Distribution insurtechs’ boarding call for industry

Insignia Review sat down with Laurens Koppelaar, CEO of Symbo Singapore, to talk about how distribution insurtechs are reshaping the industry’s interaction with data.

Takeaways

  • Distribution insurtechs amplify data-driven capabilities for insurers, brokers, and affinity partners by providing more feedback and strengthening customer relationships
  • There is a double impetus for incumbents to embrace distribution technologies with increasing consumer demand for convenience and more accessible technological integration
  • Benefits of amplification ripple across industries and regions even with inherent differences

Back in the 1800s, housed in Lloyd’s coffee shop in the UK were the world’s first underwriters. They peered out from the shop’s windows, watching ships come in and out of the port and painstakingly noting which ones returned, damages to ships, among other details. 

These days big data is seen as one of the next big disruptors of industry. For insurance, it has been its staple since birth two hundred years ago. So as data for insurance has evolved far from its pen-and-notebook beginnings in the coffee shops of London, so has its potential uses. 

The insurance industry is ripe for [using data] — the industry is trying to grapple now how to make the most out of different data sets, structured and unstructured.

Distribution models amplifying data use in insurance ecosystem

As with most industries being disrupted today, many insurtechs are using technology to make specific insurance processes, like claims analysis and fraud detection, more efficient. For example, claims analysis insurtechs would use non-conventional sources of data like social media or weather stations. 

Others are taking the distribution route, focusing more on the linkages in the industry. Their concern revolves around the asynchronization of information and inefficiencies across the value chain. 

When it comes to using data in the 21st century insurance industry, distribution insurtechs push the role of data in insurance beyond filling in gaps in processes. Instead, they use data to amplify the capabilities of insurers and brokers across all lines of insurance. 

For example, a distribution insurtech could advise insurers in their network on what insurance products have seen more success in sales, and how specific agents could be of stronger service to their customer bases. 

The benefits also extends to affinity partners. Affinity partners can be a risk champion by heralding protection awareness to its customers, now empowered on far more accurate data points. In turn, affinity partners further strengthen their offering while also unlocking additional revenue streams.

Double impetus to take action 

While the industry has not yet fully embraced the distribution technology platform yet, industry shifts create a double impetus for incumbents. Expectations of both retail and commercial consumers are moving towards faster feedback loops as digital communication speeds up. The second shift is happening on the other end with technological integration becoming more accessible for business. 

Some players are taking a step forward in the right direction even though there’s still a long way to go with cultural norms and legacy systems that have to be changed. For example, while a handful of insurance companies are releasing API-enabled insurance products, most only cater to retail customers.

Nevertheless, with this double impetus to take action, the opportunity is there to strengthen linkages between customers and industry players. That’s what distribution insurtechs are working towards, by building digital storefronts for insurance players and forming partnerships with non-insurance platforms like travel service aggregators. 

The biggest hurdle of companies and incumbents is culture and that kind of cultural fabric and DNA in a company to allow for that to happen. And so I think you now don’t have an excuse anymore and now you have expectations from your clients to do so. There’s a double impetus. Clients want it, and you can do it, so why not do it? 

Equipping the ecosystem with data

Accelerating this trend goes back to how distribution insurtechs are uniquely structured to use data. As distribution insurtechs expand their network, data shortens feedback loops between stakeholders — claims for a flight delay can be made immediately as opposed to going through tedious paperwork, and travel insurance can be “turned on and off” as customers need it. The benefits ripple across an ecosystem of industries, not just insurance. 

Ecosystem building, especially in Southeast Asia, requires navigating the regulation, distribution models, and technology adoption. Having worked insurance roles in the region for close to a decade already, Laurens believes in finding the right fit of insurance products for the opportunities present in each market. In spite of differences, Symbo Singapore capitalizes on learnings from their “bigger brother” in India, which has been operating for the last two and a half years. 

Data has always been the lifeblood of insurance, but it’s not going to be of much use if the industry remains docked at harbor. Distribution insurtechs like Symbo are setting sail into the future. If you ask Laurens, while the underwriters in Lloyd’s have been told not to wait up, he’s welcoming insurance players and non-insurance partners aboard. 

If you believe the ecosystem is helping to groom and grow startups, a big part of that is sharing data, and information, and knowledge, and experiences, the good and the bad, so collectively you move the needle.

 

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