Every publication that reports on insurance these days is divided into at least two camps: the “InsurTech” camp on one side and the “insuretech” devotees on the other.
Yes, there are even more variations, with folks clinging to positions about the presence or absence of an “e” and upper case letters. And the debate isn’t limited to bullpens of insurance news organizations.
“I am firmly against the addition of the ‘e’ in hashtag #insurtech. I will never spell it this way, no matter how big this conference gets,” wrote Garrett Droege, executive director of TechAssure, on LinkedIn as he departed for the InsureTech Connect conference (spelling #3).
15 InsurTechs to Watch. Peter MacDonald is one of 15 executives who will be featured in a special online “InsurTechs to Watch” feature in early November. A preview is available now in the November/December print magazine.
A portmanteau? I had to look it up, but you guessed it—InsurTech is another such mashup.
There was a more popular social media back-and-forth going on recently about the very use of the term InsurTech. Check out what Chris Cheatham, CEO of RiskGenius, said on LinkedIn when someone asked him about a “hashtag#insurtech” reference to his company, which applies artificial intelligence to insurance policies. Wrote Cheatham:
“…I want nothing to do with [it]. Insurtech has been co-opted by the incumbent, legacy technology players. Example: Verisk calls everything they produce an insurtech. Insurtech is struggling to get traction. Has anyone noticed that many of the distribution tools are pivoting to partner (e.g., Trōv and Lloyds [Banking Group])? Insurtechs, generally, don’t understand insurance at a very deep level. (Which makes me wonder why the incumbents are rebranding to be insurtechs?)…”
Matteo Carbone, founder of the IoT Insurance Observatory, registered disapproval. “Insurtech is not only about distribution,” he said in response to Cheatham’s reference to a lack of traction. “Insurtech is not only about startups,” he added, referring to the comment about incumbents muscling in.
But the comment that leapt off the page for me was the idea that InsurTechs don’t understand insurance (to which Carbone said, “mah,” and repeated a common refrain from his posts: that all players in insurance will be InsurTech, using technology to achieve strategic goals.)
My own response (posted here instead of LinkedIn): So, why not spell it (Insure)tech or Insure/Tech, de-emphasizing the insurance part with parentheses or making it an either/or proposition? Is that clearer?
No. No one would do that. But for some reason, scores of people think it’s perfectly OK to write (re)insurance and re/insurance. “The (re)insurance market is firming,” reinsurance brokers write. Since they are reinsurance brokers, we assume they are referring to tightening terms and higher prices for treaties sold to primary insurers by reinsurers only. Why the parentheses then? Maybe they’re referring to firming taking place in both the reinsurance and insurance markets? Or maybe they are hedging their bets—”One or the other might be firming, but we’re not sure which.”
It would be nice if this column put a stop to (re) and re/ nonsense once and for all. But more importantly, I use this space as a reminder of what happens during ‘a-changin times. Lines blur. Business models change. Reinsurers become insurers and vice versa. Some remain “hybrids” in the language of Standard & Poor’s. Traditional insurers become “techie,” and technology startups in the insurance space become carriers. InsurTech distribution disrupters become enablers for agents and brokers.
What is important is not debates about spelling, or whether InsurTechs get insurance carrier metrics, or whether traditional insurers get concepts like agility and MVP. It’s partnering, learning, listening and connecting to carry out missions of risk management and risk transfer.
All of that is happening, according to articles featured in our November/December 2019 print edition about emerging technologies and ties between InsurTechs and traditional players. And where it’s not, honing soft skills will help. Check out our articles on Emotional Intelligence too.
Fifteen InsurTech executives will be featured in a special online “InsurTechs to Watch” feature in early November. A preview is available now in the November/December print magazine and in the article, “Reading the Tea Leaves for Insurance Distribution.”