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Green Shield Canada

Episode 13: On the air with Stephen Frank

In Episode 13, hosts Sarah Murphy and David Willows sit down with the CLHIA’s President and CEO Stephen Frank to talk about a wide range of meaty industry topics, including one of the most talked about industry initiatives, CLHIA’s G(uideline)19.
And now for something completely indifferent

And now for something completely indifferent

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Episode 13 Transcript

[INTRODUCTION]

[0:00:14.9] SM: Hello and welcome to another episode of GSC’s Podcast, And Now For Something Completely Indifferent, where we will be discussing the hottest topics and trends in Canadian Health Benefits. I am one of your hosts, Sarah Murphy.

Before we get stated with today’s episode, we would like to remind our listeners that the views expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals speaking and not necessarily the views of GSC. We may talk about possibly controversial subjects and therefore, reserve the right to potentially offer some listeners, but are apologizing for it upfront.

You can download this podcast from our website at greenshield.ca/podcast, or subscribe to it from wherever you get your podcasts. We also encourage you to read our publications, the inside story and follow the script, which you can also download from our website. Please be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[INTRO]

[0:0:05.9] SM: Now let’s get started. Today’s episode is hosted by David Willows, GSC’s Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer. Hello, David.

[0:01:12.8] DW: Hi, Sarah. Today, I wanted to pose a question to you, or maybe present you an idea. It’s based on a podcast I was listening to on a very long flight home from Paris, France a few weeks ago and I had stored up some of my favorite podcasts and I started working my way through them on that eight-hour flight.

I think I said in the first podcast one of my favorite all-time podcasts is Bill Simmons’ podcast, all about sports, entertainment. They had a new producer that was in the room with them, who like you, talks a bit. It was a young gentleman, so I would give you that. Maybe younger than a Millennial, but that producer said in honor of getting the job of producing that podcast, he had gone out and gotten a tattoo of the podcast logo.

It got me to thinking as we come up on our one-year anniversary of And Now For Something Completely Indifferent, does that signal a point in time where this is an established industry piece and whether you and I in honor of that anniversary should get tattoos.

[0:02:17.3] SM: Matching podcast tattoos?

[0:02:18.9] DW: I didn’t say matching. I’m just saying tattoos honoring this podcast. What's your first instinct on that question?

[0:02:26.7] SM: It's ridiculous. But, I guess if we're going to show that we're really dedicated to this podcast then, maybe. If he did it, I mean, definitely I think I should do it, definitely think you should do it.

[0:02:37.7] DW: Well, I was going to say, you should.

[0:02:38.5] SM: I should. Okay sure. Yeah.

[0:02:40.1] DW: You should do it. I'm not sure whether I need to.

[0:02:43.5] SM: Well, the producer definitely has to get a tattoo. And, I'm thinking if we expect our sales folks to also be fully into what we're doing, then I think it would make sense that they have the matching tattoo as well.

[0:02:54.7] DW: I have gone to that place. That's an excellent idea. We’ll probably get some group rate.

[0:02:59.7] SM: That's brand champions at the highest level right there. That speaks volumes.

[0:03:03.8] DW: Okay, so we're going to take this away and we're going to work through the organization on this idea. I would expect we're going to have some announcement perhaps with some pictures of a GSC crew with the And Now For Something Completely Indifferent tattoos early in the New Year.

[0:03:18.1] SM: Wow. It's going to go over well.

[0:03:19.4] DW: Yeah. You weren't expecting this conversation we’re in.

[0:03:20.8] SM: No, I wasn’t.

[0:03:21.8] DW: Okay, good. Good, let’s get on the podcast.

[0:03:23.3] SM: Okay.

[INTERVIEW]

[0:03:28.1] DW: Okay, today we welcome into the podcast studio a couple of our friends, somebody from the outside, an old industry friend named Ben Harrison who is a partner at Portag3 Venture. He's going to tell us about that organization and what he does there. A repeat serial podcaster now, Erin Crump.

[0:03:49.0] SM: Still in third place, I think.

[0:03:50.6] DW: Yes, yes. It's competitive internally. I think maybe you've caught up to Peter Gove. Yeah.

[0:03:55.5] SM: That would be an achievement.

[0:03:56.2] DW: It’s a feather in your cap. Erin's our director of strategic innovation here at GSC and we have brought these two folks together to talk about startups and their impact on insurance. Maybe that should have been startups and their future, or potential impact our insurance. Both Ben and Erin do a lot of work in that world of new, smaller companies that are doing supposedly and hopefully some cool stuff and probably are going to lend some information to us in terms of what that world is like and how it could potentially impact our world in health benefits.

Ben you used to just be a guy that worked for an insurance company.

[0:04:34.3] BH: Totally.

[0:04:34.9] DW: Now you're the Head of LP engagement and partnerships at Portag3 Venture. Tell us what is that organization and what do you do.

[0:04:43.7] BH: Sure. First off, thank you for having me. Portag3 Ventures is the venture arm of Power Financial. Portag3 Ventures specifically is a venture fund focused on finding early-stage financial services, companies that we think will have a material impact on redefining financial services globally.

We do have strong ambitions and strong beliefs that there are companies that will be able to significantly alter the way that people interact and use money with the way they bank, the way they get insurance. We spend all of our time trying to find those companies.

In terms of my role specifically, so while I do spend a lot of my time working with our portfolio companies and looking at new investment opportunities, I also work very closely with our investors. All of our investors are largely large financial services organizations.

[0:05:36.5] DW: I should be clear that when you hear Portag3, we often – all of us think of Great-West Life. It's not just Great-West Life that you're working with.

[0:05:42.6] BH: Absolutely. Yeah. We have multiple – and LP is an industry term, it stands for limited partner. Just another way of saying investor. What I do is I help them. My team works with them to do a couple things; one is identify partnership opportunities within the portfolio. We play a key role and day-to-day are looking for ways that we can connect the two organizations to deliver a better product, or service, acquiring new customers, all of those things.

We also help give them a lens into what's happening in the Fintech and assure tech world. We do a lot of content, we host events that really are about bringing people closer to the action and whether that's interacting with founders and Fintechs within the portfolio, or engaging with other LPs, other investors who are also thinking about what are they going to do in this space.

[0:06:35.4] DW: Do you do a podcast?

[0:06:36.6] BH: No, but I think we're going to have to do one now.

[0:06:38.5] DW: Yeah, I would say don't. We’ll keep the space mostly to ourselves.

[0:06:44.0] DW: Erin, you've been in this podcast already before and we've had you in really relying, I think to some degree, upon some of your background in benefits consulting, and you've been a plan sponsor. You know I'm going to say it. You're an actuary.

[0:07:06.6] EC: I was wondering how you were going to work that in to this one.

[0:07:08.5] DW: Oh, no. It was going to be there. Ben, you're not an actuary, right?

[0:07:10.9] BH: No, I’m not.

[0:07:11.1] DW: Did you know Erin’s an actuary?

[0:07:13.4] BH: I heard that. I heard that somewhere.

[0:07:15.6] DW: It's important that you know that. Today and you've been talking a lot about benefit plan design and some of the work that we've been doing around that. Today, we're going to talk a bit about your actual day job –

[0:07:25.5] EC: Actual real job is right now. Yeah.

[0:07:26.3] DW: Your real job here at GSC, which is director of strategic innovation. Maybe you can tell folks about what that means and the work that you've been doing here, in that same community that Ben's talking about.

[0:07:37.3] EC: Yeah. The way I view my role now is in two parts. The first part of my role, I think is really working on developing the organizational capability around innovation; innovation governance, setting up processes for ideation, how do we leverage external ideas and work with external partners to create new ideas, how do we then prioritize and test and validate those ideas internally and those sorts of things. I see that as one part of my role.

Then the other part of my role is actually running these innovation projects that we have under our pipeline. As the projects are gaining momentum through testing and validating, I indicate that there's something there, then project managing those through to potential launch.

[0:08:20.0] DW: Okay. We've probably mentioned a couple of them that are now out there in the community and talked about your experiences working with those partners. Before we dig into what this world is, Ben can you actually define what a startup is? Is that a meaningful phrase? I mean, are you working with startups, or do you think of it that way?

[0:08:38.7] BH: I think, when I read that question I thought, “I never really thought about that.” I think there are some characteristics. I don't often use the word startup, but I think of the companies that we work with as ventures, their companies. They’re startups in the traditional sense of they are young companies, they're trying to find their business model and some have revenue, some are working towards that, they have some customers. They're early stage in those sense.

I think, in my mind at least the two characteristics that really stand out in defining a startup, or a venture are one, they've built this business around trying to solve a particular consumer problem. It's something that's interesting to think about when you work at a large organization and then you also spend time in this world, where in a large organization like Great-West and GSC, they probably started with that view and modeling, but over time have built products and processes and you need to create structure around a large organization. Sometimes you forget about why this all started.

I think that for me is a key characteristic that I think about when I think about venture startup for the companies that we work with. I think the other characteristic too is these companies are at least in theory, built to scale exponentially. They are designed to 10x their revenue and returns and they can do that in large part because they're largely technology-based companies. Those in my mind are the two things I think define a startup, define a new venture. That's how I think of it.

[0:10:13.3] DW: Okay. You've spent your time in some of those large mothership places before. Probably during that time, you worked on partnerships with other companies, but they probably weren't in the milieu that you're in now. The fact that these are much newer companies, less established. When you're working with them and watching them, what are the specific challenges that they have that you're being introduced to that maybe you haven't encountered in your past with more established entities?

[0:10:42.1] BH: Before I made the move to Portag3, you've alluded to it; I was at Great-West for a number of years. The last two and a half years, I was involved in setting up and running our innovation center, which sounds very similar to the role that Erin has. In that, I was very involved with a handful of partnerships that we set up with some of these new ventures. I think there are a couple of things that jump out in terms of what's different between the more established vendor and the new one.

One is we always talk about the pace that these organizations work and that they can work so much more quickly. That's totally true. When a venture is selling into a big company, like when their business is B2B, they need to move quickly, because those cycles, those sales cycles take a long time. Even when the big company is figuring out how to expedite that process, it still takes time. These are companies that need to be driving cash flow and revenue into the business to prove that they are meeting a need, that there is a long-term opportunity here, and so that they can grow and become profitable, viable businesses. The timing aspect of things, I think is the single biggest challenge to manage when you're working with a new venture.

[0:11:55.7] DW: Erin, what's opened your eyes in moving into this community and having these conversations with newer companies?

[0:12:01.1] EC: Yeah. I think that the speed is a good point for sure. Even I've been in discussions with one company that's already changed names and pivoted, in the time that I've been talking with them, right? That also poses a challenge, because as a larger organization and you're talking with a smaller company about a specific need that they might be able to fill and then suddenly, they change their direction and so it has to change your direction too.

Another challenge, I guess that we've run into is, we've been partnering with organizations that are typically B2C. They're working with consumers, and so they're used to working with consumers who have signed up for their service and given them disclosure to take their data and do as they will with it. A lot of times work with companies, or even early-stage discussions they say, “Okay, you just hand over your data GSCd and we'll go to town and we'll do this and that.”

Our challenge of course is that we're in a very different space. We are trusted with our members’ data, we have to be very, very careful with what we do with that data and we need to make sure that our members know exactly what we're doing with that data. We're limited in some ways by some of the things that the startups that come to us with – were limited with what we can do. That creates new challenges that I hadn't run into before, which is who owns the data, the data we create together, who owns that, what happens to it afterwards and all that fun stuff?

[0:13:22.6] BH: Maybe just to add on one extra point to that last comment; one of the other big challenges that you sometimes see when you combine the big and the small companies is push towards customizing the product. It usually happens in scenarios where you have a company that's selling direct to consumer and now they're trying to figure out if there's an opportunity to move into the enterprise space. Suddenly, they are changing their product. They're altering their offering, they're customizing it to what this big company wants. Now all of a sudden, they start to have to ask themselves, is this the direction we ultimately want to go? That raises a whole bunch of challenges for both the venture and for the enterprise.

[0:14:04.1] DW: Yeah. It's obviously very different cultures there, and I know. I think I've seen some of the legal bills around the data conversations that Erin has generated. Just the feeling that okay, now we're going to move fast with this little company and stuff like that and then we spend two and a half or three months going back and forth with lawyers.

[0:14:21.7] EC: Yeah, that’s frustrating for sure.

[0:14:22.8] DW: Yeah. That hopefulness of we're just going to speed through this. There's some realities to any business to business negotiation.

[0:14:30.4] EC: Yeah. I mean, hopefully we learned a lot the first couple times through that we won't have to repeat that lengthy process again. It was a necessary exercise to go through.

[0:14:38.9] BH: Yeah. I think large companies you go through this a couple times and then you develop a certain expertise and figuring out your hundred-page SOW doesn't need to be a hundred pages. You can condense and focus on specifically aligning the risk of this particular partnership with the size of it. It sounds like you guys have gone through a similar path that I've seen others go through.

[0:15:02.4] DW: The organizations that both of you are coming into contact with and starting to work with, are there themes around what they're doing, developing that has been absent from our big companies? What are they doing better than we've been able to do in our big ships?

[0:15:25.6] BH: It's hard to narrow in on I'd say specific areas, but if you maybe take a step up, broadly I think these are companies that are starting from a technology-first standpoint first and foremost. They don't have the burdens of legacy systems and processes and untold amounts of paper. That's their reality. The reality of most of the larger companies is all those things I just mentioned are things they have to contend with. They have the advantage of not having that history. I think that's in large part what enables them to do and work very differently.

I would say a lot of the push that you now see in the larger financial services space, not just insurance, but the banking and across the board, a lot of that's been driven by these organizations, these startups who have just created fundamentally better experiences in terms of accessing and using financial products.

They've pushed these large organizations to change how they do things. In my mind, those are two I think fundamental pieces. The technology being that core component and the user experience and designing these products and services fundamentally around the user.

[0:16:44.9] EC: Yeah, my answer a 100% customer experience. Just creating streamlines, processes, experiences that are consistent with other digital experiences that they have, right? Which we just have not been able to recreate yet in our space. You do start to hear, so the large carriers now talking about being more customer-centric and being obsessed with our customers and things like that. That's all very much driven from that.

[0:17:09.4] DW: Okay. Keeping it real here, so what happens when that meets our legacy technology, or can it completely work around it, or is there some integration point at some point and slam on the brakes folks, because now this gets challenging?

[0:17:26.0] EC: We are finding ways to work around it for sure. Actually, a lot of the startups, a lot of companies that I talk to and meet at different conferences are companies that have created themselves solely to work around, like a CIT, and to create processes and layers around legacy IT. There's a whole market just for that, because they recognize that that's a huge problem in our market in probably banking and other similar markets. I think it's really hung us up in the past, but I think there's more and more opportunities for us to find ways to work around it.

[0:17:55.5] BH: Yeah. I think it also depends what part of the value chain the partnership is contemplated in. From a distribution product standpoint, it's far easier to take a product that a venture has created and let the insurer, or incumbent FI go and sell it. When you start to move down the value chain and get into claims and underwriting and more of the back-end processes, that's where you really start to run into challenges.

I think those will continue to be challenges. Certainly, there are startups that are envisioning how they create their product and services to get around that. I think fundamentally, what's going to have to happen though and you're seeing this again across the board is the investments that all of these large organizations are making into their technology are largely designed to make their systems more flexible, more adaptable and start to allow those integrations with all of these other products and services that are out in the ecosystem.

[0:18:55.3] DW: Yeah. I know that's true here. We're talking about the next few years here. It's how do you actually bring our legacy stuff, which is –

[0:19:03.4] EC: Well, sometimes your legacy stuff is fantastic, like our advantage system. It's gotten us where we are and it's a very powerful system, so how do we – let's not reinvent the wheel where we don't need to, right? I think a lot of organizations are probably doing that look. Let's keep what we want to keep, but how do we enhance it and how can we add layers around it to enhance the experience?

[0:19:24.2] BH: The three words that – three letters that you'll be probably continuously will hear in our business is –

[0:19:29.4] EC: To my guess, API.

[0:19:31.2] BH: Right. It’s all about how do you create that API. When I'm necessarily having to rip out all of your back-end systems, can you create an API layer that allows for those connection points? That is far easier said than done.

[0:19:44.5] DW: Yes. Ben, are you focused particularly or specifically on Canadian firms, or are you crossing borders? This is leading to a question I’m going to ask you, so what's happening here in our country compared to other places?

[0:19:59.3] BH: All of the partners at Portag3 do have passports. We are able to leave Canada. Our focus is predominantly North America and Europe, Western Europe, with some eyes in the Asian market. That's largely in our portfolio reflects that mix. In terms of the Canadian market, how we started was very much with a focus on investing in and helping to build great Canadian companies that can be global players.

I think on the whole, there's a lot of exciting stuff that's happening here in Canada. The thing that Canada struggles with is the size of the market. That's just unfortunately a fundamental limitation, in the terms of creating a unicorn, if you will, like the billion dollar startup within just Canada. To grow a unicorn, to create a unicorn in Canada, you need to be able to take that offering elsewhere.

At the same time, the smaller market does provide some inherent protections from some of the larger, more incumbent startups from coming into Canada and creating an additional layer of competition. There's a bit of a dual double-edged sword here and not sure that's the right analogy, but you know what I mean. It’s got pros and cons.

[0:21:21.3] DW: Where is it happening in Canada? Would you say there's a scene in Toronto now, a legitimate –

[0:21:26.1] BH: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, if you've seen some of the recent articles about a number of tech startups, the number of new tech jobs that have been created worldwide, Canada and Toronto in particular is a leader. I think, a lot of that is in the financial services space, but it's also broadly across the spectrum of possible ventures.

[0:21:48.3] DW: Erin, I know just this past week you were in the United States at a conference that have dedicated to this topic based on that question, but then what is your impression of what's happening globally, what's happening here and for a company like us, a thousand people, we're not the size of a Great-West Life, where do we find traction and interest?

[0:22:10.0] EC: Where do we find companies being interested in working with us?

[0:22:12.5] DW: Yeah, and vice versa.

[0:22:13.8] EC: Yeah. It's funny, when I was in the states, there's definitely a Canadian presence, both in the AI space, in the insurer tech space. I run into just as many – well, not just as many, but a lot of Canadian companies even when I was in the states at a conference. What we get approached with the most probably with companies on the Canadian and the US side is the stuff in the digital health space.

Companies that have gain traction in US, where they have a digital health offering that has a very specific ROI in the US context and they're now exploring opportunities to come north of the border.

[0:22:50.9] DW: They think there's a market here. It's material enough that they would pivot a bit, because obviously a different healthcare system?

[0:22:57.6] EC: Yeah, it's definitely a different ROI scenario for sure. No, I think absolutely. I have not – I don't think I've talked to one that's a lot of them are not yet in Canada, but all are interested in exploring our market. I think particularly because the US, I think a lot of people in the digital health space understand that the US healthcare market is the only one of its kind in the world really.

If they want to move outside of the US and go to any other market, you're likely looking at a combo of public and private healthcare. They need to figure out that public-private healthcare situation. Canada's a natural first place for them to try that out. It is a challenge then taking that what might have a very clear value prop in the US context and translating it into Canada.

[0:23:43.9] DW: Yeah. I’m looking for hot tips necessarily, not investment tips, but are there companies percolating right now that stand out to you as, “I think this is going somewhere,” and that you want to give a shout out to that you've seen in the last little while?

[0:24:01.5] BH: Yeah. I could spend an hour talking about our portfolio if you like me to. Just maybe a couple of companies that come to mind in the comments that Erin is making about digital health. We've got a really promising virtual health company in our portfolio Dialogue, which –

[0:24:18.6] DW: It certainly got some press. Yes. Yeah.

[0:24:20.2] BH: Yeah. I mean, it's a really interesting space. It feels like becoming a standard almost very quickly for –

[0:24:28.9] DW: Tell people what they do.

[0:24:30.4] BH: Dialogue is a virtual health company. An individual can go on their phone, open up the dialogue app and consult with a health practitioner to speak about a particular medical condition that they're having. They've had great traction in the Canadian market. They're focused solely on enterprise, on business versus a number of the other players, which have gone a direct-to-consumer route.

In terms of what they're seeing from utilization and a sports standpoint, it's been really promising. That was reflected in the most recent fundraise that they had. We're definitely excited about them. The wealth management space, Well Simple, I probably couldn't leave this podcast without talking about the great work that they've done. A true, true Canadian success story and now are expanding globally both into the US and into Europe.

[0:25:22.8] DW: What was their recipe for that success?

[0:25:25.3] BH: It's interesting. I think there's a couple of things. I think they've built a great product with a great experience, but they recognized and invested accordingly in building a brand. This is one of the things I think we'll maybe talk about in a bit is some of the challenges that a new venture has. Particularly, those that are focused on direct-to-consumer model in the financial services space is brand and trust. Intelligently, they focus on building that and the content that they create is world-class. I would say that has been the key to their success.

Now, the reality is that also costs a lot of money. There's been a very significant investment in Well Simple and other companies like that. We can certainly see a path to significance for them. The other part that's interesting about where they've gone is they've also started to build out a meaningful business-to-business, B2B element to the operation and securing a number of deals that we think will really help to accelerate, further accelerate the growth that they've had. Those are a couple of the keys, I think that we’ve seen success.

[0:26:29.4] EC: I've used Well Simple. The the setup process is painfully easy. It is shockingly easy. It’s how they've got connections to the big banks and you click a few buttons and your money has been put. They've just created such a streamlined, frictionless user experience, right? It’s impressive.

[0:26:49.2] DW: Erin in your world and in your role now, I think probably early days we did a fair bit of stuff around the health management themes, who have you seen that just took you to a place that you never imagined you'd be working in a year into the job?

[0:27:02.2] EC: In the health space? It's funny, a lot of the companies we talk to, it's really figuring out who should pay for what they're doing. I never thought that a year in, I'd be – what I'm thinking about most now is how do I get in to talk to the CRA and how do I talk to those folks about changing what we consider a medical expense and what we considered a licensed practitioner, so that we can fundamentally change benefit plans? I never thought I would get to that boring of a spot. That's the reality is there's so many cool things out there and that plan sponsors actually can't pay for within our current tax regime. That's what I spend a lot of time thinking of is how do I –

[0:27:44.4] DW: What are examples of that?

[0:27:45.5] EC: For example, there's a lot of stuff happening in the diabetes space. A lot of fantastic platforms and apps and things. If it's an app that's completely AI-based, the plan sponsor can't pay for that, because medical expense is not an app that will help you with your health.

Unfortunately, a registered diabetes health coach is not a licensed practitioner in the Canadian space, so that also cannot – even if we can connect you to an actual licensed practitioner, that's actually also not a covered expense. There's all these really awesome things that have evidence, that have a clear ROI, even in the Canadian space. Plan sponsors actually can't technically pay for them, or they run the risk of having their plans be offside from a tax perspective. I think that's an interesting thing that's come to light and and how do we tackle that and how do we create the space of plan sponsors who want to be innovative and can be?

[0:28:35.9] DW: In the meantime, we're probably paying for some of that, right?

[0:28:38.3] EC: We have been. Yeah, yeah, yeah. To manage my pain app is a good example, so this is a chronic pain tracking app. We've released it to a subset of our plan members who struggle with chronic pain. It's an app that allows them to track their pain on a daily basis in under 30 seconds and it creates a detailed visual report that they can take to their physician. That we're offering free to our plan members, so we're covering that cost. It's in the exploratory stage, what can it do to help members? Once we understand what it can do, then we can think more about who should pay for it and those sorts of things.

[0:29:11.9] DW: I'm going to try to end this on one large entirely impossible question. I like to do that. That's my MO. We hear the word ‘disruption’ a lot. I don't know if that word is fading, because it's been de rigueur for the last two or three years. We'll find another word. You're both working in and of the financial services insurance industry. What is your thought around that word and what might could, will happen to us all in the next three to five years and is what you're working on examples of that, or are those things at the margins and you think something bigger is coming?

[0:29:46.5] BH: Okay, well I can take a stab.

[0:29:48.5] DW: I didn’t put this one in the e-mail too, did I?

[0:29:51.8] BH: I agree with – I try my best to refrain from using the word disruption. Unless, it's used in the proper context. There actually is a theoretical explanation for disruption.

[0:30:02.7] DW: Define it then.

[0:30:03.6] BH: It comes from Clay Christensen who has written a number of books on innovation, talks about the theory of disruption, which is when a company comes in creating a lower cost, often less comprehensive product than what's in the marketplace today. It goes after then a lower-end tight customer. That starts to gain adoption, it's largely a technology-based offering. Then that product starts to move up the chain to get higher and higher and higher value customers.

Because the product is often less expensive and not as comprehensive to start, they're able to build up that product to a point where they can then take over. Microchips is a great example of that example that's used in his book, the innovators – the book around innovator’s dilemma.

I generally try to avoid that as well, but you can see how that does play out in certain pockets, where a lot of the ventures are focused on unserved customers today. The markets that aren't accessing financial services, either because financial advisors aren't working with them and focused on that market, which is a totally valid opportunity, or because its existing products and services are too expensive.

I'll step off my academic soapbox there, to the question about what's going to happen. In a broad sense, I think you're going to see two things. I think you're going to see a couple of these newer organizations who are focused on creating a digital insurance company, as an example. I think you'll see some of those succeed, but not without significant capital to do that. I also think you'll see a number of the incumbent players invest significantly in technology to remain competitive and relevant.

I don't think it's a matter of these new young hotshots coming over and drinking all of our milkshakes as some like to say. I think you're going to reach a balancing point. Where some of the incumbents will absolutely – they'll absolutely lose. They'll fall off the map. At the other end, a whole bunch of the newer ventures will also not be able to succeed.

[0:32:14.6] DW: Who are the digital insurance companies that you see now that are on the right path? Names for folks out there, if they want to –

[0:32:22.2] BH: Yeah. In Asia, you're seeing companies like Xingyang, which are creating a totally new type of insurance company emerge. Now they're backed by some of the largest organized e-commerce companies in Asia. There are companies like Lemonade, which is a name everyone's probably familiar with. In my mind, I think the jury's still out on them, but –

[0:32:47.8] DW: Right, with e-mails and blogs.

[0:32:49.1] BH: They have great content.

[0:32:51.7] BH: The technology behind the offering, you can see the potential, but they need to expand significantly into other product lines. You can't build a billion-dollar business off of rental insurance. They're an example of a company that has the capital to do that. In terms of true digital insurers, I'm not sure that I've seen anyone. There's a number that are on a certain right path, but no one that has outside of some of the Asia examples, who's clearly defined themselves as a significant player.

[0:33:25.4] EC: Yeah, I would agree with that. I'm not particularly concerned about a startup coming in and just totally shaking up the place. When those startups partner with incumbents and when incumbents take the opportunity to dump some money into some technology and partner with the right startups, that's where I think the real changes are going to happen. Because like you said, some of the digital, or blockchain insurance things that are starting up now, a lot of them still rely on partnering with incumbent risk-takers.

I think what could happen is not so much a startup, but large incumbents coming over from other spaces. These are your Amazons and your Apples, right? Apple has just set up worldwide insurance practice. Obviously, they're thinking about that. They're partnering with insurance organizations to come up with different claim apps and underwriting apps, all on iPads. In a few years, they're going to have really powerful data, similar to what most insurance companies have. Things like that.

[0:34:23.8] DW: Thank you. It's been a pleasure for me to talk to two of the leading Millennials in our industry. I know I like to cast you both as that. Ben was the early adopter of the beard and went through a phase, we had a very small knapsack, which he took to –

[0:34:38.0] EC: Very small knapsack.

[0:34:39.5] DW: Very small knapsack.

[0:34:40.4] BH: Are we done?

[0:34:44.5] DW: Thank you Ben for putting up with us and sharing all your knowledge. Erin, thanks for coming back. This is one where I wouldn't mind in a year from now just talking about what's happened in the last year and who has emerged and who are the new folks that are emerging.

[0:34:57.8] EC: Let’s see if we were right about anything.

[0:34:59.5] DW: Yeah, yeah. Well, we're going to hold you to all of these. Thanks again.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

[0:35:07.3] SM: Thank you to our listeners for tuning into another episode of And Now For Something Completely Indifferent, a Canadian health benefits industry podcast. To be sure to get future episodes, please subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcast or visit our website at greenshield.ca/podcast to download. As a reminder, we talk about these issues consistently in our publications, which are available on our website as well as on social media. So be sure to follow the conversation. For this specific episode, you can check out our September issue of the Inside Story.

Thanks for listening and we’ll talk again soon.

[END]