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Insurers waking from their slumber, or still hitting snooze?

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Nick Pester, Partner, Insurance at Capital Law, takes a look back over the insurtech landscape across the first half of 2019. 

There’s no doubt about it – insurtech is now a thing. A serious proposition, and not just the buzz word that many in the industry considered it to be 2 or 3 years ago. Whilst there is certainly a growing interest and urgency within the traditional market about how best to harness the digital revolution, there remains a lack of understanding and practical applications. But we are now entering the time when it’s stand and be counted, or fade into the annals of history.

Overall trends

The last six months has seen the level of investment into the sector increase again, along with the size of the deals. The previous quarter recorded a 33% increase in Series B investment rounds and a 100% increase in Series C .

Whilst personal lines may still represent the main playground for insurtechs, it is becoming an increasingly saturated space. Although products with a Property & Casualty focus continue to attract the greatest interest from investors, the Life & Health space is beginning to share centre stage. Unsurprising, perhaps, when you consider that less than 30% of the UK population holds life cover.

Platform plays also remain a popular area for insurtechs (e.g. Kasko, Digital Insurance Group, Instanda, and Artificial Labs), as insurers struggle to build and launch digital products utilising worn legacy systems. But this, too, is becoming a crowded space.

Commercial finally comes to the fore

All of this means that there is now a greater focus on commercial lines insurtech products, particularly in the SME market but also now creeping into more complex risks.

Competition for the traditional market will come not only from insurtechs but also the wider capital markets. If those two sectors effectively combine, it could result in a scenario where the traditional market is excluded altogether.

Perhaps the best example of this is the recently published Future of Lloyd’s Prospectus, within which Lloyd’s has set out some lofty ambitions for the digitalisation of that market.

Amongst its key conclusions are that both underwriters and claims could better utilise AI technology for standard risks/losses, and that insurers could drive greater efficiencies with increased outsourcing of internal processes to third party insurtech providers. Lloyd’s say that this will ultimately help achieve a reduction in acquisition costs from the current 30-40% to 10-20%.

Some of the more radical ideas include ‘Syndicate in a Box’, which will allow innovators to set up new syndicates remotely and to access Lloyd’s for capital and other centralised functions. The prospectus also states that the market should embrace not compete with third-party capital (e.g. a Hedge Fund could act as a follower without any licensing requirements).

They don’t intend to hang around either; a market consultation is open for the next 10 weeks and implementation will begin in earnest in October 2019, with some components operational by early 2020.

Whilst some may say that its ambitions didn’t go far enough, it was still bold language for Lloyd’s and probably a year or two ahead of when I had expected such aspirations to emerge. Amazing what a combined £3bn loss over 2 years can do to focus the mind…

So where has the initial traction been seen in the commercial lines space?

Pricing, Underwriting and Data

Insurers are beginning to appreciate the possibilities opened up by insurtech, and specifically AI and IoT focused propositions, for data harvesting and resultant risk modelling. It is providing underwriters with an increasingly granular understanding of risk both at the individual and portfolio level, including for complex covers such as Cargo (e.g. Concirrus’ recent partnership with WillisRe).

Companies like Cytora (partnered with QBE, MS Amlin, and XL Catlin) and Describe Data (chosen for the current Lloyd’s Lab cohort) are focused on helping insurers leverage external as well as internal data sets in order to improve underwriting ratios and have seen increase in traction.

Claims 

Claims has also become a major focus for commercial lines products, particularly for higher volume SME accounts where there are often too many parties in the chain and insurance fraud is still costing the industry billions a year.

Take Shift Technology, for example, who’ve just raised a $60m Series C round and announced a partnership with CNA in the US, having already processed hundreds of million claims for insurers worldwide.

What do the next six months hold?

I’ve said for a while now that competition for the traditional market will come not only from insurtechs but also the wider capital markets. If those two sectors effectively combine, it could result in a scenario where the traditional market is excluded altogether.

For the same reason, whilst Lloyd’s currently appears to be adopting a collaborative approach towards the emergence of third-party capital, it will be interesting to see how that proposal is received by the market and how long that stance lasts.

Either way I have little doubt that the next 6-12 months will see an influx of external capital and more insurtechs applying for carrier licences, utilising VC funds for capital solvency requirements. Particularly as we see a growing number of Series B, C (and beyond) investment rounds.

Either way I have little doubt that the next 6-12 months will see an influx of external capital and more insurtechs applying for carrier licences, utilising VC funds for capital solvency requirements. Particularly as we see a growing number of Series B, C (and beyond) investment rounds.

A very interesting H2 2019 lies ahead.

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