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Insurtech’s rapid progress relies on willing partners

Posted On: Sep. 24, 2019 5:44 AM CST

Panelists left to right: Jim Kilduff of Outdoorsy, Biswa Sengupta of Axa XL, Jamie Yoder of Snapsheet, Steven Petrevski of Aon and Brian Warren of Microsoft.

LAS VEGAS — Technology and innovation are moving ever faster in the insurance space but still face hurdles, including the insurers themselves, according to a panel of industry veterans speaking at the Business Insurance 2019 Innovation Awards on Monday.

View the 2019 Innovation Award winners here.

“In the past five to 10 years, the speed of innovation has substantially increased,” said Biswa Sengupta, London-based head of artificial intelligence, data science and engineering for Axa XL, a unit of Axa SA, further calling the increased pace “amazing” during the panel discussion in Las Vegas.

When someone comes to register at Outdoorsy Inc., a technology-based recreational vehicle and trailer rental marketplace headquartered in Austin, Texas, they go through an identity verification check of more than 200 points to which the applicant has consented in order to use the website, according to Jim Kilduff, the company’s chief insurance officer.

“That technology takes place in milliseconds,” Mr. Kilduff said of the process, which includes social media scraping and looking at the applicant’s credit.

The technology has helped lower claims, he said, as some 20% to 25% of renters are turned away based on the verification check.

However, adopting new technologies requires collaboration, according to Steven Petrevski, New York-based senior vice president and head of enterprise analytics with Aon PLC.

“We recognize we’re not going to be able to deliver all the innovation on our own, so something we need to do well is partner,” Mr. Petrevski said.

Technology also requires working at scale, he said.

“How do you partner well at scale,” Mr. Petrevski said. “How do we integrate those partners at scale? How do we bring in all the innovation and integrate that?”

Insurers, however, in some cases want to remain more in control of technology efforts, said Jamie Yoder, Chicago-based president of Snapsheet Inc., which automates auto claims.

“Many insurers don’t even do that (partner) well,” Mr. Yoder said. “They still want to control it, need to own it. Something like blockchain needs partners to actually participate and cooperate.”

Technology must also serve some real business purpose, said Brian Warren, director of business risk management-treasury with Microsoft Corp.

“Technology is great, but technology has to be married to a worthwhile business process,” he said.