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Insurers ripe for disruption in 2016: KPMG

By Tim Stewart
3 minute read

A Chinese insurance firm backed by Alibaba has topped KPMG's Fintech 100 report, signalling that insurance-focused companies have finally "found their feet" within global fintech.

KPMG and venture capital fund H2 Ventures launched the Leading Global Fintech Innovators Report 2015 yesterday, which compiled a list of the top 100 fintech companies globally.

The companies ranked one and two in the list both targeted insurance: Chinese online property insurance company ZhongAn and US health insurance fintech company Oscar.

ZhongAn is a joint venture between big Chinese technology firm Alibaba, online gaming and social networking firm Tencent Holdings and Ping An Insurance; and Oscar is a US-based firm that is focused on "utilising technology to simplify the entire [US] healthcare [insurance] experience".

Indian insurance fintechs Policybazaar and Coverfox also made the top 50, as did German 'peer-to-peer' insurer Friendsurance.

Commenting on the report's findings, H2 Ventures co-founder Toby Heap said that insurance is the "next big thing" for fintech in 2016.

"In Australia I don’t think insurance is going to big this year, but probably next year. [H2 Ventures'] accelerator is desperately looking for some insurance start-ups to come in," Mr Heap said.

"But overseas it’s reached that point where insurance fintechs are starting to really hit their strides."

Mr Heap said he has spoken to many large insurance companies who believe they cannot be disrupted due to the "massive amounts of capital" needed to operate in the insurance industry.

"Start-ups always find a way. They work with re-insurers and they find a particular subsector of a category and they nail that," Mr Heap said.

KPMG lead partner for fintech in Australia Ian Pollari said technology is beginning to enable disruption within insurance.

"Wearable [technology] and 3D printing are going to have quite a significant impact on general insurance," Mr Pollari said.

Singling out Friendsurance's 'peer-to-peer' model, Mr Heap said insurance through social networks can help reduce churn in the industry.

"It’s a much more cost-effective way. If you get one person to get all their friends to come in it reduces churn. If you’ve got all your friends in there, no one wants to leave," he said.

"The first generation of internet products were enabling people to compare insurance, which meant that people switched more often. The next generation is giving people insurance products that are digitally innovative.

"Insurance hasn’t to date kept up with the change in the way that we’re consuming," he said.