3Qs with Arach Tchoupani, CTO & Co-Founder of Breathe Life

Q: What do you think COVID-19 is showing the insurance industry about where it is in its technology evolution and where it needs to be?

In a recent,

Scott Marnoch, AVP of Innovation & Market Development at Canada Life, observed that while a lot of insurance insiders had been speaking of the industry’s future state as “Insurance 2030,” COVID-19 had turned that timetable on its head, so now it’s really “Insurance 2023” – or even sooner.

I think that’s right. The time of sitting on the fence is over. Modernization, automation, and digitization are no longer “nice to haves,” or something insurers can afford to merely dream about. They need to jump on it now. It’s a matter of survival.

So, one thing we’re seeing on this front, and something my intuition has been telling me all along, is that things people thought were ‘impossible,’ are possible now – by necessity. No insurer’s 2020 business plan envisioned every employee working from home. And if you would have asked about such a possibility, insurers would have said, “We’d never be able to replace the productivity of our people working together in one place in person.” 

And yet, from what I’ve seen, insurers today are up and running. Sure, business took some early hits, but you know what else happened? People got crafty. They figured out ways to get their jobs done.

All of this, however, exposes a gap, which is in fact a big opportunity for Breathe Life and other InsurTechs. Yes, insurers and their employees possess many of the piece parts needed to collaborate online. They have video. They have voice. They have email. Add to that Office 365, Slack, Dropbox, and the like.

And, yes, insurers and employees have sort of cobbled these solutions together to get by, but that’s a far cry from a fully digital workflow. That’s what we can do. That’s what we can provide – that central platform to unite all these piece parts and optimize them. 

And I do think the net effect of all this improvisation is that the time horizon for more complete digital transformation has been pulled in a whole lot closer. And the longer the pandemic goes on, and with it all the uncertainty it engenders, the more urgently insurers will need this digital transformation.

What’s interesting, too, is the human dimension of digital transformation. Insurers’ employees have tasted flexibility. And they’ve seen that nothing is on fire because they aren’t in a corporate office. They are getting work done from home and liking it.

I don’t see that sense of freedom, that flexibility, getting pushed back into the box.

Q: It sounds like you see COVID-19 as an accelerant of change and digital transformation? 

Absolutely. Digital transformation is essential to having a distributed workforce. In fact, it enables one. Now insurers – and companies across all kinds of markets – are going to have to figure out, “How do I make my people effective when they are not all together at headquarters?” Digital transformation is an absolute must to answer this question in a way that drives the business forward.

So, of course, optimizing paper processes – and we know insurance has been very paper-intensive – through digitization is going to be key, because people aren’t going to be in the same physical location anymore. And we’ve seen good progress on that front. But also, there’s got to be a more digital approach to understanding risk and adapting products to externals shifts more quickly.

COVID-19 has really put that capability front and center. So many people have wanted to get insurance because of the pandemic – the so-called ‘desperation buyers’ – and the industry should be welcoming these folks with open arms. But they can’t. They haven’t been able to pivot, because they have so many non-digital workflows, making it hard to make changes to everything from medical questionnaires to needs analysis to offering a new COVID-19-ready product and getting it out into the field.

When so much is changing so fast – think of all the different statistics and findings that come out daily about hot spots, infection rates, vaccination timetables, antibody resistance, testing, contact tracing – how do you adapt to that when you’re stuck with paper processes? Digital is going to be key to putting actuaries and risk managers in control and making it easier for advisors to turn interested prospects into paying customers. 

That’s where I think Breathe Life has a decided advantage. Our platform literally allows insurers to change product terms on the fly. It’s analogous to the old world of software updates. It used to be painful for businesses and consumers to update and upgrade software – now it’s all done in the cloud quickly and securely. So, to be able to offer insurers a way to adjust policy terms on the fly as new information becomes available and to do so in a rapid-fire way, that’s a game changer. That’s such a ripe area for digital transformation, and again one where Breathe Life is strong.

Q: What lasting changes do you see COVID-19 having on the insurance industry? 

I see an extraordinary opportunity for success as the industry embraces its digital destiny.

On the advisor front, I predict a new era of the “Super Advisor,” a new type of advisor, empowered by digital workflows, that can literally do 10x the business volume of traditional agents by building relationships and trust via digital channels.

On the insurer front, I see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “get it right,” earn the mindshare of consumers, and change behaviors – and expectations – for decades to come.