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Brokers, why build tech on your own when you can partner with an insurtech?


August 30, 2019   by Greg Meckbach


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Brokers looking to up their game in digital innovation should scan the market for potential technology partners, Symposium West attendees were told last week.

“Who can you partner with – in an adjacent industry or a solution provider – that can give you an edge faster than something you can build yourself?” said David Kerr, technology consulting partner with Deloitte Canada, on Aug. 22 at Symposium West, an event organized by the Insurance Institute of Canada.

During his morning keynote, Kerr went over several trends – among them the sharing economy and big data – that are disrupting the insurance industry.

Insurtechs, startup companies in either the technology or insurance sectors, are potential competitive threats to established brokers and carriers, warned Kerr. That said, many established brokers and carriers are finding partners so they can innovate quickly. Kerr pointed to the example of duuo; here, the Co-operators Group Ltd. uses technology from Slice Labs Inc. to provide insurance for home-sharing hosts who rent their properties from sites like Airbnb.

Kerr is particularly intrigued by Canadian web service Onlia, which offers auto insurance now and plans to launch home insurance for Canadian clients this year. Onlia is a joint venture between Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and Achmea, a large European insurer based near Utrecht in The Netherlands. Onlia operates on InShared, the technology through which Achmea sells P&C in Europe. If a Canadian client buys auto insurance through Onlia, the insurer is Verassure Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Northbridge, which is ultimately owned by Fairfax.

“This to me is very interesting because there has been a long-held assumption that it’s hard to get into this market or that people don’t want to get into this market from outside,” Kerr said during Symposium West of the Canadian P&C market.

The night before he delivered his keynote, Kerr went to Onlia and tried to get a quote for auto insurance just to see what the experience is like. “I encourage you – whenever you see a digital offering, whether it’s based on a brokerage or from an insurer – try them out,” said Kerr. “See what the quotation experience is like, what works and what doesn’t work.

“While there is a focus on digital direct, by no means is the broker channel being ignored. Some insurers are doubling down on the broker channel. Notably, Wawanesa has been very public about that.”

Kerr pointed to AvivaExpress as an example of an insurance technology partnership in Canada. Aviva Canada developed AvivaExpress in collaboration with Snapsheet. The app lets Aviva Canada auto physical damage claimants get their claims processed by taking pictures and uploading them to a mobile app.

“I see this as an increasing trend: rather than build [on our own], what can we do to partner? Or what can we do to acquire a capability that gets us to market faster with a new solution or something we can experiment with?” said Kerr.