Canadian Underwriter

Customers now define the industry and products: InsurTechTO speaker

November 6, 2017   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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As technology disrupts insurance providers and companies in other industries, understanding what customers want is critical, speakers suggested Monday at InsurTechTO.

“What I find most challenging about the customer side is, sometimes they know what they want and sometimes they don’t know what they want,” said Danish Yusuf, chief executive officer of Zensurance Brokers Inc., which provides commercial insurance. “As a company you have to figure out which one it is.”

Yusuf made his comments during a panel discussion titled Creating an Innovation Ecosystem at InsurTechTO.

“We get feedback on features we are testing and we see lots of positive feedback,” Yusuf said. “Is that really what they want or can we actually dramatically improve it by doing something completely different?”

Also speaking, on a different InsurTechTO panel, was Sean Widdess, head of strategic partnerships at

“Be careful about trying to make a solution to a problem that does not exist yet,” Widdess said during a panel titled Broker 2.0: The Transformation of the Modern Broker. “Ask your consumers what they want. Is it going to improve your sales or retention?”

If an investment does not improve sales or retention then “it is probably not a good investment,” Widdess suggested.

“There is a ton of cool things you can do that make you no money,” Widdess said. “In the tech space in Toronto, we know some of these companies get $50 million in funding. They are super excited. They get plastered all over the newspaper, and they make no money. They are losing money hand over fist. Ultimately, you need to be profitable.”

Jim Love, chief information officer and chief content officer at IT World Canada, suggested during InsurTechTO that some industries may not be fully digitized but there is a process called digital enablement.

“When you took a process or an industry that you couldn’t digitize in the traditional way …  people said, ‘maybe we can’t digitize the product, maybe we can’t fully digitize everything the same way or operate the same way but what we can do is digitize everything around it,” Love explained, citing Airbnb and Uber as examples.

“Someone was talking about taxi companies before Uber came in and said, ‘Yeah, when they invent teleportation, the taxi industry will be in danger,’” Love said. “But this whole idea of digital enablement meant that we could construct most of the delivery mechanisms digitally and change the entire industry.”

InsurTechTO, produced by, was held in Toronto at the Westin Harbour Castle.

“The customer defines the industry and the product now,” Love said. “So what we are struggling toward will be defined by the customer and we don’t know what it is yet. All I can tell you is it’s going to be different than we think it’s going to be.”

Love spoke during both the keynote – Insurance in the Post-Digital World – and in a Q&A session, along with Janine White, vice president of marketplaces at Kanetix.

“The great thing about startups is that they are thinking about the consumer, and hopefully, what the consumer wants,” White said in reply to a question from moderator Patrick Vice about regulation. “I think they are trying to understand what the consumer wants and the regulatory framework is sort of secondary. What we are seeing examples of, is when consumers already have access to something, then the regulators need to keep up with what the consumer wants – not so much where the insuretech is pushing them.”

Regulatory concerns should not be an excuse to not do something, Love suggested.

“I was in insurance for a short period of time, and I will tell you, anyone that didn’t want something done claimed that there was a regulation,” Love said. “So you have to push the envelope. And that is going to make trouble for regulators. Because people are going to push the envelope and the regulators will have to figure out what they are going to do with increasingly limited resources.”