier” would use. Recognized insurers participated in Celent’s first Model Carrier Summit in NYC on Wednesday, January 17, 2007. Model Carrier was renamed Model Insurer in 2010. In 2011 Celent introduced Model Insurer Asia. Insurance in the Asia-Pacific region faces its own set of business challenges, and insurance technology has evolved along a distinctive path. The inaugural Model Insurer Asia report and event used Celent’s globally recognized methodology and highlighted 18 Asian insurers for their state-of-the-art technology in the region. After 11 years of reviewing Model Insurer submissions, Celent is able to see firsthand how technology is changing the insurance industry. In total Celent has received nearly 700 submissions from insurers across the globe since that first report in 2007. Each year builds upon the trends of the previous year — the technology we saw as innovative in 2012 or 2013 is now more commonplace, and new, different opportunities are emerging for leading insurance companies every year. For example, one 2017 case discussed robotic automation, a technology unseen in insurance before 2015. As the program became more popular, Celent created a consistent, rigorous standard of evaluation. Since our Model Insurer program started, Celent has identified Model Insurers by looking at best practices in the use of technology across various areas of the industry. Model Insurer-winning initiatives are selected from the many submissions received and presented in our annual Model Insurer reports as case studies of specific initiatives and capabilities. In 2012 we changed how we categorized the projects to include Celent’s research themes, replacing the product and policyholder lifecycle components. This year we received over 60 submissions from 19 countries for Model Insurer (over 100 when you include Model Insurer Asia). Although the United States and Canada accounted for 52% of the submissions, EMEA, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America were represented well with 27%, 13%, and 8% respectively. They span the themes legacy and ecosystem transformation (40%), innovation and emerging technologies (25%), digital and omnichannel technologies (17%), operational excellence (12%), and data mastery and analytics (7%). Model Insurer winners stand as examples of successful IT project implementations across the globe. Celent believes that insurers can look to Model Insurer case studies and the knowledge Celent gains from analyzing all of the submissions as a means of understanding what is happening technologically in the market and a means of comparing themselves to a group of insurers challenging the status quo. Please join Celent in Boston on April 4 for Innovation and Insight Day, where the winners of the 2017 Model Insurer awards will be announced. I promise that the day will be worth your while! You can register here.