A Conversation with Jay Bourland, CTO, Fenris
What was the inspiration behind establishing Fenris as a B2B data and analytics company?
We saw, in many cases, a poor customer journey for individuals looking to buy insurance. Too often, people didn’t understand what they were buying and didn’t necessarily even get what they needed. In insurance, there is one area of data use, and that’s underwriting. Underwriting, for some reason, has become the “moment of truth” for buying a policy. But if you look at the sales process in any other industry, the moments of truth come way earlier in the sales cycle.
In insurance, a whole ecosystem of very expensive data providers exists to deliver data right at underwriting. We realized we could deliver information about the customer in a less expensive way, much earlier in the sales funnel, so that our customers can create a really good experience all the way through. Secondly, this opens up opportunities to make underwriting just a step in the chain and not a moment of truth anymore. So, we set out to find data sources that are not traditionally used in insurance, and definitely not used in underwriting. We pull in that data and curate those sets, making them available via a very easy to use, modern API that can integrate into any system out there.
How can this data help insurers reduce costs?
Say 5% of all policyholders will have a claim. We touch 100% of all policyholders. Claims make up 65% to 70% of every dollar spent by carriers, and people spent a lot of money and effort to try to bring that down. And that’s the sole reason that insurance companies exist is to pay claims. Marketing and distribution have been 20% of every dollar of insurance spending for the last seven decades. We think that there are ways to be way more efficient and smarter about that cost of acquisition.
Why should an insurance company be interested in predictive scoring (one of Fenris’ product categories)?
We use predictive analytics to score applicants at the very top of the funnel. Generally, our score is an indicator of what products they would qualify for as well as their propensity to buy. And by that, I mean, are they 10 times as likely to buy today? That was the initial problem we wanted to solve. For example, in buying leads, companies are paying a $500 cost of acquisition for a $500 auto insurance policy. We’ve scored millions of leads in real time using algorithms that are configured to each of our customers, so they can focus their efforts on those leads that have a high propensity to buy.
There are some well-established companies in the prefill space, like Lexis and Verisk. Why did you go after this market?
In the insurance industry, we’re always putting everyone through the exact same process of filling out forms. Lexis and Verisk serve large companies well — those that contribute to and can access the customer data set. We have a different model because we acquire our own data, and we are here to serve the startups that don’t qualify to participate in the contributory data model of a Lexis or Verisk. We also serve the top 10 carriers’ innovative outreach programs, large brokers, and the embedded insurance spectrum.
One customer told us they are seeing a 35% application completion rate with prefill, and then a roughly 2% increase in sales. And they didn’t necessarily change their marketing or their costs. They simply added in this convenience factor, and consumers reward them for it. So, we’re helping to streamline that process and making it easier to get more accurate, better completion rates, and really helping that modern Amazon-like experience take hold in the industry.
How is your third product category, life event monitoring and alerts, different?
Life event monitoring and alerts, or LEMA, is the first of its kind, automated alerting platform. We take advantage of all of the data that we have on every applicant, and every policyholder by monitoring the nightly updates to our platform that covers about 95% of the population. We pass along changes affecting our customer’s policyholders so they get the information shortly after we detect that an event has happened. These are what we call “moments that matter” — buying a home, having a baby, getting engaged, experiencing a change in marital status. There is an increase between 2 and 14 times that these policyholders will buy another product when you pair that moment that matters with the time of outreach. We’re seeing everyone wants to talk about policyholder marketing and generating more revenue, stickiness and retention and customer experience. So, knowing what’s happening in your customer’s life is generating tens of millions in new premiums for clients.
Are Fenris products aligned to insurance product lines?
Here’s one way we are very different from the traditional insurance industry. From the very beginning, we’ve built our technology and the data structures we have around the applicant. That applicant could be a person or business. And often they’re the same thing. We run evaluations for some of our prospects around what they say is business data. As much as 40% of those entities turn out to be a person’s name at a residential address. With the gig economy, the world of what makes a business is changing so much; there are many different kinds of “paper” businesses, consultancies, and all kinds of LLCs.
How do you demonstrate the value of Fenris data to prospects?
Once a prospect is qualified and signs a data evaluation agreement, we can get them live working with our data in just a day — and we see a lot of excitement around that. We deliver data directly to customer systems using our API platform, which makes it incredibly simple to integrate with our data products. It’s a fast process. The only hard part that takes any time at all is mapping from our fields to their target fields.
We usually do two types of evaluations simultaneously. We’ll take a file of a few hundred records from them and run it in a batch to find matches with individuals in our database so we can tell them about their policyholders. The prospect can also begin using a specific product API for free for up to 10 hits a day. This enables them to append the data to their files and do some analysis and reports, start getting some feedback back, understand how they’re going to integrate with the product and what kind of performance they can expect. Once we get through those steps, usually the next step is a contract once they can schedule the project.
What challenges do your customers face in integrating Fenris products?
The place where we’ll see a little bit more challenge in terms of the customer journey is around process change. Many large companies don’t know what to do with the information we provide and putting it to work requires changes in their systems and their business processes. That’s an area where we reach out to partners to help us work with customers who have those transformational requirements, because that’s not something we do. We really see ourselves as a product company, and not as a services company. So, we’re building up an ecosystem around our products.
How are you partnering with other industry players?
For traditional carriers, you need to be integrated into a technology stack they are already using for them to see the value of what we offer and get to that value quickly. We rely on partners who see the benefits of our products and understand how data and analytics can leapfrog carriers forward in the customer journey and customer experience. We are integrated with the Guidewire P&C software platform, for example. And Capgemini actually works with us as a partner. They have access to all of our APIs, and they create innovative use cases that they demo for their carrier clients.
What are some of the trends you are seeing in the marketplace?
The fintech world is trying to figure out how to add insurance to their product set, including banks, credit unions, neo banks, and fintech startups. So that’s pretty exciting. Traditional carriers have legacy systems that can be problematic, and there are cultural issues as well. They are focused on risk and not necessarily the customer. The distribution players are more creative, and more focused on the customer relationship. It’s exciting to see changes in that space happening, and it’s a good fit for us.