May 2, 2018

Insurtech has multiple hubs of innovation

When people think of centers of technology innovation, Silicon Valley usually springs quickly to mind. That renowned area of Northern California is playing an important role in the development of insurtech, too, but it’s not the only such hub.

Insurtech has become a global phenomenon, with well over 1,000 start-ups in more than 60 countries, according to Innovators Edge, an online community of innovators and investors. The United States has a majority of insurtech start-ups, attracting billions of dollars in capital. Venture capital investment in insurtech in 2017 grew by 36%, to USD 2.3 billion, according to Willis Towers Watson.  A recent study by Accenture said that while 80% of insurtech deal activity in 2014 was in North America, in 2017 that share had fallen to 45.9%; over the same period, Europe’s share rose from 11.8% to 32.3% , Asia Pacific’s went from 5.5% to 11.5%, and Latin America jumped from less than 1% to 7.6%.

Within the United States, where are those US insurtech companies? They are spread all over the country. From Metromile in San Francisco, which pioneered pay-as-you-drive auto insurance, to Slice in New York, which provides property and casualty insurance to entrepreneurs in the sharing economy, insurtech companies are based in the East and the West.  But according to a recent study in the publication Carrier Management, California and New York seem to have a significant lead over the other states and are essentially neck-to-neck in competing for new insurtech startups and investment dollars in insurtech.

Helping insurtech companies grow are accelerators and bootcamp programs. In March, Clyde & Co announced its partnership with Hartford InsurTech Hub. The firm also has partnerships with Startupbootcamp InsurTech, a London-based organization that sponsors events internationally, including supporting the Hartford InsurTech Hub, and also supports Insurlab Germany. In the western US, the Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator in San Mateo, California, provides similar support for insurtech companies. Another Silicon Valley resource for insurance innovation is Plug and Play.

Accelerators offer many advantages to insurtech companies at different stages of their development. Access to expert advice from experienced entrepreneurs, investors, technologists and other professional services advisers, can make a big difference in a startup’s ability to attract capital and attain scale.

A significant enabler of insurtech innovation is flexible regulation. On that front, regulators around the world seem to be competing to get more startups into their jurisdictions—“regulatory sandboxes”, which are intended to foster testing of insurtech innovations without running afoul of insurance laws and regulations by allowing certain exemptions, have been established in many different jurisdictions, including in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.  Although US insurance regulators have not yet jumped on the regulatory sandbox trend, they are trying to foster favorable environments for insurtech development. One example is the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ formation of an Innovation and Technology Task Force, which is studying different ways in which the US insurance regulatory framework can respond to and foster innovation.

Insurtech trends and regulatory issues were among topics discussed recently at Clyde & Co’s Insurance Regulation and Litigation Seminar in Sacramento, California. One thing is clear, insurtech activity is on the up across the world and across the US. This isn’t just capturing the imagination of funders, insurers and the end user, but also regulators and city, state and national level governments who are keen to benefit from the growth potential of this fast-developing area of insurance.