The Uber of Insurance

Insurance is ripe for disruption, and given the conservative nature of the reigning carriers and large brokers, it is a fair guess that a lot of innovation will come from outside the industry. A few weeks ago, this article touched on how innovation is affecting the financial services industry, but the focus was very much on banking and investing. Today, we aim to expand on this author’s work by focusing on new entrants that are working on disrupting the insurance industry.

It is far too early to call who the big winner(s) will be, so we are not yet ready to crown an Uber of Insurance, but here are a few of the candidates that we think might be in the winner’s circle when the dust settles.

 

1. Zenefits:

Founded in 2013, this cloud based HR management company shouldn’t be on a list of companies changing the insurance industry, but they are, because of their innovative approach to selling benefits. According to Forbes, they were one of the hottest startups in 2014 and look poised for success in 2015. Their focus is on the more than 5 million employers with less than 1,000 employees. They give the HR software away for free and make their money on broker commissions for health insurance sold through the software.

The benefits industry was blindsided by this model, and they are facing lawsuits in multiple states but assuming they survive them, they will be in position to upend the traditional way benefits are marketed. The software looks great, and they claim 10,000 companies with 100,000 employees are already using them. Whether or not they survive the legal and regulatory onslaught, we love their innovative free-software approach. It’s also interesting that they started in the Y Combinator startup accelerator. We expect more and more insurance and risk management startups to come from startup accelerators in the next few years as the tech crowd is waking up to the opportunities to disrupt our industry.

 

2. BizInsure:

Founded and owned by San Francisco based broker Woodruff-Sawyer. BizInsurance brought in software from Australia to essentially automate the sales and service process for small commercial insurance. They started with professional liability and have since expanded to also offer BOPs. Their whole business model is based on being able to quote online, buy in seconds, and have a dec page in your inbox in minutes, all while retaining the ability to chat with a licensed agent by phone at any time for either sales or service.

They have been growing slowly by choice, only signing up the carriers who have made their system completely compatible so there’s no manual or overnight batch processes. They do have a decent stable of carriers available including CNA, Hiscox, Liberty International, Philadelphia, and USLI. It looks like they are now starting to push growth harder, and the question is whether they will be able to hit an exponential growth curve allowing them to disrupt how small business insurance gets sold.

 

3. MetroMile:

The first and thus far only company offering by-the-mile auto insurance in the US. Metromile takes a similar approach to Zenefits in that the service is free to everybody, and then they try to convert you into a paying customer by offering by-the-mile insurance. Thus far they’re only available in a few states: California, Illinois, Washington and Oregon, but they are starting to advertise heavily that they can save you money if you drive less than 10,000 miles per year.

The free service gives you a free bluetooth device to install in your car and an app which gives you diagnostics of your vehicle’s performance. For those not ready to fully utilize telematics, this innovation company will still allow you to stay informed about your driving behavior with Metromile Tag. To name a few of the benefits of this device, it can track mileage for expenses, driving trends, parking location, and commute optimization, courtesy of InsuranceNetworkingNews.com.

Another reason they are a potential disruptor to the industry is because since January 2015 they have partnered with Uber to offer insurance to their drivers, essentially guaranteeing that Uber drivers don’t have a gap  in coverage when the Uber policy isn’t covering them. If you think about it, consumers are very used to the pay for usage model in other areas of their life like electricity, water, gas and MetroMile’s marketing makes the connection explicit. Technically, they are an agency, not a carrier, and the product is underwritten by National General Insurance Group.

 

4. Evosure:

Currently on invitation only beta, Evosure’s goal is to reduce the 60% of unwanted quote requests commercial carriers receive by simplifying the communication of constantly changing underwriter appetites through a web platform that allows brokers to describe the type of risk they have and finds you a matching underwriter. Their management team has some insurance chops (unlike a lot of other insurance startups that are heavy on tech people): Matt Foran, former Director of Strategy for Zurich Specialty Products; Brian Wood, former SVP for Marsh & McLennan and Brett McKenzie, former Director of Marketing at Fireman’s Fund. We also really love their “Commercial Insurance is Sexy” t-shirts, we completely agree!

 

5. Friendsurance (Germany):

Combining social networking with personal lines insurance in a very interesting way creating a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) insurance solution. You create a group of friends needing the same type of insurance and pool your money together and insure the pool’s risks with a carrier. If money is left over at the end of the policy period because of good claims experience, you get a refund, or  your next term’s premium is cheaper. You never have to pay more than your premium, even if losses are bad because of a stoploss. It works because insuring with friends reduces fraud, results in better risk selection, small claims are paid from the pool without the expensive process at the carrier and grows virally without having to pay a sales force. We really hope this works, and somebody tries it out in the US soon. After all, if you think about it, this would be a natural 21st century extension to the age old idea of mutual insurance.

 

6. SocialIntel.com:

Getting credit history, driving history and other background information to underwrite personal lines accounts is expensive. What if we could underwrite equally effectively by analyzing a person’s social media posts? It’s kind of a crazy idea, but that’s what SocialIntel.com is selling, and if it works, that could be a game changer for our industry. They aim to help carrier underwriters without using expensive data from the usual databases. Our guess is that it wouldn’t work too well for the over-40 crowd, but it probably works great on my generation who have a tendency of posting everything on social media. The coolest part of it is that they continually re-evaluate the risk, not just at underwriting, claim, and renewal time. This could be a real game changer if they can sell the idea to the carriers and prove that it is truly predictive.

 

7. Policy Genius:

Started by two former McKinsey consultants who were astonished at the backwardness of the insurance industry. They are focused on life and disability insurance and trying to disprove the idea that insurance is “sold and not bought”. They believe that if you educate the consumers with the right system they will buy the right product without a hard sell. Aimed squarely at the millennial buyer, their friendly Insurance Checkup takes 5 minutes and walks you through the different risks in your life. Then it shows you what “People Like You” usually need coverage for and explain why. At the end, you get an Insurance To-Do List which recommends the insurance you need in simple language. Interestingly, it points out even home and auto insurance which, currently, they don’t sell themselves. We really like that they also tell you what kinds of insurance you don’t need, which builds trust.

In Tony’s case, they recommended that at 32 years old, he doesn’t need to buy Long-Term Care yet. If they expand to do all insurance products and do it well, they could become the new way to buy personal lines insurance. One minor thing that’s a turnoff, they don’t currently have an app, so you have to do everything at the website.

We are excited to watch these 7 companies develop.  The insurance industry is ripe for disruption, and innovative ideas that approach opportunities from a different perspective and compliment policyholder demographics are bound to put new life in an old business.  Comment below: What other companies or products do you have your eye on?

This article was co-written by Tony Canas, RVP of the West Coast at InsNerds.comCarly Burnham, RVP of the East Coast at InsNerds.com and guest author Justin Hardin.

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