Every day, the topic of disruption comes up in discussions about the insurance industry. Who is trying to enter the market? How are disruptors going to handle the regulatory hurdles that exist? Is there a real place for disruption in the insurance industry? 

While we talk about it at length, in order to implement change, the ability to understand disruption as it applies to insurance goes well beyond use of the buzzword. Last week at PIMA, industry stakeholders took a critical look at what disruption truly means, what lessons can be learned, and how to provide more value for the consumer.

The numbers of start-ups and innovators taking a crack at changing the conversation around insurance is extensive. Not only impressive in number, these companies have a vast array of approaches to the change, but all share the common goal of changing insurance from a necessary product to a robust experience that keeps customers highly engaged.

Startups like Oscar and Figo promote a solution for managing healthcare and all aspects of being a pet owner, rather than just selling an insurance policy. Creating cloud-based solutions, focusing on the broader pain points of consumers, and positioning insurance as only one aspect of the broader service they offer, these companies have engaged previously disillusioned customers. And it’s working: according to Oscar’s head of business development Michael Kopko, 80% of customers have an online account and about one in three of those customers log on in a given week.

The focus on the industry also resonates well with those investing in insurtech. VC firms, insurance accelerators, and even carriers are looking for ideas that address a big opportunity with an innovative approach. And with interest comes significant money: in 2015, over $2.6 billion was invested in insurtech. Many venture capital companies see the blueprint created by FinTech companies as a way industries with regulatory challenges can embrace startups and provides lucrative opportunities in today’s digital world. Furthermore, carriers are often getting into the mix by investing their own capital in new ideas. It also gives the insurance companies the chance to diversify and make a strategic move to add value to their platform in the future. Case-in-point: MassMutual’s investment in digital brands that target very specific markets. Both Haven Life, which launched in 2015, and Valora Life, which focuses on the Hispanic consumer and launched in 2016, aim to reach targeted, underinsured segments of the market.

As the concept of “information asymmetry” between the carrier and the consumer continues to go away there is a need to change the way brands interact with their customer base. Consumers have increasing amounts of information at their fingertips on the products and services they buy. Furthermore, Mintel’s Insurance Purchase Decisions US 2015 report reveals that well over half of consumers already value the ability to shop for insurance online because they can better compare options.

Partnerships among brands and startups, investments in innovative approaches to the industry, and focusing on value beyond the product itself are just a few of the key ingredients to the evolving relationship between insurance and its customers.  As the industry looks forward, embracing the disruption can help the industry transform rather than fall behind in servicing consumers.

Stephanie Roy is the Director of Insights, Insurance at Mintel, focusing on all insurance sectors for Mintel Comperemedia. She is responsible for providing internal and external stakeholders with insights and analysis on trends in the Life, Health and P&C insurance industries.

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