Following a spate of insurtech failures, Rebecca Jones, CEO and co-founder of drone technology provider Iprosurv, argues that newcomers need to get real and stop promising the world.
Design or accident
Either by design or by accident, the insurtech community has been positioned as either the disruptors of, or in more recent years, the saviours of the insurance industry.
Which is handy because throughout 2020 it has become clear that however proud we are of our industry, there are huge issues that must be addressed, and quickly. So far, the industry has shown that it cannot find its own way out of the current situation – it needs the energy, the willingness to change and the know-how to make it happen that often only an outsider can bring.
But if the stars are aligned for incumbents and insurtechs to create a new future for the industry, why have we seen so many incomers stumble and fail in the last 12 to 18 months?
In a series of interviews with the founders of failed insurtechs, conducted by Oxbow Partners, every single one said the industry simply wasn’t ready for the change they were bringing and that their big idea hadn’t met current market needs.
Now that may be a catch-all to hide various other failures, but it is very revealing and starts to get to the root of why so many insurtechs fail. It’s fine to have a great idea and vision for the future of insurance but if it isn’t practical, isn’t actionable and doesn’t actually help those in today’s industry do things in a better way, then there is literally no point to it.
Whatever insurtechs aim to do, it has to be grounded in reality to have any chance of being adopted, never mind changing the industry. It seems that too many have been too keen to take on all the problems facing insurance in one go, racing to be the one that delivers the game changer.
But that is like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – the game changer exists only in the minds of the deluded. Any new entrant into the market, whether they identify as an insurtech or not, will only make inroads if they are 100% focused on fixing the problems, or enhancing the opportunities, of today.
If they continue to focus on a too-distant future, they will continue to fail. And that doesn’t just damage their business – it damages anyone who seeks to apply new technology to traditional processes.
Because every time distrustful incumbents see another insurtech fail, it reassures them that they were right all along, that they should keep doing things the way they always have. And if that trend continues, we will all have failed.
It’s time for those of us who promise a better future for insurance to get real about those promises. We might see the potential that technology brings. We might get frustrated at those who don’t get it. And we might even think it’s all going to be a waste of time.
But those frustrations are our failures, not the industry’s. They can be addressed by being realistic about the application of the technology we have and rather than taking a technology-first approach, we have to look at what isn’t working or where opportunities aren’t being exploited and only then seek out the technology or approach that can address it.
If insurtechs continue to promise the world and deliver only failure, a real opportunity to change insurance for the better will be lost, perhaps forever. Far better to rein in those ambitions and frustrations and get real about what insurance really needs.
We must first focus on today and only when we’ve cracked that, can we move on to tackling tomorrow.
As more and more providers turn to remote technology to keep the claims process going we asked Waseem Malik, Executive Managing Director of Claims for AXA Insurance to give us his view and why he thinks greater use of tech and increased digital capability is finally here to stay in
It’s hard to find positives in a global pandemic but I’m an optimist so hear me out.
The insurance industry isn’t known for its revolutionary tendencies. We prefer to change things incrementally, safely and surely. We get there eventually, but it often takes time.
And it has been no different with the digitisation of the industry. There isn’t an organisation worth its salt that is not going through some kind of digital transformation but if I’m honest, none of us have done it at any great speed.
But this is where the positive in the pandemic comes in. Of course, insurance isn’t alone in this but by being forced to work remotely, we have all had to find new ways of doing that, from managing claims to conducting risk assessments and everything in between. And we’ve had to do it quickly.
The answer to that problem has, almost every time, been tech and I’m glad to say that we have embraced this wholeheartedly at AXA where we have been accelerating our use and deployment of this.
For example, customers can report and submit their claim, complete with damage and incident details, via their phone allowing the claim handler to get moving as soon as the data is in.
And for large losses, particularly in property, we have been able to use tech such as drones, rather than people, to safely assess the damage and get the claim moving.
Neither of these processes are new. The difference now is that rather than seeing tools like these as an option, they are the first port of call and whenever we emerge out of this pandemic, I think they will remain vitally important.
Because it’s not just the industry that has had to adapt to this – customers are also getting used to a new way of doing things. And the feedback we are getting on these tech-led approaches is extremely positive. The smart use of tech speeds the claims process up, it makes our decision making much more transparent and it makes their experience of dealing with us much easier.
They have seen what is possible and how our use of tech positively impacts their experience, so they’ll expect more of the same and we need to deliver it. But I am acutely aware that the conviction of one insurer isn’t going to give our customers the experience they or we want.
All parties need to understand the value of this tech. I can easily imagine an underwriter offering preferential terms to a broker who comes armed with detailed drone data on a risk. Why wouldn’t they? The data doesn’t lie.
And for adjusters, not only does it allow them to assess a site quickly and safely, it is cost effective too and in a sector of the market where margins are wafer thin, that has got to be a benefit they and insurers want to embrace.
It’s not just about drones – they are simply an example to illustrate my point. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has forced many of us to adopt tech more broadly and with greater speed than we would perhaps have imagined – just look at all our kids using Microsoft Teams, better than us in many cases, for their online lessons!
But for customers and the industry to get the full benefit, we all need to understand and accept the value it offers. This is an opportunity, driven by tragic events, but an opportunity nonetheless and if we don’t take it, we will have let our customers down.
Not only that. We will have let the next generation of insurance professionals down, those people who are looking to us to create the industry of the future, and we will have let them down badly. I for one don’t want to be here in five or ten years’ time saying “I told you so”. I want to be here saying “I was part of the revolution”.