Andrew Wynn is Co-founder and Co-CEO at Ascend, the first modern insurance payments platform that provides automated, all-in-one financing, collections and payables.Andrew was interviewed by Michael Fiedel, a Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio and Co-Founder at PolicyFly, Inc.
Andrew, what does the future of insurance look like?
“Insurance is a very old and established industry, and I think at its core that’s not going to change. I think insurance as a risk sharing mechanism will still be the core offering. What will change is really what we're protecting and how it’s being proactively mitigated. As we start thinking about cyber as a whole new class of what we're protecting, we will start to mitigate potential issues rather than just pay them out when something happens.
How we interact with insurance will be another big change. It won't just be this invisible thing behind the scenes or some piece of paper that we have somewhere that covers us. If something goes wrong, we're going to know what our coverages are and understand them more easily than in the past. That information is going to be a lot more accessible. We're going to interact with our insurance providers a lot more for things beyond policy purchase and renewal. The experience that insurance companies offer will be a much more modernized, digitally native customer experience.
That's what we do at Ascend. We build that sort of pipe for insurance payments and make end-to-end insurance payments effortless.”
Among all the opportunities to improve customer value and experience, what priority do you believe convenience holds?
“In the past, we've seen the most convenient insurance distribution and acquisition mechanisms be wildly successful at customer acquisition even if the products aren't as good, or the products are more expensive. Conversely, there are great insurance products out there that are fairly priced and cover the most real risks that people actually face. There's probably a bunch of them out there that are hard to find. Even agents and brokers who do it all day have a hard time finding those sorts of diamonds in the rough. I think these two scenarios need to go in parallel because humans take the path of least resistance.If you have a good insurance product and business, you need to ensure that the distribution and experience around that product is convenient, or people simply won't take advantage of it.”
In the current light of the pandemic, what sort of pressures has that placed on the industry to embrace technology and push the competition around convenience further?
“It certainly pushed the competition around convenience. There are myriad ways in which it's done. As someone who doesn't sit inside a carrier, I can only imagine there's stuff that I have no idea that exists. And again, this is why we think there’s an incredible opportunity for specialization in the world that we know around payments. We've seen huge demand for people who want to purchase their insurance online. The statistic we've seen is 57 percent of businesses want to purchase insurance online in 2021, but only about 16 percent do or are able to. To me, that's a huge opportunity.
Certainly the same is true of actually facilitating that payment. Insurance still processes hundreds of millions of paper checks a year, and paper checks are generally everyone's least preferred payment method. There's a real dissonance between those two things, and the pandemic has certainly brought a lot of those to light for the carriers and brokers. In a lot of cases, it's really allowed consumers to have their preferences born out as requirements.”
What modern solutions beyond payments do you see positively impacting both the end customer journey and internal operations?
“There's tons; I hope we see more and more as the industry continues to evolve. Investment continues to move into what we consider insurance infrastructure companies, as opposed to insurtech dollars flowing to full stack carriers. An example that really sticks out to me that I think benefits the carrier, broker and insured is AgentSync, and their ability to provide just-in-time appointments.
Typically, producer compliance has been a long, slow and intensive process. As a result, if an agent finds a policy that’s actually the best fit for their customer, but they're not appointed with that carrier, they might not sell it. That carrier loses, and the customer loses because they don't get the best policy. But, with something like AgentSync’s just-in-time appointments, they can actually look, act and say, ‘Hey, that producer is valid. We're going to appoint them, so that they can sell this policy.’ And off we go. I think that’s a great example of technology being a win across all constituencies in the insurance value chain.”
How do you see the future around payments shifting?
“One area that we see in consumer purchasing is the ability to break up a purchase over a certain amount of months that would normally be due upfront. That's existed in insurance with traditional premium finance for decades and decades. But, what we're really excited about is to bring that same underlying model to the digital world. It's very expensive to buy your insurance up front, so we're really excited to bring a modern, digital ‘buy now pay later’ experience into the industry and make it a lot more accessible to a lot more people.”