Article written by Dexter Cousins

Insurtech Australia: The Future of Insurance 001

To launch the Future of Insurance series, we welcome Brenton Charnley who is lead and co-founder of Insurtech Australia.

Brenton was previously Head of Innovation at MetLife Australia and is now Chief Commercial Officer at CoverGenius.

Insurtech is now an industry in its own right with over $6.3bn US invested in the sector globally. Although the majority of deals have occurred in the US and Asia, Australia has a rapidly growing Insurtech scene. Insurtech Australia formally launches Thursday October 26th 2017.

What exactly is Insurtech Australia?

BC - We are a national, not-for-profit organisation, run for the benefit of our members and partners across all corners of Australia. Insurtech Australia is a division of FinTech Australia.

Insurtech Australia aspires to make Australia one of the world’s leading markets for Insurtech and insurance innovation.

We do this by collaborating with insurers, startups, regulators and investors to create the best possible regulatory environment, and by fostering an ecosystem of supportive partners and networks so Insurtech can thrive and grow in Australia.

How did the idea for Insurtech Australia evolve?

BC - Back in 2016 I was working with Metlife as Head of Innovation. I could see the changes that were happening in the insurance industry, and the potential opportunities ahead. For innovation to occur, you need to gain as many external views as possible and not look at change through the myopic lens of Life Insurance.

So I decided to set up the Meetup group ‘Insurtech Sydney’, just to encourage discussion across the insurance and tech sectors. I expected maybe ten people would show up. There were almost 300 people at the early events. Lots of interest from incumbent insurers, but there was not a great deal of representation from the tech/startup scene.

At the same time, Sarah Fountain, Senior Associate at DLA Piper set up an Insurtech Melbourne meetup, and gradually the word spread to the tech scene.

Within six months we were partnering with insurers and ecosystem partners. In March 2017, we partnered with ANZIIF and Stone and Chalk, holding the Insurtech pitch event at the ANZIIF Insurtech conference.

Insurtech Sydney became a diverse community of insurance innovation and collaboration by bringing together insurance practitioners, entrepreneurs, technologists, innovators, and industry stakeholders across Australia.

By early 2017, we had demonstrated there was a clear need for the platform across insurance and insurtech.

So we went about the process of formalising a national non-profit body. ANZIIF and everyone in the industry has been super supportive, and we are excited to be launching Insurtech Australia officially this week.

What is your sense as to the mood of incumbent insurers towards insurtech?

BC - Globally the mood is very positive. Investment in Insurtech has exploded over the last few years. And the largest investors are incumbent insurers, so they clearly see opportunities.

There is so much talk in the industry surrounding disruption. My take is that incumbent insurers view most tech startups and Insurtechs as enablers, not disruptors.

We can already see technology improving many aspects of the value chain and distribution model. The tech is there to empower the industry, not replace it.

And it makes complete sense. Most Insurtechs have to partner with underwriters as they are not regulated or licensed.

How is the Australian Insurtech scene stacking up on a global scale?

Insurtech Australia

BC – If we look at global funding, according to CB Insights only 1% of that has come to Australia. Many of the major VC firms are US-centric, and it is a massive market. So of course, a VC will invest in the largest market. The biggest Insurtech deals last year were Zhong An in China (US$931m) and Zenefits in North America (US$584m).

Australia doesn't have a big enough market (yet perhaps?) to attract that type of investment.

However, when we compare Australia globally against other metrics, we are quite advanced. Australia is quite far ahead of North America for example on digital/online distribution. Australia is moving on to what I call innovation 3.0

What is innovation 3.0?

BC – Put simply, it is a world in which we are not just replicating old processes and digitising them. An example may be an online application for a policy. The customer has the same experience, they just don’t have to post the application in the mail.

Innovation 3.0 is a world where protecting your assets, insuring your health, your life, your holiday can happen in real time, on-demand at the push of a button. Innovation 3.0 is creating an environment where insurance is bought NOT sold. The insurance product is integrated into the asset/thing to which we seek to protect.

It is a very exciting time to be involved in Insurance right now. What are the key objectives of Insurtech Australia?

BC – Insurtech Australia is here to support and grow the Insurtech community and help the entire insurance ecosystem thrive. We are involved with technology startups, hubs, investors, brokers, advisers. Insurtech Australia is there for the benefit of both the insurtech members and corporate partners.

There is a lot of change ahead so we provide an environment where ideas and relationships can incubate and be nurtured and ultimately succeed.

We see Australia as the ideal mini-market for global insurers to launch new products, new ideas and new initiatives. So our goal is to make Australia one of the world’s leading markets for Insurtech and insurance innovation.

Insurtech Australia seeks to advocate on behalf of its members and partners and become the champions of change with the regulators. Australia has to accommodate new technologies, new models and innovative ways in which insurers can manage their capital if we are to compete in a global market. That being said, we must ensure that we retain a strong regulatory environment that continues to protect the consumer. Insurtech Australia seeks to work with the regulators to create the environment where insurtech innovation can thrive.

Insurtech Australia formally launches 26th October. Learn more about the organisation and membership - 

Founder of Tier One People and host of the Fintech Chatter Podcast.

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