Chris Ewing is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of One Inc, a digital insurance payments platform that helps more than 170 insurance companies process over $15 billion in payments annually. Here, he sat down with The Fintech Times to share his thoughts on digital insurance payments.
Tell us more about One Inc
Our vision at One Inc is to become the leading payments network for insurers. We do this by providing an entire ecosystem of insurance payments software to our customers that lowers Payment Card Industry burden and cost, increases engagement and provides the opportunity for all insurers to take assets digital. The biggest opportunity we are tackling is removing checks from the claims process with our ClaimsPay product, which digitises all aspects of the claims payment process and modernises the customer experience.
Our company has been fast-growing. We are based in Folsom, Ca. with a global technology development presence, and our clients underwrite policies for a wide range of personal and commercial insurance verticals across the United States. They include specialists and new entrants up to many of the largest most recognisable, publicly-traded carriers overall.
What was the inspiration for creating One Inc?
It began with personal experience. When I was running an insurance company, I noticed that there were too many vendors involved in the payments ecosystem and that they all worked separately, creating data silos and lowering up time. In addition, the incumbent providers—often legacy banks—did not solve many of the payment problems in insurance, like reconciliation to core billing and policy systems, digitisation of claims payments and digital engagement that can only be provided by a provider focusing exclusively on insurance. I wondered why one company does not simply do all this – and that is how One Inc was born. We are built by and for insurers and handle all the use cases to completely handle insurance payments in one platform.
What are the key trends in the insurance industry at the moment?
Many insurance providers are eyeing—or trying to catch up to—broad transformational trends, and these relate to changing customer preferences and new technology, and perhaps most of all, the intersection of these. Operational efficiency is always top of mind. At the same time, traditional carriers are ranging into new opportunities to provide more esoteric policies, offering coverage for trending issues like climate-related risks or cyber threats. Customers are likewise looking for new policies as the economy reopens and is revamped following the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a dynamic environment.
Many of these shifts are driven by technology. Historically a slow-moving industry characterised by regionalisation and state-by-state regulation, insurtech entrants like Lemonade and Hippo have quickly flipped the script. User touchpoints are now more important to customer retention than ever, especially for the largest legacy insurance providers. Among these, claims payments may well be both the most important and trickiest to reengineer. As a result, the biggest trend is to remove checks from the process.
How have digital insurance payments grown?
Payments are the most frequent touchpoint between carriers and insureds. Typically, insurers have viewed payments as a simple payment made by check, ACH network or credit card. But if you think about it, at its core, payments are really the centre of the insurance universe: as a carrier, I promise to pay you if a peril occurs, if you promise to pay me premiums. That is what insurance really is; yet historically carriers have provided a poor payment experience and relied on legacy banks to provide these services, and relied particularly on checks.
There are interesting historical, legal and practical reasons for that reality, which are unique to insurance. For instance, in workplace compensation insurance, a check issuance can serve multiple purposes (beyond mere payment) depending on the type of policy at hand. Likewise, they are broadly accepted by the myriad of stakeholders and vendors that can be involved in resolving a complex claim, e.g. when repairing damaged property. So, checks don’t go away easily. Still, with the right technology partner, many insurers see the chance to take a huge step forward in this area and significantly decrease the overall severity—or risk of loss—associated with their business lines.
As in other industries, insurtechs like One Inc are building an entire ecosystem that digitises the customer experience, makes claims and payments faster and ultimately increases retention and lowers loss ratios and severity. As a result, there is an explosion in the transition from legacy payments to digital payments and platforms. At One Inc, we aspire to lead and help guide this revolution.
Has this increased due to the pandemic?
Unfortunately, the pandemic has had a profound effect on how businesses is done, rapidly moving towards virtual and zero-touch preferences, and this has greatly increased the speed at which the insurance industry has to remove paper and manual processes out of the way they execute claims. One illustration: we have heard of CFOs of customers take home thousands of checks to hand print them for distribution. These are the kind of bizarre moments that prove old payment methods make no sense. The answer of course is digitisation and removal of checks, paper bills and manual processes, creating significant new demand for what we do.
What do you think the future holds for digital insurance payments?
Carriers have changed their view of payments as a basic feature and are embracing digital payments as a strategic initiative. Building the leading insurance payment network, we are helping all participants in the insurance ecosystem make and receive payments digitally. Fortunately for One Inc, this transition is only a few years old and we feel we came onto it early. As a leader, we intend to increase innovation across our platform to make carries’ business better and more profitable.