InsureTech Connect 2019: What to expect
August 21, 2019 Dougie Willins
Ahead of next month’s event in Las Vegas, Dougie Willins caught up with Co-founder and Chairman of InsureTech Connect, Caribou Honig.
For those that don’t know, what is InsureTech Connect?
About three and a half years ago, I had the requirement for an event where I could meet with other investors, entrepreneurs and heads of innovation from across the insurance industry. I wanted to get everyone together to share ideas and learn what interesting trends are emerging.
When I realised that this didn’t exist, I decided to create InsureTech Connect with my co-founder Jay Weintraub. We have created a global conference that brings the industry together to discuss technology and, more importantly, innovation.
Now into its fourth year, what are the new features and events for attendees in 2019?
One of the things that I am most excited about are the pre-conference events. Based on the past success and demand for events on the Monday, we have expanded this to a full schedule of pre-conference events that attendees of the main event can sign up to.
On top of that, we are running Agency Connect which focusses on innovation in the distribution channel for Agents and Brokers. It’s an opportunity for this group to not only make sure they aren’t left behind by all the excitement around innovation and InsurTech but in many cases, to ensure that they are at the leading edge.
Finally, the event space itself is fantastic. Following recent renovations, the centre is a lot more accessible and will really encourage the serendipitous encounters that make InsureTech Connect unique.
What do you feel are the main themes for this year’s event and how do they differ from previous years?
While it’s still early days for the InsurTech movement, I sense we are approaching the beginning of a new chapter. Following the Cambrian explosion of InsurTechs a few years ago, we have now seen a vast range of concepts with varying levels of success. Conversations in the industry are now focussed on finding the real winners and transformation opportunities.
I believe that the next 12 to 24 months will be crucial for the start-ups to begin demonstrating strong financial performance and when they do, it will bring another wave of investment and entrepreneurs entering the sector.
Looking at more specific trends, I believe there will be greater focus on partnerships, particularly between the incumbents and new entrants. We will also see more strategies and business models built around APIs. There is an emerging theme of embedded products, in particular embedding insurance into other companies’ products. This is interesting not only as a distribution strategy but how it will lead to the development of other new products.
Given the global scale of the event, what do you believe are the benefits? Do you see different geographic focuses?
It is extremely gratifying that InsureTech Connect draws such a wide global audience. While there are clear benefits of regional conferences, there is also great value in a forum where attendees from across the world can exchange perspectives and challenge each other’s assumptions on what is possible.
From my observations, there are differences in emphasis across the regions. For instance, tech titans from Asia such as Alibaba have a greater appetite for insurance than those from other regions. From an InsurTech perspective, I would say that European start-ups are more focussed on distribution and API capabilities while those in North America are more aligned to product and lessons learned from FinTechs.
Which speakers are you particularly excited about?
Firstly, I must say that all the speakers will be fantastic and with the event running across eight different streams there will be speakers and fireside chats to appeal to all audiences!
Turning my attention to the main stage, I think it will be very interesting to hear the thoughts of Hank Greenberg on the latest InsurTech trends given his vast experience in the industry. We also have Stuart Miller, the CEO of Lennar – the biggest home builder in the US – and Max Simkoff the CEO of start-up States Title. They will be discussing their recent deal which I feel is particularly relevant in regard to the theme of partnerships.
We also have a speaker from Softbank, investors in Lemonade and many other InsurTechs, as well as hearing the thoughts of leading technology journalist Kara Swisher.
Beyond InsureTech Connect, how do you see InsurTech evolving in the next few years?
I expect to see further experimentation as I don’t believe that all the good ideas are out there yet.
There will also be increasing amounts of collaboration between existing players and new entrants as they develop a greater understanding of how they can work together more effectively.
Finally, it will be interesting to monitor how start-ups structure themselves. Particularly start-ups focussing on innovation in product development and underwriting. Is the right structure an MGA or do they need to vertically integrate into a full-stack insurer? We have seen examples of both in recent years but it is not yet clear which is the winner.
Finally, what is your advice for first time attendees to maximise the InsureTech Connect experience?
First of all, prepare yourself for an action packed 48/72 hours!
On the ground I advise looking at the agenda to figure out which panels, discussions and fireside chats are your highest priority. At the same time make sure you keep your mindset open to serendipity. Some of the best moments at the conference come from unplanned meetings and introductions.
Finally, enjoy yourself and have a great time!
InsureTech Connect are kindly offering discounted tickets to readers of the Oxbow Partners blog. Please note that this discount is only available until 6 September 2019.