How Insurtechs Are Responding To Covid-19

Sarah Kocianski

Sarah Kocianski

Head of Research

How are insurtechs responding to the Covid-19 crisis to support customers and non-customers alike?

As the Covid-19 crisis develops many of the more traditional firms in the insurance industry are doing what they can to bolster their businesses in the face of serious, immediate threat. In most cases that means withdrawing policies from the market while calculating the likely value of unexpected and unprecedented payouts. Focus on these activities means there has been focus on little else, including looking at how they can help customers with the current situation.

That’s not so much the case in the world of startups and digital-only providers. While some of these companies are doing the same as the incumbents, notably those which primarily offer travel insurance and related policies, others are finding ways to support customers, and non-customers, during the crisis.

Health and Life

There has been significant Covid-19-related activity from insurtechs in health and life insurance which, while not necessarily surprising, does show a marked difference from many of the incumbent businesses that are still struggling to put together a response.

  • Behold.AI, which uses deep learning based models to speed up and improve the accuracy of medical diagnoses, has shown that its Red Dot algorithm can be used to almost instantly detect whether chest x-rays from suspected Covid-19 patients are abnormal. It will continue to be tested on, and learn from, Covid-19 data provided by healthcare systems from around the world. If the algorithm can be proven to identify which patients need isolation and specialist treatment from those who don’t, it will save healthcare workers significant time and protect staff from unnecessary exposure to the virus. The algorithm’s results and its development trajectory will also improve understanding of the virus across industries, which in turn will help predict how future epidemics will pan out and improve underwriting accuracy in future.
  • Alibaba says it has a similar diagnostic tool, the use of which has been shown to French and Italian representatives.
  • China’s PingAn, the second-largest insurance company in the world, has developed a system that uses Natural Language Programming (NLP) to screen people calling into a helpline to describe their symptoms. It can handle 1.5 million calls daily, according to PingAn. Again the data it gathers will be invaluable to those looking to model future contagious disease scenarios.
  • Alan is a consumer-facing healthcare insurtech helping people deal with Covid-19. The French company has launched a service called “un coup de pouce” or “a helping hand” which is free until 31st May and which offers advice on what to do day to day, a questionnaire to help identify if you are at risk, followed by personal recommendations, reimbursement for some medication, a consultation with a GP in partnership with Livi and two months free access to Headspace. The goal is to relieve pressure on frontline services by helping people who are able to, diagnose and treat themselves at home.

Motor

In the UK, many firms already offer reduced price usage-based car insurance to National Health Service (NHS) staff. Veygo by Admiral has gone a step further, offering 75% off temporary policies to these key workers who are struggling to get to work amid public transport cuts, or who do not want to add to their already high levels of risk by travelling on trains and buses.

Home

Lemonade, the US home and renters’ insurance provider, already has a “Giveback” scheme where funds that have not been paid out in claims are donated to a nonprofit chosen by the customer. In a move that shows the agility of the firm, and its ability to read customer sentiment — not something insurers are typically known for — customers can now choose to have their Giveback donated to a company that specialises in sending critical medical supplies to health workers on frontlines.

Gig Economy and SME

The impact of Covid-19 both on gig economy workers and on SMEs and their employees is devastating: many businesses will not survive the next few months. Few gig economy workers have access to the benefits provided to full-time employees, like sick pay. Meanwhile, services that help maintain workers’ physical and mental health are a lifeline to small businesses that cannot afford to lose key workers at this point. Insurtechs, which have already plugged a gap by offering cover to this group in the first place, when incumbents largely wouldn’t, have sprung into further action to support customers and non-customers alike.

  • Zego, which sells a range of cover to drivers and riders in the gig economy, is offering 14 days free insurance to any of its customers who have to self-isolate. Those affected can claim up to two weeks free insurance when they renew their policy. While this may not alleviate the immediate burden of being unable to earn while in self isolation, it does reassure customers that they aren’t paying for a service while they don’t need it.
  • In Singapore, ride-hailing app Grab and its insurance partner Chubb, offered delivery drivers and riders free lump sum payouts if diagnosed with Covid-19, initially until 19th March. Drivers who had signed up to GrabCare, a service offering healthcare professionals discounted trips to and from work, could claim S$1,000, while all other drivers were eligible for S$500. The greater payout available to those participating in GrabCare is designed to help drivers balance the increased risk of working with frontline staff, while ensuring Grab can continue offering the service.
  • UK health cover provider EquipsMe is offering SMEs with 2-20 employees free access to some healthcare plans until 1st August. The plans include 24/7 remote GP appointments, the use of a helpline staffed by nurses and support for stress, accessed by an app. SMEs that take up the offer will not have to pay until August, and can cancel their subscription at the end of July without having to pay anything.
  • Drone insurance provider Flock is allowing subscription customers with commercial cover to pause their policies as work dries up due to the events they would usually film, such as weddings and festivals, being cancelled. The company is also offering £10,000 of free cover to organisations that want to use drones to help fight the ongoing epidemic. Commercial drone operators are a new segment and many incumbent insurers have yet to work out how to underwrite the risks associated with the work they do. That means Flock and its services play a more important role in the survival of this segment under current circumstances than insurtechs serving other fields.
  • SME and freelance insurtech Digital Risks and its partner UnderPinned have a joint temporary offering which includes free access to UnderPinned’s admin platform, commercial legal protection, 24/7 helplines for legal, financial and tax issues, and mental health support until September. Packages that offer a full range of services to freelancers in one place will be especially helpful as this group finds themselves particularly hard hit by the current situation.
  • Digital Risks is also offering 3 months free professional insurance for freelance healthcare professionals including nurses, carers and technicians. The policy includes standard coverage like medical malpractice, professional indemnity and public liability, as well as digital consultations which will allow healthcare workers that are self isolating to continue working.

What will the impact be?

Most insurtechs’ policies are underwritten by incumbent insurers or reinsurers, so any reduction in pricing will have been done in agreement with that underwriter. In some cases the underwriter will be absorbing some of the cost, but in others it will be the insurtech which means some of these offers will not be sustainable in the longer term. However, in the short term, these insurtechs should:

  • Earn customer loyalty. The firms mentioned above should see an uptick in customer numbers off the back of their efforts. Whether those customers remain loyal longer term will depend on how well the companies earn loyalty during the crisis. Not all customers will stay with the providers as some will not need their services once the worst has passed.
  • Show that they have their customers’ best interests at heart. Some of the efforts outlined in this brief are intended to reassure existing customers that their provider has their interests at heart, as well as making it possible for them to continue being customers amid economic turmoil. That’s important to the majority of these companies which remain startup or scale up size, and to which losing customers would make a huge impact on their own viability.
  • Improve the industry’s reputation. A side effect of these efforts will also be showing that not all insurers deserve a reputation that they don’t care about customers and that the insurance industry is one that is focused solely on profit.

Recommendations

You can find a broader set of recommendations in this blog post but the key principles are:

  • Put customer centricity front and centre. One of the most appealing characteristics of many insurtechs is their customer centricity — they deliver truly digital services in ways that solve customers’ problems as easily as possible. What’s been done by insurtechs in the past few weeks highlights just that. Other insurance businesses should follow suit to re-engage with existing customers and continue to rehabilitate or enhance their reputations.
  • Act fast. Insurance businesses need to quickly adapt their products and services as the needs of their customers change. If that’s not possible with existing infrastructure, ensure working out the blockers — whether they are cultural, procedural or technical — is a priority.
  • Work with other insurance businesses. By grouping together complementary services, businesses can provide a more holistic and useful solution to customers and potential customers, while maintaining focus on the product or service they are known for and consider themselves best at. That will lead to higher uptake for all parties’ offerings. Collaboration also enables pooling of resources which offers opportunities for greater marketing reach, higher capacity to handle incoming queries and increased likelihood of customer retention.

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