InsurTech: People moves
Company from: Aviva
Company to: Abacai
Job from: Chief Executive
Job to: Director and founder
Mark Wilson enjoyed a highly successful career in the insurance market, having reinvigorated Asian giant AIA before being hired to do the same at Aviva. Initially he was praised for saving the troubled UK company, but later years saw investors grow frustrated with Aviva’s failure to thrive and lack of focus.Wilson currently sits on the board of BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, and last year headed a failed takeover bid for Saga, the over-50s travel and insurance provider.
The launching of Abacai, a new, disruptive auto insurtech, will be Wilson’s first foray back into the insurance business since his 2018 exit from Aviva.
“We have an ambitious vision for Abacai as a high growth disruptor. There is a massive opportunity in the fast-evolving digital insurance market and we plan to be at the forefront of the industry.”
Company from: Deloitte
Company to: Google
Job from: Partner
Job to: MD of Insurance
Nigel Walsh is the former VP of UK Insurance at Capgemini, a partner at Deloitte and has recently joined Google as the new MD of Insurance for North America. He is a staunch advocate of insurtech. He has even co-authored a book on the subject entitled The InsurTECH Book.
He says, “There has never been a better time to enable an industry drive change, making Google the number one destination for insurance transformation over the next decade.”
Company from: LexisRisk Risk Solutions
Company to: IMS
Job from: R&D Director
Job to: Director of Automotive Development
As the founder of Wunelli, Paul Stacy is the serial telematics technology entrepreneur. Prior to his latest appointment IMS, Stacy was at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, as the R&D Director and Director of Automotive Development, EMEA. His new role of Global Business Development Director at IMS, is one of several top-level hires of senior hires over the last 18 months.
Commenting on his role, Paul said his immediate focus would be exploring opportunities in new markets where IMS doesn’t currently have a presence.
Insurtechs are winning the race with legacy system companies
Nestled in its own place within the world of financial services, insurance is arguably more unpopular than retail banking.
That’s hardly surprising given that, from a customer service perspective, insurance is something of an off-kilter transaction. You pay a sizable premium in exchange for a service you hope you will never have to use. This image problem is exacerbated by ubiquitous tales of insurers not paying out when it is time to make a claim.
The insurance sector has long been due to an overhaul, and this is where the disruptive force of insurtech comes in - one of fintech’s most upwardly mobile subcategories. Accordingly, last year, insurtech in the UK alone attracted £262m in investment, a growth of 60% on 2019, according to Tech Nation. Insurtech’s momentous growth has been captured in a new report by The AI Journal exploring this burgeoning sector.
What exactly is insurtech?
Put simply, insurtech refers to technological innovations that seek to make insurance cheaper to buy and more efficient to use. In a similar vein to fintech, the large, established institutions have been dipping their toes into insurtech, but it’s the disruptors who are genuinely looking to shake up the status quo, diving into and exploiting those areas that traditionalists have little imperative to explore.
Examples are price comparison sites (one of the earliest forms of insurtech that was eventually snapped up by the insurers it initially sought to disrupt), claims software, customisable policies, or even smart-tech-enabled dynamic policies whose premiums can fluctuate depending on changing circumstances.
The latter, for instance, could use someone’s fitness tracker or smartwatch to monitor fitness levels, thus reducing the premium of a life insurance policy; or track a GPS system that records the location of a car and assesses risk levels accordingly.
Most consumers tend to shop around for their insurance needs and perhaps end up buying their contents insurance with one provider, their car insurance with someone else, and their pet insurance with yet another underwriter. Managing all these different policies, with their varying renewal dates and payment terms can be complex. This has led to the increase in apps that pull everything together.
More prosaically, insurtechs are developing AI that uses machine learning to act as an insurance broker, eliminating the need for a human intermediary and therefore offering more cost-effective and impartial advice.
Insurtechs and risk
But there are some obstacles in the way of insurtech’s continued evolution.
Insurance companies are averse to risk. Understandably so, as at the crux of the industry is the role of the actuary, whose job it is to analyse and measure the probability and risk of future events. So it’s little wonder that there’s a reluctance among the traditional players to welcome the disruption that insurtech brings.
Insurance is heavily regulated, a minefield of legality and labyrinthine jurisdiction, which means the idea of shaking it up can be anathema. And why would they, when their old-school business models are working perfectly fine?
There’s an understandable nervousness and unwillingness to work with startups, who themselves need to work with the bigger firms in order to underwrite risk.
While it seems like a catch-22 situation, there is growing, if cautious, interest from insurance companies, who can see the benefits of insurance with a friendlier face, innovative solutions, and a competitive edge through differentiation. As that tentativeness dissipates, the growth of insurtech will gather even more momentum.
Tom Allen's analysis is based on the findings of a new report on the fintech and insurtech industries produced by The AI Journal.