As regular readers will know, Genasys Technologies have been making rapid progress here in the UK since opening their London office a few years ago. The latest partnership is with GENRIC Insurance Company, who are based in South Africa and very much open to disruptive tech and new thinking within insurance. IE mag caught up with Genasys Founder Steve Symes and Cornel Schoeman, COO of GENRIC, to find out more.
IE; When I saw the press release, the first thing that struck me was the speed to market with the Genric Pandemic Shield Insurance product – just 50 days. How do you bring something new to market so quickly?
CS: (pictured above) First of all, we looked at this problem from a South African market perspective, because healthcare in SouthAfrica is very different from typical European healthcare. We also wanted the product to have a positive feel, and be future-proof, so we could adapt it any pandemic or similar event. In South Africa, many people cannot afford hospital cover, plus they may find it difficult to print off and fill in lots of forms. So it had to be digital, something you could navigate easily on a smartphone and insure a very specific set of risks.
In some respects, once you decide to offer something that is a kind of short-term, gap insurance – as in it sits on top of the primary healthcare that is universal – then you know what it is that you want to do.
IE: So in the midst of a pandemic, which a few months ago still had an uncertain course across Africa as a continent, how can you assess the risk?
CS: We modelled the claims ratio based on data from Covid-19’s spread in comparable countries and there is a wealth of data from within South Africa too as regards health and critical illness. The whole insurance industry now is being driven by data so that is the only logical way you can go. But the interesting thing now is how all that raw data can be streamlined by processing it better. That’s why we wanted a partner like Genasys, because that is exactly what they do; build systems that make sense of it, and allow you to manage your data.
IE: What benefits has GENRIC gained from this strategic, product-building partnership?
CS: Genasys really took the bull by the horns I have to say and it is a true partnership because they are invested in the success of this product too. That’s really quite a change from how things used to be with software suppliers a few years ago; they sold you something, you used, then it got updated etc.
But Genasys has learned a great deal about GENRIC and how we do things, to help create exactly what we needed. You know in South Africa about 95% of our distribution is via brokers or agents, so both companies had to work together seamlessly to create a product that resellers can understand quickly, and sell online. In essence, the broker becomes a custodian of your product, so you have to build it right and offer real-time backup. We wanted a partner company that was very forward-thinking, and yet still cared about the everyday efficiency of the product, and its route to market.
All that feedback, from broker or customer alike, really matters because it shapes your product development from day one. You can’t have one company build a software system for you in isolation, they have to be right there on the same page as you – that’s the quickest way to get to market, because nobody is wasting time creating stuff that isn’t 100% necessary for both parties. You’re on the same journey.
IE: Steve Symes, let me ask you more about the speed of the build from the Genasys point of view. What were the key challenges?
SS: You start by looking very specifically at GENRIC and what they are trying to accomplish naturally. The API and the front end look of the product is really down to GENRIC and they had a clear idea of how things should look and feel. But what you’re always trying to do with something new is build an eco-system; a platform that a company can build upon, and migrate other products on there in the future too. Saves time and money in the long run.
Then you start to work on problems like data handling and compliance; how do you build in the checks and safeguards for a particular market, or set of markets? GENRIC are a unique company in some ways and we learned quite a bit from them. Often it is the way that you work that has to quickly adapt, so you get a deeper insight into a particular insurance niche or emerging market for example. You really need that specialist knowledge in-depth, before you build the platform, because that’s the best way to make it work perfectly, and provide a healthy base for the future too.
CS: I’d add that in terms of technology, lots of insurers in South Africa need to look at legacy systems and how they can replace them with something that is flexible, and more importantly, a system that any insurer or broker can actually manage themselves.
Big companies are often slow to change methods of insurance product distribution, but having your own eco-system means that you can react faster to market demand, listen to customers more and utilise data to spot changes in risk, claims ratios etc. In a nutshell, you can disrupt things because your company is more agile and you’re building from the ground up – you’re not trying to just bolt something on top of a legacy system.
There’s an opportunity for brokers to move beyond being distributors of products and create their own insurance products now. Some may want to partner with an intermediary, others may see a niche emerging that’s perfect for them to go direct to the consumer. We all have to challenge existing business models right now – it is an exciting time, in spite of Covid-19.
IE: Do you think that speeding up the claims settlement process, like say Lemonade has done with some basic theft/loss claims, will win new customers for the insurance industry?
SS: In some respects, there’s a false race to the bottom on claims, because speed isn’t everything. Take Commercial insurance as one sector for example; you have some very complex claims following a flood or fire, several business or land owners involved, various investigations going on for months – you cannot settle that faster. And really, why would you want to risk getting it wrong by rushing things?
CS: You know there is still a place for the personal touch, even though people would like to get paid on claims faster. There is a need to maintain a personal relationship with the policyholder long term. You have to make the best use of technology, without losing sight of what you’re doing and how you treat customers. More than anything, I feel customers really value being kept informed at every stage of the claim, far more than the sheer speed of settlement.
IE: Given the amount of data we all generate now, what can insurers and brokers do in terms of building systems that use that information pro-actively?
CS: We now have integration of home insurance and the Internet-of-Things with a product like our Safe Homes solution, so the option is there for the consumer to get a wraparound service, with added value solutions that fits in with their lifestyle. Once you have consent, then you can offer services from third party companies, based on the data, which means that the customer will be far more likely to see that as a benefit, not an intrusion.
SS: Bringing infrastructure together will always create better products. You see it with connected cars, connected homes and so on. People will be happy to share information to get a better deal and insurers, MGAs and brokers just have to build systems that enable that choice to be made. The key thing about insurtech isn’t that you’re reinventing the wheel.
Most companies awash with venture capital cash aren’t doing much that is fundamentally new, instead they’re improving a distribution chain, reducing claims times, sifting risk data better etc. GENRIC are bringing everything that they do, day-to-day, together in one place now and that alone will allow them to build better in the future.
IE; Interesting stuff, thanks for your time.