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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 XL, the property & casualty and specialty risk division of AXA, provides insurance and risk management products and services for mid-sized companies through to large multinationals, and reinsurance solutions to insurance companies globally. We partner with those who move the world forward. To learn more, visit www.axaxl.com.

More from Risk & Insurance

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4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]