Welcome to the Never Normal

At the FUTURE X INSURANCE Showcase, corporate executives, innovation leaders and international startups discussed and defined the new normal in the industry

The time for transformation is now: With the experience of the Corona crisis, shifting customer expectations and a massive surge in technical possibilities, enterprises need to become smarter and more resilient. This was the core driver of InsurTech Hub Munich’s (ITHM) seventh Innovation Programme, ‘NXT: Enterprise’, when it kicked off three months ago. 29 international startups went along on the journey with the ITHM team, its partners from the insurance and the tech sphere, mentors and investors to work on solutions for the next normal. At the grand finale of the programme, the FUTURE X INSURANCE Showcase (FXI) on July 7, 2021, it was not only the best nine teams (see picture below) pitching their ideas to an online audience of more than 600. Thought leaders and challengers from all over the world discussed and defined the future of insurance.

Nine out of the 29 startups that participated in the “NXT: Enterprise Innovation Programme” were selected to pitch at the grand showcase.

It’s people that make insurance

Interestingly, two major lines of action appeared in the FXI keynotes and the C-level panel: Whereas all contributors agreed on the importance of people-centricity, some saw the product itself become more and more invisible. “It’s people that make insurance: The customers, the employees, the community of policyholders. Innovation isn’t fueled by some sort of perpetual motion but by the people’s demand and by their inventiveness“, Johannes Wagner, Head of Startup Cooperation at Versicherungskammer Bayern and Member of the ITHM Board, underlined in his keynote. “Insurance does turn into a service, but much more than only a financial service”, argued wefox founder and CEO Julian Teicke, who, though challenging the traditional players, largely relies on agents and brokers for distribution. 

Marguerite Soeteman-Reijnen: “Human capital is your most important asset”.

Discontinuity is the new norm

“In the future, most insurance will still be sold through people”, Olivier Jaillon added to the topic, “but the question is, if these people need to be insurance professionals”. The CEO of French white-label company Wakam sees the rise of the sharing economy and embedded insurance as major trends to consider: “Discontinuity is the new norm, we use things only for a certain amount of time”. As a consequence, Jaillon believes, insurance will be as important as ever, but largely invisible to the consumer. “The younger demographic doesn’t care about protection in itself – but they want the products and services they use to work without interruption”.

Does this mean, inquired moderator Esther Eva Prax, Programme Director at InsurTech Hub Munich, that rather odd news such as beer brewer Budweiser entering insurance will become routine? “Insurance is all about trust”, answered the CEO of Wakam, “so it might make sense to embed insurance in the products of trusted comsumer brands”. Adrien Lebegue, General Manager Europe of Chinese online insurer ZhongAn’s R&D unit ZA Tech, sees this not so much as a warning shot but as a sign of beneficial change in the industry: “When non-traditional brands enter the market and the demand for new forms of protection arises, the pie will become bigger for everyone involved”. Or, as keynote speaker and serial entrepreneur Peter Hinssen put it: We have not only reached a new normal, but a super fluid state of “Never Normal”.

The InsurTech Munich hosts: Dale Sodergren, Dr. Reinhard Saller, Esther Eva Prax, Christian Gnam and Corine Ackermann.

A smart enterprise is one that embraces change

So much for the customer and the provider view – but is the technology, that has to enable this massive transformation, ready for it? “Every single product line and process – from underwriting to claims – must be fully API supported”, stated wefox’s Julian Teicke. Glenn Gonzalez, CTO of SAP Germany, explicated: “Every company needs to have an end-to-end business process in place. Only if it works seamlessly with new technologies, will you really meet your customers’ expectations.”

“A smart enterprise is one that is neither afraid nor reluctant of new situations, but rather embraces change”, ITHM Managing Director Christian Gnam summed up the efforts of the NXT: Innovation Programme. “Our hub’s share is that we match and convoy innovators from within and outside the industry. During this programme alone we hosted 275 business development sessions between the participating startups and our partner companies.” Dr. Klaus Driever, Director Strategic Digital Initiatives at Allianz Deutschland, comments: “InsurTech Hub Munich is kind of Silicon Valley right in front of our doorstep”. 

Dr. Robert Heene: “InsurTech Hub Munich has a large impact on Munich as an innovation hotspot and Germany as a beachhead market”

It’s all about the community

“It’s all about the community, the openness of everyone involved, the willingness to participate and share and build meaningful collaborations and partnerships”, explains Programme Director Prax the success of ITHM and its offerings. Gnam adds: “The most obvious validation for our work are the many collaborations between startups and our cross-industry partners, more than 75 of which we’ve been able to convey in 2020 alone. And we are super curious to learn about the outcomes of NXT: in the sense of cooperations, which will become visible in the next few months”. To honor the members‘ outstanding committment, ITHM lent the „Most Engaged Partner Award” for this programme to NÜRNBERGER Versicherung. Munich Re received the “Connector Award”, Markel the “Frontrunner Award” and SAP the “Quickstarter Award”.

Text: Markus Walter