Future.Talk 1 / 2017 The Current InsurTech Landscape: Conference summary

15 May 2017

What are the new InsurTech business models of the future? The first of 2017's Future Talks by the Institute of Insurance Economics of the University of St. Gallen (I.VW-HSG), in collaboration with the Swiss Re Institute, revealed the findings of their study at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue. The panel was moderated by Prof. Dr. Alexander Braun, member of the executive board of I.VW-HSG.

Click on the picture above to watch the conference video. To see all speakers video click here.

The new academic study on the current InsurTech landscape, has been prepared by I.VW-HSG in cooperation with the Swiss Re Institute. The release of the study, which is coauthored by Prof. Dr. Braun and Dr. Florian Schreiber (also from I.VW-HSG), was embedded in a high-class program with four presentations by distinguished speakers. In the first presentation, Mr. Schreiber provided an outline of the study, particularly focusing on the results of a corresponding survey. In summary, the study takes a detailed look at the current InsurTech landscape from the angle of the academic management literature. Its goals are to establish a common understanding of key concepts, to facilitate the navigation of this rapidly evolving sector, and to provide an intuitive toolkit for an assessment of the entrants’ disruptive potential as well as the selection of adequate response strategies by incumbents.

Following the talk of Mr. Schreiber, Dr. Andreas Schertzinger (Swiss Re) presented on the growth opportunities and challenges associated with the rise of the InsurTech sector. Mr. Schertzinger pointed out that there is a real opportunity in managing new risks, tackling unmet consumer demands, and taking advantage of the ability to serve consumers better. Furthermore, he suggested that moving towards a fully digital value chain, insurance companies should be able to increase efficiency and offer additional value for their customers. Finally, Mr. Schertzinger discussed the potential of InsurTech to reduce global protection gaps, which, at the same time, would be a means for established industry players to grow their insurance premium volumes.

The third talk of the day was given by Julian Teicke, CEO of the InsurTech startup wefox (formerly known as Finance Fox). Based in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Austria, wefox is the largest InsurTech startup in Europe. It was founded in November 2014 in Switzerland and grew to 120,000 customers in only 18 months. Essentially the firm offers an app and web-based service platform that combines insurance expertise with the latest digital technology and enables consumers, brokers, and insurance companies to manage their insurance products and processes intelligently and efficiently. During his presentation, Mr. Teicke gave a detailed introduction to the digital broker business model of his firm and emphasized opportunities for cooperation with insurance companies and traditional brokers.

The last presentation was held by Minh Q. Tran, general partner at AXA Strategic Ventures, a venture capital fund dedicated to strategic innovations in the financial services industry. Mr. Tran analyzed the InsurTech space from the venture capitalist’s perspective, thereby focusing on early stage investments. His talk conveyed three main points. First, investors need a clear framework that enables them to search worldwide for disruptive innovation. Second, he pointed out that due to its size, its entry barriers, its clear use cases for technology, and its late start in terms of digitization, the insurance industry is a natural target for disruption. Third, successful investing in the InsurTech space can be supported by a new-fangled investment platform, which automatically screens the startup landscape on a global scale and enables smaller investors to access attractive club deals.

Finally, Prof. Dr. Braun moderated a panel discussion with all four speakers. Focus areas of the discussion included the potential of the digital broker model, business model innovations of digital insurance companies, the evolution of the InsurTech sector along the insurance industry value chain, and a vision for the ecosystem in 2025. After a final Q&A session, the Future.Talk ended with a networking opportunity at the Center for Global Dialogue, which allowed participants to exchange thoughts and discuss their views with the speakers.

Summary of the Future.Talk1 2017 hosted by the Swiss Re Institute in May 2017 at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue.
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Critical Illness (CI) insurance is a living benefits product providing indemnity cover for major medical disorders including cancer. For each disease covered the triggers to pay a sum is defined according to clinical diagnostic criteria. With medical progress prompting evolving clinical guidelines, CI definitions become obsolete. The introduction of liquid biopsy might become a disruptor for the diagnosis of cancer with an urgent need to update the current CI cancer definitions and reconsider reserving for in force CI business.


Liquid biopsy is increasingly used in clinical practice and has the potential to alter the diagnostic cascade. This could affect our Critical Illness business. With more cancers diagnosed more claims will be paid. The aim of the Expert Forum on Cancer Diagnostics was to gather insights from experts to understand the potential impact from advances in cancer diagnostics, such as liquid biopsy, on Swiss Re's Critical Illness book of business.


The event was split into two; the first part focussed on cancer biomarker technologies and the second part on advances in imaging techniques and the regulatory environment for cancer diagnostics.


Kenneth Bloom, from Human Longevity Inc, kicked off the day with an overview of early molecular cancer diagnostics and targeted therapy in cancer care. He highlighted the role of molecular diagnostics in personalized medicine, disease monitoring and surveillance as well as the limitations of liquid biopsy for the early detection of cancer. Nicola Aceto, from the University of Basel, gave a snapshot on liquid biopsy, highlighting success stories and the need for further clinical validation of liquid biopsies before they can be used for the detection of early stage cancers. Vincent Mooser from the University Hospital in Lausanne discussed the use of germline genomics as a cancer risk indicator. Damian Page, from Roche, discussed the current limitations of diagnostics in personalized treatment from a pharmaceutical perspective.  


The take home message from the morning session was that the use of liquid biopsies for early detection of cancer is still in its infancy. More clinical validation is needed before liquid biopsy can be routinely used for cancer screening and diagnosis. Liquid biopsies' primary strengths lie in the molecular assessment of minimal residual disease and as a companion diagnostic for targeted therapy. Early warnings about possible recurrence improve disease management and adjuvant therapy, and clues for drug-resistance allow for personal tailoring of therapy. However, the present gold standard for diagnosing cancer remains microscopic and histochemical analysis of a tissue biopsy.


Luigi Catanzariti, was the first speaker in the afternoon session. He discussed the use of companion diagnostics and the future of preventive immunotherapy for early stage cancers. He emphasized the fact that diagnostics collaborating is now an integral part of pharma strategy, but regulators treat drugs for targeted therapy and companion diagnostics as two quite different categories. Pierre Hutter, from Sophia Genetics, emphasized the importance of genomic data collection and how the data can be used to learn and improve predictive and treatment algorithms. Hans Hofstraat, from Philips, discussed the role of imaging technologies in detection, staging, monitoring and for follow up of cancer patients. He emphasized applications for personalized therapies and its value for staging cancer precisely. Thomas Hany, from a private radiology practice, closed the afternoon sessions with an overview of the use of imaging technologies in clinical practice, sharing insight with their limitations. 


The take home message from the afternoon session was that imaging technologies play a vital role in localizing and staging cancer. This is needed for deciding on best treatment options, and for monitoring recurrences. The speakers highlighted the fact that imaging techniques play an important role for early detection for many cancers, mainly breast and lung cancer. However, even state of the art imaging is limited for early cancer diagnosis. Only when combined with other diagnostic tools such as liquid biopsy diagnostic sensitivity and specificity will be increased.


To conclude, modern cancer biomarkers and imaging technologies are extremely useful in the treatment and surveillance of cancer. However, no tumor marker or imaging technology identified to date is sufficiently sensitive or specific to be used on its own for earlier detection of cancer. Tissue biopsy will remain the gold standard for diagnosing cancer in the near future.<[if gte mso 9]> <[if gte mso 10]> <[endif] -->