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Building an Insurtech Partnership is A Lot Like Dating

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Over the past six weeks, I have been quite busy with my new role at RGAX. RGAX is a solutions provider. Unlike many corporate innovation/venture programs out there within carriers/reinsurers, which invest in/partner with solutions that can benefit their specific business, RGAX is primarily finding solutions that we can bring to our carrier partners. We can be seen by carriers as another Insurtech vendor, similar to many startups out there today. 

A few weeks ago, at InsureTech Connect, I moderated a panel discussion with my two friends, Dror Katzav, Co-Founder and CEO of Atidot and Nick Leimer, Principal Industry Lead, Azure for Insurance at Microsoft. That discussion (which you can view here) made me think about our role and how RGAX, as well as other companies, can best partner with carriers and vice versa. 

In some ways, this a follow-up to my guides previously written:

This piece is complementary to the above guides and focuses on tips for building more effective partnerships. 

Building a Partnership with an Insurtech is Similar to Dating

The more and more I look at Insurtech partnerships and speak to both sides (vendors/startups and carriers), I can’t help but feel like the whole process of building a partnership is like dating. It can be long and painful and requires a lot of patience.  The end result can lead to a lifetime of happiness or end with a break-up. 

As with dating, there are many steps in the process. Different aspects of dating can be linked to the Insurtech partnership process.  Similar to courting, it takes two sides to make it a success. As such, at each stage of the process, I have included tips for startups and for carriers to make it more successful. 

The Stages of Dating/Partnerships

Stage 1: Looking for a partner and casual dating

For single folks, this can either be the most daunting or the most fun part of the process. You meet a lot of people, get to flirt, and can find out numerous details about someone.

At this stage, while it’s good to ‘check out the field’, it’s also good to know a bit of what it is you are looking for, as well as what value you bring to the partnership. 

Tips for Vendors/Startups during this stage of the process:

  • Know your value. Want to know what value means?  Check out the ‘Insurtech formula for success’ and ensure that you cover off these key elements as part of your value proposition.
  • Know what type of carrier partner you are looking for. They should have a specific pain point you can solve for. They should also have a dedicated budget and resources to solve that pain point.
  • Relating to the above, learn how to quickly tell if the carrier you are speaking with is simply ‘checking you out’, or is serious about going on a ‘date’.

Tips for Carriers during this stage of the process:

  • As with above, know what you are looking for! You probably have a few different pain points that you are trying to solve for.  What is the best way for you to articulate this problem?  If the startups know their value proposition, they’ll know how to solve your challenges.
  • Know what your constraints are. The biggest complaint I hear from startups is the long sales cycle when working with carriers.  Many times this is caused by carriers not mentioning (or even knowing) all of the internal constraints that may prevent them from moving forward quickly with a new partnership. Who knows, being open and honest about these constraints with a startup may even allow them to help you overcome them.

There are lots of ways to find a potential partner. Many attend conferences, events and seminars. In some cases, companies may use a consultant or an organization that can help make matches (i.e. Plug and Play, Innovator’s Edge, etc).

These are akin to single people going to the bar, doing hobbies/classes or even using a dating app or highly paid dating service/matchmaker. During this process, in addition to meeting new people, you may go on a few dates to find out more about those individuals.

It’s the first step before deciding to focus on one partner to be with. 

Stage 2: Going Steady

I’m not sure if anyone even uses the term ‘going steady’ anymore, but for those millennials out there reading this that may not know the phrase, it means committing to someone for a while. You’ve gone on a few dates, seem to be a match and are looking for the same things.  You decide that it’s worth a try. 

This is akin to doing a pilot/POC.

Tips for Vendors/Startups during this stage of the process:

  • Have your due diligence requirements ready. If you have been doing this for a while, you should know what sort of requirements carriers are going to ask for.  Having this ready up front will help streamline the procurement process. Often times, your solution may also have some sort of regulation/law that governs it.  Understand this too and how your carrier has to comply. They will appreciate this.
  • Have a plan of how best to implement with the carrier and the key success factors for the pilot/POC. Let the carrier know who in their organization needs to be aware of this project so that person can begin socializing key deliverables and required business input at the start of the project (you don’t want testing to come up and have business users not ready for it).

Tips for Carriers during this stage of the process:

  • Don’t be so strict on the startups. I’m not saying you should skip due diligence all together. This needs to be done. However, a pilot/POC should be limited in terms of cost and impact to your business. After all, the idea of a pilot/POC is to test an idea and if it works, then scale it up. If it doesn’t work, you can scrap it, with minimal impact, both in terms of money and process change to your organization.
  • Socialize what you are doing with the rest of your organization and the people who are going to use this new solution. As mentioned above, the worst thing that can happen is building a pilot/POC that is ready to test and then having the users not ready to test it. Or even worse, the business users having different requirements than what you have built. Get the right people involved early on and manage expectations of when you will need support from them. The startup can guide you on this if need be.

As with dating, the POC/pilot is a time to really allow both parties to get a feel as to whether this is someone you want to ‘spend the rest of your life’ with.  In some cases, things may not work out and you break up. As we all know, some break-ups can be easier than others. 

In other cases, things work out quite well and it’s time to take it to the next level – marriage. 

Stage 3: Marriage

You’ve dated and tested each other out. You have the same goals, aspirations and your interests are aligned.  Yes, there are times when you get into arguments, but when you sit down and resolve them, you become stronger. Marriage is akin to signing a longer term partnership agreement and scaling up a pilot/POC that has proven successful. 

In most cases, the foundation was planned throughout dating and then built stronger through marriage. 

Tips for both parties to make this stage in the process a success:

  • Have clear Key Performance Indictors (KPIs) and metrics (your ‘vows’) that you both agree to monitor. This should be decided at stage 2 (above) for the pilot/POC and carried through to scale up. This will help determine whether to scale, scrap or pivot. 
  • Have a plan of what pilot-to-scale means and what needs to be done to achieve scale. As with dating/marriage, sometimes problems exist and you need counseling. Have an escalation plan in place with top management from both sides. Sometimes it takes someone not involved in the weeds of a project to resolve a problem (assuming it can be resolved).

Summary

There is a growing movement of Insurtech towards a partnership approach. According to the Q2 2018 Quarterly Briefing by CB Insights, 43% percent of P&C and 56% of L&H transactions in Q2 2018 involved B2B companies, compared with 35% and 47%, respectively, of all transactions since 2013.

Startups are used to being nimble and working fast.

Carriers, are not. 

The best thing both parties can do, is have a plan. 

There are many similarities with dating and the Insurtech partnership process.

With dating, sometimes fate can happen, and we meet someone while we least expect it. 

I guess that can happen with an Insurtech partnership too, but we shouldn’t count on that if we want to solve problems (quickly) for our customers & policyholders.


Are you a Life carrier out there?  If so, and you find yourself in need of some help or have pain points that you are trying to solve, I want to hear from you. 

We may not be able to solve all of your problems/pain points, but we’ll be in a pretty good place to have a meaningful conversation. 

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Written by: Stephen Goldstein

Stephen Goldstein leads the Client Experience team for RGAX Americas, where he’s working directly with insurance carriers, reinsurers, MGAs and agencies in the US, Canada and Latin America to identify pain points across the insurance value chain. His team is responsible for providing insight, recommendations and solutions within RGAX’s suite of products & services to help solve for many of these challenges. Prior to joining RGAX, Stephen spent over 10 years in insurance and financial services across the U.S., European, and Asian markets in various roles including distribution, operations, audit, market entry, and corporate strategy.