The Development of Insurtech – Q&A with Mark Tattersall, Founder of BackNine Insurance

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For the longest time, the insurance industry was at a standstill. Insurance claims took weeks if not months to be processed, receiving a quote was strenuous, and this was all whilst only dealing with one company. This arduous process then had to be repeated with each individual insurance provider involved. However, in the last decade, technology has revolutionised this sector, as a customer’s most precious resource: time, is given back to them.

Traditionally, customers wanting a policy were assigned a risk category which made premiums go up or down depending on the risk to the company. A heavy smoker would have to pay more for life insurance than a non-smoker, while a young driver will have to pay a higher premium for car insurance than someone older. 

Though seemingly straightforward, lumping people together in risk categories was profitable for the company but resulted in some paying more than they should. This is where insurtech comes in, as one of its aims is to change the way risk is calculated resulting in fairer pricing of premiums.

To fully understand the extent insurtech has had on the insurance industry, The Fintech Times spoke to Mark Tattersall of BackNine Insurance. With over 45 years of experience in the field, Tattersall has seen the way in which the insurance market has adapted to new changes, seeing what stuck and what hasn’t, whilst also allowing him to see what systems could be capitalised on. Here were his responses on how insurtech has developed and how his company, BackNine, have been able to capitalise on it.

What have been some of the biggest changes you have seen in the insurance industry, specifically within BackNine?

Typically, there was the career system: you would train your skills in video conferencing and how to sell, before going out on the street and selling for a couple of years, normally straight out of college. An insurance seller would meet with a client, speak to them for a few hours and then hopefully take on an application. The same technology had been used for roughly 30 years as there was little innovation meaning it was quite outdated. The idea of an agent selling insurance, then putting it through a back-room house like ours was how the old career system worked. However, the insurtech boom changed everything and aimed to make things easier. 

At BackNine a new CRM was created called BOSS (back-office support system). This CRM led to the creation of a new platform called Quote-and-Apply, which had been in the works for six years before the start of the pandemic. The API is designed to instantaneously recognise exactly which company is best for each situation, for example, if there is a medical issue, it will go to a specific company to deal with this. You go on the website, you’re quoted, it’ll be white labelled under your agency’s name and your client can start an application right away. The client can also be assisted by a financial advisor or come back to the link at a later date as it still works for a month after it is done.

Ultimately, the platform has created a bridge, not just to life insurance people selling life insurance, but also to other insurance fields, like property and casualty insurance

What problems has insurtech solved?

In short, insurtech has given back people their time. Previously, someone would show up at your apartment and hassle you to buy insurance and after five minutes you’d know if you wanted it or not, but the seller would stay there for much longer. If you did want it, applications would go through an underwriting process that would normally take between three weeks and two months as it was 12 pages long. This timing issue was the biggest problem. 

BackNine has made ease of access its top priority, meaning customers of any age can have a choice of all the different companies with the buffet of products too. Everything is there for them in one place. Sellers no longer have to go to their clients as everything can be done online – essentially the middleman has been cut out.   

What still needs to be done with insurtech to see it fully optimised within the field?

Specifically with BackNine, from an insurtech standpoint, we currently have life insurance, but we want to expand it to other avenues. People have contacted us about having the ability to have annuities on their disability insurance, pet insurance and medical insurance. We want to add more products to our offering.

Despite solving problems, has the use of insurtech led to any new issues?

Currently, we are pretty much the only insurance agent across the United States that is able to offer insurance in this way. Others will definitely be following suit. What has been made easier is the accessibility. For example, if a property-casualty agent is talking to a client and knows nothing about life insurance they will be hesitant to give a quote. The technology makes this easy. Furthermore, it allows them to be able to go in for advanced insurance (albeit with our help on the phone). But what insurtech has made harder is the quality of business coming our way as it is not the typical great quality of business.

Typically, it’s close to 70% of an application you submit gets placed, but with insurtech, it’s about 50% right now. One positive from the traditional system was insurance sellers could tailor each selling opportunity to each possible consumer. When people enter our portal they think they’re going to get the preferred type of rate. We try to direct them by a system that will show you on the basis of your health, ranking you from 1-5 stars. However, not meeting with someone in person, definitely plays a factor in why placement ratios are down 20%.

We’re hoping that the instant decision platform, where we can issue them a policy on the spot, right away, will change the metrics back up into the 60s. With covid, it’s been difficult because we’ve had an influx of people buying insurance for lots of different reasons, and insurance companies have their employees working from home. With all this new business coming their way, insurance companies would need more staff but without being in office, they haven’t been able to train them. So returning to offices will help deal with the backlog of applications that have been made possible by insurtech.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The future of insurtech has all the aspects of being the Amazon of insurance, in the sense of making it very easy to purchase something. It is going to make a very difficult process, very, very simple. And the result of that will be lives are changed because that young 40-year-old that was killed suddenly in a car accident now has a million dollars in life insurance for his wife and kids. That’s the ultimate end goal: to do a better job insuring the people that need it.

What can be seen from the conversation with Tattersall is insurance is no longer a dragged-out chore that will take an excruciating amount of time. The monotonous waiting has been removed meaning customers have been able to access an array of different insurance quotes from different places and likely decide which company they would like to go with in the time it would have taken to previously get a quote from a singular company.

It is becoming something which is becoming more and more accessible, and with the continuous development of insurtech and companies like BackNine, buying insurance will soon be made something that is as simple as ordering groceries online – there will be a wealth of options from a variety of different companies, so each buyer will have something for them, and it will all be one click away. 

  • Francis is a junior journalist with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

https://thefintechtimes.com/the-development-of-insurtech-qa-with-mark-tattersall-founder-of-backnine-insurance/