6 InsurTech start-ups disrupting the insurance market

OPINION / 14th February 2018

Insurance is ripe for digital disruption and over the last couple of years InsurTech start-ups have attracted record funding; according to CB Insights, $1.7bn went into them in 2016. Although the insurance industry has been slower off the mark than other areas of finance, many startups have emerged with plans to radically transform the sector, whether it’s offering users an insurance hub (Brolly), a pay-as-you-go service (Cuvva), increased cybersecurity (Digital Risks), peer-to-peer insurance (Friendsurance), social-networking style insurance (so-sure) or chatbot insurance (SPIXII). Here we take a look at how six start-ups are shaking up the industry:

Brolly describes itself as the ‘personal insurance assistant’. It enables users to manage their existing policies, receive valuable advice and get a fair price comparison all in one place, on their mobile. This London-based startup is using AI to give its customers a mobile insurance locker, advisor and shop, which it claims cuts down on costly renewals and coverage gaps. Brolly offers home, motor and travel insurance, with more product lines to come. Users give the app information such as lifestyle and financial attributes, along with access to their existing policy documents, which are held in a “locker”. Brolly then uses its purpose-built algorithm to spot where customers have gaps in their insurance portfolio, such as income protection insurance, it then explains what it is and asks users if they would like to get a quote.

Cuvva allows users to buy car insurance by the hour as a pay-as-you-go service, via its mobile app, for as little as £7.80 an hour. Users simply enter the registration number and approximate value of the car they are borrowing from a friend or family member, they then choose the time they want to be covered for, take a picture of the car and Cuvva will get them an instant quote. Cuvva also integrates with Facebook, so that users can see which friends have cars to borrow. So far, Cuvva has sold more than a million hours of car insurance. It offers short-term policies (from one hour, up to 28 days), insurance to those learning to drive (from £12.73 per hour), to van drivers, and has a low-tariff policy that can be topped up when the car is being used (as opposed to being parked in the driveway). In the latter case, members pay £10–£30 per month subscription, plus from £1.20 per hour when they drive their car. They can also build up a transferable no claims bonus after a 12-month subscription. Cuvva takes a commission and a £1.20 fee from every policy sold, but claims its subscription model can save infrequent drivers up to 70% of the cost of an annual premium.

Digital Risks is a specialist insurance provider which focuses solely on the needs of digital businesses. It offers start-ups and SMEs flexible,  month by month Insurance-as-a-Service products. It gives businesses the flexibility to change or cancel their cover at any time. A new business owner could start out by protecting their laptop and end up with employer liability insurance as well as insurance against data breaches as the company grows. When it comes to cybersecurity risk, Digital Risks wants to reach a point where, like with wearables and health insurance, it can use penetration testing to develop dynamic risk models depending on the robustness of a company's security. The team has developed its own unique broking infrastructure, automating and simplifying the process of buying and managing business insurance. This allows Digital Risks to offer its customers more competitive pricing and better products. Policies offered by Digital Risks include public liability, employers liability and contents insurance, as well as more specialist cover such as professional indemnity and cyber liability.

Friendsurance is a Berlin-based peer-to-peer insurance company, inspired by Facebook, set up seven years ago with the aim of applying the principle of social networks to insurance. At its core, the insurance model is simple: a small group of people, each holding the same kind of policy, say personal-liability insurance, pay part of their premiums into a pool, which is used to settle small claims. If any money is left at the end of the year, the members get cash back. If no claims are made at all, they can retrieve as much as 40% of their premiums. So far, Friendsurance, which has more than 100,000 policyholders, has formed partnerships with 70 insurance companies, which offer car, home contents, legal expenses and private liability coverage. Kunde says the number of people who have signed up has now reached six figures.

So-sure is a friend-based (social sharing) mobile phone insurance that is sold purely through its own app. The social insurance company rewards customers who connect with friends that have also signed up. Every time a customer connects to a friend who’s also bought a so-sure policy, they both get up to £10 added to a ‘Reward Pot’. Customers can connect to as many people as they like until their Reward Pot is worth 80% of the premium. If neither the insuree nor their direct connections make a claim, the reward pot is paid out at the end of the year – or it can be used to reduce the following year’s premium. If an insuree does claim, their Reward Pot and their network’s Pot are used to help fulfil the claim. For example, you can insure your iPhone 6 for £8.64 a month and if you and your 8 connections don’t claim, you get £80 back at the end of the year.

SPIXII is an "automated insurance agent" or chatbot that lets users buy and manage their insurance through a chat interface. SPIXII has almost entirely done away with the human component of selling insurance. It is an automated insurance agent, a chatbot accessible via messaging platforms or via a native mobile app. Its app creates a WhatsApp-like chat on a smartphone where a robot will ask simple questions and figure out what the user needs. Built on principles of neuro-economics and the integration of user data with contextual data from multiple sources, SPIXII is an insurance chatbot designed to speak to consumers just as a person would. SPIXII can be integrated into multiple platforms, such as a native mobile app, Telegram, Kik, Line, Facebook Messenger, WeChat or company browser. All it takes is a hello to get started. From there, for example, you can tell SPIXII about your travel plans and find out which appropriate insurance plans are available to you.

ORM view 

B2C insurance companies are beginning to rethink the customer experience, and improve it, to compete with the rapidly expanding InsurTech market. Established insurers are embracing technology and becoming more forward-thinking, some are offering customers new style policies such as peer-to-peer insurance, or others are building new digital interfaces, such as chatbots, to cut out the need for users to make a call or use a lengthy comparison website to buy a product. Some insurers are even offering flexible policies that people can buy as and when they need it. Time will tell if the B2B world will catch up with the trends making waves in the B2C world. The appetite for change is certainly there, it’s just a question of aligning data and marrying up backend systems to make it possible.

Peter Gough Peter Gough Managing Partner & Founder Peter Gough