Blockchain, digital distribution and biometrics were among the big technology topics up for discussion at the Exponential Finance conference. Following is some expert insight from the insurance track at the New York City event.

Biometrics & digital identity

Insurance companies should not hone in one particular method when leveraging biometrics. Instead, carriers should deploy a wide-range of identification tools to ensure success, according to Rob Douglas, founder & CEO of BioConnect.

“Don’t pick one. You will be wrong,” he said, adding that of 200 biometric solutions introduced on smartphones and other channels, only 10 will succeed due to market unpredictability. “Today’s improvements are not necessarily tomorrow’s.”

BioConnect defines biometrics as sensors that allow companies to authenticate and identity customers accessing account information. Fingerprints, iris scanners, hand geometry and voice recognition are all examples of biometric data organizations can collect.

In insurance, USAA is an early player in the emerging technology. The military carrier helped lead a $19 million funding round in startup ID.me, which uses machine vision , mobile data and government databases to verify identities. USAA is now leveraging the startup’s identity-as-a-service product to one day help insureds bypass repetitive password logins on multiple sites and devices.

How blockchain in insurance can succeed

The key to blockchain working in insurance is industry members shedding personal interests around the technology and working together to develop early proof of concepts, according to Pete Miller, president & CEO of The Institutes.

“Insurers have varying levels of knowledge about blockchain,” he said during a live Q&A with Deloitte’s Principal of Financial Services Technology & Global FSI Blockchain Leader Eric Piscini. “But once you explain it, there’s a lot of interest in what can be built.”

The Pennsylvania-based consulting firm recently created a consortium of 30 organizations, ranging from large carriers to smaller mutual companies and brokerages. The group is charged with developing blockchain use cases for insurance.

“If it works, we’ll roll out more proofs of concepts,” Miller said.

Ideas so far have centered on claims and first notice of loss, most notably a proposal where carriers share data on severe weather patterns to pay claims ahead of a natural catastrophe, he added. Efforts are also underway to provide digital copies of proof of insurance in states where paper documentation is still required.

The Institutes aims to have demos on four blockchain-based products next month.

Lemonade grows on newbies, not switchers

A majority of Lemonade’s early policyholders are newbies rather than customers that defected from larger insurance carriers, according to Lemonade CEO Daniel Schreiber.

In fact, 91% of current customers are first time insurance buyers, he added, categorizing the remaining nine percent as “switchers.”

“We are simply picking the fruit off before the incumbents reach them,” said Schreiber, during a half-hour presentation. “We offer a confluence of value, values, and experience that they’re not getting anywhere else.”

Lemonade, launched in September, uses a network of chatbots to target millennials and manage policy enrollment, underwriting and claims via its mobile app. It currently employs 40 people and is licensed to sell coverage in 10 states, with “more states being added every week,” Schreiber says. In the future, the home renters’ carrier plans on entering new lines of business, he concluded.

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