Lemonade could collapse the Insurance stack #insurtech


InsurTech moved into the limelight on 8th December 2015 when it was announced that Sequoia Capital had done a $13m seed investment into a stealthy venture called Lemonade. Call it the Sequoia effect. Could this be another WhatsApp story (with a $19 billion exit only 3.5 years after Sequoia invested in their A round)?

Lemonade remains stealthy. They have not said what they plan to offer beyond broad generalities. However there was more news this month which gives some interesting clues when it was announced that:

“Berkshire Hathaway and Munich Re back revolutionary P2P insurer”

There were others including: Everest Re, Hiscox, Transatlantic and XL Catlin plus a syndicate at Lloyd’s of London. The amount invested was not revealed. That is not the issue. Lemonade can clearly raise as much as they need. What is significant is the entry of the Reinsurance players. We analyze the PR to figure out where the puck is probably headed.

The current Insurance stack

The insurance industry works through a 3 layer stack:

  • Layer # 1: Brokers. Their job is to gather premiums from customers.
  • Layer # 2: Insurance Companies. Their primary job is claims processing. They take in premiums via brokers, invest the cash flow and pay out claims when needed.
  • Layer # 3: Reinsurance Companies. They are the payers of last resort. They insure the insurance companies. Their job is to have enough capital to pay out claims, even if the models did not predict the volume of claims.

Cui Amisit

During disruption, the big question is who loses? WhatsApp disrupted the Telecoms companies. Who will be disrupted by Lemonade? The news clearly signals that it won’t be the Reinsurance Companies.

Normally one would assume the Brokers to be most at threat. Digitization allows consumers to buy direct. Some Insurtech ventures such as Knip (out of Switzerland) position as brokers. We can call this type RoboBrokers. They serve the traditional job of gathering premiums for Insurance companies; they just do it more efficiently by using digital tools.

Lemonade is probably going after bigger fish. The clue is in the statement from the CEO of Lemonade in the press release:

“Lemonade is the only insurer that doesn’t make money by denying claims”.

Insurance is a rather one-sided business. As consumers our commitment to pay premiums is absolute. If we stop paying we are not covered. The commitment of the Insurance company is to pay out – in certain circumstances. There is a contract, but we have to trust the other party and the other party obviously has an incentive not to pay out.

Lemonade has not revealed how they will do this – they obviously want to stop copycats. The backing of so many big players and the move by a 25 year AIG veteran to become Lemonade’s chief insurance officer plus other key hires, indicates that Lemonade must have a good plan even if they are not yet revealing it publicly.

So we can only speculate at this stage based on the two biggest concerns that consumers have when it comes to Insurance:

  • Concern # 1: Will the Insurance company have enough money to pay me? This is why Insurance is so highly regulated. Scamsters love a business where you can collect premiums and disappear before the claim is paid. The announcement that Reinsurers (the biggest pools of capital out there) are backing Lemonade is designed to allay that fear.
  • Concern # 2: Will the Insurance company find a reason to deny my claim to avoid paying me? Lemonade cannot simply say “trust me”. That is how the Insurance industry works today. Consumer could feel confident of a Smart Contract where they could see that the money is automatically paid out when certain conditions are met (based on a Blockchain based algorithm with the money already in some form of escrow). This is easy in Life Insurance because the event (dead or alive) is binary. However Property & Casualty is more nuanced (how much damage? Who was at fault?) and Health Insurance has a notoriously complex claims process. How Lemonade automates the claims process will determine their success. How will they stop scamsters making false claims? How will they verify the loss? Is this where they will turn the claims process into a P2P process (ie get the crowd to verify what happened)?

Insurance companies can see the damage done to Telecom operators by over the top messaging services such as Whatsapp. They may now need to think hard about the impact of InsurTech disruption.

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