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Global insurance technology investments in 2018
of $30 million or more in 2018 large VC funding rounds
facing global insurance industry is technology modernization
Insurance is boring. You might hear that from people who don’t know better. But the ones who are paying attention understand that some of the most interesting work in technology is taking place in insurance.
Recently, legacy insurers have started paying much more attention to newcomers. They've become some of the largest funders of these startups, recognizing that teaming up with technology firms can be a game-changer.
But here’s the harsh reality: many if not most of these business relationships won’t meet expectations. When insurers turn to InsurTech for the wrong reasons, or without a clear, sustainable plan to extract value, they’ll fail.
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How did we get here—and so quickly? The answer tells us a lot about what comes next. The insurance industry has grown in parallel with the economy. Each time there's been a major leap in technology, the industry has responded with new products, new methods of distribution and new ways to evaluate risk. We’re at another inflection point, and the cycle is repeating itself in what has been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We’ve arguably seen more technological innovation in the past decade than in the five decades that preceded it.
Fifty years ago, insurance companies were some of the earliest users of mainframe computers. The smartphone in your pocket today is literally thousands of times more powerful than those early machines, and customer data is now stored in the cloud rather than a carrier’s premises. Similarly, communications capabilities have exploded, and as 5G mobile networks emerge over the next decade, still more transformative technologies will become more practical, such as drones and autonomous vehicles. Each of these shifts has upended long-held industry assumptions about business and operating models, organizational structures and market strategies.
What is an InsurTech company? In 2016, when the term barely registered in Internet searches, it generally referred to a technology startup seeking to make a mark on the insurance industry. Only a few years later, the same search generates more than three million results. InsurTech offerings have grown exponentially, but there’s still uncertainty about what InsurTech really includes.
That’s because InsurTech goals keep changing. We’ve moved well beyond InsurTech-as-disruptor-and-threat. In PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, far fewer industry executives said that they were concerned about the speed of technological change, changing consumer behavior or new market entrants. We’ve shifted toward collaboration, as both startups and legacy providers realize that they gain from combining the former’s technology with the latter’s customer knowledge, understanding of risks and capital strength.
Now, InsurTech is an ecosystem that brings together adjacent industries to provide an improved service of greater value to insurers and their customers. Adjacent industries of particular relevance include agriculture, health, cybersecurity, the sharing economy, wealth management, transportation and more.
At the annual InsureTech Connect conference, you’ll find legacy companies and tech-driven startups addressing every sector. There are pure technology firms providing core systems and components using a software as a service (SaaS) model. There are companies selling artificial intelligence (AI)-based predictive analytics, and risk assessment offerings that introduce new data sources. There are plenty of other InsurTechs that address distribution, leverage telematics, pursue unserved niche markets, offer comparative pricing and broker services and more. You get the idea: the sheer volume of companies that have emerged to support (or compete in) the insurance space reflects the appetite for change and the opportunities that potentially await.
These opportunities go far beyond the front office. Insurers, and many InsurTech companies themselves, are also turning to technology companies that provide more generalized business support: cloud computing, intelligent automation, human resources systems, loyalty programs, workflow management and more.
Whether you lead a legacy provider or a startup, there are many, many options to explore. But too much choice can be distracting or even counterproductive, like getting 2,000 search results for sneakers when all you want is one pair. The best way to cut through the noise is to look internally first, identifying your strengths and assessing how you can build on them.
Partner, PwC US
Insurance Assurance Leader, PwC US
Insurance Tax Services Leader, PwC US
Richard de Haan
Partner and Global Risk Modeling Services Leader, PwC US