How Carriers and Startups Can Work Together: InsurTech NY Post-Panel Thoughts

Earlier this week, Boost’s CRO Rowley Douglas was a panelist at InsurTech NY’s Building New Digital Distribution Channels event, on “Best Practices in Selling via InsurTech Marketplaces, Platforms, and MGAs.” We caught up with Rowley afterwards to get his thoughts on the changing insurtech scene, and how MGAs factor in. 

 

Let’s start with traditional carriers. How should they think about working with MGAs to access new business?

Boost has been working with our global reinsurance and AM Best-rated carrier partners to help innovate products and bring new disruptive distribution channels to these products. We’ve been creating new products, not just taking their existing products and pushing them into the market. We’re trying to innovate with the products, in the way modern consumers want to buy, and then ensure we partner with distribution channels to allow those products to exist where the modern buyer lives - that’s where we have expertise. Our carrier partners have been great at allowing us a lot of latitude on that, and in turn we’re respectful of their expertise: creating profitable products in a heavily regulated world.

 

So Boost’s business model is a two-sided market that services both the distribution partner, and the capacity provider. How do you work with each side? 

I think, in a somewhat oversimplified example, the startup distribution channels we work with are sometimes seen as all ‘gas’ and the carrier/ reinsurers are seen as all ‘brakes’ - if you’re all gas, you lose control and crash, if you’re all brakes you don’t go anywhere. Our role at Boost is to balance the two. We want to encourage innovation from the startups who want to go fast and disrupt, and make sure it’s being done in a compliant and profitable way.

We bring startups a sort of “insurance in a box” managing the compliance, the insurance products and the technology. We’re able to deliver those things to the startups because we have a lot of internal expertise and the relationship with the carriers and reinsurers who have tremendous confidence in Boost. 

It’s a balancing act - sometimes we have to put the brakes on one side of the equation, and sometimes we need to coax the other side.

 

What’s the biggest challenge in working with startups, and other companies outside of insurance?

The Facebook mantra of  “move fast and break things” does not work in heavily regulated space like insurance. We work with a lot of tech companies, neobanks, fintech and many others, and we need to help them understand that - without stifling their innovation. There are a lot of new and exciting ideas coming into insurance from startups and others outside the traditional industry, but if a company is just going to plow forward regardless of regulation, they’re ultimately going to get themselves in trouble.

 

What should carriers and startups keep in mind when trying to work with each other?

The most important thing is a healthy respect on both sides, for what each is very good at. On the carrier side, it’s very important to not seek to stymie the creativity on what can be done with a tech-led and somewhat disruptive approach to customer acquisition. But on the tech/startup side, it’s equally important to respect the rules of the game. I’m always one for challenging things and not just accepting to do things a certain way because ‘that’s how it’s always been done’. But there are rules for every game, and if you don’t respect those rules, things are going to go badly for you. We don’t look at the regulations as simply a list of what you cannot do, but also what you can do, and that’s where the untapped opportunity lies. 

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