Lloyds’ ‘Launch Innovation Lab’ targets insurtech
Developed in conjunction with FinTech Scotland and launched in October 2020, the incubator aims to help 12 companies create proof of concepts for their business over a 12-week period.
The ultimate goal will be to lead a new vanguard of customer-centric and data-driven insurtechs for the modern industry.
Previsico joins the programme
One of the latest companies to join ‘Launch Innovation’ is live flood forecasting company . Based in the UK, it originated from Government-sanctioned research conducted by Loughborough University following severe floods in the Somerset area during the winter of 2013 to 2014.
Professors Yu and Dr Avi Baruch subsequently co-founded Previsico in 2019 as a ‘spin-out’ of this concept. For its part, Lloyds is hopeful that the company’s flood prediction technology will be an asset to its own home insurance customers.
“The market is ripe for disruption,” said David McLeay, Innovation Product Owner at Lloyds. “We have an environment where customers’ needs are changing and in parallel, there are a lot of significant new technologies opening up opportunities.”
Lucy Coutts, Business Development Manager at Previsico, added, “We are delighted to join the ‘Launch Innovation Lab’. It will give us invaluable experience, with unprecedented access to business leaders, designers, industry experts, and mentors, as we shape our solution to fit Lloyds’ specific needs.”
Through a combination of digital transformation and the momentum for change initiated by the pandemic, insurance is currently undergoing some of the and diverse innovation in the broader fintech industry.
Lloyds’ decision to provide a platform for the development of insurtech is a heartening display of support that stands to bring considerable consumer benefits, as well as insurance industry progression. As McLeay DIGIT:
“We’re going to offer classes and surgeries where they can talk to technical architects and cloud infrastructure experts, talk to our risk teams, talk to our finance guys, speak to our design experts, our systems thinkers, our UXers, our corporate finance team – anyone that can help their business develop.
“As a big bank, we have a lot of people in a number of highly specialist roles, and we’re good at a number of big bank functions. However, we accept we’re not as agile, fast and reactive as some of the start-ups at certain things. We want to create an environment where both parties can mutually benefit from the relationship.”
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.