Digital disruption promising threats and opportunities

Rachel Botsman

NIBA Convention keynote speaker Rachel Botsman has delivered a stirring address to brokers, warning that the insurance industry is ripe for upheaval.

With a title like No More Middlemen?, Botsman’s seminar was always going to attract attention, as she examined how intermediary services like Taskrabbit, Uber and Transferwire are upending many business sectors.

The futurist says in many industries traditional ideas of top-down centralised institutions as decision makers is being replaced by peer-to-peer networks.

She gave the example of Bought By Many, which is using technology to join people together into buying groups to negotiate with insurance companies.

“It is discovering people with niche insurance needs and encouraging them to come together to form buying groups in ways that have clout with insurance companies,” she says.

“It’s just a different type of intermediary but one that truly understands that to be relevant in the future it’s not just about one-on-one relationships.

“It’s how they form these powerful crowds and really act as the voice of the customer in new ways.”

She says although Bought By Many started in niche areas, it is now broadening out into mainstream products.

“People no longer see themselves as the passive receiver of products and services,” she says.

Botsman says there four characteristics of areas that are ripe for disruption in the digital age: those that feature complex experiences, broken trust, redundant intermediaries or limited access.

“The fact is that complex, highly intermediated industries where the people do not feel like they have control are top of the list for disruption,” she says.

“But the good news is that in that disruption, in that transformation, lies tremendous threats but also opportunities for those who decide to embrace it.”

Botsman says the firms that will succeed in the new digital world will share four characteristics. They will all:

  • refine products or services to their simplest and most transparent forms
  • make it easy for people to connect directly to what or who they need in real time
  • create marketplaces that enable people to empower each other
  • reimagine their market through a human lens and innovate where people feel pain or powerless.