Canadian Underwriter

Why this broker says ‘there is no such thing as insurtech’

February 28, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Although Canada has at least 50 companies that could be described as “insurtech,” the term itself is just a buzzword, speakers suggested Tuesday at the Technology Conference.

“I think the biggest thing of insurtech is the buzzword that is insurtech,” Adam Mitchell, president of Whitby, Ont.-based Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers Ltd., said during a panel discussion at ICTC, held at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto.

By the same token, Mitchell added, “there is no such thing as insurtech. We didn’t call email, when it came out, ‘mailtech.’ It’s that slow evolution of modern technology that was applied to business and it made sense and helped satisfy people.”

Mitchell compared insurtech to cloud computing, another tech buzzword.

“It’s just someone else’s computer,” Mitchell said of cloud computing. “You rent it.”

The panel discussion, entitled CX: Today’s Reality and the Path Ahead for Insurance, was moderated by Mark Breading, partner with Boston-based research firm Strategy Meets Action.

Breading said the “insurtech startup phenomenon has in some ways rocked the industry,” adding SMA is “tracking about 1,200 startups globally and around 50 of those are in Canada.” Insurtech, he added, has “really has been a catalyst for many insurers to start to rethink how they do business and to rethink who they partner with.”

Breading asked the panelists where insurtech is headed and whether it is going to transform the industry.

Mitchell, whose firm uses chatbots to give quotes, suggested that insurtechs could amount to no more than an ephemeral phenomenon. Although some insurtech startups are being funded by venture capital, most of them fail eventually, he pointed out.

One company that sees itself as an insurtech is Kanetix Ltd., said Janine White, vice president of marketplaces for the quoting firm, who was also on the ICTC panel Tuesday. She sees the number of insurtechs growing “exponentially.”

“We are in an industry that needs technology help,” White said. “We are slowed down by regulations. We are slowed down by a complicated product.”

Breading asked the panellists about creating an omni-channel experience for customers.

One example of an omni-channel experience is when a customer starts a query or transaction online and finishes it by physically walking into a brokerage office, said Kathy Corbacio, director of business development at CAA Insurance Company.

Insurance companies or brokers who do not force people to enter their information three or four times “are the ones that are going to win,” Corbacio said. “We can be comparable on price, but the deal-breaker is going to be on the service you can provide and the advice that you are giving.”

Elaborating on customer service expectations, White said: “We live in a world today in which I don’t have to line up for my $3.50 coffee, and yet I have to stand in line and have a very friction-filled experience to buy a $2,000 product that perhaps I don’t even want to buy. There is a massive opportunity for a carrier or broker who makes that [process] as seamless as possible for somebody who doesn’t want to buy the product.”