The term ‘insurtech’ could become obsolete as the sector shifts from disruptor to collaborator 

BrokerFest 2023: Insurance Times and Oxbow Partners signalled the launch of the inaugural Insurtech 50 report last week (23 February 2023) during a panel at the BrokerFest 2023 event.

The collaborative report, set to be published soon, will showcase the 50 best insurtechs in the UK general insurance (GI) sector across arenas such as claims and operations and will aid insurers and brokers in selecting technology vendors effectively.

Speaking at BrokerFest during the insurtech stream, senior manager at Oxbow Partners George Hanks told delegates: “There’s no denying that insurance and technology is intertwined.

“Insurtech has played a vital role in helping sleepy insurers and brokers wake up and smell the bacon – realising that there is an opportunity.”

For Hanks, the potential benefits of partnering with insurtech firms can only be realised through careful selection.

He explained: “If you are looking to work with insurtechs, there’s a long list of 50 different vendors – you should not just jump in gung-ho and start working with a technology vendor as an incumbent insurer or broker.

“You need to be really clear on what the problem statement is and therefore match that following statement to the capabilities of one of these insurtechs.”

He noted that incumbent insurers and brokers should “not be afraid to move quickly with these technology vendors” as they all have several factors in common – including that they have hungry teams and flexible technology designed for speed.

Hanks also urged insurers and brokers to remember that partnerships require investment and that it “takes two to tango”.

‘Insurtech’ as obsolete

He continued: “On another level, it feels like ‘insurtech’ is becoming slightly unhelpful as a term.

“It’s led to random businesses which haven’t proven themselves to have huge multiples, which isn’t helpful for anyone apart from investors. It has connotations with it, which confuse people.

“Back in 2015 when ‘insurtech’ first came around as a term it was not obvious that insurance and technology and technology were intertwined. Now that they are, it also becomes obsolete to call something insurtech because insurance is technology – so it doesn’t make sense to have that distinction.”

However, an audience poll revealed that only 10% of the delegates in the room believed that the term insurtech was redundant.

For Hanks, insurtech firms in the early days of 2015 were focused on disruption and distribution.

Since then, there has been a shift towards a more collaborative approach, he said.

He added: “This evolution from angry to cooperation spawned a whole load of different supplier insurtech businesses.

”I would argue that this cooperation phase has continued in 2022 and at the start of 2023 we’re starting to see the roots of what we are calling the bionic phase.

”This [bionic] phase is where we are seeing insurtechs having a real focus on trying to develop truly differentiated capabilities – particularly in things like data and analytics –to try and outperform in comparison to other technology options in the market.” 

He gave the example of Lemonade as a once ”angry insurtech” that has evolved into being cooperative and then bionic.

Hanks explained that Lemonade initially marketed themselves as the world’s first peer to peer insurer, but that this did not materialise with the term being side-lined in 2017.

“There’s a real focus on trying to develop differentiated hardcore capabilities in artificial intelligence and data analytics which it claims will allow it to outperform in the market,” he added.

Hanks’ comments came as part of a stream session entitled The insurtechs making a real difference to insurers and brokers in 2023, chaired by Insurance Times technology editor Clare Ruel. 

  • To read more coverage of BrokerFest 2023, click here

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