Earlier this week, Bloomberg profiled the efforts of Munich Re Digital Partners, which has announced six underwriting partnerships including with Trov and Simplesurance since launching in May. As program head Andrew Rear explained, “The gain for (reinsurers) is to build new business model approaches…by providing capacity to these new firms.”
Munich is not the only reinsurer actively partnering with startups, though.
Hannover Re announced its second partnership in life insurance with Sureify Labs, a startup enabling and managing the relationship between life insurers, agents and policyholders through the development of its platform called LifeTime. The partnership also includes a strategic equity investment. We caught up with Hannover Re VP of Partnership Solutions Tony Laudato on how he thinks about reinsurer moves in insurance tech, startup failure and more.
On the timeline of its two initial partnerships
The first conversations with (online term life insurance provider) Ladder Life started a little less than a year ago from first conversation. Sureify and Ladder were both in different positions when we met them. Ladder had a very robust go-to-market strategy and path they knew they wanted to go down and found a partnership in us to bring the underwriting expertise they needed.
Sureify was a much shorter process. Our face-to-face meeting was in June of this year. So beginning to end there, we were really only talking a couple of months.
On future life insurance parnterships
We definitely look at everything through a strategic lens. Speaking from a US perspective, we’ll definitely be looking at things first on a strategic basis; we’re looking to help grow the insurance market, which helps grow the reinsurance markets. So if there are opportunistic partnerships or where an investment makes sense, we’ll absolutely take a look at them. But I don’t foresee us being a pure investment partner as some others have been.
On the role of reinsurers for startups
I think reinsurers can play a very valuable role in how we help the overall insurance market grow. I’m happy to see a number of different firms trying to build the market in a way they see best. It sounds like everyone has a slightly different approach to how they look at things, which I think is good. For us here in the US, there’s such an untapped need for life insurance. So we saw a role for us given our background in underwriting, life insurance and actuarial to help new players get into the market or existing life insurance companies make the transformation to a more digital world in terms of risk selection and engagement. It’s a really large market so we’re happy to have everyone try and grow it in their own way.
On potentially partnering with startups that eventually fail
(Failure) a nature of the business itself. We try to find ways to identify what we think are good opportunities but at the same time understand that, in innovation you are going to fail. At the same time, you want to be able to see and invest in markets that really can change the market that you’re in. Innovation is not an easy game. What you try to do is identify things as well as you can, know that some of those things won’t work out, and that you’re going to take all that knowledge and bank it for the next round that comes through so you can do better and keep developing the market.
On eventual change in the life insurance industry
It’s interesting because the life insurance market itself is very much a follow-me industry. The emergence of some of the new distribution companies will force the more traditional life insurance companies to think about what their customer acquisition strategy looks like, but also what their back-end engagement looks like, which I think then enables some of the up-and-coming insurance tech companies. So I really see this whole ecosystem not necessarily working together but working in conjunction with each other so that one starts to force another and so they all start to move forward together at some point. No insurance company we’ve seen likes to get left behind either from a technology point of view or how they underwrite or reach out to customers so we think it will be a pretty big movement toward new products and new engagement channels. In total, it should be very beneficial to the life insurance industry as a whole.
On partnering with Sureify
I see what they bring to the table as something that is able to change how insurance companies both market and engage with customers, which haven’t been at the forefront of how the life insurance market has evolved over time. What I see Sureify bringing to table is being able to have insurance companies change the way they engage with their customers and agents; it’s such a different thought process than where they’ve been in the past and where I think would be a really hard struggle to get their internal IT platforms and management to get to this next generation of buyers and technology.