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Fostering Insurtech Success at GILS 2019

Fostering Insurtech Success at GILS 2019

I enjoyed attending the Global Insurtech Leaders Summit – Insurtech Insights in NYC last week. The event featured two days of great sessions and panels led by startup and carrier execs, and journalists and investors.

Insurtechs demonstrated their wares, and it was a great forum for networking. The Brella app made it easy to arrange 15-minute “speed dating” meetings at tables set up for this purpose. The crowd took full advantage, the meeting area hummed with activity, and a great upbeat vibe pervaded the busy and well-attended event.

If you’re an insurtech (as are Fusion PR’s clients) it was a great place for meeting potential customers, comparing notes on tech and best practices and picking up tips for boosting business success. I list a few notes below from some of the sessions I attended.

Beyond Buzzwords

Timor Kalimov, SVP of Business for Hyperscience, discussed sexy buzzwords (like AI, machine learning) and non-sexy ones (e.g. document processing).

Despite the march to digital transformation, old school documents of all kinds still dominate insurance. “Human ingenuity knows no bounds in messing things up,” he said.

You need AI and machine learning to turn this hot mess, including poorly scanned documents, faxes, PDFs and handwriting, into actionable info in a cost-effective way.

Collaborating with Insurers

The next panel was especially interesting as it focused on how insurtechs and insurers can collaborate for the best results.  There were two executives from each camp.  Mee-Jung Jang, Managing Director at the MetLife Digital Accelerator powered by Techstars, moderated.

The panel covered a wide range of topics, like how Chubb and MetLife work with insurtechs, expectations, successes and failures.

Partnership models can vary, e.g. Terry Luciani, MetLife VP of Innovation, said that they draw from the Techstars accelerator.  Chubb collaborates with startups organically, according to Sean Ringsted, their Chief Digital Officer. Chad Nitschke, Co-Founder and CEO of Bunker (an insurer and technology platform that serves SMBs) contacted and now works with Chubb.

Tim Attia, CEO of Slice Labs, a cloud-native platform for innovative insurance providers, said that that large carriers have experience and can help a smaller company like Slice to scale.

When asked about failures, each had a different take: Terry said that the last mile of business implementation is hard. Chad pointed out that failure is important, and everyone needs to be honest with themselves. Tim agreed with these thoughts and suggested that distribution is key, not just a product-driven focus.

Terry pointed out a sobering number: just 5 proofs of concept result from 1000 startups. He added that it is important to set criteria and have clear metrics.

When asked about advice for insurtechs, Sean Ringsted of Chubb said: “Have a business proposition, don’t just lead with technology. Have clear markers, be prepared for a long journey; you’re going to iterate.” Terry Luciani of MetLife said: “You need to know my business. Leave me with next steps.”

Building Excitement for Life Insurance

I found the next session interesting because it focused on some of the unique issues in life insurance.

Moderator Grace Vandecruze, MD of M&A firm Grace Global Capital, pointed out that there are 46 insurance companies in the Fortune 500, each with an average age of 98 years. Consumers trust the industry only slightly more than cable TV providers.

Mike Logsdon, Co-Founder & COO of loyalty platform Life.io, pointed out a “dismal” number: one in six can’t name their life insurance carrier. The industry wants to innovate but suffers from a legacy culture.

Adam Erlebacher, CEO of Fabric agreed, and pointed out the irony of companies so thoughtful about using data to price risk being late to the Internet; the industry has focused on building product rather than on delivering great customer experiences.

Making Lemonade

In another session, it was great to hear from Ty Sagalow, who was one of the founders of homeowner and rental insurance innovator Lemonade.

Ty said that insurance has a branding issue; it’s the only industry where there’s an inherent conflict between the customer and provider. When one wins, the other loses. He also cited the Urban Dictionary definition of insurance: “A business that involves selling people promises to pay later that are never fulfilled.”

There’s no simple answer to the industry’s reputational dilemma; but perhaps companies like Lemonade will help. They donate money left over from claims to charity, as pointed out in this article in Financial Times.

Afterwards, I met Ty and bought an autographed copy of his book: The Making of Lemonade.

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