Hurricane Harvey’s Lesson for Insurtechs

Hurricane Harvey’s Lesson for Insurtechs

by Daniel C. Price on

Insurance 1.0 focused on distribution, and Insurance 2.0 on efficiency. Insurance 3.0 will have to be more thoughtful on product innovation.

Just sixteen years ago, Tropical Storm Allison struck Houston, killing 23 people, dropping more than three feet of rain in some areas, flooding 73,000 homes and causing $5 billion of dollars in damage. For people whose homes were flooded in 2001, it is hard to imagine a more tangible or compelling argument for flood insurance. Surely, someone who suffered catastrophic flood damage would protect themselves with optional flood coverage, right? Yet, when Hurricane Harvey hit on August 25thHouston‘s Harris County had 25,000 fewer flood-insured properties than it did in 2012. Across Houston, the number of flood insurance policies fell from 133,000 to 119,000 – an 11 percent drop in the past five years despite a 4.5 percent increase in population.

All of this is a succinct lesson for the investors and innovators who told me at last year’s Insuretech Connect conference that they were frustrated by the lack of real product innovation. Indeed, if Insuretech 1.0 focused on new distribution strategies, such as online aggregators; and Insuretech 2.0 included new internal competitive advances, such as new approaches and tools for underwriting, claims, and risk management, including IoT advances; then, if Insuretech 3.0 is product innovation, it will need to be more thoughtful than product innovation in non-insurance sectors, at least for personal lines.

Indeed, successful insurance product innovation is about picking your battles. At OneTitle, for example, we leveraged an existing mandate (title insurance) and maintained accepted policy forms and coverages, but innovated on virtually every other lever.

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