Insurance industry shouldn't go it alone in the new normal

Partnering with tech sector is more than just a 'nice to have' today

Insurance industry shouldn't go it alone in the new normal


By Alicja Grzadkowska

The following is an editorial by Alicja Grzadkowska, senior news editor at Insurance Business. To reach out to Alicja, email her at [email protected].

There are many capabilities that insurers excel at, from conducting risk analysis to providing critical solutions that protect companies’ and individuals’ bottom lines. However, there are also many areas in which the insurance industry needs some help to meet insureds’ needs – and that’s not a bad thing, especially when there are plenty of partners in other industries, namely technology, who can put new capabilities into the hand of insurers without the cost and hassle of going it alone.

Partnerships between insurers and firms operating in the tech sector have made headlines more frequently over the past few months. Recent ones have included Aon collaborating with Nayms on a cryptocurrency pilot, Sompo International working with Flock on commercial drone solutions, and Blink partnering with Allianz Partners to roll out a travel disruption insurance platform, to name a few.

These types of collaborations are nothing new and have been around in the industry for many years now, as insurtechs have gained a foothold in insurance and have become seen as partners more than direct competitors to incumbents. However, experts predict that, in part thanks to the disruption brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, these partnerships will become much more popular, valuable, and necessary over the coming years.

And there’s a good reason for these predictions. For one, COVID-19 has demonstrated that insurers still have a way to go when it comes to meeting customers’ expectations about their insurance needs, from being able to access their policies anywhere and at any time, to creating solutions that address the fast-evolving risks facing commercial and personal insureds today. In some cases, insurance professionals within organisations are still siloed from their data analysis and IT departments, leaving two groups who should be united working on opposite sides of the building, metaphorically speaking.

While there has been quite a bit of innovation in certain lines of insurance, other areas have fallen short in technology adoption, such as the specialty lines space. According to Insurwave CEO David Power, there’s a real opportunity in this space for technology to partner with brokers and insurers.

“By combining [technology] with what insurance companies are great at we can bring the best of the insurance market to the insurance buyers,” he said. “And I think, once we are open to believing that technology can only make us better and open to collaborating, with technology partners being brought into the traditional model, then we’re all going to benefit. And it really will create the space that this sector needs – one of innovation and of change.”

The fact that the insurtech space has continued to boom, with global investment in the sector reaching an annual high of US$7.1 billion in 2020, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, indicates that there’s tons of innovation to be found here that insurance companies can capitalise on. Many companies have already recognised the value of investing in insurtechs, like Nationwide, which recently doubled down on its venture fund. Through such programmes and partnerships, insurers can turn to tech firms that can bring their know-how into the company and combine it with insurance expertise to produce something new and exciting for consumers that meets their needs, instead of trying to build out capabilities in-house during a difficult period when many insurers’ bottom lines have been impacted by COVID-19.

Insurers need to recognise that, “While our industry is facing extreme issues relating to COVID-19, we also have an unprecedented level of access to technology and technologists who can help it prevail during these times of instability,” said Andrew Johnston, global head of insurtech at Willis Re, adding, “Many insurtechs probably feel vindicated that the insurance industry has been forced to realise the value of technology.”

Nonetheless, Johnston also pointed out that insurtechs haven’t escaped the economic fallout from the pandemic, adding, “The issue for insurtechs now is to survive months, possibly years, of market uncertainty.” In this environment, insurers should recognise and take advantage of the many upsides of working with insurtechs to solve emerging insurance and risk problems, in turn encouraging both sectors to continue growing and bringing innovative propositions forward for insureds.

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