Despite the market uncertainty created by COVID-19, insurtech startups have continued to focus on helping move the insurance industry forward for the past eighteen months. In our latest Future of Healthcare Roundtable, we invited a panel of experts to tell us what they’ve seen in the marketplace.
The panel brings three unique perspectives to the conversation, each having a different role in the insurtech startup ecosystem: venture capital, reinsurer, and a successful insurtech.
André Dreyer is Vice President of Ventures and Acquisitions at RGAX focused on partnering with insurtech startups around the world.
Josh Hart, an insurtech entrepreneur and co-founder of YuLife, a company that seeks to “transform traditional insurance and employee benefits into life-enhancing experiences every employee will value and use.” Josh now serves as YuLife’s Chief Product and Technology Officer.
Click to listen to Future of Healthcare Roundtable:
Impact of COVID-19 on the Insurtech Startup Ecosystem
This distinguished panel of experts covered a lot of ground from which emerged eight trends that have had a positive impact on the life & health insurance industry and the insurtech startup ecosystem in 2020 and 2021.
#1 Mortality awareness grows
Life insurers have always had a challenging time selling to younger people. Although COVID hit older people harder than those say under forty, studies show that many were very concerned about their risk of dying from the disease. Recognizing their responsibility to their families, young people became first-time life insurance purchasers in record numbers. MIB’s Life Index indicates US life insurance application growth in 2020 was largely driven by younger age groups with full-year activity over 2019 increasing among ages 0-44 by +7.9% and +3.8% for ages 45-59. In contrast, activity for ages 60+ decreased by -1.7%.
#2 Customers demand digital services
Although they were eager to buy, Millenials and Gen Z weren’t necessarily interested in shopping for life insurance the way their parents did. Insurtech companies like YuLife that offered policies online and connected with customers in unique and innovative ways saw their sales rise steeply. Older customers were demanding online services as well, especially during the height of the pandemic when concerns of transmission were high.
#3 New categories emerge
In addition to finding new ways to reach buyers, innovators and entrepreneurs found new demands to address. For example, with the increased risk of mortality came a growing awareness that death, whether your own or that of a loved one, was something that needed to be planned for. Zoe has seen a definite uptick in the number of entrepreneurs focused on an emerging trend she called “deathtech”.
#4 Carriers readjust priorities
The insurance industry has been talking about digital transformation for a long time (the second installment of the Future of Healthcare Roundtable for a deeper dive on the topic), but many organizations still treated innovation as a pilot project. Those that relied on face-to-face processes needed to pivot quickly. Andre witnessed a big shift towards prioritizing and investing in digital experiments and anticipates ‘riding the digital wave’ to continue as a post-covid trend.
#5 Workforce paradigms are shifting
Technology enabled business to continue during the pandemic even though vast swaths of the workforce couldn’t come into the office. Suddenly, insurance leaders and entrepreneurs realized their pool of creative talent didn’t need to be confined to those willing to relocate to the home office. This makes it easier to attract and retain new talent.
#6 Funding accelerated
While some projects were initially put on hold, investment capital started flowing again quickly despite the pandemic. Because digital transformation initiatives were being fast-tracked, projects and funding were often approved more readily than they would have been pre-COVID. Zoe shared how she has seen this happen in the UK market specifically:
“The lockdowns increased [insurtech startup] access [to the UK’s National Health Service, the NHS]. They’re getting more meetings. They’ve been able to build technology and get grant funding, really large grants for things that were in the product pipeline – maybe in twelve months’ time — but now these have been escalated forward thanks to the NHS.” - Zoe Peden, Investment Manager at Anada Impact Ventures
#7 The playing field is leveled out
Historically, entrepreneurs in major cities have had the advantage because they could more easily meet with investors. But with the majority of business meetings conducted via video conferencing, location no longer mattered. Pre-pandemic, Zoe’s dominant location for meetings was London, UK due to physical proximity. Thanks to video conferencing she was able to have ‘virtual offices’ in other parts of the UK, Ireland, and Scotland, increasing the opportunities for insurtech entrepreneurs she may not have otherwise been able to meet with.
#8 Investors see more entrepreneurs
In addition to seeing more insurtech innovators from more rural and far-flung areas of the globe, our venture capitalists were able to talk to more entrepreneurs in a day. No more waiting until the next big conference to meet with potential partners; you can meet founders from Tokyo to Singapore to London to Silicon Valley, all in a day.
What’s Next for the Insurtech Ecosystem?
What will the “new normal” look like for the insurance industry and the insurtech ecosystem? That’s anybody’s guess. No doubt some of these trends will scale back, maybe not to pre-COVID levels, but to levels that make sense for the business. For example, we highlighted the benefits of remote work, but also discussed some of the drawbacks our experts were seeing. Carriers and entrepreneurs will need to learn to balance the two.
Other trends are sure to continue apace. While people are hungry for face-to-face connections, our panelists were also enthusiastic about the ability to talk to more entrepreneurs from more areas around the world making for Zoom meetings to be more than a short-term trend.
Finally, a trend that will need to continue is the focus on digital transformation and innovation. As the pandemic wanes, it’ll be easy for carriers to slip back into old habits. But if COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that being ready is the best insurance policy against market upheaval. Our industry cannot afford to forget that lesson. Tune in to the panelists' full conversation below.
Listen to Future of Healthcare Roundtable: Impact of COVID-19 on the Insurtech Startup Ecosystem