- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

InsurTech Today: From Gee Whiz to Gee Wins

In the mid-1990s, forward-looking insurance pros saw the commercial internet as an engine for new models, information, distribution and insurance products. The necessities around dealing with the potential ‘Y2K bug’ managed to suck large quantities of resources for multiple years, effectively burying hope. But the currently maturing InsurTech movement is making a stronger push, raising hopes. 

Will it succeed?

In The Valley, we find SVIA

With all due respect for Techs worldwide (including Toronto /  Waterloo), Silicon Valley continues to be the reigning monarchy for leading edge startups and established innovators.  

The Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator (SVIA) is a leading actor in InsurTech.  The SVIA mandate is straightforward – “Helping Insurance Companies and Startups Design, Develop, & Promote Innovative InsurTech Products & Services.” 

(I will be using SVIA as an example, as I spent some quality time with their principals recently.  To be clear, however, there are many, many others between SFO and SJC.)

At the core, SVIA is a member-based organization.  The two founders and principals at SVIA – Natalie Wood and Michael Connor – develop programs, facilities and agendae to meet the needs of their members.  Their primary focus is to enable members to quickly and cost effectively come up to speed on InsurTech trends and new solutions. 

The channels include activities in the lab, such as a Jump Start Program, Boot Camps, their bespoke ecosystem, and Summits.  I was invited to attend “InsurTechFUSION – Commercial Insurance: Digital Information & Emerging Risks”.

InsurTechFUSION in Action

The Summit was two full days , 27-28 March 2018.  This was a unique combination of education and implementation.  Day one took the perspective of current risk and insurance.  Day two focussed more on emerging risks / products, such as cyber and governmental regulation.

Wood opened the Summit, providing an overview of SVIA and its services.  With this short set-up, Mike took to the stage to put the two days into action.   

Commercial Lines in focus

Connor explicated the obvious, noting that Commercial Lines was lagging behind personal lines in digital transformation. He noted that commercial enterprises are moving to the speed and scale of the internet.  The challenge is that  externally defined insurance programs leave a gap with the enterprise.

Connor noted that the gap was not as wide as we might think.  The keys for success, from Connor’s perspective, are to:

  • create digital ecosystems, linking the insurance programs with technology, and
  • put the power into the consumer’s hands; which would include self-developed, bespoke systems

This is not easy, but it does provide a clear map.

Then they turned the fire hose on…

The next 36 hours ran in 5th gear.  The structure of the Summit was a combination of brief Ted-Talk-like presentations, narrow topic panels, and Start-up Showcases at the end of each day. 

Time was set aside to allow suppliers/attendees to book one-on-one 15-minute sessions with each other to get to know each other and determine if there were reasons to continue the conversation off-line.

One overarching theme was the requirements for the ecosystems.  The presenters and panelists were a mix of insurance practitioners, tech suppliers, and third party providers. 

Over the years, in-house technologies proliferated to meet ad-hoc environments.  At the same time, new systems (small and large) were brought into the organization to address needs.  

The result was an expensive, less-than-effective technology environment.  

So how to approach this?  The opening presenter – Jeff Brown, President at kaboodle –  noted that ecosystems can address these with specific disciplines: 

  • Move from many systems to fewer
  • Establish single data repositories,
  • Provide Privacy throughout, and
  • Focus on Customer experience

Other presenters provided additional considerations, and were available for deeper discussions.

Again:  Not easy, but really important.


The Silicon Valley continues to offer leadership to the world.  What appears to be happening is that the Gee Wiz factor is becoming routine.  Continuously managing new innovation is the sine qua non.

Organizations such as SVIA are taking an approach to  dive deeper into the content of  insurance products and distribution services.  In some instances, the technology will be embedded, focussing externally on the content.  

We had a saying at one time:  “Technology enables – Content Rules.”  This may be resurfaced as we move along.  

Your thoughts?