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硅谷巨头纷纷加码,“金矿”保险业会因科技介入被颠覆吗?

互联网经济国际资讯基于互联网平台的金融业务

硅谷巨头纷纷加码,“金矿”保险业会因科技介入被颠覆吗?

在过去十年里,为了拓展业务,科技巨头们越来越多地把目光投向科技业以外的领域。从汽车、零售到杂货,这些公司利用数据、消费者关系和软件工程师等形式的巨大竞争优势,从根本上改变着市场。

现在,苹果、谷歌和亚马逊等公司正着眼于整个保险领域的创新。例如,亚马逊正与摩根大通和Berkshire Hathaway进行合作,为公司内部员工创造一种新的医疗保险方式。在零售方面,亚马逊正在销售点销售产品保险和延长保修期,并投资保险技术初创公司。与此同时,特斯拉正在开发一款专门针对Model S车型的保险产品。Waymo、Uber和Lyft内部肯定也有类似的想法。

显然,这些都是初级步骤。保险是一项复杂、多方面的业务,风险很大。像亚马逊这样的公司最终是否能够成为保险公司,取决于他们的风险偏好、创新能力和潜在回报。

首先,让我们来看看为什么科技巨头非常适合颠覆这一领域。

他们有直接的消费者关系

和许多企业一样,保险业务成功的一个重要方面是分销。看看经纪人吧,他们是当今保险公司的主要分销方式——他们的佣金可能高达保险单成本的30%。经纪人的利润率也比保险公司好,通常在10%左右。Facebook、亚马逊、苹果、微软和谷歌 ( FAAMG )与数十亿消费者有着直接的关系,经过时间的积累,它们可能会颠覆整个经纪业务。

他们拥有深厚的数据和分析能力

保险界的一个大秘密是,保险公司实际上很难使用他们的数据。不同部门(市场营销、承销、理赔)很少协同工作,数据往往是孤立的。而另一方面,FAAMG将数据放在了他们产品的核心位置;他们知道如何利用分析和人工智能来创造更好的产品。

他们还可以获得保险公司梦寐以求的数据:家庭、基础设施和建筑物的全球地理空间图像;位置、浏览和广告数据;甚至来自智能手机和物联网设备的真实行为数据。将所有这些信号结合在一起,可以非常完整地描述人类的行为、兴趣和风险状况。

他们拥有一支软件工程师和垄断的人工智能人才大军

长期以来,技术创新一直是保险公司所面临的挑战。旧系统在任何行业都很难取代,但保险的复杂性、依靠过去预测未来的传统以及数据孤岛性会让它付出巨大的代价。另一方面,科技巨头经常用新产品蚕食自己的收入,并可以招募成千上万名工程师,通过更好的软件和人工智能,开发出色的数字客户体验,并为后端保险系统带来大规模效率。

所以,是的,FAAMG相比保险公司,拥有许多主要优势。但对于科技巨头来说,新的垂直市场和计划也是一种围绕着利润和市场范围的长期决策。这是很明显的一点,但是如果FAAMG想要进入保险业,他们会想要一个体面的回报。他们能在保险业中找到吗?

要说明这一点需要耗费很大的精力。

超低利润率

保险平均净利润率为3%至8%,毛利率为25%至30%,以技术标准而言,这是微不足道的。软件公司的平均毛利率约为80%,净利润率约为15%。甚至像iPhone这样的消费硬件——按软件标准来说,这是一项成本高昂的工作——也有55%-60%的毛利率。

在保险领域,健康保险的利润率最高,其次是财产和意外伤害保险(例如家庭和汽车保险),最后是人寿保险。所以医疗保健可能是保险公司最想接近的东西。但对保险业之外的大多数公司来说,它并不完全具有吸引力。

高风险

如此低的利润率也意味着一个重大事件会破坏公司整个财年的资产负债表(比如飓风、火灾、洪水等灾难)。此外,科技公司没有保险公司耗费几十年积累的历史数据和精算科学家,因此他们更容易误判整体风险敞口。

复杂管理

对保险公司来说,评估和承保保单是一项昂贵的工作。索赔、客户支持和后端是成本高昂且复杂的。也就是说,大多数保险公司已经将核心管理软件的开发外包给了GuideWire和Duck Creek这样的公司,然后在“最后一英里”定制软件以满足他们的特定需求。所以,认为亚马逊或谷歌这样的公司可以在内部开发类似的基础设施,与现有的系统相抗衡,并不是一种巨大的飞跃。或者,他们可以很容易地直接收购其中一家开发公司。

亚马逊的大举动

不过,迄今为止,科技巨头一直在回避保单的创建和承保。亚马逊一直致力于为某些产品提供担保,作为其利润的一个附加部分,但这些担保是由The Warranty Group而不是亚马逊自己支持和管理的。在此之前,亚马逊是SquareTrade的销售渠道,在深入研究之前,它已经对保修业务有了一定的了解。另一个例子是,特斯拉宣布将向车主出售特斯拉品牌的定制保单,但这些保单是由Liberty Mutual所支持的。

之后,亚马逊在1月份与Berkshire Hathaway和摩根大通一起发表了一项广为人知的声明,表明了其为员工创建私人医疗保健选项的意图。我们对这项计划了解不多,但亚马逊一段时间以来一直在致力于一个代号为1492的医疗保健技术项目。传言认为,这是一个“电子病历数据、远程医疗和健康应用的平台”。亚马逊的技术加上Berkshire Hathaway的保险知识和摩根大通的金融专业知识,使得新的健康保险实体更有可能成立。如果是这样的话,这将是美国医疗保险公司的一个重大突破。

在所有的科技巨头中,亚马逊成为第一个进入保险业的公司,是不足为奇的。亚马逊已经掌握了用微薄的利润建立大型企业的艺术。他们还瞄准了医疗保险,这也是最好的利润机会。他们可以先在公司内部测试他们的产品,然后扩展到他们庞大的消费者群。最后,在向客户提供复杂的后端服务之前,他们有为自己的目的构建复杂的后端服务的历史,比如AWS。

其他科技公司会不会效仿亚马逊?

会的。最近,谷歌的姊妹公司Verily“一直在与保险公司谈判,共同竞投涉及数十万病人风险的合约。”此外,苹果还将为其员工建立一个医疗诊所网络。

它可能不会停留在健康保险上。毫无疑问,科技正在改变人类的行为和社会,作为这项新技术的开发者,FAAMG将不可避免地被推向其他保险领域,包括家庭和汽车。

自动驾驶车队将使特斯拉、谷歌和Uber等公司成为数万辆汽车的车主,也使他们面临着随之而来的风险。与此同时,物联网硬件和配套服务也将科技巨头带入这一领域。这完完全全是Amazon Key的声明。Nest、Google Home和Amazon Echo虽然看起来人畜无害,但它们提供了有关家庭内部情况的各种数据,并能够有朝一日有助于为创建实时家庭保险单提供信息。

东亚会成为领先者?

看看美国以外的市场也是具有启发性的。在东亚,企业对保险采取了更为积极的态度。百度、阿里巴巴、乐天、腾讯和LINE都对提供自己的保险产品表现出一定的兴趣。这些公司可以核实身份,加强信任,并获得提供比许多保险公司更好的保单所需的行为和财务数据。

他们还在探索看待风险和改变用户行为的新方法:腾讯的微保(WeSure)支付用户多走路来保持健康,而贷款公司用钱宝跟踪非常规数字数据来确定信用风险,如手机品牌( iPhone用户不太可能违约)和手机电池是否没电。

但问题依然存在:美国的科技巨头将在保险业中扮演什么角色?他们是作为现有保险公司的渠道,还是为这些保险公司提供数据和分析,或者甚至直接成为保险公司本身?

对于科技巨头来说,保险短期内可能并不有利可图,但由于实时数据和分析被用来创建保险单,科技巨头可能会利用他们的数据宝库直接与保险公司进行竞争。在此之前,我们可以期待保险公司和科技巨头结成联盟,就像在东亚一样,科技公司利用保险和担保为客户增值,保险公司利用科技公司作为销售渠道。无论如何,FAAMG (和其他公司)的故事无疑才刚刚开始,我们会紧盯形势的发展。

For the last decade, the largest technology companies have increasingly looked outside of tech to grow their operations. From automotive to retail to groceries, these companies use massive competitive advantages in the form of data, consumer relationships and software engineers to fundamentally change markets.

Now, companies like Apple  and Google and Amazon are eyeing innovation across the insurance landscape. For example, Amazon  is teaming with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create a new way to approach health insurance, focusing first on the group’s own employees. On the retail side, Amazon is selling product insurance and extended warranties at the point of sale and investing in insurtech startups. Meanwhile, Tesla is developing an insurance product specific to the Model S. Waymo, Uber and Lyft are certainly having similar conversations internally.

Obviously, these are all preliminary steps. Insurance is a complex, multifaceted and, yes, risky business. In the end, whether or not companies like Amazon become insurers themselves depends on their appetite for risk, their ability to innovate and the potential pay off.

To start, let’s look at the reasons why tech giants are well-suited to upend the space.

They have direct consumer relationships

Like many businesses, a large aspect of a successful insurance business is distribution. Just look at brokers, which are a major means of distribution for insurers today — their cut can be up to 30 percent of the cost of an insurance policy. Brokers also see better margins than insurers themselves, usually around 10 percent net margins. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google  (FAAMG) possess direct relationship with billions of consumers and could, over time, disrupt the broker business.

They have deep data and analytics

The big secret in insurance is that insurers are actually terrible at using their data. Different departments (marketing, underwriting, claims) rarely work together, and their data tends to be siloed. FAAMG, on the other hand, has put data at the core of their offering; they know how to leverage analytics and AI to create better products.

Tech giants may be tempted to use their troves of data to compete with insurers directly.

They also have access to data that insurers can only dream of having: global geospatial imagery of homes, infrastructure and buildings; location, browsing and advertising data; even real-world behavioral data from smartphones and IoT devices. Combining all these signals can create a very complete picture of human behavior, interests and risk profile.

They have an army of software engineers and a monopoly of AI talent

Tech innovation has long been a challenge for insurance incumbents. Old systems are difficult to displace in any industry, but the complexity of insurance, tradition of relying on the past to predict the future and silos of data can make it a Herculean effort. Tech giants, on the other hand, regularly cannibalize their own revenue with new products and can enlist tens of thousands of engineers to develop fantastic digital customer experiences and bring large-scale efficiencies to back-end insurance systems through better software and AI.

So, yes, FAAMG has a number of major advantages over insurance incumbents. But for tech giants, new verticals and initiatives are also longer-term decisions around margins and market scope. It’s an obvious point, but if FAAMG wants to jump into insurance, they’ll want a decent return. Can they find that in insurance?

There are a number of reasons why it might be a tough sell.

Ultra-low margins

Average insurance net margins are 3-8 percent, and 25-30 percent gross margins, which are meager for tech standards. Software companies average around 80 percent gross margins and around 15 percent net margins. Even consumer hardware like the iPhone — a costly endeavor by software standards — sees 55-60 percent gross margins.

Within insurance, health tends to have the highest margins, followed by property and casualty (i.e. home and auto insurance), followed by life insurance. So if anything, healthcare is probably the closest thing to “low-hanging fruit” — but it’s not exactly attractive to most companies outside insurance.

High risk

Such low margin also means that one major event can destroy a company’s balance sheet for an entire fiscal year (think disasters like hurricanes, fire, flood, etc.). In addition, tech companies don’t have the historical data and actuarial scientists that insurers have spent decades building up, so they might be more prone to misjudging their overall risk exposure.

Complex administration

For insurers, evaluating and underwriting policies is an expensive endeavor. Claims, customer support and back-end are costly and complex. That said, most insurance companies are already outsourcing the development of core administration software to companies like GuideWire and Duck Creek, and then customizing the software to meet their specific needs at the last mile. So it’s not as huge of a leap as it once was to think that the likes of Amazon or Google could develop similar infrastructure in-house to rival incumbent systems. Or, they could easily buy one of the development companies outright and subsume that expertise.

Amazon makes a big move

Still, the creation and underwriting of policies is something tech giants have avoided to date. Amazon has been working on warranties for certain products as an add-on to their margins — but these were backed and administered by The Warranty Group rather than Amazon itself. Before that, Amazon acted as a sales channel for SquareTrade and built up an understanding of the warranty business before diving in deeper. Tesla,  as another example, announced it was selling Tesla-branded tailor-made policies for its vehicle owners, but those policies were backed by Liberty Mutual.

What role will tech giants in the U.S. play in the insurance landscape?

Then, in January, Amazon made a well-publicized announcement, in tandem with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan, around its intention to create a private healthcare option for their workers. We don’t know much about the initiative, but Amazon has been working on a healthcare technology project codenamed 1492 for some time. Rumors point to a “platform for electronic medical record data, telemedicine, and health apps.” Amazon’s technology paired with Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance knowledge and JPMorgan’s financial expertise makes the creation of a new health insurance entity more likely. If so, this would be a significant shot across the bow of U.S. healthcare insurers.

Of all the tech giants, it would not be a surprise if Amazon were the first to jump into insurance. Amazon has mastered the art of building massive businesses off of razor-thin margins. They’re also targeting health insurance, which presents the best margin opportunity. They can test their offering within the company first and then scale across their massive consumer base. Finally, they have a history of building out complex back-end services for their own purposes before offering it to their customers — just look at AWS.

Will other tech companies follow Amazon’s lead?

Signs point to yes. Recently, Google’s sister company, Verily, “has been in talks with insurers about jointly bidding for contracts that would involve taking on risk for hundreds of thousands of patients.” In addition, Apple will be opening a network of medical clinics for its employees.

It may not stop at health insurance. There’s no question technology is changing human behavior and society, and as the developers of much of this new tech, FAAMG will inevitably be pushed closer to other sectors of insurance, as well, including home and auto.

Autonomous vehicle fleets will make companies like Tesla, Google and Uber the owners of tens of thousands of cars, subjecting them to the risk that comes with that. Meanwhile, IoT hardware and accompanying services are bringing tech giants into the living room. That’s a literal statement when it comes to Amazon Key. Nest, Google Home and Amazon Echo are more innocuous, but provide all sorts of data about what’s going on inside the home and could, someday, help inform the creation of real-time home insurance policies.

East Asia as a leading indicator?

It also can be instructive to look at markets outside the U.S. In East Asia, businesses are taking a more aggressive posture vis-à-vis insurance. Baidu, Alibaba, Rakuten, Tencent and LINE have all shown some level of appetite for offering their own insurance products. These companies can verify identities, enforce trust and access the behavioral and financial data necessary to provide better policies than many insurance incumbents in those countries.

They also are exploring new ways of looking at risk and changing user behavior: Tencent’s WeSure is paying users to stay healthy by walking more, while Yongqianbao, a lending company, tracks unconventional digital data to determine credit risk, such as phone brand (iPhone users are less likely to default) and whether they let their phone batteries run down.

Still, the question remains: What role will tech giants in the U.S. play in the insurance landscape? Will they act as a channel for existing insurers, as a provider of data and analytics to those insurers or even as a provider of direct insurance themselves?

Insurance may not be lucrative-enough for tech giants in the short-term, but as real-time data and analytics are used to create insurance policies, tech giants may be tempted to use their troves of data to compete with insurers directly. Until then, we can expect insurers and tech giants to form alliances, as they have in East Asia, with tech companies using insurance and warranties as a value-add for their customers, and insurers using tech companies as a sales channel. Regardless, the story of FAAMG (and others) in insurance is undoubtedly just getting started, and we’ll have to check back in as the landscape develops.

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