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These Are the Insuretech Tools That Matter Right Now

With promises to bring insurance into the 21st century, Insuretech firms make headlines. But only some are making a real difference in the way the industry works today.
By: | July 2, 2018 • 5 min read

What does “Insuretech” mean to you?

The buzzword has been around for years in conversations about the industry’s need for digitization and modernization, but it’s still difficult to parse through the noise to find practical solutions actually making a difference in the way carriers, brokers and customers do business.

Innovations such as artificial intelligence and blockchain have potential to shake up traditional modes of underwriting and policy management, but use on a broad scale will take time. Rather, the tools impacting the industry in a more tangible way right now are not those that seek to disrupt the value chain, but rather augment services offered by carriers and brokers.

No matter your role in the insurance industry, these are the Insuretech tools to pay attention to now:

Tools to Make Brokers’ Jobs Easier

One school of thought posits that the rise of Big Data-enabled automated underwriting and more streamlined customer service will push out brokers in favor of direct-to-consumer sales. While that may hold true for some personal lines, the complexity of risk taken on by businesses demands the guidance of an experienced broker.

“Insurance brokers will continue to be an integral part of the buying and selling process for a while to come,” said Manish Agarwal, General Partner, AXA Venture Partners. “Technologies are being developed specifically to make brokers more effective and efficient because companies recognize that they aren’t going anywhere.”

Some of these solutions include technologies that allow brokers to quote new coverage in real time. Employee benefits coverage, for example, is a common thorn in brokers’ sides because it requires gathering a client company’s employee census data and taking it to prospective insurers to obtain quotes, which can take weeks.

“The process, unfortunately, is very labor intensive,” Agarwal said.

Companies like Limelight Health, an employee benefits and technology firm and an AXA Venture portfolio company, make it easy for brokers to quote and bind coverage by collecting and integrating data from carriers to generate and customize insurance quotes on the spot.

“This makes it easier for brokers to sell because you won’t have as much drop-off of clients in the time it takes to get an accurate quote,” Agarwal said.

Other technologies support brokers in helping their clients assess risk. SecurityScorecard, for example, ranks a company’s cyber risk — a perennially difficult exposure to identify and quantify. With this tool in hand, brokers can help clients obtain more customized cyber insurance solutions that address specific vulnerabilities.

“Rather than offering a blanket recommendation to purchase cyber coverage, brokers can say to clients, ‘I’ve done real work, I know your individual risk profile, and this is how much insurance you should buy’,” Agarwal said.

Solutions to Simplify Insurance Buying

Manish Agarwal, General Partner, AXA Venture Partners

Traditional buyers of commercial policies will benefit from brokers’ ability to access data and quote coverage more quickly, but new solutions are also emerging that address the unique insurance needs of the growing gig economy.

Take, for example, freelance photographers and videographers using drones to take aerial shots. Drones come with liability for property damage and injury to third parties, and are subject to regulations set by the FAA. Operators or their clients need insurance to cover these risks, but may not want to pay premiums for a policy they only use for an hour here or there over the course of a week.

“Some Insuretech companies have specialized in providing on-demand insurance direct to consumers that can be tailored to be turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ whenever the covered activity is taking place,” Agarwal said.

Verifly — another of AXA Venture Partner’s investments — is one example of a firm providing these custom, short-term policies directly though mobile apps. These solutions can also help carriers reach a range of independent contractors — like plumbers, electricians, designers, etc. — who may be inclined to forgo liability coverage through traditional channels altogether because of higher premiums and more up-front legwork.

“Simple, direct, custom solutions to get these entities covered offer value to both the insureds and insurers,” Agarwal said.

Platforms Supporting Carriers

The direct-to-consumer model may not apply to large corporations, but carriers have been able to leverage claims-specific Insuretech platforms to deliver more efficient claims management and better customer service. And drawing on seemingly infinite sources of data can support more precise and accurate underwriting and risk pricing — though regulators are hesitant fully to embrace that approach.

But carriers are also utilizing solutions not specific to insurance to improve their value proposition to clients.

Wellth, for example, tracks users’ health behaviors via a mobile app, monitoring factors like medication adherence, smoking cessation, daily exercise or testing blood glucose levels.

The company partners with insurers, Accountable Care Organizations, and self-insured employers to offer financial incentives to help consumers change their behavior, reducing their risk profile and lowering health costs.

“Incentives can improve adherence to prescribed protocols by 80 to 90 percent,” Agarwal said. “These small rewards go a long way in managing chronic conditions and keeping costs in check.”

Human resource technologies also help carriers find efficiencies in the recruitment and hiring process. Phenom People, a talent marketing platform, turns career websites into more interactive experiences for visitors, connecting them with the jobs that best match their qualifications, offering chat bots to answer questions, and streamlining the application process.

“Given the talent gap plaguing the industry, this could help insurers catch the eye of younger applicants and keep them interested,” Agarwal said.

The AXA Approach to Insuretech Investing

Even as these tech solutions are adopted by various industry stakeholders, the Insuretech landscape continues to evolve. Since AXA Venture Partners was established three years ago, it has chosen its portfolio companies with one eye on the present and one toward the future.

“Certainly, we invest in companies that will offer good return on investment over the long term, and we hope AXA can incorporate some of them to improve business practices,” Agarwal said. “But we’re also looking at more disruptive technologies still in their early stages – such as AI and blockchain — to keep a pulse of what’s developing in this space.

“These are early days for insurance technology companies, and there will be a lot more innovation and disruption down the road. It’s an interesting area — one that lots of brokers, lots of consumers and certainly lots of insurance companies should pay attention to.”

To learn more, visit https://www.axavp.com/.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with AXA Insurance Company. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




AXA Insurance Company (AIC), part of AXA’s international network, provides US insurance and risk management solutions to large and mid-sized companies.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Masters of Risk

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]