Disruption is not coming, it's already happening

| 05 Jan 2018

Mr Martin Kornacki, Publisher and Editor of The Digital Insurer, shares highlights of The Digital Insurer (TDI) Asia Conference which focused the insurance industry once again on the importance of customer-centricity and rapid innovation across the sector.

Below is his report, first published in the January edition of Asia Insurance Review:

As Mr Prashant Agarwal, director, AIA Edge, told delegates: “There is no disruption that will happen to insurance, the disruption is already happening because our customers are disrupted, they are experienced, exacting and focus on enjoyment over asset ownership.”

Embrace change

Split across a full day of interactive, fast-paced panel sessions that drew on the views of established players through to fresh InsurTechs and VCs, the message was clear: the industry has the capability to embrace change but it must do so before it loses out to competitors that understand data, customer centricity and online digital models better.

One such company highlighted on the day during a TDI team session looking at innovation around the world was Lemonade. The US property and casualty carrier is more a behavioural science and technology firm than a traditional insurer. Lemonade is intensely interested in the “why?” Why do people do what they do and how does that “why” relate to insurance.

As Mr Tek Yew Chia, head, Financial Services Advisory KPMG, warned: “Innovation is not equal to transformation, transformation is different. AirBnB and Uber are examples of transformation, not just a transformation model. By transforming the whole industry, you could soon have an insurance provider that owns the customer but not the product.”

Putting customers first

Numerous panellists on the day stressed the sector was at a critical juncture and incremental change to insurance business models was not going to be enough to remain competitive.

Looking at some of the opportunities insurers had to adopt in leading edge innovation, a blockchain session chaired by TDI’s Simon Phipps, highlighted the challenges and opportunities of working in a decentralised, trustless environment made possible through distributed ledger solutions.

This was followed by a live demonstration of a smart health blockchain built by KPMG Digital Village Singapore exclusively for the event. As Digital Village head, Mr Jan Reinmueller, said: “Very late in this process we are building the proposition, we don’t look to InsurTechs as the first step for the answers – they will not solve your problems if you don’t put your customers first.”

Global research database of InsurTechs

Introduced by the conference chair Rick Huckstep, TDI further offered support to insurers that want to partner or learn from InsurTechs by announcing it is building a global research database of InsurTechs, which once complete, will offer an analytics service to the market.

Two Awards voted for on the day, one for startup InsurTechs won by Digital Fineprint, which uses social media data to help insurers innovate, and one for insurance innovation, won by Tal Qantas, a partnership between airline and insurer to deliver a life insurance product, allowed for deep knowledge sharing of leading innovation in practice.

More broadly it is clear that Asia is creating global best practice for innovation within insurance, as Mr Frank DesVignes, founder Axa Lab Asia, urged delegates: “The most exciting company doing tech first and insurance second is Yong An, and they are moving extremely quickly developing billions of policies for millions of customers in only three years, look at this model to get a good flavour of what is going on in China.”

Next year’s TDI Asia event is moving online and adopting a new global format to further facilitate knowledge sharing across regions. LiveFest 2018 will see TDI building on the success of its online-only 2017 European event, as well as the interactive fast-paced format of its Asia event to produce what we expect to be the most relevant digital insurance event of the year.

The TDI Asia conference was held in Singapore at the end of 2017. Attended by more than 200 of the region’s insurance innovation leaders; transformation, and how to harness the latest developments in blockchain, AI, data analytics, and the development of ecosystems were top of the agenda.

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