Captive Insurance Petri Dish

Interesting story in February’s issue of Business Insurance on the growth of the InsurTech sector seen through the number of IPOs and M&A activity. Valuable InsurTech companies are being hoovered up by some of the insurance sector giants, while there is also an increasing appetite in growing the InsurTech firms themselves.  The BI article quotes one InsurTech CEO saying the level of investment in the InsurTech sector is “profound,” with private equity firms investing in established InsurTech and venture capital investing in earlier stage startups, he said. “That’s why you’re seeing so much activity in the space — it’s well rounded.”

There many InsurTech solutions being tested and utilized in the captive sector as a spillover from the traditional market, of course, but few that I know of that have decided to stake their future on focusing almost entirely on our industry, which I think is a missed opportunity: captives have always been a great laboratory for innovation and new ideas to bring down costs, create efficiencies, and expand captive utilization.

Two firms focusing on the captive insurance market are AI Insurance and RYSKEX – very different models looking to shake up the industry. Cameron MacArthur is the founder and president of AI Insurance, and he comes right out of central casting: smart, young high-tech developer in Silicon Valley who recognized how artificial intelligence could be utilized to share information from insured and policy management, enabling automated end-to-end claims processing that is highly intelligent and dynamic, focused on delivering the captive’s ROI. He did this by digging down into the nitty-gritty around the processes and challenges captives and RRGs have as smaller (usually) self-insurance operations.

Marcus Schmalbach and his team at RYSKEX have a similar story, although located in Berlin instead of Silicon Valley. RYSKEX has developed a digital platform that allows a global network of leading investors to take on hard to insure emerging and systemic risks. It also enables captives to find the appropriate coverage using our parametric risk transfer solution and hedge their risks as securitized intangible assets, which can be traded transparently and securely using blockchain technology. Pretty cool.

Captives have played a valuable role as a laboratory for both these InsurTech solutions. I would not be surprised to see similar stories about these two firms in the next few years. Watch this space!

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

Black Swans for Thanksgiving

I, for one, am glad its Thanksgiving next week. First, I love the feast! Family and friends (well, er, no friends this year) gather for dinner and conversation – no gifts, no chocolates, no decorations. Just like me: boring but predictable. Second, like everybody I could use a break from the craziness that is 2020, and Thanksgiving does allow one the opportunity to take a reality “time out” at least for a day.

But as my mind drifted to turkey, another bird edged its way into my brain. The proverbial black swan that is at the top of mind for many of us in the insurance community. An article yesterday in the London Times by Alex Wright highlights how many in our world are working to create insurance solutions for things that historically have been labeled uninsurable, like the pandemic.

As Alex outlined in his article, traditionally, companies have mitigated against risk by taking out an insurance policy. Underwriters would spend hours poring over reams of historical data to determine the likelihood of the risk occurring before giving a quote.  But black swans don’t fit this mode well, as by definition they defy historical data – at least in the linear manner we usually think of.

The burgeoning world of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning is looking to change that. The key benefit of AI in insurance is that it can quickly process large data sets and identify significant trends that mere mortals are unable to do.

Dr. Marcus Schmalbach created the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) World Risk Index, a parametric index that uses machine-learning to gather data from a range of trusted and verifiable sources, many of which aren’t considered in traditional underwriting. That data is then rigorously analyzed alongside information the technology has gathered from previous experiences to look for patterns and links between events and determine the likelihood of a major event occurring. Among the areas his group has successfully modelled is business interruption loss in the event of a pandemic based on the data they crunched.

Climate change, natural disasters, political and trade conflicts, all could be better priced in the insurance world with new AI applications. AI can also reduce paperwork and the time taken to receive a quote or claim. Using parametrics, AI can also establish if an event has happened, thereby triggering payouts and avoiding any disputes.  Captives are well poised to take advantage of such innovation.

While nobody can predict the future with 100% accuracy, AI will allow insurers to detect anomalies that will help anticipate future events, like pandemics, and maybe better prepare us for the black swans. Perhaps roast black swan instead of turkey….

Thanks, as always, for your continued support in these trying times. I look forward to hearing from you!

Rich Smith
VCIA President