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Technology, insurtech and innovation: key takeaways from the Digital Insurance Agenda

Published by Cherry Chan on

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes


Embracing ecosystems, cutting costs with technology - and the importance of creating “fans”. Cherry Chan, head of general insurance consulting, shares key takeaways from one of the leading events in insurtech and innovation in insurance.

Those who follow me on LinkedIn may know that I was in Amsterdam recently attending the Digital Insurance Agenda (DIA), one of the leading events in insurtech and innovation in insurance. 50 top insurtech companies showcased their products over the two days to over 1,200 attendees.

It was my first time at DIA and I thought it was an excellent event. I was seriously impressed by the seven keynote speakers - all successful in their own right. For your benefit, I’ve done a quick recap of some of the speakers.

Rakuten, Inc is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo. Its e-commerce platform, Rakuten Ichiba, is the largest e-commerce site in Japan. If you haven’t heard of them, then you may have seen them on FC Barcelona’s football kit!

Their ecosystem is very comprehensive, from internet services to fintech to digital content. It’s all about their brand, membership and data. They have been able to keep their membership loyal, successfully using a point system to migrate customers from one platform to another. As of December 2017, they had 1.2 billion members globally.  You may say “that’s not new”; in the UK we have Nectar points and Tesco Clubcard points which employ a similar strategy – however, on a much smaller scale.

Insurance is key to Rakuten’s ambition and forms part of their key ecosystem. They have the technology and entrepreneurial mind-set to change the insurance industry.

A qualified actuary-turned-business owner, CEO Steven Mendel presented from Bought by Many, a customer-centric insurance service provider that aims to deal with customers with empathy and care. The overall theme of Steven’s talk was on how his company listens to their customer’s needs and gives them what they want - instead of pushing a standard insurance product. All common sense, right? He also discussed how technology is core to running their business efficiently.

I particularly liked what Steven said about creating “fans” of their company - not just customers - maximising a consumer’s lifetime value.  This resonates a lot with me, as this is in line with Barnett Waddingham’s ethos of putting clients first.

Bill gave an excellent overview on how China has built their first online insurance company in just four years, backed by Ping An, Tencent and Alibaba. Again, like Rakuten, they have been building ecosystems: as of 2017, they have built five ecosystems with 307 partners! They specialise in technology, insurance and also act as service provider to other insurance companies.

Unlike their European counterparts, Zhong An can be more agile as they do not have any legacy issues - instead building everything on a cloud-based system from the beginning. They have written about 10 billion policies in the last three years, issuing 2 million policies a day on average! These are the numbers that European insurance companies can only dream of. Then again, China has 1.4 billion people, so the market size is very different.

Zhong An see General Insurance as the key to connect many things together: good news for the insurance industry. The key messages I took away from this talk was to make use of technology, build ecosystems and share your platforms with as many companies as you can (the last one is certainly unusual for insurance companies to do!)

Bibop Gresta gave another engaging keynote presentation – showing us how Hyperloop are building a better and faster transportation system. While Hyperloop is not an insurance company, Munich Re are providing the insurance cover - and it is clearly a technology-driven project.

Interestingly, they claim that they are not developing new technology, but putting together existing technology to build Hyperloop.

The first Hyperloop is being built between Abu Dhabi and Dubai by 2020, which means it will only take only twelve minutes to travel 87 miles! I fully support the idea, but only time will tell if this will become a reality. If it is successful then our travel journeys will be changed forever!

In summary, I really enjoyed the two day event, and I will pick some of my favourite insurtech companies in my coming blogs.

Key takeaways:

  • Global players are including insurance when setting up ecosystems, so I believe traditional insurers should look to be part of an ecosystem if they want to stay relevant.
  • Making use of technology is key for insurance companies. It helps keep costs down and save time on routine policy and claims processes - freeing up time for staff to perform value-added tasks to engage customers.
  • Create fans, not customers, for your business.
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About the author

  • Cherry Chan

    Cherry advises a range of UK general (re)insurance companies and international captives on actuarial issues including statutory reserve reviews, reinsurance and insurance programme optimisation and Solvency II implementations. She also acts as Actuarial Function to a number of clients.

    View Biography

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