$13 million investment in social insurance signals disruption

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10 December 2015
Michael Fitzgerald
Will a sharing economy model work in insurance? The announcement about the start up Lemonade highlights the challenges that social insurance (also called peer-to-peer insurance) faces. A Celent colleague, Jamie Macgregor attended a panel on social insurance propositions at FinTech Connect Live in London this past week (see Jamie’s blog post). On the panel were leaders of three such companies, Sebastian Herfurth, co-founder of Friendsurance, Steven Mendel, CEO and co-founder of Bought by Many, and Louis de Broglie, President and co-founder of Inspeer. These companies operate as brokers, managing the transaction between the end consumer and insurers. They offer either a deductible sharing scheme or a pooling mechanism to gain price discounts. The panellists spoke about their common challenges -- sustaining growth and educating the consumer about an alternative approach to insurance. It remains to be seen if any can achieve critical mass. Of the three, Friendsurance is further along having started (way back!) in 2010. (See Celent report: Friendsurance: Challenging the Business Model of a Social Insurance Startup — A Case Study) Similar brokerage models have also been adopted by Guevara and Tongjubao. These companies seek to apply social insurance to more complicated lines of business – automobile (motor) and life, respectively. The Lemonade announcement stated that it will expand the social insurance model beyond sales and service by taking on risk on its balance sheet. They report that they have applied to be an insurer in New York. This will be an early, significant test given that state’s past regulatory reputation. However, the company has some strong arguments to make. They can point out that sharing increases transparency and aligns the interests of an insurer with their consumers. Additionally, the sizable initial capitalization will positively influence regulators. These alternative approaches are good news for the industry as they challenge the traditional, sometimes adversarial, relationship between insurer and insured. The ability of Lemonade to secure $13 million in initial funding from veteran venture capitalist firms (Sequoia Capital and Aleph) is a serious indication of industry change.

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