Post LIVE Tech: Pandemic an 'impossibly hard time' for some insurtechs

Coronavirus

While some insurtechs have shone through the pandemic, others have been faced with mammoth difficulties around changing customer priorities and restrictions, a conference heard.

Speaking on a panel at Post’s LIVE Technology conference, James Birch, development director for Ki, described the pandemic as an “impossibly hard time” for some insurtechs, pointing to insurance falling down the list of the public’s priorities.

He said: “Kudos to everyone that managed to get through the last year. Typically insurance is pretty low down the priority list for most consumers and in terms of the area that I see most challenging going forward as well as the last six to 12 months is anything that falls within this kind of embedded insurance as a concept.

“It’s definitely a challenge for some smaller insurtechs to stay relevant to get market share, to ensure that genuine product market fit. It’s no longer enough to just have a sexy front end and a differentiated user interface. You really have to provide a differentiated service and ultimately cover and product insurance for customers to get them to care about you, because we are over that hype curve now.

“It’s a great opportunity to show that you can deliver real tangible value to the customer.”

Travel

During the discussion it was put forward that the biggest pandemic risks to business in the insurtech space have been faced by firms in the travel sector, with restrictions having left policyholders with cancelled holidays and prevented unnecessary travel abroad.

Dead Happy co-founder Phil Zeidler suggested that travel has been a challenging sector for “some time”, in terms of “selling insurance and the whole claims space”.

David George, Founder and CEO of Bikmo, added: “Travel insurtechs were starting to bubble up when the pandemic hit, but obviously that’s going to have a massive impact.

“After every pandemic historically it’s been a boon time, everyone is clamouring to get on holiday now so arguably now will be the time to do that if you’re in the space if you get the traction and get customers in the front door.”

According to Jens Hartwig, co-founder and chief product officer at Laka, the “biggest winner is the one that turns a loss into a win”. 

He said: “A good example is Pluto in the travel insurance market, which completely broke away. Switching the whole proposition, it said ‘let’s build a mood board / travel planning tool for our users, let’s just create value with something new while we can’t create a value with our initial mission’.

“That’s for me one of the greatest examples of quick thinking, being agile.”

Insurtech Pluto had partnered with Zurich to sell travel policies prior to the onset of the pandemic. Faced with disruption to its model as travellers were grounded, it has since begun styling itself as an app that “travel lovers” can use to plan trips.

Top performers

The expert panel flagged motor, in particular usage-based insurance, as an area of insurtech that has flourished under Covid restrictions.

George added: “People have a car sitting on the driveway and there’s some companies that have been doing rebates, but then you have the By Miles covers of the world where you pay for your usage by mile or by minute.

“That forced a lot of bigger insurers to step up and do that. We have a lot more folks in that sector now which arguably shifted the conversation forward - people haven’t been using public transport for very good reasons, what are the solutions?”

“Anyone who’s got user friendly interface that actually delivers a product based on the customer’s use, the telematics guys, haven’t actually really struggled.”

By Miles customers pay a flat annual fee starting at £150 for the year and then pay 3p per mile driven as counted using telematics technology. The insurtech was named by multiple panellists as an example of a company with a model that had come to the fore during the disruption.

Also flagged as a business that was doing a good job at focusing on customer needs was Floodflash, which installs a sensor on a customer’s wall with a pay out when the water depth exceeds a certain level.

Arma Karma co-founder and chief financial officer Chris Frogner pointed out that the industry’s reputation has been “negatively affected” by the handling of some claims and premium rebates, or lack therefor, under Covid. Frogner added that all industry parties “have a bit of responsibility towards repairing it”.

“The way to do that is to ultimately really focus on customer needs. Customers have got to be at the centre of everything the organisation stands for and does,” Frogner said.

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