Will your next insurance administration system be on the Blockchain?

Will your next insurance administration system be on the Blockchain?
Policy, claims, and billing administration systems have not fundamentally changed since their inception. Yes, there have been technical improvements, but the basic model remains the same as originally designed – each insurer buys (or subscribes) to a version of code to use against their own database and (hopefully) integrate with external sources to service a client. This is about to change with the advent of Blockchain 2.0. With an appreciative nod to material developed by our parent company, Oliver Wyman, here is a brief summary of this technology (Celent subscribers will have access to a full report on this platform in the very near future):
Blockchain is built on a series of innovations in organizing and sharing data. The objective is to create a single version of the truth, used by all participants, which contains a much richer dataset than exists in any one system today. This, in turn, enables new industry processes to be developed based on the use of transparent real-time data, immediate settlement of transactions and the expansion of auto-executing “smart” contracts with business logic encoded into the ledger. The technology incorporates two facets, a blockchain (lower case) which is the process of adding blocks of cryptographically signed data to form perpetual and immutable records, and distributed ledgers – a database architecture where all participants in a system collaborate to reach a consensus on the correct state of a shared data resource. Applying business rules to this infrastructure, called smart contracts, drives transactions immediately. Real time data exchange, increased security, and more efficient settlement of transactions and processing are some of the benefit areas waiting to be realized. Before this though, the platform must solve hurdles including scalability issues, regulatory concerns, and common standards and governance.
To this last point, our brethren in the banking industry have joined the R3 consortium to begin to address the challenges. Founded in New York City in September last year by nine founding banks, it now has 42 members spread across multiple geographies. It is led by a startup organization and is in its very early stage — the technology team is being built and initial use cases have not been completed. But what of insurance? Celent is aware of insurers who are active in this space. Most are leveraging the investments made in an innovation infrastructure (Innovation Labs, Centers of Excellence, co-development partnerships, accelerators) to conduct limited experiments with Blockchain. However, these efforts are individual and not connected. Is there a similar group of 9 insurers that want to work together to explore the opportunities and coordinate on standards? Or is there a policy, claims, or billing technology provider who is going to fill this void? We expect movement in these areas in the first half of the year with some possible ways forward identified by year-end.

US patents in 2015 – who are the leaders?

US patents in 2015 – who are the leaders?
I thought this chart from the firm Statista was interesting and topical given my post from last week. What particularly caught my eye was their observation that IBM is number one for the 23rd straight year. In addition, over 2,000 of their patents focus on cloud computing and cognitive computing, both areas of particular interest to insurance and the broader financial services industry. And for those that wonder (like me), Apple was in 11th place, just 18 patents short of 10th.   Infographic: Top 10 U.S. Patent Recipients | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

You are the Magic!

You are the Magic!
Our event at The Magic Circle in London is on February 3 and it is approaching fast. Our external speakers are set to tell us how their companies are challenging long-held assumptions about the way insurance works. But, part of the programme will also involve the participants. We plan to invest a portion of our time together letting you, the attendees, run the meeting. With so many talented, skilled insurance professionals in one place, we want to tap into that brainpower! Of course, we can’t go into too much detail about what is planned, as magic depends on surprise, but…here is a short preview. We will ask attendees to provide their perspective on a number of scenarios and then break into groups to exchange perspectives. We are in the process of finalizing the scenarios now, but to give you an idea of what we are considering. What if…
  • Cars don’t crash?
  • People don’t die?
  • Insurance products are service contracts, based on the avoidance of loss, rather than on indemnity?
  • Pricing is determined by activities and instead of basing rates on rating categories, they are based on behaviors?
  • Technology and social norms allow individual risks to socialize their coverages and seek partners to share in deductible / low loss payments?
Our goal is to give everyone an approach that they can take back to their company, modify appropriately and use to gain some consensus on the way forward. We also plan to have some fun! If you have not registered, here is the link: See you soon!

What if… the insurance industry didn’t innovate?

What if… the insurance industry didn’t innovate?
As a techy with long hair and a beard when I stand up and speak on technology an audience generally expects a futuristic view of the world and a call to action. Of late I’ve been more tempered in my view. Having talking about IoT, telematics and drones for five years now Armageddon hasn’t come, the sky above the insurance industry has not fallen and to be honest, many insurers are still running as they did five years ago with little challenge to their bottom line. In short, in many parts of the globe, insurance hasn’t changed. Have I changed my mind? Only regarding the timescales. For those that are looking – the proverbial canaries are falling. The signs can be seen in multiple countries globally that real change is coming, whether it’s the rise of price comparison websites, the rise of data aggregators, the rising population of connected sensors – whilst the industry hasn’t changed, the world it is sitting in is gently coming to a boil. Whilst the timescale of change to the industry itself is uncertain the possible impacts to the insurance industry won’t be random. That is the driver behind our What if event in February. A key part of event is to inform the audience about the possible scenarios that might befall the industry, to offer tools to consider the impact of these scenarios on their business and current investments. Our hope is to invite the attendees to consider how they would respond and if their current investments are preparing them adequately. Back to the title of the blog – what if an insurer didn’t innovate? An innovation agenda is one response to change and opportunity – whether that’s a change in competitor activity, customer expectations or change in distribution. Other responses could be to increase the agility of the organisation, finally address those legacy niggles or to simply improve the companies research capability to better keep an eye on what changes are coming. What if isn’t solely about innovation, but rather a look at likely scenarios and ensuring your organisation is prepared. If you haven’t registered yet, the event is in February in London and you can view the agenda and register here. For a list of other benefits have a look at Mike’s blog from earlier in the year, along with a reveal of the magical venue.

$13 million investment in social insurance signals disruption

$13 million investment in social insurance signals disruption
Will a sharing economy model work in insurance? The announcement about the start up Lemonade highlights the challenges that social insurance (also called peer-to-peer insurance) faces. A Celent colleague, Jamie Macgregor attended a panel on social insurance propositions at FinTech Connect Live in London this past week (see Jamie’s blog post). On the panel were leaders of three such companies, Sebastian Herfurth, co-founder of Friendsurance, Steven Mendel, CEO and co-founder of Bought by Many, and Louis de Broglie, President and co-founder of Inspeer. These companies operate as brokers, managing the transaction between the end consumer and insurers. They offer either a deductible sharing scheme or a pooling mechanism to gain price discounts. The panellists spoke about their common challenges — sustaining growth and educating the consumer about an alternative approach to insurance. It remains to be seen if any can achieve critical mass. Of the three, Friendsurance is further along having started (way back!) in 2010. (See Celent report: Friendsurance: Challenging the Business Model of a Social Insurance Startup — A Case Study) Similar brokerage models have also been adopted by Guevara and Tongjubao. These companies seek to apply social insurance to more complicated lines of business – automobile (motor) and life, respectively. The Lemonade announcement stated that it will expand the social insurance model beyond sales and service by taking on risk on its balance sheet. They report that they have applied to be an insurer in New York. This will be an early, significant test given that state’s past regulatory reputation. However, the company has some strong arguments to make. They can point out that sharing increases transparency and aligns the interests of an insurer with their consumers. Additionally, the sizable initial capitalization will positively influence regulators. These alternative approaches are good news for the industry as they challenge the traditional, sometimes adversarial, relationship between insurer and insured. The ability of Lemonade to secure $13 million in initial funding from veteran venture capitalist firms (Sequoia Capital and Aleph) is a serious indication of industry change.

“Hamilton” the hottest ticket in town – great timing!

“Hamilton” the hottest ticket in town – great timing!
CBS’s 60 Minutes ran a story recently about the hottest new Broadway musical – Hamilton (go to the 14 minute mark). It turns out that some of the research for the show was conducted at the site our Innovation and Insight Day – The Museum of American Finance. This biography underscores why we chose the Museum for our next Insight and Innovation Day (to be held April 13, 2016). The segment talks about Hamilton’s numerous accomplishments:
“…a penniless, immigrant, orphaned kid who came out of nowhere and his achievements were monumental…he creates the first fiscal system, the first monetary system, first customs service, first central bank…”
Without these innovations, the modern economy as we know it now would look very different. Anyone working in financial services today is aware of the challenges we face responding to changing customer expectations and new technology opportunities. Vast sums of money and time are being spent on innovation, looking for answers. However, Celent’s research shows a widely held view that the financial services industry cannot innovate very effectively. Hamilton graphic nov 2015 So how do we improve? The theme of our Insight and Innovation Day event this year will take inspiration from Hamilton’s work and use it as a guide for our future efforts. By the way, if you want to go to Hamilton while at the Celent I&I Day, I suggest you get your tickets now. It’s the hottest ticket in town.

The schizophrenic nature of innovation in insurance

The schizophrenic nature of innovation in insurance
I have attended various conferences on innovation over the past few years. In almost all of them futurologists of all kinds and innovation experts who are invited to present tend to use the same examples, such as Uber and AirBnB, to describe how new business models can disrupt an industry. The message to insurers is strict and clear: one day the insurance industry will have its own Uber that comes in and disrupts the traditional insurance business model. They present these models as forming part of social revolution where consumers come together to demand a new style of service, based upon social equity and reinforced by free-spirited democratic principles. In some respects, they’ve taken their lead from the Internet generation of superfirms that dominate our digital lives (such as Google, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook). While I fully agree that insurers have to innovate, anticipate, and adapt to changes impacting our industry, I have to confess that I find the usual message too simplistic. What particularly strikes me is the lack of criticism towards these firms. Indeed companies have been embracing and advocating non-discriminatory values for decades in various guises (e.g., gender equality, ethnical diversity, etc.). The US has been proudly supporting these values in the global economy, and the Silicon Valley companies have been keen to promote this message. Therefore I am surprised to observe that these companies have exported their business model but neglected its social impact in new territories. The recent developments around Uber in France are a good example of this. Taxi drivers have to pay a high license authorization to be able to do their job. Many of the taxi drivers have to invest their pension to get a steering wheel. This entry tax is compulsory and supports the community, like all taxes do in every country. Don’t get me wrong, these innovative companies have brought to the market great products, services, and added value. I think they contribute to helping their industry change in a positive way. However, I think they are schizophrenic in a certain way, as they tend to forget their social egalitarian values when economic value is at stake. I am maybe naïve enough to believe that the future of our industry is not only about innovation at all costs but also about responsibility of all economic agents, including companies as well as consumers. In a world where innovation experts place schizophrenic innovators as examples, I hope consumers’ responsibility and their sense of fairness will help our industry keep a critical mind on the future of innovation and innovators. Maybe there is an innovative business model to create out of this concept?

Innovation is Magic….Or is It?

Innovation is Magic….Or is It?
What magic does an insurer need to keep up with all the change occurring in our industry? Every firm we talk with is aware of the many challenges currently faced….telematics, digital, social networking, predictive modeling, etc. And yet, more changes are on the way. Our short list includes the Internet of Things, peer-to-peer risk pooling, extended lifespans (maybe never-ending), and artificial/machine intelligence. What should an organization do now to respond and to prepare? What magic is necessary to make it all happen? Celent is pleased to announce our seminar designed to provide answers to how insurers move forward with innovation on practical terms. It will be in London, on 03 February, 2016. The venue, appropriately, will be The Magic Circle, Centre for the Magic Arts. Through a combination of presentation and hands-on workshops, the session will provide attendees with:
  • a practical understanding of how the very basic assumptions underlying traditional insurance products are changing and what impacts this will have
  • firsthand information of how insurers can respond, gained through a series of experiential, structured exercises
  • networking opportunities with peers which allow for comparisons with like organizations
Our view is that innovation, like magic, requires significant work. Successful “tricks” are the result of the investment of time and resources in various techniques, finding what works, what doesn’t and making appropriate adjustments along the way. After a solution is worked out, practice perfects the approach. Eventually, just like magicians during a performance, implementation must be agile, flexible, and respond to changing conditions. As the programme builds, we will post updates. For now, please save the date in your diary and register at this address: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/default.aspx?EventID=1762713 …oh, and bring your wand!

Innovation for dinner

Innovation for dinner
In late August my colleagues Mike Fitzgerald, Fabio Sarrico and myself were in Sao Paulo, Brazil attending InsuranceTech 2015. The objective was to spend a few days looking where the Latin American insurance industry is headed in terms of business and technology and what level of success have some insurers already achieved. As the agenda of the event suggests there were very interesting cases such as Wibe (BBVA’s digital platform for insurance) and Rimac’s transformation process among others. Along with Mike and Mick Simonelli we hosted our innovation workshop for 3rd consecutive year and looked into the state of innovation in LATAM insurers (Report is now published). While there seems to be room for improvement, we are now discussing how to innovate and not just what innovations (or emerging tech/trends) insurers should be looking at, which was the focus for most of insurers when we first started these workshops. For me this is a huge improvement.IMG_1267 Mick’s experience as innovation practitioner at USAA and now collaborating with several leading financial institutions as innovation consultant resulted in many questions from audience. As for technologies and trends to watch we covered several, including IoT and machine learning.

Our research shows that despite much is being said about innovation there are still important barriers to overcome; noticeably “lack of top level leadership” stands out as #1.

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    Our research around digital also shows that most insurers are in a basic stage, but just to prove us wrong (or better said, the one example that shows it is possible to go beyond basic) BBVA Bancomer Seguros shared how they innovated by creating Wibe, their own digital brand and platform starting with auto insurance (even Uber coverage!). Wibe’s case is a good combination of digital, customer experience, execution, and leadership to bring all together in a short period of time and within an established insurer (and bank). Wibe already has +2.2 million visitors to their website, 61% using a mobile, and their youtube commercials were seen +1 million times each. This translated into +200,000 quotes and +3,000 vehicles insured since launching early this year. Rimac’s transformation case was also a great example of leadership, vision, execution and persistence in a Tier 2 insurer. Their journey started in 2010 when they defined the strategic plan. Rimac wanted to become a customer centric insurer and for that they required to transform and simplify their IT platform, among other programs which basically touched everywhere in the company. A total of 65 sub-programs were identified just in IT. Becoming more digital was one of the objectives, along with re-use: the idea to be able to create once and easily deploy in different channels. Rimac’s transformation is still work in progress (does any transformation program ever end?), nevertheless they shared several indicators of success already. Digital enabled sales represent 1% of premium but they expect this to grow significantly in following years; at least the IT infrastructure is ready and available for the business to take advantage. A common thread here seems to be execution and leadership; not time, not money (true that you need to be ready to invest; but how much will depend on the type of project). I also believe that execution and leadership are highly tied to culture; and as Mick usually notes: “Culture eats innovation for lunch”. By now I hope you figured out what I am trying to imply… Changing culture is also an art and it can take time, as transformation programs do (5+ years?). So be ready, and start today. Or start tomorrow and get there one day late. Tic Tac, clock is ticking and the world keeps moving.  

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!