R3 Insurance Round Table: Creating a successful business case

Insurance is an industry at crossroads. Insurance professionals gathered at R3’s head office in London in February 2020 to discover best practices employed by successful insurance blockchain networks, and how they could apply these to build their own business case. How can insurers and their technology providers solve the challenges caused by the need for multiple participants to transact securely and make decisions on reliable and trusted shared data? What is the value that blockchain can bring when it comes to complicated claims processing, archaic billing systems, high reconciliation costs, ambiguity in assessing loss conditions, and settlement delays? How have organisations already applied DLT to create applications to tackle the industry’s high expense ratios and declining customer relevance?

Co-presented by R3’s Head of Insurance EMEA, Victor Boardman, and Walid Al Saqqaf, Founder of Insureblocks, a consultancy raising awareness about blockchain in insurance, the round table invited three insuretech scale-ups, Insurwave, Blocksure and ChainThat to share their expertise in how to design, develop and deploy successful distributed ledger applications in the insurance industry.

R3 Insurwave’s Madelaine Bailey
Insurwave’s Madelaine Bailey describes a digital pathway for commercial insurance

1. An industry at crossroads

Today, the insurance sector is facing a range of challenges: profitability is undermined by low asset investment returns and higher than expected claims; processing costs are high as the industry is saddled with legacy infrastructure, also hampering digitalisation efforts; while customers increasingly demand personalised products and a better experience. “Insurance has a very frictional market lifecycle,” remarked Rebecca Oliver, Director of Business Development at ChainThat.

The pain points of the industry are found at several levels:

  • Customer interaction: problems connecting the insured with brokers, insurers, reinsurers (vertical integration)
  • Inter-company: little data alignment across industry (horizontal integration)
  • Intra-company: friction within a company needs to be reduced (internal integration)
  • Inter-industry: inability to seamlessly connect with adjacent business networks.

Too much manual input and not enough traceability leads to unnecessary delays and losses, while errors and fraud happen all too frequently. There is a general lack of trust. Information is constantly duplicated along the value chain, causing parties to pay for the same data they need access to.

Furthermore, within the industry, there is a general feeling that the power of data is somewhat being wasted. People do not know how to use all this valuable information to make business decisions. “The data sets will get bigger and bigger. How you ingest that data and make something out of it is key,” said Madeline Bailey at Insurwave. Insurance players often do not know how to integrate data into their legacy systems for automating business processes in a cost-effective manner, whilst APIs can be expensive to maintain and don’t deliver real-time data that is 100% aligned with counterparties. Industry players also often fail to properly engage in data exchanges with customers to create customer-centric solutions and create new products or open up novel markets. “There is definitely a business case for opening up new channels such as microinsurance and the gig economy,” stressed Chris Alba Hamilton, CTO at Blocksure.

2. Blockchain benefits and challenges

Blockchain cannot fix all the industry’s problems but its ability to enhance the trust in data and enable shared access for specific parties makes it an attractive proposition. Many industry verticals already deploy such solutions: R3 works with a broad ecosystem of more than 350 participants (tech companies, financial institutions, regulators, trade associations, professional services firms, etc.) across multiple industries.

The key benefits of R3’s next-generation blockchain solution (Corda) in insurance is to transact securely and with trust. Peers share a single ledger — the transaction is validated, and the record is permanent: they can trust the data and who they are doing business with. It guarantees total privacy, with the data securely shared only with the necessary parties in a transaction. This helps reduce friction and leads to reduction of common back-end functions, reducing costs.

Blocksure said its first customers in the intermediated insurance market reported 90% reduction in back-office costs.

Speed is also a key advantage: with blockchain, the placement process for insurance can be reduced from months to minutes. In an ROI study, The Institutes RiskStream Collaborative identified that its membership could save up to $535million in three years by using Corda applications for personal lines auto insurance (Proof of Insurance and First Notice of Loss) within the U.S. market for example.

Due to the reduced processing and admin costs, microinsurance and offering protection to those previously not able to access it becomes a possibility, opening up new markets. It’s also possible to create smart contracts between parties to effect a pre-arranged obligation. Finally, from an innovation perspective, it increases collaboration and co-creation opportunities.

3. Building an Insurance business case

Walid Al Saqqaf of Insureblocks has produced over 100 weekly podcasts on blockchain, smart contracts and distributed ledger technology (DLT) in insurance with the industry’s leaders. Based on this experience, he has mapped out the anatomy of a blockchain business case.

R3’s Victor Boardman discussed the Corda insurance ecosystem

First, he recommends looking at the main pain points to identify the opportunity: is it a duplication of work? Too many paper or manual processes? Too many intermediaries? Al Saqqaf then recommends looking at your minimum viable ecosystem (MVE) – which involves moving the pilot towards commercial-scale deployment first, with limited features – and carefully choosing implementation partners. Measuring the impact can be difficult as, quite often, the industry itself does not know what the cost of doing business is. If this is the case, then you need to make assumptions and compare the process “as is” to the blockchain enabled process for that business case. For instance, calculate:

  • The cost of losing customers due to inefficiencies in the current process
  • The time and effort required to do each process and what that equals in salary
  • The number of manual input and how that translates in cost of human error (e.g. duplication of work)
  • The costs in complying to regulatory requirements

After that, it’s all about “quick wins”: starting with a new line of business, new products or new customer segments. Work with nimble partners within your ecosystem whose leadership embraces innovation. Walid recommends avoiding legacy system integration at the beginning, to excite and inspire the business to start the proof of concept without the pain of integration.

For more information about the progress of blockchain in the insurance industry you can download the Blockchain Insurance Market Report.

For further news and views from the InsurTech market, visit www.insureblocks.com.