Graeme Dean, head of insurance for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at insurance distribution platform Cover Genius, on supporting customers and partners during the coronavirus pandemic, and why the insurance industry needs to embrace insurtech
How is Cover Genius faring during the current climate—is everybody well and managing?
Graeme Dean: Everybody is well thankfully! As you know, Cover Genius does a lot of car hire, travel and ticketing insurance through a range of partners, including Booking Holdings, rentalcars.com, gotogate.com and AXS, so those areas are down quite considerably. We’re expecting domestic travel—and therefore car hire—to pick up strongly as countries come back online. Most importantly though, we spent the last few years diversifying away from travel so our partnerships with really large retailers, logistics companies and fintechs such as eBay, ShipStation and Ferratum are all really strong.
We’ve also enjoyed fun stuff such as office trivia and meeting everyone’s partners, pets and children when they pop in to say hi!
Some of Cover Genius’s partners, particularly in the retail and travel sectors, are under significant pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. How are you helping them to respond?
Graeme Dean: We do a ton of work in optimisation, with some of our brightest brains working in London working on pricing strategies, which is challenging in the midst of a massive black swan event. We have published some research this week that looks at attach rates for travellers heading to hotspots. It tells a really interesting story about risk perception and the genuine value of the insurance add-ons that are offered by our partners. But it also tells a story about the importance of technology-led solutions. Simply sticking up an insurance offer without consideration of changing loss rates and ways to improve them, or sticking them up with simplistic pricing, is a sure way to a dead end, especially when risk is elevated and sales are challenged.
On the retail front, we’ve found a huge upswing in our Asian and Indian businesses. Some of the largest online retailers and fintechs globally are based there and are doing admirably while traditional retail unfortunately suffers. Shopee, Lazada, Flipkart, Grab, Gojek, Tokopedia, PayTM and many others are bringing insurance innovation to markets where traditional insurers have struggled to stay relevant at scale.
How well prepared was the insurance industry to deal with a pandemic? What are some of the lessons that the industry will have to learn?
Graeme Dean: One can’t tar everyone with the same brush, but one thing we’ve seen is that corporate insurers have been very generous and effective, albeit their premiums might now be struggling. We’ve been working on employee benefit and other corporate programs for a while now and the pandemic has shown that the effort is worthwhile given the creaky claims infrastructure that underlies almost every traditional insurer in the land. Those legacy systems have crippled some insurers, but most tragically, they have been unable to fix critical issues in the claims journey, whether that’s language-related or payments issues for international claimants, or insurers hiding behind ‘public notices’ rather than making explicit changes to their policy wordings.
On the positive side, we’re proud that our tech-forward distributors that are very user-centered have benefited from some of the key features of our XCover platform, such as bonus credit incentives, dynamic product and price recommendations, and free cancellations, leading to very positive commercial outcomes.
Going forward, what role can an insurance distribution platform such as yours play in better connecting insurers, businesses and customers/policyholders, particularly when digital channels are the mainstay of commerce?
Graeme Dean: We fundamentally believe that the insurer’s role is to enable technology companies and insurtechs to handle the customers. This is something that tech companies do extremely well. For instance, our Claims NPS is 65+ whereas most insurers sit below British Parliament (in the range of -10 to +15, to be precise). We achieve this by owning all the facets of the value chain for any line of insurance, from underwriting, pricing (retail and risk), documentation, communications and drafting (in 40 languages), compliance and licensing (in more than 20 countries additional to the EU plus 50 US states) to claims handling, fraud detection and real-time claims payments in 90+ currencies.
When it makes sense we also insure into our own captive and reinsure that risk. This is a big burden but it’s made simpler with good technology and the avoidance of legacy systems. We see that technology companies prefer to deal with tech companies given the extremely high expectations, so we work with them to ensure everyone’s incentives are aligned.
Sitting behind all that, we have awesome insurance partners around the world. We’re a Lloyd’s coverholder through Canopius and others and we have multiple European and British insurers, including Collinson, TSM in Switzerland and Generali, which are all working with us to create innovative products that our partners want to sell to their global audience.