In Insurtech, Partnership Will Override Disruption

In Insurtech, Partnership Will Override Disruption

There is much discussion in the press and at conferences about insurance incumbents and the disruption that is coming their way. A close examination of what is actually going on reveals that what is being labelled disruption is actually partnership.

Complicating a meaningful discussion about what is happening is clarity around what is meant by the word “disruption”. The term is used so often that it now carries a range of meanings. On one hand, it refers to a specific market phenomenon defined by Clayton Christenson’s theory of Creative Disruption. On the other end of the scale it represents a recognition that technology is changing the industry.

In most articles and presentations the term is not explicitly defined. Many times disruption is used in the context that portends doom for insurers and that predicts that the revolutionary shifts will cause insurers to go the way of the photo film industry or pre-digital music firms. This is a compelling argument given the challenges incumbents face because of the burden of their legacy systems, their aversion to failure, and a habit of extended decision cycles.

However, there are several significant barriers for newcomers to address if they are to displace incumbents. Celent’s analysis of what has happened to date in Insurtech concludes that the need to overcome these challenges results in a model of cooperation rather than destruction.

First, capital considerations must be taken into account. This is not the capital required to build a technology solution. Agreed, it is no small feat to fund the activities required to build, test, pilot, launch, and sustain a technology solution. However, this pales in comparison to the amount of capital required to underwrite risk (pay claims and hold necessary reserves). To date, a few startups have overcome this challenge by securing relationships with primary insurers or reinsurers, but if this is the approach, it is cooperation, not disruption.

A second barrier is regulatory expertise. This is not only a knowledge of regulation, but the ability to account for regulatory requirements from the earliest stages of ideation, through design, to sustained maintenance.  For startups, detailed regulatory experience can be bought, but this is an additional capital expense. It also can be sourced from a partner, but obtaining this assistance is not likely if the startup is a “disruptor”.

Finally, there is the biggest barrier – customers. As examples of this challenge, startups in the P&C and Life space that have been around since 2010 to 2012 have failed to achieve significant scale. In insurance, attracting and retaining customers is much more expensive (there is that capital problem again) and more difficult than in consumer goods.

The inherent challenges faced by both “tribes” argue for a partnership, rather than a replacement, solution. Insurers can address their legacy technology, risk aversion, and decision challenges by working more closely with the new technology firms that actively seek risk and have a bias to action. Startups need risk and regulatory capital and expertise as well as a customer base to serve.

Partnerships between insurers and startups are a new business model. Unlike supplier-buyer relationships of the past, where a contract is negotiated through an extended procurement process, these partnerships must be governed by a common vision and controlled through active communication from both sides. Celent’s research into the best practice in these partnerships emphasizes the importance of adjustments on both “sides” of such relationships. (see report Accelerating Insurance Transformation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Innovation Relationships).

It will take time to work out the best ways to accomplish this new model, but the barriers faced by both sides will force each to adjust. Economics will drive transformation to occur in a collaborative manner. Success will come to those insurers and startups which are able to make the necessary adjustments to their own preferences, cultures, and working models to create meaningful partnerships.

The predominant Insurtech approach will be one in which startups coexist with, not replace, insurers.

Silicon Valley? No, Chilecon Valley

Silicon Valley? No, Chilecon Valley
In previous blog posts regarding fintech in Latin America my position was, and remains, that one of the reasons for being behind is that it lacks of a “Silicon Valley” equivalent. Efforts to create a fintech ecosystem, as Finnovista is doing, become a good alternative to overcome the absence of a geographical pocket of innovation. Particularly consider the market fragmentation of Latin America comprised by 19 countries, some of which have 3M inhabitants to Brazil having +200M. People in most countries may speak the same language but markets are far from being similar just for that. Under (or against?) these circumstances, Chile is working to become Latin America’s Silicon Valley. One of its most attractive initiatives is “Start-Up Chile”, created four years ago to transform the Chilean entrepreneurial ecosystem. It began with a question: “What would happen if we could bring the best and brightest entrepreneurs from all around the globe and insert them into the local ecosystem?” The initiative offers work visas, financial support, and an extensive network of global contacts to help build and accelerate growth of customer-validated and scalable companies that will leave a lasting impact on the Latin American ecosystem. The idea is to make the country a focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship within the region. Start-up Chile, with only four years, is a start-up itself but it has a good starting point and great potential:
  • Chile has demonstrated for years its entrepreneurial spirit, with Chilean companies competing successfully in various industries (air transportation, financial services, and retail, just to mention a few) and a stable economy.
  • This year two Chilean start-ups were the winners of the BBVA Open Talent in Latin America: Destacame.cl, aiming to financial inclusion by creating a credit scoring based on utility payments; and Bitnexo which enables fast, easy and low cost transfers between Asia and Latin America, using Bitcoin.
While other countries and cities in the region are working in offering support to start-ups, it seems Chile is leading the way. Hopefully this triggers some healthy competition in the region, which in the end will benefit all. In the meantime, let’s meet at Finnosummit in Bogota – Colombia next February 16th. Join financial institutions, consultants, tech vendors, startups and other digital ecosystem innovators, to learn how startup driven disruption and new technologies are reshaping the future of financial services in the region. Remember to use Celent’s discount code C3L3NT20% for a 20% discount on your conference ticket.  

Scary thought: What happens when the worlds of startups and insurers collide?

Scary thought: What happens when the worlds of startups and insurers collide?
Scary044Accelerators, incubators, hackathons and labs, oh my! There have been an increasing number of partnerships between insurers and start-up technology companies in the past year. It is an exciting time, full of possibilities and I don’t mean to pour cold water on the enthusiasm, but… What happens when fast-moving startups meet governance-heavy insurers? When faced with a joint decision, how will professionals who have spent a career avoiding risk reach agreement with their partners who seek out risk? To what degree should action plans be coordinated and how is that done if one group is using an agile development method while the other prefers waterfall? Do these differences really matter, or will the incentive to deliver something really cool power through such differences? It is time to ask this question, along with what is, and isn’t working, and what actions will improve results. Celent is excited to partner with Silicon Valley Innovation Center to assess the current state of innovation partnerships in insurance. We value your views would like to invite you to participate in a survey. Leave your email and I will send you a summary report. The goal of this survey is to accelerate insurance industry innovation / transformation by identifying effective partnering methodologies and processes. It specifically focuses on the relationship between incumbent insurers and start-up firms. It takes under 10 minutes to complete. Hope you will add your views: Click here to start

It’s no longer about “Why” innovate in insurance, but “how”

It’s no longer about “Why” innovate in insurance, but “how”
The opportunities and threats facing the insurance industry are forcing a change in the conversation around innovation in the sector. Celent has been tracking innovation in financial services for the last 18 months and we have detected a recent shift in interest. In 2014, insurers were exploring why they might need to invest in disciplined innovation practices. What is the next disruption that will change the industry? What can new technology offer regarding improved risk selection and pricing? Now the conversation is moving on to how to execute on innovation. How exactly are firms which are finding success in innovation executing their initiatives? What processes have they put in place that enable them to move beyond the theoretical and carry them into the realm of practical benefit? To respond to our clients’ needs, Celent is facilitating an innovation event in London on February 25, 2015: Making Innovation Happen in Insurance: Hedging Against the Future. The programme will focus on how to deliver innovation in an established insurance franchise. Our design team has developed an agenda which combines research and experience and will provide attendees with practical advice on how to make progress with innovation. The programme includes a mix of first-hand accounts from firms who have achieved success as well as hands-on activities that simulate typical decisions innovative firms face. In this and subsequent blogs, we will give you a look at the agenda in detail. The first portion of the day will provide a look at the current state of innovation in the UK market. This will include data from a survey to benchmark how insurers in the UK market are structuring their innovation initiatives. Celent research finds that success in innovation often entails establishing new types of partnerships that link emerging technologies with traditional insurance products. Sometimes, but not always, this involves direct investment in spin-off firms. In all cases, it involves a dynamic that extends beyond the usual vendor-customer relationship as companies co-develop new approaches to their markets. The second portion of the programme includes presentations from three start-up companies to explain how they are working with insurers to deliver successful innovation. In the final section of the day, we are very pleased to welcome Oliver Werneyer, the Head of Innovation at Swiss Re, to present a Practitioner’s Perspective. He will outline the journey his company has taken so far as they combine their company’s valuable experience with new operating practices. Oliver joined Swiss Re in 2012 and focuses on commercialising traditional life insurance concepts in the modern world of apps, social media and digital connections. His comments will detail how Swiss Re uses data analytics and consumer experience techniques to change the way people experience life insurance. More details are forthcoming on the sessions on measuring innovation and barriers to change, so stay tuned. Click here for more information and to register.

The Lion and the Mouse: Start-ups Pitch to Top Insurer

The Lion and the Mouse: Start-ups Pitch to Top Insurer
One of the common behaviors of successful innovative companies is establishing creative partnership arrangements. These relationships are not traditional supplier/buyer arrangements (zero sum games) but are mutual agreements that combine deep subject matter expertise and new technical capabilities to produce unique and valuable solutions. I witnessed an event this past week that demonstrated partnership-building in full force. Eight start-up companies pitched their solutions to one of the largest insurers in the world. It was inspiring to see the interplay between the very different perspectives, and encouraging to watch the participants struggle, and most times overcome, hugely different communication styles. It reminded me of the Aesop fable about the lion and the mouse, the moral of which is that size is not an indication of value. Each presentation followed the same general structure. The founder / CEO / CTO of the start up reviewed the key functions and value propositions of their solutions. In most cases, about half way through, the audience members from the insurer would begin to ask what I call use case questions. “Does this mean we could use your solution to do ABC?” and “We have a problem with doing XYZ. How would your system approach this?” I was struck by how natural it was for the subject matter experts to quickly apply the technical information to their current challenges and how easily they could imagine future capabilities. I think that there were several reasons for the success of the session. First, this insurer’s innovation team has been in place for multiple years. Over this time, I know they have worked hard to engage with the “innovation evangelists” in the organization. This meeting included the right “curious minds” and was a manifestation of their advance work. Another reason is that the facilitating company which selected the start-ups chose carefully and coached the participants regarding presentation messaging and delivery. There was just enough tech talk and a good amount of insurance-specific application examples. Finally, I think the immediate translation into use cases signalled pent-up demand from the insurer. Their attendees obviously have already been thinking in specific terms about how technology can help them better run their businesses. This forum provided them an outlet for expression of those thoughts. The session was a well-planned and well-executed example of innovation execution – the type of activity that Celent calls Deliberate Innovation. Kudos to all involved for demonstrating how to operate in a market of exciting possibilities!