Pondering the cool discussion of InsurTech carrier Lemonade- is it as sweet as presented?

TLDR As discussed in the prior post Lemonade is many things, per CEO and co-founder, Daniel Schreiber– revolutionary tech platform, charitable giver, P2P service provider (no, strike that), but at its core it is a property insurance company.  The hows and whys matter not when the application for license goes before the respective jurisdiction’s regulators.  The company must be organized and operated in a manner that is recognized as secure for its policyholders and adequately financed as such, must comply with the same accounting standards as other insurance carriers, and must be ready and able to comply with the agreements, provisions, and conditions its policies include.

Why belabor these points?  Because the company leads with its innovation chin, its behavioral economics, and its promises to act as a totally different insurance company than what those crabby octogenarians (who) think we are making too much noise companies do.

One of the foundational points the firm makes at its outset is that there is a recognition by Lemonade’s founders that, “There’s an inherent conflict of interest in the very structure of the insurance industry.”  (Chief Behavioral Officer, Prof. Dan Ariely, see around 0:54 of the video).  He continues, “Every dollar your insurer pays you is a dollar less for their profits.  So when something bad happens to you, their interests are directly conflicted with yours.”  

Of course there is conflict between payment of premiums and indemnification- absent the ‘tension’ insurance would not exist, or perhaps would be free! It might be said that Professor Ariely’s perspective has an inherent flaw in not acknowledging that an insurance policy is a contract for risk sharing between an insured and carrier, that a respective policy premium and deductible are the insured’s agreed cost of sharing the risk covered by the policy, and that the carrier promises to indemnify the insured for damages due to causes of loss the policy covers.  It’s not a pure quid pro quo financial agreement because the cost of underwriting, selling and administering the policy falls upon the carrier, and the deductible and premium cost falls upon the insured.  The use or equality of the costs are only considered upon inception of a claim.  In addition, the insured is not involved in devising the terms of the policy, as a contract of adhesion a prospective insured’s sole power is accepting the contract in its entirety or not.  Absent optional inclusion of additional contract scope or details (endorsements and/or coverage limits), the insured is powerless in respect to a contract that ostensibly is in equilibrium between the parties- premium on one side, equivalent policy benefits afforded by the other side.

The price of the risk is determined by the carrier and approved by regulators based on volumes of data, actuarial smarts and with an eye to profitability balanced with service.  The frequency of CWPs (closed without payment) and paid claims is part of the actuarial machinations (regulators are comforted by carriers whose data are in concert with the industry at large), as such denials of coverage are, if absent, a concern for regulators. Is there an undue conflict of interest for incumbent carriers where policy provisions apply, or is Lemonade leveraging a message based on clever marketing?

Consider the typical property insurance claim pool:

Not every policyholder has a claim each premium period; in fact less than 20% of a typical insurance carrier’s homeowner’s customers experience a claim during a policy year.  Of that pool of claims the  frequency of denial is on average less than 30% of the total claims closed.  Extending the thought process, a carrier with 500,000 policyholders experiences on average 100,000 claims during a year, and of those 100K customers 30,000 may be denied coverage, so one can say approximately 6% of the subject carrier’s customers’ insurance services end in coverage disappointment.  Compare that with the carrier’s YOY customer retention rate and it may be clear that denials of coverage are not the only factor in customers’ renewal algorithms.  Is that the basis upon which differentiation can reside?

There may be a stronger position for the firm to take that the inherent issue may be in pricing losses, confirming losses at FNOL, or sorting out the spurious (read as fraudulent) claims.  Per the firm 90% of FNOL reports are through Maya or similar service bots, and since that service entry is tied to the entire suite of AI it can be said that FNOL may be the best vehicle to mitigate the effect of any ‘inherent conflict.’ 

Why that?  The firm (through marketing and per discussion) relies on the position that a ‘Ulysses Contract’ is in place for the firm- a figurative ‘tying of hands’  for Lemonade in focusing on denials of claims since any excess of earned premium over the firm’s flat fee is donated to the policyholders’ charities of choice.  No path to the bottom line, no incentive for capricious denials.  Is there legitimacy to this position?  Insurance is a contract, 90% of Lemonade’s claims are being handled by bots, pricing is established by regulated filings, and claim denial ‘touches’ affect only a small percentage of customers.  It’s probable that most denials of coverage are due to contractual reasons, i.e., policy provision reasons including the cause of loss not being a named peril.  At this juncture the carrier has primarily renters’ policies as its portfolio, and claims are comprised of unscheduled personal property that has relatively concrete pricing.  In addition, claim customers have limited knowledge of what comprises effective claim handling- other than prompt receipt of proceeds into one’s account.  If there’s a Nash Equilibrium in place, customers seem to be unaware, and can a bot be adversely subject to the vagaries of Game Theory?   

Lemonade must be respected for its InsurTech effect on the property insurance industry- everyone knows of the Lemonade entry and journey.  The growth of the firm (while overall PIF is small) continues to engage the attention of all.  As Daniel Schreiber said in our discussion and in his recent blog entry Two Years of Lemonade: A Super Transparency Chronicle, “ the fact that our reinsurance agreements protect us from too many claims can’t hide the fact that, since launch, we’ve paid out more in claims than we’ve collected in premiums. Clearly, that can’t continue indefinitely.”

As the carrier evolves into a multi line policy organization (renters’, condos, homeowners) the bot approach to claim handling will be tested.  Renters’ claims are personal property tasks- named peril, concrete loss description, concrete valuations.  A house claim may involve multiple parties- the insured, emergency services vendors, public adjusters, field adjusters, third party administers, and so on.  The Nash Equilibrium will be complicated to affect in that multi-player game, and a Ulysses Contract will be toothless to address the covered damage, partial denials, additional living expense wranglings, and other unknown factors. 

Regardless of the company’s cover portfolio, the need to become viable within the framework of insurance accounting looms over the discussion of social good. To quote from a October, 2018, article posted by Coverager, “Lemonade’s Cards“,

“And while Lemonade ‘solved’ this conflict by only taking a flat fee and giving unclaimed money to charity, are they really a conflict-free company? Do they not have a strong desire to improve their loss ratio? Isn’t the loss ratio an important part of their business? Will they be able to attract investors or potential buyers with a high loss ratio?”

The firm will find its data aggregation, analysis, and predictive capabilities invaluable from underwriting to claim settlement, and may find the expected diversity of its claim portfolio meaningful in building its flow of ‘excess’ to charitable organizations. There’s a cadre of claim staff developing their service skills- in other words they are learning to be insurance pros.  And at a minimum Lemonade has been patient with the industry placing them under a magnifying glass, watching every step being made- that’s not a bad thing and has added to the collective knowledge of insurance innovation. However, at this juncture having a Ulysses Contract as a mainstay of its business model appears to serve Lemonade’s marketing more than it does its loss ratio.

image
source

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

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

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our
research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory
services
 (how we pay for this free original research).

Enjoying a cool discussion of InsurTech carrier Lemonade, not too sweet, not too sour

Lemonade- it’s not just a drink anymore

TLDR How can an interview with an insurance startup founder go from discussing InsurTech and innovation, and end up focusing on the concept of a Ulysses Contract, Game Theory, Prisoners’ Dilemma, and the Nash Equilibrium?  Simple- find some time to talk with Daniel Schreiber, serial entrepreneur and now CEO of Lemonade Insurance.  It’s certain that additional perspective would have been added by Daniel’s co-founder, Shai Wininger, but we’ll focus on Daniel’s views for this article.

Lemonade has been under intense scrutiny since its entry into the insurance world in 2016, and Mr. Schreiber has been the guest of many interviews since then.  As is expected for any figure that resides in a legacy industry, finances and insurance ‘stuff’ have in general been the main topics of those discussions.  It seems all the questions related to insurance accounting and finance had been asked, and those at Lemonade have been rather public in getting out their ideas of what the industry should know about the company, so I was not interested in simply conducting another ping pong contest of convention versus innovation.  In planning for this Daily Fintech interview I thought I’d take a different approach- ask others what they would want answered by the CEO of this very public startup- so I crowd-sourced the questions.  More questions came than there would be time to ask, but the questions were shared with Daniel ahead of time so we figured we could sort out some key points.

Spring boarding off a recent optimistic posting by the firm’s Chief Insurance Officer,  John Peters  (read that here ), Daniel was asked of his impression of Lemonade in the insurance market- customer impressions, marketing, industry reaction, any factor that was meaningful.

The primary response- gratification that the insurance incumbency is tolerant but somewhat unimpressed based on ‘backhanded’ compliments, e.g., “they are good at PR,” “have a delightful APP,”, “they don’t ‘get’ insurance,” “Lemonade is not serious,” and the like.  Not ‘getting’ insurance is due to the app that is at the core of change in insurance, with invisible to the eye analytics, transformed user experience (UX), and predictive risk tools that are unavailable to traditional broker systems.  Not getting it means the firm’s approach is truly different/innovative.  And as time passed, the firm’s growth prompted comments such as, “if it grows like a weed it probably is one.”

The discussion led to a general touch on the first of the crowdsourced questions (answers quoted but paraphrased from Daniel’s remarks):

At the very beginning of Lemonade’s creation, what was the vision, who was the target customer, what value could you add to them?”

DS:         This, of course, touched on a primary reason for the firm’s existence- how could insurance be made available to customers in a way that was entirely different than the legacy system that was by some estimation, “A business that involves selling people promises to pay later that are never fulfilled?” (Urban Dictionary) .  Early on, per Daniel (and recounted by co-founder Ty Sagalow in his recently published book, “The Making of Lemonade”) , the founders of Lemonade worked to form an insurance company that aligned the interests of the carrier and the customers, in a fashion that was economically viable, applied cutting edge technology, and contributed to a common good.  Insurance is a need for most and is not a product that people yearn for, it is as is said, ‘sold, not bought’.  The vision was to be a 24/7 insurance company that delighted customers, and not one that irritated them.

“What early action do you regret was handled in the manner in which it was?”

DS:         At the initial launch of the company we announced Lemonade as being the ‘world’s first P2P insurance company’, a designation that posed immediate issues.  First off, the phrase only made sense within the insurance industry, insurance customers didn’t know what P2P was and didn’t really care.  In addition, those within the industry questioned the definition and if Lemonade was truly peer-to-peer.  Rather than wrestle with semantics and the distraction we backed off from that marketing.

An important aspect of the firm’s make-up is the charitable contribution (up to 40% of premiums.)  Shouldn’t contribution levels be detached from an arbitrary loss ratio result?

DS:         We are very proud of the amount of premiums that Lemonade has shared with charitable organizations on behalf of our policyholders.   2018 found the contribution to be approximately 2% of premiums.  It’s understood that Lemonade is not the only company to make charitable contributions, but compared with other companies Lemonade’s efforts represent not a bilateral, traditional approach where a portion of a company’s revenues are donated to a charity, Lemonade expresses a trilateral approach- the policyholder, the company, and the designated charity.  As discussed, Lemonade’s financial operating model allows for a set percentage of earned premiums to be set aside for operations, a portion for reinsurance backing, and the balance for payment of claims.  When claim/loss payments have a favorable performance versus the set aside, the balance is apportioned by group to the respective policyholders’ choice(s) of non-profit.  As a B Corporation, or Public Benefit Corporation, Lemonade is proud of its efforts to be a social good that is also an insurance company.  

“When it’s said in Lemonade’s press and marketing that traditional insurance companies make money by denying claims, which claims do incumbents deny that Lemonade would pay?”

DS:         Lemonade clearly understands that an insurance policy is a contract between the carrier and the policyholder, and the intention is not to say that in handling claims from customers Lemonade will pay claims outside of the policy provisions.  What is being said is that for both parties to the contract incentives matter, and alignment of interests matter, and actions follow the incentive structure.  If there is a reduced temptation for the carrier to deny claims because the outcome is to do good, and there is a reduced temptation for the insured to embellish claims for the same reason, then the dynamic of denied claims, or incentive structure affecting both sides is reduced and in fact there becomes an even closer alignment of interest to do good.  In actuality the principle is a foundation of Lemonade- the Ulysses Contract and Game Theory (author’s note- these concepts will be addressed in more depth in a future article).  Just as Ulysses ‘tied his own hands’ to the mast due to his knowing that the sound of the Sirens would tempt even him, Lemonade ties its financial hands by setting a designated amount for operations, reinsurance, and claims, and the remainder is contributed to good.  There is not a unilateral financial benefit to denying claims (or arbitrarily not paying claims) because any excess is not the company’s.  And, customer knowing that if they embellish claims they are in essence reducing that which goes for the common good.  So it’s not that Lemonade is paying or not paying claims, it’s that the company has its own Ulysses Contract to guide its behavior.

“There are fans of the firm’s Instagram vids- How did you come up with the idea, and what else is the company doing like that to propagate your overall message of transparency and social good?”

DS:         Those videos with the pink goo and others are from a variety of sources, primarily from Lemonaders within the company.  The goo was an idea from a product designer, for example.  If you recall the publicity driven by the Banksy art piece that shredded itself in front of an auction audience not long after that a Lemonade quality assurance staffer came up with a quick homage here .  We are unafraid to encourage these types of contributions.

“A recent Forbes article and LinkedIn article by Chief Insurance Officer John Peters mentioned Lemonade’s loss ratio tracking in the high 80% range, a significant improvement/trend from the prior year’s results.  Is the reported ratio result being ‘subsidized’ by ceding premium and loss cost amounts to the firm’s reinsurers?

DS:         Lemonade are the guardians of the insurance ecosystem as established by the company, and operations are to the benefit of all stakeholders.  there is no financial ‘game playing’ to meet an arbitrary result.  The firm’s reinsurance agreement sets excess limits where the reinsurer accepts responsibility for claim costs above the set threshold.  There is recognition that traditional measures are what the market sees and holds as comparatives but we figure if the original business model is followed the results will speak for themselves.

“You’ve done great stuff, is there one thing of which you are most proud?”

DS:         The ability to create an insurance system that delights customers, allows growth, and generates data sets where the system begins to feed off the customer and claim experience.  Seeing the loop succeed gives us great pride.  90% of FNOL processed by Bot, and 100% of sales?  Validates our founding thesis.

So many questions, and not enough time for them all.

As I reviewed our conversation, recent results/articles, and Mr. Sagalow’s book several things were apparent:

    null
  • The company is ‘all in’ on allowing the data analysis approach to continue its development,
  • Growth within markets is driven as much by external forces, e.g., requests from European countries, as it is by internal plans.
  • The firm’s start and development benefitted greatly from the founders’ past experience in startups and connections developed therein,
  • Lemonade is impatient- that in itself is innovative in the insurance industry.
  • The firm remains too new to have financial trends that aren’t subject to variance from reporting period to reporting period.  86% loss ratio can be celebrated today but the vagaries of growth in a new carrier and claim volume can produce unexpected results, and some interesting ceding to reinsurers.  (keeping things grounded with ongoing analysis by Adrian Jones and Matteo Carboneinteresting summary here )
  • Customers who have provided service surveys like the insurance products and service they receive from Lemonade, see Clearsurance’s survey summaries here
  • There’s pride in how charitable contributions have been an important piece of the firm’s entry into the market
  • The entry into the industry is not a sprint- a carefully run marathon is what the firm needs.  The P&C business is a trillion-dollar (US) business and Lemonade holds a very small part of that; its operating premise is still fragile
  • There is strength and opportunity in the firm’s digital approach to operations

The original intention was to interview a CEO and produce a summary of the firm through crowd-sourced questions.  The interview came off well, the questions were presented in volume, where the problem arose was in the expansiveness of the firm’s concepts, the great interest in the entry and growth of the firm, and the author’s inability to distill the available information into one column.  The discussion with Daniel Schreiber did not change my status of being a pragmatic optimist where Lemonade is concerned, but many questions were answered.

I look forward to further examination of the Game Theory concepts as applied by Lemonade in a future column/posting. 

My thanks to those who provided questions in addition to my own (and apologies that not all could be addressed in this article):

Ben Baker Billy Van Jura Anand R (Lucep) Nick Lamperelli Pat West

image source

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

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

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our
research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory
services
 (how we pay for this free original research).

 

The smartest investment for your innovative insurance play just might be in cultural awareness

It’s not just the tech concept…

TLDR Having the correct idea for underwriting, distributing, selling, adjusting, or scaling insurance may not be the right idea if the scheme is introduced or sold where the customer understands the plan but simply doesn’t accept it in cultural context.  How and where one sells an idea in the connected global insurance industry might just be more important that what is being sold.

I had a great discussion with a very clever InsurTech company this week, Uncharted, a digital insurance sales facilitation and distribution entrant focused on health benefits and business SME markets (check out their website in the link- I won’t do their concept the justice they can).  They are Singapore-based, building toward a global reach.  The firm’s Chief Commercial Officer, Mark Painter, held my attention regarding how the firm was building its sales and distribution tools with the intention of giving carriers and brokers options and efficiencies from point of sale right through home office underwriting, binding and admin of data.  Taking the teeth out of the unstructured data beast, so to say.  Mark (who’s a pretty savvy finance and insurance guy now working alongside Uncharted’s founder, Nick Macey) recounted a recent experience in introducing the Uncharted system into a southeast Asia market carrier’s system, excitedly advising that significant sales admin improvement for the thousands of field agents will or had been gained for the carrier.  That’s very cool.

But my follow-up question was: If the carrier’s products are traditionally sold by agents say, working off of scooters, meeting with small shopkeepers over tea, or noodles, and with the bound policy traditionally taking a few weeks to present to the insured, will an ‘instant’ policy innovation resonate with the known culture of doing business in the neighborhood?  Will an app-based policy hold the same ‘worth’ to that analog customer? It might if the businessperson is comfortable with the growing use of digital ecosystems, it might not if the owner is not. 

How the customer expects to transact business is the key- are you practicing innovation from the customer backwards?

Well this prompted a comparison discussion of what the firm is working with in Zimbabwe, where most residents/customers transact business through smart devices using EcoCash, a mobile payment platform hosted by local telco, Econet.  In this instance EcoCash has an approximate 80% market use penetration, and as such adding services to the ecosystem is an accepted practice.  A company looking to make inroads into the market would be wise to joint venture with or leverage the Econet ecosystem rather than try to make inroads through traditional agencies.  However- once established in the market the firm would be better able to bridge to traditional insurance channels for more complex covers, riding the market awareness built through use of local, accepted practices.  Know what and how the customer expects to transact business and go with that flow.  It ofttimes does not matter how wonderful your product or service is if the customers simply are not accustomed to how you market.  The correct answer is not always the best answer.

There are plenty of examples of companies ‘growing’ their insurance products organically through other business relationships built through understanding local needs.  Take for example the relationship of ride sharing platform Go-Jek and one of its investor firms, Allianz X.  The ride sharing startup was a target of Allianz’s investment, but Allianz also recognized with Go-Jek that the drivers needed insurance, and the two firms collaborated within the bounds of the business model and driver culture to make insurance available within the local reach of drivers.  Don’t be surprised if a similar insurance partnership approach isn’t carried into east Africa’s burgeoning ride sharing environment as the pair of firms extends its reach with their investment into Uganda-based ride hailing entrant, SafeBoda  (a timely share by you, Robert Collins ).  Innovation and marketing developed from business and local culture needs.

There are many examples of firms developing insurance innovations, many successful and many not so much.  The takeaway for the reader from this posting- the firms noted above are working to apply clever innovation based on good ideas, but also on integrating the ideas into what fits a respective market’s expectations, and what businesses and customers are accustomed to.  Ground-breaking innovation might succeed by circumventing that of which a market is accustomed, but in most cases a firm’s best investment is understanding what the locals want and how they want it, and simply following their lead.  Is your approach just a correct answer, or the right answer?

Image source

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

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

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

InsurTech adherents must see- the Elephant is insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

image source

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

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

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

Breeding Dolphin organisations instead of Sharks & Piranhas

Entrepreneurship, innovation, and disruption are terms that we think we understand and agree on what we mean when using them. Not so. Several thought leaders and influencers have highlighted this issue when arguing about technologies and or business models and whether they qualify as `disruptive` or `innovative`. Clayton Christensen`s 25yr old theory Disruptive innovation, Guenther Dobrauz-Saldapenna`s Apetite for Disruption interviews are just two sources that focus on these distinctions.

Distinctions work

After the WEF this past January, serendipity connected my insights around Sharks & Piranhas in financial services with Dolphin-like organisations. Dr. Mihaela Ulieru, scientist, advisor, president of the IMPACT Institute for the Digital Economy attended my CryptomountainRocks talk at the piano bar of Hotel Europe.

Sharks Dolphins

My metaphors of incumbents and fintech startups as Sharks and Piranhas, while discussing tokenization of real assets; fired up a connection with Miguel Reynolds Brandão through Mihaela Ulieru.

 

Miguel R. Brandao is an entrepreneur, author of `The Sustainable Organisation` book already in its second edition and co-creator of the #SORG index and much more.

sorg

  • The SORG Index, is a sustainability algorithm. It is simple and can even be used by startups.
  • The Dolphin Ranking is a global list of Sustainable Organisations that the group of these Sustainability Devotees including Miguel R. Brandao, call ‘Dolphins’. This list promotes organisations that are truly sustainable to inspire hope, change and best practice. Much like dolphins these organizations take care of their resources and are less focused on promoting themselves.

Sustainability is a philosophy not a marketing tool; it is a purpose not a KPI!

Miguel Brandao, articulates all this better. Enjoy our podcast.


sorg-dolphins-ranking-home

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer. 

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

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

Innovation from the Customers’ Needs Backwards- InsurTech Startups that Found Service Nails that Needed Hammers

In the interest of full disclosure this column was not the
planned piece for this week, but as the original plan became an exercise in
distilling a wonderful volume of great information down into 1200 or so words,
I was thankful for a discussion with an insurance startup I had where this
observation was reiterated by a founder:

“We did not want to be
a hammer looking for a nail.”

That phrase reminded me why the research for a following week was conducted- there are InsurTech companies that have made great efforts in seeing customer or service needs- that exist- and devising innovative ways to deal with the respective issues’ pain points and taking the innovations to market.  So why not wait to publish that theme?  Well, because the industry needs constant reminders that innovation needs a purpose, and that there are startups who are purposing real service needs.  So I took my own advice with the topic- be the finder of the nail, first.

There are many InsurTech startups across the global market,
and one can’t place the spotlight on all. 
The approach for this column is discussion of four companies that in
their own unique way have found an unmet purpose (nail) by research or
accident, have dug into the issue, and produced a solution (hammer) that is
tech-based and somewhat unique.

Empowering Patients for Provider Choice

The unexpected needs of parents Cole Sirucek and Grace Park prompted
the sequence of events that resulted in the patient empowerment firm, docdoc
Now founders as well as parents, Cole and Grace identified a need for
medical patients to have better control over who provides them services than which
was traditional for the profession.  A
medical concern within their family highlighted that the medical profession
(including hospitals) held full sway over who provided service, even if the
provider was not the most apt choice. 
Working to ensure others wouldn’t have options when medical needs arose,
the company worked with a team of medical and tech professionals to develop the
largest, most comprehensive network of medical professionals in Asia, a network
that identifies professionals by characterizing what each does extremely
well.  Need knee surgery?  The network identifies a patient’s best
option, not only for an orthopedist, but a knee expert.  And why would this be important within the
medical services value chain?  Having the
best expert results in more positive outcomes, which results in less unexpected
cost and patient issues post op.  In the
bigger picture, docdoc has created a Knowledge Model that can be leveraged by
other health networks (not ‘here are the providers in your network,” but ‘here
are the best fit providers’).  Options
for the patient, networks for the providers, and less after-effects for the
insurers.  (contact:  Madhurima Dutta
)

Highest and Best Use of an Entrepreneur’s Time is not Getting Insurance Quotes

There are more than 7.5 million self-employeds in the UK.  That’s a lot of hard-working individuals (and
the number is growing), says Sherpa ‘s
CEO, Chris Kaye
.  And if averages are extended, each of
these folks shop for up to seven insurance policies annually, time spent
chasing what carriers provide, and not necessarily what the self-employeds need.   Chris Kaye (along with Sherpa founders Lachlan Gillies and
Greg McCafferty)
identified the need for these customers to have an insurance service that
covers them for all risks,
can be tailored to their lifestyle and keeps up-to-date as their life changes.  Not rocket science (seems intuitively like
what a good agent could do), unless one can promptly assess each customer and then
provide an AI-driven personal insurance solution. Here’s the firm’s tech
innovation- Sherpa’s “Brain,” a proprietary AI risk assessment
engine, takes data given by members and makes personalized recommendation
for what cover they need.  But- Sherpa is not an insurance plan, it’s a subscription
based membership organization, has a fully-digital process, wherein a Member
can be underwritten and get ‘on risk’ in about seven minutes, and Sherpa
charges a transparent, flat fee that gives members access to a personal
insurance solution that matches their advice. 
Of course the members benefit from cover provided by an affiliated
global insurance company, and have the comfort that as life changes occur their
personal choice for insurance cover remain. 
The firm’s intention is to not only broaden UK available lines from Life
and Critical Illness covers, but to other markets and other personal lines
covers.

Digitizing Life Insurance Claim Processes, No, Making Life Policies about the Beneficiaries

Benekiva founder Brent Williams had a
successful financial advisory business in which he continuously found issue- life
insurance settlements were an administrative nightmare for beneficiaries, typically
driving settlement periods to three months from the respective carriers’ notice
of policyholder death.  Brent served as
apologist for the carriers, and also found in addition to delays in benefits,
recipients of policy proceeds were reluctant to take that next step- financial
care of proceeds- because the claim processes were so convoluted.  In collaboration with the current Benekiva
team members and co-founders, Bobbie Shrivastav and Soven Shrivastav, (and after more
than two years’ research) Brent, et al, introduced a digital approach to claim
process that focused on beneficiaries’ needs backwards through the admin of the
policy.  In this case, an industry expert
collaborated with tech and innovation experts, jointly identified a customer
issue, developed universally applicable methods that carriers could implement,
and the end result is prompt payment of policy proceeds.  Sure, unclaimed property laws helped
facilitate the end result, but the digital answer to customer needs is the key.  Benekiva now works with carriers to streamline
what in great part are legacy process wrought with workarounds, and to the
benefit of the industry cut through the Gordian Knot of the paper chase.  Oh, and the firm is helping carriers with
Blockchain options for claim and beneficiary management.

Helping Leverage Customers’ Ownership of Data  

Customers don’t know what they don’t know, and for data collection and use (particularly telematics), that knowledge is lower in great part due to who has taken control of telematics- companies (including insurance carriers.)  If data are the next oil boom, then those who own the wells are not the current beneficiaries of the wells’ output.  That’s the identified service opportunity for RevdApp , best described by its founder, Filipe Pinto, thusly:

“to offer consumers a way to own and manage their
mobility records and to leverage them in a trustworthy marketplace where
service providers bid to offer them services without compromising their
privacy. We eliminate data silos and unleash value.”

What, you say, what has that got to do with InsurTech and insurance service?  Well, picture customer possession of an open ledger of performance within a digital ecosystem, data that can be provided by the customer to support value-based access to services?  Customer owns driving data, can leverage that data for insurance purchases, or perhaps more favorable lease pricing based on positive performance than someone who has a history of more risky behavior.  Telematics have to date been the bailiwick of companies who collect those data, and have been leveraged to the benefit of the companies in terms of user-based insurance (UBI), e.g., Metromile, Progressive (Snapshot), and Allstate (DriveWise), along with most other larger carriers.  RevdApp is developing a digital ecosystem where beyond UBI customers can benefit from the service value of trust- companies may extend favorable terms to those with relative good performance data ledgers, and surcharge those without.  Customers control their data, how it’s applied to services, and how it’s applied to pricing.  At this time the firm’s IoT data ledger service access is applied for exotic auto use, but customer focus can bridge to almost any partnered service.

Are there many solution ‘hammers’ in the InsurTech orb looking for nails?  Sure are.  But there are many customer service ‘nails’ just waiting for observant entrepreneurs that can be open to understanding what solution is being called for.  The four examples noted above have unique starting points, and certainly unique solutions, but each developed from the kernel of an idea-  the need to #innovatefromthecustomerbackwards, and in spotlighting those I could keep my journalistic hammer tucked in my work bag- for another week.

Image source

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

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

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Collaboration, not Confrontation for InsurTech- an Ides of March Warning No Longer Needed for Incumbents

It wasn’t long ago that the figurative tools of InsurTech were being sharpened against imperious legacy insurance.  In contrast to plans however, effecting insurance change has been found to be significantly more nuanced an effort than that which was foretold to occur within the Roman Senate on the Ides of March.  And, as with the limited effects of the Ides on the crowds in the Forum, InsurTech change to date has been primarily a focus within the inner sanctum of insurance that has remained transparent to its customers- and their perception of the industry. 

As noted in my last column, InsurTech has proven its worth in theory, and in many ways in practice – developing innovative methods that allow more efficient operations, devising effective methods to underwrite, distribute, engage, sell, service and retain customers and staff.  Very cool – but have the innovation efforts had an effect where they need to, customer satisfaction?  And, are there indications that InsurTech-founded carriers are economically viable?

There are two primary lines of insurance business to consider regarding customers’ response to InsurTech’s effects:

  1. New business lines, ostensibly where new business methods are simply the only business methods the customers know.  Innovation is simply part of the customers’ experience.
  2. Incumbent/legacy business that has in some part been changed in the service provided to the customers.  This could be back office changes, underwriting, distribution, sales, claims, after-sale service, etc.

New business lines

There have been many entrants to multiple lines of insurance since the advent of the ‘InsurTech’ initiative, in essentially all major markets around the globe.  There are carriers with explosive growth involving tens to hundreds of millions of customers such as Zhong An , a China market startup whose customers have voted their initial satisfaction with their overwhelming participation in the carrier’s ecosystem approach.  Other markets have seen the advent of online auto (motor), renters’ and homeowners’ options, including owner usage-based auto provider Root Insurance , behavioral economics/charitable giveback player Lemonade, proactive homeowners carrier Hippo, and German health insurance ‘hybrid’ start up,  DFV_AG (incumbent with a clever tech solution for claims).  In each case the firms’ primary customers are in majority digital ‘natives’ whose expectations for performance are not colored by legacy operations’ processes.  In great part these firms’ customer experiences comprise not much more than a few written premium/earned premium cycles.  Considering that, traditional financial success has been a difficult measure  (see assessment work by Adrian Jones and Matteo Carbone,  e.g., mo-premium-losses-insurtech-start-ups-get-big )  and service satisfaction is in great part solely the success of getting customers to pay the premiums.  Niche carriers such as Dinghy Insurance (cover for freelancers), or Pineapple  (peer to peer personal effects cover) are endorsed by participants as being just the right unique item for the respective policyholders.  Satisfaction by default.

Incumbent/Legacy Business

Global insurance companies have been present in some form for three hundred years (and certainly risk management has been a principle since the days of Hammurabi, and since things have changed a least a little since 1750 B.C.); it can be said that societal innovation carried risk management along for the ride and insurance customers have at least begrudgingly maintained satisfaction with the purpose of the industry during the ensuing 3750 years. 

So what about innovation/InsurTech being the dramatic industry change since 2015-16?  Have customers embraced and celebrated all the wondrous technical and process improvements that have burst forth from the slide decks of very smart InsurTech folks?  It sure is hard to tell.

Not all markets and lines of business solicit and/or maintain customer service responses from their insurance customers, so customer satisfaction changes due to InsurTech advances are not much easier to gauge for incumbents as would be for new entrants.  Certainly the P&C markets within the U.S. have more than one authority capturing customer service tendencies:  J.D. Power is a recognized provider of service data, and Clearsurance  (an InsurTech firm in its own right) is an online aggregater of customer service responses.  But can survey tendencies be attributed to tech innovation?

A review of J.D.Power auto insurance customer survey data from 2016  and 2018 find the top players remain at or near the top, that the industry average satisfaction has increased a little, and that the 2018 customers voice approval of having multi-channel access to their policies/carriers.  No overt celebration of tech advances but some tech mention is worth something.  There has not been a wholesale abandonment of incumbent carriers within the US as the top-ten carriers’ market share in 2016 (71%) and 2018 (72%) has changed little (http://www.naic.org). 

Continuing the discussion to Homeowners carriers, J.D. Power data for 2016  and  2018 find some customer tendencies being noted across the two year period, but no actionable changes that can be attributed in the majority to innovation/InsurTech.

As for customer satisfaction data for other global markets- it’s difficult to obtain comprehensive results for insurance lines across national borders, and unified markets such as in India and China do not yet have the tradition of longitudinal study of customer survey data.  It can be suggested as those markets ‘homogenize’ with influx of firms that are outside the domestic current growth there may be cross-pollination of survey habits.  And in terms of health insurance surveys, the mix of national health programs, private programs, national programs for select portions of populations, it’s an apples and pomegranates situation for customer sat information.  As for life products, annuities, etc.- efforts to collect those tendencies mirror the efforts the industry has held for a while – a little underwhelming from the customers’ perspective.

After a lot of blah, blah, blah, it’s difficult to say that InsurTech is a concept that insurance customers embrace as a reason to buy insurance, change who they buy from, or give warm, fuzzy feelings about the product, any more than the change from cuneiform text to Roman/Greek to Arabic writing changed the industry.  The overarching point- InsurTech has awakened initiatives that are blending many digital and tech methodologies with finance and insurance, e.g., API integration (thanks, Karl Heinz Passler) but not on a seismic, customer based level- yet.  Give the industry a generation and the customers will force the issue by default acceptance of societal tendencies.

Until that wave of change occurs, insurance innovators can better effect change through sharpening skills in understanding what customers indicate they need, innovating from the needs of the figurative forum-first- and helping the firms that hold the bulk of the public’s business- the legacy players- avoid the need to be warned of an Ides of March initiative.  InsurTechs might even find that in collaboration there are profits to be made.

Image attribution

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

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