The insurance industry has recorded minimal growth as far as penetration and performance is concerned. The growth has been slower in the developing markets where penetration has seen a sluggish appetite. The most sensible reason for this has been lack of trust between the customers and the insurance companies for starters and lack of adequate disposable income among the populace in many of these markets. The last decade has however seen a surge in insurance trends thanks to the advancement in technology. Industry experts say that in years to come, growth of the industry will primarily be fueled more by technology than by any other factor. While the changes and growth are not expected to be instantaneous, the winds of change are already sweeping through the industry, propelled by technology and innovation. It is expected that future insurance companies will be driven by technology 100 percent and all processes are expected to be automated. Companies that respond and adapt to this inevitable change stand to reap big while those that adopt a wait-and-see approach will cheer the first movers. There are some technological innovations that are expected to disrupt the industry going into the future and how this technology can be leveraged by insurance companies to make meaningful impact.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is an umbrella term that is used to refer to four different classes of Artificial Intelligence namely Cognitive, Data Science, Computing and Machine Learning. AI is expected to play a fundamental role in helping underwriters unlock their potential in terms of value addition to their back and front office operations. Data science and machine learning, for instance, is expected to take center stage in implementing these processes because they are the most understood and the most used forms of AI. The advancement in AI and machine learning are already making it possible to leverage unstructured datasets and companies are already making use of this development. Companies like Zhong An, an online-only insurer in China has implemented AI in all their processes ranging from product pricing to consumer trends prediction. Companies are expected to make use of information such as credit histories and online usage trends of clients to come up with algorithms that would customize products for customers. But more value will be achieved by insurers that seek to make use of AI to improve and automate all backend processes to be seamless and error free because in this industry, perception is everything.
Blockchain and Chatbots
Blockchain technology is closely related to AI and Machine learning. Insurance distribution channels especially those directly related to micro-insurance products are expected to be modified and in some instances reengineered completely to adapt to the changing and emerging trends in technology. More and more companies have already adopted the USSD approach which is considered a low-touch approach in terms of consumer connectivity. While it has worked very well for most firms, the jury is still out on the viability of this channel as an ideal distribution channel especially in a market where trust in the industry is still an issue to be discussed. Other high touch channels such as agents and brokers are considered more viable because they provide a certain level of consumer understanding and trust, even if this may not always be the case. Chatbots create an important balance between these two channels and seem to bridge the gap between the tech-savvy consumers and the traditional consumers who still believe in a conversational approach to purchase insurance. Some industry players such as Spixii are already using chatbots to spice up their customer experience while at the same time offering seamless processes that are almost instantaneous. Companies such as Lemonade have already implemented their virtual assistants who are able to settle claims in a matter of seconds, the fastest being 3 seconds.
P2P insurance is a term used to describe products such as rotating savings and credit associations that normally group people into pools and then offer insurance. While this is not necessarily a new concept in the insurance industry, we expect to see companies leveraging on technologies such as social media and taking advantage of smartphone penetration to create new group structures. These groups will benefit from more transparent transactions, secure payment gateways and a more personalized connection. First movers in this space such as Friendsurance and So-Sure are already registering increased customer numbers and saving between 30-80 percent of their administrative finances.
On-Demand Insurance (ODI)
The current crop of consumers have varying consumer needs that insurers will have to adapt to. For instance, the new generation of consumers would prefer to buy items several times in small quantities as opposed to bulk buying periodically. This trend is mostly informed by the irregular income streams that intertwine with competing needs. The solution? “Sachet marketing”. Insurers will be compelled to come up with short-term products that require periodic or regular payment either weekly, daily or monthly. This means that insures will sell their products on-demand and will either turn a policy on or off depending on the consumer needs. As expected, first industry movers such as Kenya Orient’s “Safari Bima” are already enjoying the benefit of this kind of arrangement where consumers can purchase scratch cards or simply relay an SMS to activate their cover when they are ready to do so. As the smartphone penetration Index continues to rise, we expect that more and more firms will get innovative and introduce diverse micro insurance products for some of the low income consumers.
According to FinTech Weekly, InsureTech or Insurance Tech are Technologies & platforms that help optimize any of the principles for success or requirements of insurance. By extension: any company that provide insurance through the engagement of technology in a user-centric way. Insurtechs are here to stay and it is expected that they will define the insurance industry in a big way in the next decade. The developed markets have already recorded an upward of 46 percent increase in the number of InsureTechs entering the market every year. While the developing markets are yet to reach this number, the future is dotted with more and more Insurance Technology companies that will disrupt the industry fundamentally. This companies will offer better insurance services and processes that will entice customers to shift from the mainstream Insurance providers while at the same time riding on the backs of these insurance firms.
It is obvious that the future of insurance growth and penetration will be anchored on technology and its usefulness will depend on how well the players in the industry leverage this technology to suit their needs. The first movers in each and every step of the way will be the bakers of the cake while the rest will only benefit from their generosity.