Saturday, June 15, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Digital Insurance…In Person’ – Aniqah Majid, FF News in ‘The Insurtech Magazine’

Greenwich, London – where hemispheres meet – was an appropriate place to bring legacy firms and insurtechs together for a show that Aniqah Majid found both refreshing and surprising Aniqah Majid, FF News | Fintech Finance

It was the biggest in-person industry gathering in the last three years. From insurance bigwigs Generali and Zurich to trailblazing disruptors Arma Karma and Wefox, all made the pilgrimage to London to discuss the most exciting innovations happening in insurance.

What I assumed would be a dry introduction to the industry, Insurtech Insights Europe defied all my expectations. With its bustling promotion halls and densely packed stages, the excitement among guests for this most intangible of financial services was only too tangible. These were not the stiff and serious experts I had anticipated, but impassioned people with a common goal; to make insurance better – committed even to stepping up to the new role laid out for them by Wakam CEO Olivier Jaillon in his recent book. He sees insurance providers as ‘social and economic stabilizers, equipping societies with the tools needed to withstand the shocks triggered by a growing number of heightened risks’.

Among the 4000 people in attendance were an abundant number of insurtechs, insurers and VC investors, all apparently in line with that vision.

Talks kicked off with Allianz board member Sirma Boshnakova and her keynote ‘A seamless and borderless world: Building Technology with a heart.’ As one of the first talks of the event, senses were on high alert, with spectators discreetly exchanging their own thoughts on digitalisation and the future.

The CEO of Allianz Partners reflected on the growing use of digitised solutions, but explained that insurance must maintain its ‘human touch’. The concern Boshnakova was addressing comes from the alienation customers may face if digitalisation was to be taken to excess.

“It’s about addressing all of the customers’ needs – instead of just fixing a problem – and providing peace of mind throughout their daily lives,” she said.

The re-prioritising of the human aspect of insurance has been a focal point for many in the insurtech space, including CEO of Wefox, Julian Teicke. In his keynote address, Teicke explained why his company, now valued at well over $3billion, saw giving agents a digital platform to work on is better for insurers in the long run. Wefox itself grossed €90million in revenues in just the first quarter of 2022 on the back of such a model.


With the onset of Covid and growing online activity, the relationship between customers and agents is in perpetual flux, factors like geography and insurance types acting as determinants. In Europe, 72 per cent of consumers interviewed by researchers at Insurance Nexus said they preferred to engage with insurers directly through their websites, 38 per cent through aggregators and only 23 per cent through the agent/broker channel. In North America, the picture was slightly different. The broker channel ‘was significantly more popular’ with 43 per cent putting it among their favourites; 57 per cent choosing online with 29 per cent saying that they would prefer an aggregator.

But, from baby boomers to Gen-Zers, the responses showed ‘the vast majority of respondents selected multiple channels – meaning that the omni-channel engagement trend is continuing’.

The tectonic shifts in consumer demographics were echoed throughout the conference, cropping up in panel discussions and showcases. Insurers are now undoubtedly dealing with an audience more comfortable with online buying, demanding more in terms of immediate services and varied products. The topic of embedded insurance was inescapable.

Insurance products ‘bundled’ with other non-financial services have existed for, rather it’s the method of delivery that’s changed and how and how far the industry should embrace that was the hot focus. Panels dissected whether embedding insurance products into third-party avenues made any change to the customer journey, others questioned if it was a gamble for insurance companies and their underwriting process.

Leaders and providers in this movement include, Cover Genius and Tigerlab, who all enthusiastically used their booths to point to datasets and diagrams in an attempt to persuade any attendees unsure about the embedded phenomenon. The consensus that emerged was that such a product was imperative and a natural feature of today’s digital marketplace.

Daniel Malmvarn, chief commercial officer of Tigerlab said: “Embedded insurance [has] been around for a while, but is gaining prominence because it allows people to sell anything online, whilst adding insurance to the process. As we know, insurance does not sell itself, [and] it is good to have quick integration digitally online, so you can add insurance for a fraction of the price of the product, but provide great value to the customer.”

Bitesize and parametric insurance were also discussed at the conference, both a direct consequence of recent existential threats caused by the pandemic and climate, which had brought a whole new audience to the industry. Innovators – from Urban Jungle, which offers a range of alternative contents-related insurance, to ICEYE, which develops bespoke products for P&C insurers, based on data from its always-on SAR satellite constellation – have been the main beneficiaries of that.


Looking around the conference, it was clear this was the era of B2B, the biggest insurtechs focussed on helping enhance carriers expand the range of products and leverage new channels of distribution to deliver the modern policies that meet the needs of today’s consumers.

As a consequence of the high cost of servicing those needs, preventative insurance solutions took centre stage. From young people and Covid cover to whole communities threatened by large-scale flooding, L&H and pet insurers in particular were concentrating on promoting wellness, while legacy insurers – among them AXA XL – are concerned with avoiding catastrophic loss by addressing big issues such as climate change and public health.

Ben Smyth, CEO of subscription-based insurer Arma Karma, spoke at a panel on the impact big tech has had on insurance distribution. The company markets predominately to 18-35-year-old consumers, usually viewed as ‘high-risk’ and insures individual products, from tablets to instruments.

By prioritising this group, Smyth believes we can close the ‘knowledge gap’ that exists among all consumers; but he blames existing insurance players for failing to adequately cater for younger people in the past, thereby perpetuating the notion of them being a high risk group.

To reach these young people, Arma Karma has adapted to their preferred methods of communication; posting memes on Twitter and partnering with TikTok influencers.

Interviewing Smyth was refreshing. As a young consumer myself, engaging with insurance in the laborious paper-based way, can build up an aversion to such ‘serious’ talk. Getting down with the younger generation, and finding ways to engage with a demographic often misunderstood by the industry, Arma Karma represented to me what it means to be customer-focussed.

Lack of understanding isn’t a characteristic exclusive to younger people. The Price Of Accuracy: Consumer Attitudes To Data And Insurance, a report produced by the ABI in 2019, had already established that most consumers tend to have a poor understanding of how their insurance is determined, with 44 per cent not confident they understand how their insurance premiums are calculated. This comes from the insurers’ inability to engage customers outside the transactional processes of onboarding and claims management.

Insurtechs who showcased and spoke at the event sought a different way to talk about insurance, one which didn’t leave consumers – or, indeed the event’s attendees – jaded or disillusioned.

In one of the most exhilarating panels, speakers rumbled back and forth on the biggest successes and trends of the industry. Heavy hitters in the discussion included Anthony Grosso and Ed Halsey of Hubb Insure, who have also collaborated extensively on EIS’s Coretalk, a talk show-inspired web series presented by Halsey. Hubb also generates its own video and news content, delivering an unorthodox and entertaining spin on insurance and broking.

Speaking outside of the panel session, Rory Yates, business leader and strategist at EIS talked about the relationship between insurance and technology and how it has evolved.

“Insurance is getting to a tipping point right now, where it’s getting more confident about what its future is going to look like. It’s asking the right questions of the technology providers. We haven’t just imagined this technology platform without having those insights from the industry. So, I think we’re all going to move to a more positive place.”

The sparkle of anticipation pervaded every hall and stage at the conference as attendees from Asia to Ohio itched to speak to and banter with fellow innovators. The frustrations of zoom meetings and dial-ins had exhausted everyone.

Insurtech Insights Europe was delivered as part and parcel of London Insurtech Week, where partners including Vitesse and Amazon Web Services hosted a busy seven days of contact events, from luncheons to five-a-side football. All the high-energy activities inside and outside of the conference came to represent the prevailing aphorism of the whole five days: it was so good to be back.


This article was published in The Insurtech Magazine #07, Page 20-21

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