How easy is it to collaborate with Insurtechs?

A survey by global consultancy PwC found 82% of banks, insurers and asset managers intend to increase the number of partnerships they have with Fintech/Insurtech firms over the next three to five years. Having recently been retained by a major global Reinsurer to run their search for a suitably qualified (and energized!) Executive to establish and launch an Incubator / Innovation Lab for them, we were also asked to conduct a study into the world of Insurtechs.

The idea behind the study was to help our client understand a number of key questions; how do Insurtechs view the Insurance world that they are trying to disrupt; what do Insurtechs ideally want from a potential collaboration partner; what hurdles can stand in the way of successful collaboration?

Having met with over 15 Founders and CEOs of Insurtechs, I wanted to (briefly) share some of the content and topics which consistently emerged from these discussions;

Why do there seem to be so many gaps for Insurtechs to ‘plug’?

The overwhelming response from Insurtechs was that the Insurance sector’s lack of investment in technology and failure to acknowledge that technology will ultimately disrupt most industries and markets has left them ripe for innovation. In an industry where pricing, product and both the simplicity and interactive nature of user experience is absolutely paramount to winning business, there was always a huge opportunity for technology platforms to take substantial market share from traditional players, and even the potential for it to create new insurance markets. While traditional (re)insurers have been consumed by regulatory changes, the nascent Insurtech startups have focused on perfecting client engagement and providing services which can be consumed in a way in-keeping with the millennial lifestyle. One Founder/CEO said that he chose the Insurance sector simply because “it was the last sector to really use digital”.

What do Insurtechs want from the (re)insurers who might want to collaborate with them?

Surprisingly, investment was not even close to the top of the list of most co-founders I spoke with. The consensus was that there is a lot of capital available out there at the moment, so, by accepting substantial capital investment from one major market player, Insurtech founders feel they could ultimately hinder their ability to gain a wide client base by effectively over-committing themselves to just one ‘client’. Where many founders saw the most value in collaboration was in R&D, working with an end-user so that the technology could be tested in a “live” environment – a further willingness to share historic Market Data is highly desirable to an Insurtech. For a lab / accelerator to be successful in attracting top Insurtechs, it should certainly be structured in a way that facilitates access to the key decision makers of the firm’s ‘parent’ company.

What are some of the hurdles to collaboration?

Trust – it was not surprising to hear that some Insurtechs had deliberately kept carriers at arm’s length to protect their IP and were sceptical of sharing too much information in their early stages of development.

Culture – creating a dynamic where tradition and innovation can not only co-exist, but ultimately thrive will require compromises, on both sides. Nobody said that creating an open-minded forum where both sides are open to being challenged and, crucially, learning would be easy!

Partner Selection – another problem many Insurtechs highlighted to me is the volume of Proof of Concepts; many of them are being invited by multiple (re)insurers to spend a substantial amount of time providing POCs which can often effectively end up costing considerable money and effort with no real reward at the end.

The opportunity for collaboration is clearly ripe – Insurtechs want access to historic market data, industry expertise and live environments and the (re)insurers desperately need help to stay relevant in an ever-evolving, technology-driven world. For me, it will be the (re)insurance firms who can create an environment which encourages the sharing of IP, choose their partners following substantial due diligence and bring a mentality of “collaboration not competition” who will attract the top Insurtech talent and ultimately reap the biggest rewards from their innovation lab.