Business Models, Not Technology Key to Insurance Transformation—InsureTech Connect Address

Technology is indispensable, but ultimately as an enabler of innovative business models, said InsureTech Connect’s chairman and co-founder Caribou Honig.

(Photo credit: Michele Pace.)

In his opening address at InsureTech Connect 2018, event chairman Caribou Honig said that “Technology does not transform industries. New business models—often tech-enabled—transform industries.”

Honig noted the event’s having quadrupled in size since its premiere two years ago, with this year’s InsureTech Connect counting over 6,000 participants. Appealing to the value of quality as well as quantity he noted that a third of attendees were of VP level, and other third belonging to the C-suite. He added that over 1,000 attendees were from abroad. “If no one from U.S. showed up, we’d still have one of the largest InsurTech events globally,” he said. “Sharing of perspectives makes for a much better event.”

Caribou Honig, Chairman and Cofounder of HR Transform & InsureTech Connect.

Honig noted that this year’s event involved greater participation from insurance regulators. He urged attendees and exhibitors to welcome and embrace regulators. “They want to be part of the conversation, and one way or another, they are going to engage with the innovators,” he said.

Reviewing issues addressed at last year’s event, Honig raised the issue of whether insurance would be “API-ified,” and noted that long-term vendors are beginning to make their systems available via APIs.

He added that his best-received question last year was whether insurance was destined to remain an industry with low customer engagement. “Will it become something that people engage with, that becomes part of their routine—like a toothbrush?” he asked. “I don’t know the answer, but if it does become something people engage with, that will probably be through the Internet of Things.”

The Importance of Culture

Talent and culture remain under-discussed issues for insurance innovators, Honig cautioned. “Pay attention to the language people use,” he counseled. “Do people talk about actuarial science or data science? Do they talk of having IT department or software engineers? Those terms are representative of culture in an organization.”

Honig commented that in discussions of InsurTech, one often hears two antagonistic perspectives. “You sometimes get the reaction, ‘Startups are doomed, they don’t understand risk, capital!’ Other reactions are that sky is falling and insurers doomed,” he said. “Neither is right in my view. Both have an important role to play in catalyzing the digital revolution happening in insurance.”

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For over a decade he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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