Against the backdrop of the Global Insurance Accelerator’s 5th Annual InsurTech Week, nearly 200 insurance company executives, InsurTech startup founders, and industry influencers spent the better part of a week talking about innovation.

Conversation centered not only what innovation looks like today in the insurance industry, but how to bring more innovation to market in the future.

Startups invited to GIA’s InsurTech Week were: Aerialytic, Avolanta, Bell Analytics, Inc., BOUND, Breathe Life, DeepVisionAI, EasySend, HazardHub, InDoW Technology Company,

KASKO, MākuSafe, Optimity, Protosure, Relativity6, Relay, Talage, Inc., UDoTest Inc. For more information on the 13 startups in this group with offerings for the property/casualty insurance industry, see related article: “Now Presenting: 13 InsurTechs for P/C Carriers to Know

Held October 14-18 in the insurance hub of Des Moines, Iowa, InsurTech Week brought together founders from 17 invited startups, as well as mentors from the GIA’s insurance company investors, various venture capital companies interested in early-stage investments, program mentors, and cohort alumni. The invited startups applied to be a part of this week-long program during the summer and traveled to Des Moines from eight U.S. states, Argentina, Canada, Israel, and the U.K.

InsurTech Week offers these companies a unique opportunity to get in front of contacts that are willing to help them accelerate their position in the U.S.

In addition to the opportunity for InsurTech founders to engage with Iowa’s active insurance community, the week is always a place where industry trends become evident as well. A couple of the more prevalent trends and discussions worth noting included:

  1. The maturity of InsurTech solutions. InsurTech as a movement is still just barely out of kindergarten, but the maturity level of the solutions which startups are trying to bring to market is clearly on the rise. These companies are solving complex problems but must be careful now not to narrow too far. Specificity is undoubtedly important, but by becoming too focused on a particular process or even line of business, startups can easily diminish the universe of potential customers or ability of carriers to assign budget priority.
  2. The willingness of carriers to engage in pilots or proof of concept (PoC) projects. Insurance carriers across lines of business are actively looking for InsurTech partners with solutions to pilot. Satisfaction with “good enough” technology is waning rapidly and paying lip service to innovation without ever actually implementing anything is tiring for all parties involved. Therefore, carriers are coming off the proverbial bench in greater numbers to engage in pilots or PoCs leading to paying customer relationships with InsurTech startups.

In terms of emerging technologies under the microscope, this year’s InsurTech Week attendees were talking about agent enablement, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).

  1. Distribution channels are more than an easy mark for InsurTechs. The death of the independent agent as the industry’s primary distribution channel has been seriously oversold. Carriers today are looking at technologies not intent on replacing the agent or broker in the value chain but enhancing the efficiency of the channel while reducing customer acquisition costs (CAC), automating manual processes, and opening doors to new markets.
  2. There is increased interest from carriers in investing in new data and analytics that can activate it. Having been locked into static models of data and delivery for decades, carriers are ready for something different and are investing in startups with solutions which provide new data from emerging sources in more consumable formats. Coupled with integrated analytics, the availability of more real-time data has an almost unprecedented ability to transform the accuracy of underwriting, fraud detection, and more.
  3. Artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent automation are the new front lines of innovation. With innovation now fully funded and mandated at a board level for most carriers, attention quite naturally turns to AI and intelligent automation to better predict customer behaviors and preferences and to achieve operational efficiency. Unfortunately, to the aforementioned data investments, many carriers have dirty data which has been corrupted by multiple modernization initiatives, failed conversions, and manual data entry or imaging errors, and this situation must be fixed before AI can be truly effective.

However, as carriers continue to struggle with digital modernization initiatives, InsurTech companies without the ability to integrate easily into existing IT infrastructures will find it nearly impossible to gain traction.

(Editor’s Note: AI vs. Intelligent Automation. While definitions vary, the author uses the term AI refer to software that can continuously learn better ways to mimic human behavior—intended to eventually replace humans. She views intelligent automation as being about using a combination of humans and technology to create the best possible workflows—working smarter, not harder.)