Posted by Emily Leinbach on September 30th, 2019
Originally published on LinkedIn by Jim Urquhart, Managing Director, FinTech at The Bowdoin Group.
This year’s Boston FinTech Week hosted by FinTech Sandbox was stellar. Seventy-four sessions over the course of four days revealed the latest trends, challenges, and predictions in FinTech—and I was honored to be part of it.
On Tuesday, The Bowdoin Group hosted “Innovations in the Insurance Landscape” at General Assembly, focused on how technology is radically changing the culture, people, and landscape of insurance.
The event featured a panel of industry experts, including three revolutionary InsurTech entrepreneurs and a FinTech banker (who dubbed himself a spy given that the others are entrepreneurs). I was thrilled to moderate the discussion. The lineup:
- Jay Grayson, Co-Founder & CEO, Surround Insurance
- Jason Griswold, Co-Founder & COO, REIN
- Dushyant “D” Shahrawat, Director, Strategic Insights & Advisory, Rosenblatt Securities
- Snejina Zacharia, Founder & CEO, Insurify
If you missed it, here are the top sound bites from the event:
- “Think in terms of enabling, not disruption.” – Many entrepreneurs think of themselves as disrupting the insurance industry—one notorious for being traditional, slow-moving, and bureaucratic in nature. The panel encouraged InsurTech entrepreneurs to think differently about disruption. According to them, the challenge is not to make insurance sexy, but to make it more accessible.
Snejina Zacharia of Insurify commented: “Our platform doesn’t exist if we don’t get along with carriers. Our job is to understand regulations and push them to the limits for the consumer. Our core value lies in being the carrier’s digital enabler, and truly embracing that has allowed us to grow rapidly.”
- “I haven’t seen a single pitch in the last three months without AI or ML.” – This quote, from FinTech banker, Dushyant “D” Shahrawat, points to just how prevalent AI and ML are becoming. He also commented that many companies are leading with these buzzwords, rather than focusing on the value they provide. Many founders who are seeking investment are CTOs, so this happens more often than you think.
Entrepreneurs who focus on the changes their clients are seeing by using their product (rather than the technology itself) are getting the investments.
- “The insurance products themselves—that’s the next wave of investment.” – When asked about the future of InsurTech, panelists said that most players are currently doing one of two things:
- Addressing the distribution of insurance products; or
- Making the claims process more efficient.
But there’s still a gap here—the insurance products themselves. Buyers today want options that are right-sized for their lives and their needs. Panelists Jay Grayson of Surround Insurance and Jason Griswold of REIN are creating innovative solutions to address this gap and they anticipate many others will soon be doing the same.
- “Marginal players are entering the market and muddying the waters for the rest of us.” – InsurTech funding doubled last year—from $3.18B in 2018, up from $1.65B in 2017, which means troves of marginal players are entering the fray. As the market becomes more crowded, buyers become overwhelmed by the noise as differentiation between one player and another becomes more difficult.
If the market turns, as many are anticipating, the entrepreneurs on the panel were optimistic. They said that a down market would help them separate from the pack. Dushyant agrees: “We need 5 great ride sharing companies, not 50.”
- “Tell me what the rules are. We can operate within them.” – A representative from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance in the audience spoke up and asked the panelists how they wanted to engage with regulatory bodies and what role regulators should play in advocating for change on their behalf.
Panelists Jay and Jason—founders of the two companies creating new insurance products—said that they engaged early on with regulators to understand what was possible. Both said that they worked with the National Association of Insurance Companies (NAIC) to engage with certain states that are more proactive when it comes to innovation—like Illinois, for example. It helps them understand how to work within the boundaries set by regulators (and push them, when necessary).
They agreed that eventually they hope to have enough data to have 1:1 conversations with regulators that fuel change, but for now, Jay said, “Tell me what the rules are—we can operate within them.”
If you were at the panel or attended another Boston FinTech Week event and have any additional quotes to share, chime in. Also, don’t miss our mini series from our event on YouTube.
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