Have the horse before the cart- problem first, then innovation solution

Image

TLDR Insurance is not complicated, say compared to sending a man to land on the moon, but it’s big, and its current challenges are like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.  Innovation, digitization, virtual sales and service, and so on.  Not unlike the elephant in the fable, insurance is perceived differently by each beholder- is it tail, ear, leg, trunk, sales, or underwriting, claims, accounting, actuarial, or customers?  What is to be innovated?

The drum beat of innovation is in some part fashion, but a large part reality- insurers need to evolve with their customers.  But there’s the rub- what evolution is meaningful, useful, profitable, doable, and able to be integrated into a carrier’s strategy, tactics, and admin superstructure?

This week’s discussion- who is useful to consult when you want to do it, or how to tackle it, innovation idea-wise.

I had a very useful conversation this week with an insurance veteran, Joël Bassani, founder and consultant at jinnbee who is now looking to share his knowledge gained over years with the insurance industry.  Our discussion reminded me that there are many aspects to insurance, many lines, covers, regulations, regions, etc. that one must deal with in the globally interconnected insurance world.  And how does one determine what path to take from that which one is on to one that leverages innovation or change?

What Joël told me as a foundational message resonates well- it’s not necessarily knowing the tech to apply, but it’s knowing what problem you have and working from that to what innovation has to help you.  In his opus of an InsurTech study, Joël notes early on, “An InsurTech is a solution, you need to focus on your Problem!”

And how do you know your problem?  Simple- you ask your customers, both external and internal and you strive to #innovatefromthecustomerbackwards .

What jinnbee has compiled for the industry is a compendium of InsurTech purposes:

You have an insurance problem, jinnbee’s analysis can help find an InsurTech solution from organizations that exist, are experts in their fields, and are available.  So you don’t have to create the wheel, you simply need to know the makeup of the wheel and jinnbee will help find a fit.  Do you make the innovation in house, or connect with an InsurTech?  Jinnbee will help lead your decision matrix.

And as comprehensive a study as jinnbee has produced, there are other organizations who have blazed a trail in terms of aggregating InsurTech organizational data, firms’ purposes, an ability to play ‘matchmaker’, and in providing accessible data. The two most prominent examples are Coverager, and Insurance Thought Leadership .

Coverager

I asked Coverage founder Shefi Ben-Hutta what synopsizes Coverager’s business model, what is the ‘elevator pitch’ that would best describe her firm’s approach:

  • Focus on tech, strategy, and alternative insurance distribution
  • Create and curate coverage (news, not lines of insurance)
  • Address the needs of insurance professionals, those who need access to information regarding how to address their unique problems (sound familiar?)

If the reader has yet to access the Coverage website (or better yet, subscribe to Coverager’s daily email), rest assured you will not be disappointed by a simple blast of information.  Coverager approaches information sharing with a wry tongue in cheek, occasional snark, but always best in class, topical information.  The firm’s web splash page gives an indication of the depth of coverage and information:

Everything from an encyclopedic source of insurance company information, a searchable database of InsurTechs, hosting of industry events, and to the latest marketing scheme or the scoop on a company that has gone off path.  As Shefi recounted, their purpose is:

  • Learn from the past
  • Understand the present
  • Better bet on the future.

Insurance Though Leadership

Take Coverager’s avant-garde approach to InsurTech assistance and look to a somewhat organizational opposite, and one finds Insurance Thought Leadership (ITL).  ITL approaches InsurTech advisory services with more of a formal suit, but with no less breadth of information as Coverager.  ITL has developed through the efforts of its founder, Dave Dias  into a premier source of innovation source/need connections, and a premier host of innovation education.  And the firm is the home of the man with a knowledgeable grasp on the innovation world, Guy Fraker, AKA the man with a thousand sneakers (runners, athletic shoes).  Insurance company C-Suites are encouraged to subscribe to the matchmaking service, and the organization’s excellent editorial staff keeps the industry appraised of the latest concepts.  A look at the Innovator’s Edge page of ITL website provides the searcher an idea of what the firm can offer:

Three very good sources to search and consider, and there are other InsurTech informational resources, e.g., GR Capital’s recent summary article, Why Next Year Can Be a Turning Point for Global Insurance Innovation, and industry influencers who can make connections from personal experience, including those in this list, or this one, or even this one (companies).

 

But it still requires the asker to know what innovation problem needs to be solved, what the customers are expecting (maybe it’s no change?), and how efforts are to be focused.  Innovation is not fashion, it’s strategic application of resources and there are good resources at hand.  And in most cases it’s not part of the elephant, but consideration of the whole beast.

 

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 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 post Have the horse before the cart- problem first, then innovation solution appeared first on Daily Fintech.

InsurTech and Innovation news- a great banquet but fill your plate wisely

Image

TLDR   The volume and variety of insurance/InsurTech news is almost too much to keep track of, even if one tries to keep focus on one insurance line, one region, one company, legacy vs. innovation, etc.  And of course, I like to keep up with all.  Foolishly, because a jack of all trades remains a master of none, even in the digitally aware environment. 

In any case here’s a sampling of what caught my attention during the past week:

Auto telematics help inform driving decisions for the elderly (and maybe create a sales opportunity for scooter sales  What was rolled out originally as an app to measure driving habits for taxis and fleets by Orix Auto Corp evolved into a clever tool for the elderly and their families to broach the subject of safe driving, and whether a person has requisite driving skills.  In turn, many who choose to surrender their auto driving rights have found a measure of freedom using motorized wheelchairs or scooters, e.g., devices rented by Whill, Inc.    Japan Today   Thanks, Robert Collins

InsurTech builds a market for a complementary product.

Equipment breakdown claims grow in a booming economy

“Equipment breakdown now rivals fire loss in both frequency and severity of claims, driven by the booming economy and human influence, according to an FM Global analysis of large property-related losses greater than $3 million released Tuesday.”

Sure, it’s one firm, but what??? Rivals fire losses for frequency and severity???

“Lack of maintenance was a factor in two-thirds of equipment breakdown losses in 2018, while nearly half had a significant human element impact or influence, FM Global said.”

InsurTech opportunity– IoT devices to monitor equipment performance, maintenance, automated repair, and controlled shut down.  Keep in mind equipment failure equates directly to loss of use and profitability issues.  This speaks to changes in underwriting, policy forms/exclusions, changes in indemnity paired with parametric for a new sort of indexed parameter.   Business Insurance

AIG unit off the hook for non-property damage arising from flood

“A flood sublimit in a property policy applied to all losses arising out of a flood, not just property damage, a federal appeals court ruled, reversing a lower court’s ruling against an American International Group Inc. unit.”

An AIG insured filed suit for loss of use (time element) claims, a contention the appeal court said was unfounded as the policy sublimit was deemed to include all claimed losses, not just direct property losses.  Policy provision/endorsement wording and existing case law- insureds need to understand and/or ensure their broker does.  While this is an insurance ‘due diligence’ issue that is not new, this is another innovation opportunity- policy language/unstructured data analysis.  Chris Cheatham of RiskGenius has done yeoman’s work in providing a service to allow companies to “better understand policy language and create more efficient underwriting workflows,” but that does not force a company to understand what coverage applies.  Business Insurance

InsurTech opportunity- automated learning from denials of coverage– this flows both from the insured to the carrier, and vice versa.  Same principle applies to analysis of litigation- learnings for all.

Which P&C Insurers Made the 2019 Fortune 500?

Let’s not consider the 500, let’s consider the top 100 companies on the list, of which 7 are P&C insurers.  Why care for this article?  Well, the seven firms represent $535 Bn in annual revenues, and employ in total 658,000 insurance professionals (not including those populating tens of thousands of agencies).  That’s a lot of financial clout, and 658K pros (estimated one million with all carriers included)?  Innovation opportunity– Think what the input from an informed constituency of that size could contribute to insurance innovation and the industry’s future but are in whole discouraged from doing so. (roll this up to the global top ten- $917 Bn capitalization, hundreds of thousands of staff)

Unleash the innovation Kraken, P&C industry, free the staff! – the only real problem that would be had will be what to do with all the great ideas.  PropertyCasualty360

GetSafe CEO Predicts Lemonade Will ‘Struggle’ In Germany

“Lemonade will have to struggle in Germany,” GetSafe co-founder and CEO Christian Wiens told Carrier Management vie email. “The market is regulated and complex, and the domestic InsurTechs are in no way inferior compared with Lemonade.”

“While Lemonade is a fantastic storyteller, they concentrated on their brand and not so much on their product and technology,” Wiens said. “Germans, on the other hand, prefer to do it the other way around.”

First sentence- seems the industry cognati agree- plenty of DE innovators already in play across all covers.

Second sentence- not so sure.  Lemonade has been a mostly transparent sharer of the principles behind its policy form, and certainly speaks a lot of its favorite bot, Maya.  GetSafe is no technological slouch as its easy app and MGA-based operation has brought together backing (Munich Re) and leverage of changing customer needs in its property insurance platform.

InsurTech opportunity- harken back to business school– what are your market threats, and who is manifesting a potential competitor’s novelty, and can you iterate more effectively based on what new entrants are bringing to your base?  Lemonade’s substantial financial backing can help them bring a ‘square peg’ to a DE ‘round hole’, so why not shamelessly and fashionably imitate?  Don’t denigrate the disruptor of the disruptors- re-disrupt (is that a word?)   Carrier Management

Plenty to see here, as they say, but don’t rest too long on one news feed- too much of one good thing could cause info-indigestion.

Best approaches I have found- watch what your respected connections watch and watch what smart persons in tangential industries watch- there are bound to be meaningful overlaps.  Don’t limit yourself to one region’s news, don’t limit yourself to one line of thought.  Read the contrarian’s point of view.  And understand that the next best thought may come from an unexpected source/country/post/medium/neophyte/expert/anything.

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 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 post InsurTech and Innovation news- a great banquet but fill your plate wisely appeared first on Daily Fintech.

A Declaration of Innovation- Happy 4th of July

image

“When in the Course of financial operations it becomes necessary for people to disrupt the legacy bonds which have connected them with insurance and to assume among the powers of the industry, the separate and equal station to which the technology and innovation entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the cause(s) which impel them to the separation.”

No, Thomas Jefferson and his peers did not declare insurance innovation as a cause in 1776, and his well-known version of the United States Declaration of Independence is far more articulate than the paraphrased paragraph noted above.  But it’s July 4th, the U.S. Independence Day, and it seemed fitting to have a topic that tips its tricorn hat to the day.

It’s easy to declare a need for separation from the bonds of a multi trillion-dollar legacy industry, but as with any long-standing governance or tradition the declaring is much easier to accomplish than the doing.

Insurance innovation is a heavy lift of a heavy industry.  Insurance is many things, many covers, many types of service, many jurisdictions, many carriers, and of course- billions of customers.  As the Insurance Elephant has previously noted in “The Blind Men and the Elephant, InsurTech and its Many Perspectives” , insurance innovation is comprised of many disparate parts that make the whole beast, yet each person who has motive to adopt a ‘separate and equal insurance station’ perceives the beast as the activity in which the respective ‘each’ is involved.

The industry functions and provides the foundation upon which ownership and finance can rely, yet in its entirety the industry is held captive by the tyranny of technical, organizational and process fealty.  Process inertia and associated data management are ingrained within every aspect of the insurance system with which all are required to comply, and innovation must expend valuable energy in convincing incumbent management hierarchies of its worth.

And there are plenty of data that need to be processed- one by one, by ten, by one hundred, by one thousand, million, billion, trillion forms.  The industry employs millions globally to handle the volume of paperwork/data/forms.  Customers (for the most part), vendors, providers, service persons, agencies, and regulators are accustomed to the paper chase- but will that ensure an enduring, effective industry going forward?

These truths are self-evident- insurance must free itself from the shackles of legacy complacency.

There are many ‘patriots’ resisting the tyranny- companies that have developed clever methods to structure data that exists in native unstructured form, e.g. ExB Labs whose Cognitive Workbench can “search texts and images for content,…also classify, interpret, summarize and evaluate” unstructured data.  Or RhinoDox, whose document management innovations make captured, unstructured data easier to find and use (yes, it’s clear that for now that firm’s focus is on manufacturing innovation, but their heart remains available for insurers).  And insurance process management platforms that have developed-  These are, however, just tools to mitigate the overburden of legacy systems, not the inertia-busting change that is suggested for the long-term health of the industry and its participants.

Consider- there are a whole lot of persons employed in the legacy insurance industry, persons who understand what customers need, how processes function (or don’t), how to workaround systems that are obsolete, ensure customers have the appropriate cover, adjust claims within a patchwork of old and new systems, are subject to operating priorities that vary by the quarter, and are witness to the loss of intellectual capital due to attrition and retirement of tenured colleagues.

Yet despite those self-evident factors these millions are not encouraged to participate in the active dialog of innovation and InsurTech.  Not only is that wealth of staff knowledge generally unavailable, outside of participation in conferences most of those who are putative industry leaders are reluctant to be or missing in the discourse.  The drum beat of innovation is heard in the town square but remains surprisingly mute in many parts of the industry.  In the absence of the light of discourse, the tyranny of legacy insurance prevails!

As with established global governance two hundred and forty some years ago and the onset of the nascent United States, there is optimism for change.  Perhaps it is time to examine if the current indemnity model that exists for many covers has been outpaced by data availability and alternate means of claim reimbursement, e.g., modified parametric plans.  There are plenty of vested interests holding indemnity contracts near, but is a rebellion in the offing?

There are markets that have avoided the need to innovate- those are the digital native markets such as China, or India, or South America, where insurance products have taken hold for hundreds of millions of customers by working from innovation backwards- what does the product need to be to serve the delivery channel the customers expect.  There are niche customer segments that have been found and are being served by new products and new players, but these unique markets are an insignificant (statistically speaking) part of the whole.

So let’s talk about the incumbent markets that have the technical, organizational, and process debt that innovation has yet figured out how to amortize, but that is fodder for a declaration of insurance innovation independence.  A need to cast off the yoke of what has been and find the what can be.

A very heavy lift, indeed.

A Happy Fourth of July to my U.S. colleagues.  And apologies to Thomas Jefferson, et al.

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 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 local insurance agent- insurance ecosystem re-defined

Source

You don’t have to look very far to find an active insurance ecosystem- just visit the neighborhood insurance agent or contact a commercial broker.  They have been fostering the ecosystem method of serving customers since before the term was moved into the front row at the innovation and InsurTech get-together.

TLDR.  Read any of the volume of current discussion regarding insurance ecosystems and you’ll find references to smart device apps, on-demand, shopping or ride sharing companies that are adding insurance options (Paytm and LIC, Amazon and Acko, Flipkart and Digit) but these are not surprisingly in insurance markets that are developing through a ‘digital native’ business culture.  Ecosystems per se have been a difficult ground up start in more developed insurance markets, e.g., U.S., Canada, and Europe.  But what of the US and Europe- forget being part of an ecosystem?

A quick look at defining an insurance ecosystem finds:

Ecosystem- “An ecosystem is a new business paradigm in which firms use digital tools to leap over traditional industry boundaries or forge partnerships.”  (WHY ECOSYSTEMS ARE THE FUTURE OF INSURANCE, Accenture).

Huh.  Leap over traditional industry boundaries or forge partnerships.

Or this-

“we suggest that middle-market insurers may want to consider expanding their horizon well beyond the standard product and service options they typically offer policyholders (see figure 2). This would involve creating or joining a much broader ecosystem offering a wider range of business support solutions, as well as facilitating educational and networking opportunities for customers.”  (Building new ecosystems in middle-market insurance, Deloitte)

Hmmm.  Offering a wider range of business support solutions, as well as facilitating educational and networking opportunities for customers.

I suggest if we look past the urge to see ecosystems as a new paradigm in developed insurance markets you will find- the agency model.  Not just the independent or captive agents who are churn and burn lead chasers, but the agents who have a holistic approach to building relationships (old school suggestion of recognizing inter-connectivity of business- nascent ecosystems.)

Digital ecosystems such as are noted above typically didn’t begin as systems; they were applications.  WeChat was launched in 2011 as a mobile chat app by China digital giant, Tencent.  Within four years it had developed by the popular demand of users and affiliate companies into being a 200 million users per month- wait for it- ecosystem of users and providers.  The application was adding value to what was originally a form of communication.  It was accessible, easy to use, had features that were meaningful in daily life.  It’s said that WeChat was the impetus behind the explosive growth in use of QR codes in China.

How does that tie into insurance, or insurance ecosystems?

There are tens of thousands of insurance agents in the U.S. alone, each of whom is working to build business, retain customers, increase the actual or perceived value customers find in the agent’s service, in other words- working to sell a reason for the customers to interact with the agency more often than once per year.

Smart agents have figured ways to do this for years before digitization- sponsor little league, be active in the chamber of commerce, bring a dish to pass at the service organization luncheon, donate bicycles to good readers at school (Chris Paradiso !), names on bowling shirts, filling sandbags, holding a customer’s hand when a claim occurs, referring the accountant next door, keeping a bank account in the local 1st National, keeping abreast of business and tech changes, and so on.  Building the value he/she could bring to customers, being a resource.

How is it that agents can be the insurance ecosystems of today?  If in China- have your QR code on WeChat, of course.  Piggyback on the platform Tencent has constructed.  But in mature markets where the insurance industry has tenure, the model has it’s own reference- ‘legacy’- and the availability of carriers is a fractured confusion to customers?

Active agents have the basis- relationships with collaborative businesses/organizations, and a pool of mostly content customers.  How might the agent leverage these resources?

  • What does an agent’s website say when it’s opened? Chances are it says, “I want to sell you something.”  So, people visit the site when they need to buy insurance.  Why not have a splash page that showcases the value/connections/resources that the agent has built over time?  A site that is a resource pool for clients that also serves as a selling tool when needed. (not like that of the Life Insurance Corporation of India– love their resources but the splash page is crazy busy).
  • Collaborate with business partners- what’s wrong with having synchronization of messages within the respective websites? If the agent resides in a smaller community then resources are common, success of one results in success of another, and there’s that synergy thing to take benefit from.
  • Be an active part of social media that makes sense for business. Not just a ‘like’ clicker, but a question asker, expertise sharer (Billy Van Jura )
  • Don’t try to re-create the wheel- link to existing resources customers are familiar with. Have an FAQ link on your site?  Did you know that Pinterest has an insurance info page? The details aren’t too tough to get a link onto your page, and cross-clicks builds your digital presence.
  • Be an easy source of information/links for emergency, weather, and government contacts. Be the source customers want to keep as a favorite.
  • Build a smart device application that makes sense- not a selling tool but a resource for the user that can also serve as a selling tool.
  • Leverage the digital resources your stable of carriers has- they know that being a digital resource is important; some are better at it than others.
  • There’s a lot more that the reader can think of- convert your analog ecosystem into a digital version.

There are agents who are working to perfect targeted ecosystem plays, e.g., cyber insurance (Brett Fulmer, Joe Hollier, Ben Guttman in the US), or in unique SME plans (Michael Porpora ), or in facilitating service tools for high net worth customers (Kurt Thoennessen).  A very good example of building an ecosystem/resource platform is Pat West whose firm, Hedgequote’s primary function is to be a resource for those needing information on insurance and potential firms from which to purchase.

I regret I do not know many agents working outside of the US, but some good examples who are building services beyond the basic sales model include Muhammad Ayodeji working in Lagos, Nigeria, (who in addition to representing insurance well posts traffic and accident updates through Twitter), or Mark Callanan in Sydney, Aus, who investigates crop and parametric options for the farmers and farm landowners in the country.  And one never knows- the transition that German insurer DFV-AG   has forged from being a more traditional carrier to digital expert may lead the firm into digital ecosystem land.

The point is that ecosystems can be insurance businesses that truly offer a wider range of business support solutions, as well as facilitating educational and networking opportunities for customers.  Perhaps a clever player will build an ecosystem of business connections that is a digital repository of business links.  Ecosystem is still be defined- agents can evolve beyond the world of sales quotas and discussions about premiums.

“Alexa, who does my insurance agent recommend for plumbing repairs?”

 

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 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).

 

Cyber insurance- questions without many answers

image

TLDR When we last met it was agreed that cyber risk and cyber insurance are under-emphasized concepts in the SME insurance and InsurTech worlds, and discussion was had on the ‘underground’ nature of cyber attacks and associated non-publicity of cyber events.

It’s Ok to raise awareness and prompt discussion (and there was much of that after the article was posted), but does that move the issue forward in a practical way? 

If a penetration test identifies vulnerabilities, what then?  If the owner of an SME wants to protect her firm from potential actions of a rogue employee, the next step after installing solid tech is…?  And when you call your broker and ask for the most comprehensive cyber cover, what will his answer be and how can you know if it’s the correct answer?

After the 6/14 Daily Fintech  article posted I received an inquiry from Jay Weintraub  of InsureTech Connect through the fine folks at Caliber Corporate Advisers  (thanks, Meg MacDougal ! ) and he posed two pretty good points/questions:

  • The big question regarding insurance and cyber is not, “are we focused enough around this space”, but is, “what happens if insurance gets it wrong?”
    • “A cyber security disaster could be the next major ‘hurricane’, but unlike a hurricane which you can somewhat see coming to a single geography, a cyber breach is the equivalent of 1000 earthquakes happening simultaneously in places that don’t have fault lines- it’s a beast you can’t see coming, with unknown reach, so its imperative that we identify ways to mitigate the effects of that risk.”
  • A role of insurance is to help businesses when there is risk- that includes cyber security.
    • “Insuretechs and incumbents are well-positioned to help, but in the rush to protect businesses, they have to make sure they are not setting themselves up for catastrophic failure in the future. Cyber is simply too new and in some respects the factors that contribute to the losses are so varied that the legitimate question is, “have they modeled this correctly?” As of now the answer is that we don’t yet know.”

It could be said cyber insurance carriers don’t know enough to ask what we don’t know- the risks are new, evolving daily, and the direct and indirect costs of cyber events are being defined as you read this article.  Predicting the costs of risk hinges on adequate pools of data- experiential, financial, valuation, etc.; however, what is really known of cyber risk data?  The biggest consumers of cyber risk data seemingly are the companies whose primary role is protecting consumers/businesses from risk- virus protection companies like Symantec, McAfee, Webroot, or Kaspersky (among other peer companies), but are those companies proxies for cyber insurance?  Not so much- read the user license agreement and see what lengths those firms go to (or don’t) to provide post-cyber occurrence indemnification.  Symantec has taken some steps towards insurance through partnering directly with the data analytics firm CyberCube that serves as a SaaS platform for insurers and underwriters, but not as insurer.

If the risk detection/protection firms haven’t branched into cyber cover, why not?  Yes, it’s a different sort of distribution needed, and more breadth of coverage, but if demand is there from customers, does the InsurTech world not see opportunity in cyber?  AM Best reports that U.S. cyber insurance premiums have grown aggressively in the past few years- $2 billion in 2018 from a level of $ 996 million in 2015.  50% growth and billions in premiums.  The rating firm also notes that the number of claims grew to 10 million in 2018.  That’s a lot of customer needs.  Money and customers- opportunity, for InsurTech and unfortunately for the bad guys.

The answers aren’t clear but some of the points to consider are:

  • Cyber cover includes preparation (know the risk), prevention (antivirus, penetration tests, training), response, and repairs
  • Availability- there are larger carriers who have products for those who are interested, e.g., Chubb, AXA and AIG. Are these carriers accessible to SMEs?
  • There are many SMEs who see the typical business owner’s policy as sufficient, or choose to consider minimal liability cover as being adequate.
  • There’s not much public awareness of cyber occurrences- many who experience an event keep the trouble quiet. There needs to be more focus on the issue such as in Australia, where reporting an occurrence is mandatory.
  • The pool of available data is shallow, inhibiting the effectiveness of risk rating, suggesting premiums will be set higher to manage the carrier’s incomplete knowledge of the risk.
  • Large cyber occurrences are analogous to more traditional catastrophes- except they will cross far more regulated jurisdictions.
  • Cyber risk crosses the line of data security, and will have collateral effects with laws/regs like GDPR and HIPPA.
  • Cyber cover can accommodate products from parametric, indemnity, and reinsurance covers- response, repair, and cat.
  • Is cyber an opportunity area for virtual IoT-based insurance? Cyber monitoring as severity managers?

Those are just some of the thoughts that came to mind- much smarter persons have already considered these and others, which makes it surprising that cyber insurance is not more mainstream.

A parting thought for an article that raised way more questions than it answered- what of a person’s or company’s reputation, or brand in the wake of a cyber event?  Is that a recoverable risk?

I reached out to Ben Baker, a personal brand expert, marketing consultant, and radio host for cyber crime/risk perspective.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” replied Ben, “cyber-crime, whether it is extortion or malicious attack, is a brand problem. Not only is the reputation of the attacked company at stake, but there is added potential harm if it affects the vendors and clients of the business attacked.

The gut reaction by vendors or clients is probably not, “how horrible is it that you were attacked” but rather, “how could you as a brand be so careless with my information?”  Cybercrime, when disclosed, can lead to huge trust issues in the attacked brand mishandled, and unfortunately, most companies do mishandle communicating through a crisis. “

Ben’s words suggest the cyber insurance discussion comes full circle, not only does a lack of urgency/information inhibit acquisition of cyber cover, but it ultimately can affect parts of an SMEs business that may be unrecoverable- reputation.

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 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).

 

Is InsurTech missing a $2 trillion opportunity?

Here’s an interesting contradiction- the insurance industry is heavily focusing on innovation, but letting others take the lead in cyber issues.  And those ‘others’ are not always the good guys.

TLDR   This column typically focuses on insurance innovation/InsurTech, and all the whiz-bang artificial intelligence, algorithms, pain points, data analysis, blockchain, and innovation integration points that accompany that pursuit.  Of course those of you who have read much of what this author has written over the past year realize that there is a clear contention carried forth, that insurance and InsurTech is comprised of many parts, all of which comprise the Insurance Elephant- serving the insurance customer.

What does that have to do with the point of the opening paragraph?  A thought that while the industry chases disruption of legacy/incumbent methods there are many who are truly disrupting business (including insurance businesses) through cyber gambits, and that the risk posed by cyber disruptors makes the potential outcome of ‘traditional’ InsurTech efforts (can innovation be traditional?) tiny in comparison.  $2 trillion is the estimated 2019 global cost of cybercrime per Juniper Research (see bullet point 7 of 14 Most Alarming Cyber Security Statistics in 2019.)   Let’s see, global insurance business is just over $5 trillion, so $2 trillion in a relatively new risk is- a lot!  That amount makes the valuation of all the InsurTech unicorns seem like a relatively small school of InsurTech seahorses in a vast cyber ocean.

What brings the focus to cyber cover and cyber crime is a recent occurrence of cyber crime suffered by an upstate NY manufacturer.  A good company, 50+ hard working employees, steady business growth, well run and until a few weeks ago, not concerned with cybercrime.  Then came the digital wolf at the door- a ransomware gambit that adversely encrypted the firm’s entire set of digital books and operations, making the firm virtually blind, deaf, and dumb.  The management of the company was simply unaware of what the next steps should be, who to contact, how to act, and unknowing of the immediate or long-term effects the attack would pose to the firm.  And no real insurance coverage in place for the event or ensuing damage- typical CGL coverage hardly touches on the risk other than to mostly exclude the effects from coverage.  First party property coverage doesn’t apply unless there is some ensuing physical damage caused by loss of computer operating capability.

Huh, I thought.  How is this not an insurance and InsurTech opportunity that is front burner stuff?  There are tens of millions of SMEs (small or medium enterprises) in North America alone, millions in Europe, more millions spread across the globe.  Talk about pain points!  But then, relative to many other business concerns few talk about it.

The cyber cover issue can be seen from multiple perspectives, but I considered three points:

  • Sales/agency knowledge
  • Customer awareness/preparation
  • Protection and response

 

Sales/agency knowledge

My colleague and all around great agent, Michael Porpora, was one of the cyber insurance gang with whom I discussed the sales end of cyber risk (thanks also to Brett Fulmer, Ben Guttman, and Joe Hollier).  Michael summarized the SME cyber insurance market in this fashion:

  • There is limited technical acuity (read as cyber product knowledge) within agencies that serve SMEs
  • The risk is poorly understood
  • The language of the risk is not understandable by customers or agents
  • The product is as well known as something at the bottom of the vast depths of the ocean.

 

Well that’s comforting for a $2 trillion problem.

As we continued the discussion it was clear that typical policies afford little or no cyber cover, and the number of options for specialty coverage are not great.  However, the opportunities for agents to educate their clients are many.  As Michael said, “I use cyber insurance as a wedge,” or an entrée into a client’s office.  Right now it’s an each time, every time offering for his clients.  Seems an easy offering to businesspersons if the product knowledge is there- so why isn’t it?  Seemingly an easy product to underwrite as the coverage limits are currently finite, so why isn’t the cover more commonly discussed?  Is the risk the virtual asbestos of our era?

I considered that there may be an underground problem that simply hasn’t hit the mainstream press, i.e., there are many cyber occurrences that are resolved through payment of ransom, or are simply an added expense to the firms that experience the events.  No one wants the public to know of an attack because there may be cascading liability concerns.  Of course not acknowledging the problem doesn’t make it disappear.  In the instance of the NY manufacturing firm, the approach was to address the issue in house, with the in-house IT staff wrestling the demon.  Until the attack went from inconvenient to disastrous, and the perpetrators went from hackers to extortionists.  It was coincidence alone that caused the firm to realize their CPA firm had resources to help the company deal with the layers of issues.  Have they contacted the FBI?  Not yet.  Wonder how many ‘not yet’s exist such as the authorities remain unaware of the specific extent of the attacks.  These instances are not all ‘Wannacrys’ so cyber issues remain akin to a thousand virtual paper cuts.

 

Customer awareness and response

What can companies do to identify exposures?  Few SMEs can afford large IT staff, and the attack environment is continuously changing.  Is there an InsurTech ‘wing’ that is focusing on the unique challenges of a business that is comprised of information/data and money?  Not so much, but there are information security specialists whose primary business is to anticipate and identify cyber problems, to the point where they conduct ‘ethical hacking’ of client firms to detect digital weakness.

John Strand of Black Hills Information Security (BHIS) was kind enough to spend some time with me explaining how many Fortune 500 firms engage companies like BHIS to conduct (among other services) penetration tests in order to confirm the relative security of an organization’s tech superstructure.  He mentioned that many cyber policies require ‘pen’ tests as part of the underwriting and renewal process, not unlike a building needing a risk assessment before cover can be bound.  But even with a good cyber policy in place, ongoing diligence is needed because risks are changing and financial exposures are increasing.  John mentioned this reality- most insureds that suffer an attack have more challenges at the initial stage- because there is a need for immediate resources and assistance that an indemnity only policy may not afford.  Consider companies operating in GDPR environments- sure the fines can be extensive, but the need for immediate action requires resources.  There are some parametric programs available that have as triggers identified GDPR violations, and as such a need for immediate operational changes to prevent ongoing problems.  Other concerns John mentioned- not many carriers have specialized cyber claims departments, or tech programs that are commonly used or are becoming ubiquitous, e.g., payment programs, HIPPA, PCI, ISO, etc., that may be exposed to attack but not considered by users that way (their use is becoming a focus of required pen testing.)  An optimistic note- the ethical hacking community is mutually cooperative because at this time there is plenty of business for all.  John compared the business with the child’s game ‘Hungry Hungry Hippo- plenty of marbles on the playing surface, one simply reaches out and grabs.

 

Protection and response

Sales and customer knowledge concerns and needing technical expertise to identify issues up front.  Is there a reasonable blending of the two?  Seems there is, if the discussion I had with Andrea Holmes of Boxx Insurance is an indicator.

While not in a lot of jurisdictions- yet- Boxx Insurance is introducing a hybrid cyber product, one that not only provides cyber cover through brokers, but also educates customers, focuses on preparation for cyber issues, and provides monitoring service for clients.  The four ‘legs’ of the firm’s approach could easily be an industry mantra- Predict, Prevent, Respond, Recover.  The service is focused on SMEs, and the full suite of membership services places the participating firms somewhat on par with the bad guys who work at cyber 24/7, even affording cover for ‘rogue’ employees’ actions, or infections that may have been in place prior to signing on with Boxx.  One might even consider services such as that provided by Boxx as being the virtual model of insurance IoT- the service potentially senses issues prior to damage occurring and advises the client to take action.  Kind of like the water heater sensor that shuts off the main valve when a failure is imminent.  How about that IoT, Matteo Carbone ?  Customers in Ontario, Canada are enjoying the service, and it’s soon to be available in Chile and Singapore (and perhaps Quebec).  The firm has some solid leadership (thanks for the intro, Hilario Intriago ), solid tech, government certifications, and proprietary processes, but it seems the approach is solid enough to encourage other InsurTech entrants.

Cyber risk cover- it has uses for every level of customer, because the effects never stay within the bounds of the customer that has the direct exposure.  It is a risk that is a virtual Insurance Elephant, many unique parts but in the end it’s the whole beast.  A $2 trillion beast that should be attracting a variety of entrepreneurs in any place on the globe.  I wonder what a $ trillion valuation company is referred as?  Unicorn’s unicorn?

 

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 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 last will be first, and the first will be last:tension in the InsurTech entrant and incumbency environment

entrants and incumbents

 

 

Funny how things can change- one week riding the funding train, next week sitting in the startup exit car.  Skinny jeans, Vans and untucked shirts change into a wardrobe that has a descriptor- business casual.  Same idea in start-up accounting- paid in option value becomes the eagle flying twice a month and performance bonuses.  Evolving from a role that suggests you handle all tasks to the paint drying on the corner cubicle placard that reads, “Chief Marketing Officer.”  Startup to post-IPO organization, and in time-incumbency. Welcome to quarterly reports and silo culture.  All the same customers, however.

An unexpected tension exists between insurance start-up culture with the unicorn hunt, and the cash flush, ‘we are happy with a combined ratio under 100’ culture of the incumbents- the status of industry legitimacy is pursued but once gained is treated like being in the clique the other players deride.  It’s clear that much of insurance innovation is founded in the existing industry being seen as an unresponsive, callous, cash grabbing, seldom paying monolith.  A product that is sold, seldom bought, with businesses that hide behind clever spokespersons to craft a façade of ‘hip’.

And the legacy monolith?  Always comfortable riding a train of convention.  Think of it- incumbent carriers know the route they traverse, little option to change the route because the route is like a rail track.  Hook up the cars, open the throttle of written premiums, hope there aren’t unexpected steep grades that might depress the profitable results of the trip.  Not that incumbents don’t occasionally start a string of cars that take a new path, but seldom does the main string of cars slow to allow connection of the cars that tried the new path.

Consider the recent comments cited from the Financial Times attributed to UK-based insurer, Aviva’s former CEO, Mark Wilson:

“(Aviva) took space in an old garage in London’s Hoxton Square to house the digital projects that he believed would transform the insurance company. The idea was that, away from the actuaries and the bureaucrats at head office, trendy millennials with coding skills could let their creativity loose and turn Aviva into an insurer fit for the future.” 

Not waiting for that parallel-running train to catch speed, the current CEO for the firm, Maurice Tulloch, suggests the firm’s course remains upon the main track, “and (Aviva) is set to take a more hard-nosed look at the garage and the projects that are housed there.”  Seemingly not patient enough for results to take hold, and in probability a disconnect between the ‘garage’ and the existing culture.

Even the Street is discouraging alternate routs for the insurance incumbent. From the same article is found:

“Huge amounts of money were being invested (at Aviva) and it looks like it got out of control,” said Barrie Cornes, analyst at Panmure Gordon. “Reining it in is the right thing to do. They need to look at the costs and it wouldn’t surprise me if they looked to cut some of the expense,” he added.  Looks like?  Based on what?

It was controversial how much he talked about it. He said that pulling back some of the digital investments could add 5 percent a year to Aviva’s earnings per share. Few people expect the garage to close, at least in the short term. Aviva is not the only insurance company to sharpen the focus of its tech investments in recent years.  (thanks, Graham Spriggs for the share of the article)

Five percent per year additional profit by reining in the firm’s potential future.  Huh.   If “All the Insurance Players will be InsurTech”, by InsurTech influencer, Matteo Carbone voices the insurance industry’s future, a five percent savings to the bottom line might be better spent on maintaining competitive advantage by leveraging tech and process innovation.  It’s that tension between quarterly expectations and seeing down the road.

Along the same line, incumbents that take the path of innovation often stray from the InsurTech digital path when results aren’t immediate.  A key player in the US P&C market that touts itself as a data company has initiated many digital service changes; same company however reaches for the analog diagnosis methods when unexpected (read as not positive) results are experienced.  Digital/AI innovations should be addressed using the same AI if there’s to be an effective feedback loop, right?  Not if the quarterly results demon is waiting.   No naming names because all are guilty of the method- it’s too hard to change right away.

A recent announcement by Lemonade regarding the firm considering exercising an IPO, further exemplifies how a poster-child insurance start-up may migrate to insurance ‘legitimacy’, and potentially step aside from its game theory approach to serving customer needs.  The very basis of the firm’s leading principle supporting its charitable giving approach to claim handling/premiums, the Ulysses Contract, may be preempted post-IPO by the quarterly ratio chase and Daniel Schreiber’s hands will be tied no more, and will become available to take the cash or craft the next opportunity.  The firm has traveled far from the day where the first seventy renters’ policies were observed rolling in through the company website.

Not that there aren’t innovating companies/startups that have either migrated to conventional insurance forms through investment exit or by IPO- see German Family Insurance-Deutsche-Familienversicherung, the first European InsurTech IPO, or firms that have made effective partnerships with incumbent carriers, e.g., Lucep PTE that forged an effective working basis with MetLife Portugal .  Each of those firms found effective ways to bridge the perceived gap between innovation and incumbency.

It just doesn’t matter which insurance route your organization is following- incumbent or entrant, each customer is dear, all firms need to act with a sense of customer service urgency.  Today’s startup chasing seed money is next year’s IPO, and in quick time an incumbent that even newer entrants are focused on disrupting.  And there’s no reason skinny jeans can’t be worn at one’s corner cubicle while the wearer peruses the corporate 10-Q or ECOFIN dictates.

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 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).

Insurers love NPS- can the IoT help show why it remains an important measure?

 

 

TLDR  What to do, what to do, in the InsurTech, innovation insurance world?  Insurance remains a ‘sold, not bought’, product.  Virtual service is not only becoming a demand of customers, but carriers are embracing the concept based on expectations of efficiency and economy.  Will there be a disconnect between service efforts and how customers perceive it?  As customers change their habits, can insurance change theirs?  What is the common thread?

How an insurance carrier performs is typically known only when an adverse situation occurs, i.e., a claim, and service is triggered for the customer, a customer who doesn’t really know what to expect during a claim experience.  So of course the industry knows this and has devised many ways of gauging service performance: from internal surveys, JD Power ratings (Customer Service Index), and most recently, by asking claim customers how they would rate the service they received in terms of one question,

How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”  

 The answers to that clever question are the basis of the calculations for a ‘Net Promoter Score’ (NPS), a service (loyalty) measure devised by Fred Reichheld and other clever minds at Bain and Co.  How does this tie in with InsurTech principles?  Seemingly through another three-letter acronym, IoT (Internet of Things).

 

What are you talking about, you say- NPS is a survey administered measure made available to but a fraction of insurance customers, is but one question, and disregards the experience of the majority of the customers.  IoT speaks to connected devices, ostensibly meant (to many in the insurance world) to detect adverse conditions, track adverse conditions, determine behaviors that might predict adverse circumstances, and by extension reduce carriers’ exposure to claims. One measures experience, and one works to predict experience.

Well, I’m here to say that the two concepts couldn’t be more intertwined, and as innovation within the insurance industry becomes more practical, and as IoT becomes more ubiquitous, the interplay of NPS and IoT will become clearer.

At its root NPS was developed as a means to measure what the folks at Bain found as the key driver of business growth and success- customer loyalty.  Loyalty has been a proven factor in business growth and businesses who foster customer loyalty not only retain those customers’ business, but those same customers are motivated to bring other business along.  Enhancing customer loyalty, adding value to the customers’ lives, and refuting the contention that “loyalty is dead” (see Mr. Reichheld discussing that here ) is the foundation of NPS.  And everyone touts their NPS results, don’t they?

So along comes IoT principles as part of the InsurTech wave, and its primary advocate in the InsurTech world, Matteo Carbone. (In an odd coincidence as with Mr. Reichheld, Mr. Carbone is also a Bain alumnus.)  Mr. Carbone has espoused the concept that “all insurers will be InsurTech”, but in addition to that his IoT Observatory has become a central authority regarding insurance effects of connected devices in autos, houses, and to some extent, wearables.  And a main principle he covers within his recent article, “Smart Home Insurance Strategy 101”, is loyalty :

This way of enhancing proximity and interaction frequency with policyholders (connected devices and value addition) – while creating new customer experience and expanding relationships – is one of the reasons for adopting IoT in home insurance. These interactions with customers are one proven way to earn higher loyalty and allow the differentiation from competitors.”

There’s that word- loyalty.  In an insurance world where virtual service is becoming the holy grail for carriers, how will loyalty remain a factor that can be influenced by carrier service?  Even the InsurTech poster child, Lemonade, has to have concerns that as long as NPS remains an important measure of customer service (Clearsurance may have ideas about that), interactions with insureds must remain focused on maintaining or building loyalty.  Can a bot do that?

IoT programs have that opportunity to integrate technology, virtual service, and value addition that can build customer loyalty, for example, value-added services as noted by Mr. Carbone.  “But the real opportunity is to solve customer problems by delivering enlarged value propositions for their homes. (Some) services enabled by home IoT are:

  • Safety/Security: remote monitoring and emergency services to provide peace-of-mind to the homeowner;
  • Efficiency: tracking and optimization tools to contain the expenditures (energy and water) at home;
  • Property services: concierge with a platform of certified service providers (such as plumbers, metal workers, carpenters, construction workers or electricians) for home administration;

Seems any or all of those points would serve to build customer loyalty in the absence of direct service from claim staff.  And what of agents?  Insurance sales and servicing of policies remain a predominantly agency-driven proposition in the US and Europe- agents/brokers are beginning to recognize the need for provision of more to customers than just quotes.  In markets where ecosystems and smart device access are the primary entry for customers to insurance, loyalty may be even more fragile as ecosystem change is simply an app away.  In all matters the focus must remain on enriching customers’ lives, on #innovatingfromthecustomerbackwards.

NPS and IoT- the concepts can’t make insurance a more ‘bought, not sold’ proposition, but effectively focusing on IoT in an increasingly virtual insurance world can help maintain or build loyalty, and as the architects of NPS found, that is the foundation of an effective growth strategy.  The two principles have previously marked different paths but are now on intersecting courses.

 

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).

 

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).