Written by Matt Wardle, CTO and Co-Founder at KASKO
There is much debate whenever KASKO is in the room, on how to build solid, flexible, insurance products quickly. Given that is what we do, build great insurance products for providers, be they incumbents, startups or anything in between, quickly, it is quite important. So, I thought the time was right to delve a little deeper into the ‘hows?’ and ‘whats?’ of it all…
First up - I won’t tell you all our secrets here, but am going to touch on something pivotal in how we function as a company. ‘Application Programming Integrations’, or APIs as they are better known.
APIs are the future
Anyone not using them internally, or externally, will get left behind, period. They allow innovation and collaboration with ease. From Monzo to Google Maps (useful), to the less useful ‘Tronald Dump’ (silly quotes from a certain person), APIs are everywhere. Consumers are using them millions of times a day, often without realising.
Our whole platform is API driven. All data going into our platform goes via REST API. This includes our own internal dashboards and tooling, almost everything that we, our clients and their customers use, on the face of it, is API driven.
This forces us to taste our own medicine, at KASKO we are as driven by our own API as the products we build for others. Every feature of our API is being used daily by our own team.
Our API is fully dynamic. We don't ‘build’ an API for new insurance products every time. What happens is that when we set up the new insurance product for our partners in our platform, it then builds the API automatically, tailored to the parameters and requirements of the partnership.
We built our platform from the ground up allowing micro-services for maximum flexibility, letting us use our homemade services, or when needed, switch them out for 3rd party ones. Worth explaining that there are two different types of 3rd party integrations that we would go for, either:
- 3rd party companies e.g. address validation, fraud detection, credit checks, geo-caching tools and chatbots etc
- Existing insurer services like CRMs, hosted pricing integrations, payment collection, document creation, claims management systems and so much more
This allows us to seamlessly merge the functionality of our platform, 3rd party technology, and insurer technology in our customer flows.
Security is everything in a modern system and should be built in by design, it cannot be an afterthought. You see it time and time again, but one security issue for a company can, and often does, break them as a business.
Authorisation is key as it serves 2 functions:
- Security and permissions
- Attribution (who is doing what)
This leads on nicely to the two very distinct ‘end users’ that we have designed into the KASKO API, ours has two distinct modes, public and private. Which by their nature depends on key authorisations from the top.
The ‘public mode’ is built from the ground-up for the all-important end customer - why build crazy-clever tech products if everyday customers can’t use them? The end users in our case, are the people actually buying policies online.
And then we have ‘private mode’, which allows for much more functionality, like retrieving policies, editing, cancelling and so on. This is within the portals that we provide our partners, allowing them to easily adapt to everyday situations - simply handling every facet of the product and their customers in one easy to access place.
Our API is built with a roles and permissions model, different rights can be assigned to API keys (people/cogs in the machine). Key stakeholders within an insurance distribution partner, for example, can have different permissions to read, write and edit, just like a set of keys for a building. The CEO can go everywhere whilst the intern can only access certain doors. API permissions allow for the same freedom of clearance to be granted to those that need different permissions.
Data is, in case you missed the memo, quite important in running technology businesses these days. Being able to use the data at your disposal to offer improved customer experiences and better pricing is vital to stay in the game. And, that data comes from a huge variety of sources, be it credit checks, social media, photo recognition tools or even just the basics that are input by the customer looking to buy insurance on your website.
With the help of the right 3rd party APIs, you can harness the data that you need. Of course, do this responsibly. Data is too often misused, so make sure that you are well within the bounds of responsibility. Just like a security breach, one error in judgement, poor use of data or simply collecting irrelevant personal data, will damage you - often irreparably, as a company. Do things right, if you aren’t sure what is OK and what isn’t - seek help, there are plenty of experts in the field.
Anyway, this data is then fed into our API, which can use it in pricing, risk models, fraud detection, or anywhere else in the platform that needs that information.
Using our API alongside 3rd party ones means we can quickly offer modern experiences and products to this new age of user. That user could be the end user, the startup, the incumbent, it depends on the project in question. In all likelihood, it is one or two of these examples at any one time, needing different feeds from the same information. APIs can provide that.
The greatest power of API is to power what we believe to be the future of insurance. It allows for open collaboration for the empowerment of the end user, through better thought-out and more securely built products.
Thanks to the harnessing of APIs across the board, apps, services, tools and so on can connect to each other and offer insurance products to customers exactly where, when and how the customer needs them. I can’t believe that only a few years ago, you would have to post applications for these things. Now, you can take a photo of a watch, and through a clever integration, machine learning and AI will tell you the insurance policy for that watch, allow you to sign for it, pay the first instalment, provide you with your documentation, automatically - having never even left the house or been put on hold with a sales rep… This is almost entirely thanks to APIs - and some hard work of course.
Modern users want a lift in seconds, food to be around the corner and coffee to be click-and-collectible - of course, they want their insurance products instantly. If the old guard doesn’t adapt to this shift in mentality, then their ‘too-big-to-fail’ institutions will collapse around them. And many are, we are working with some of the biggest names in the industry for exactly this reason. People are changing so those of us providing services to them have to change too.
Product design is vital. It does not simply mean making the buttons and sliders pretty either, this is the all-encompassing term for what you are creating - be it the dashboard for our partners or the on-boarding and form filling for the end user. Design of the insurance product and design of the customer UX should come first.
No matter how clever the API, it is a tool!
How often do we see amazing tech, packaged badly, disappearing into the ‘might-have-been’ Reddit Threads? All too often. From the Sinclare C5 to Google Glass, there have been countless products that tackled some of humanity’s burning questions and tackled them well, that have failed as they simply can’t be used, accessed, sold, or understood right. Product design on your site, app, network, etc, can make or break whether people actually get as far as using your groundbreaking, or not, API.
A good tool will not limit or dictate what can be built and how.
The KASKO API, for example, is extremely flexible, it can take new types of data and new workflows into account and adapt to suit the proposed outcome. It doesn't rigidly dictate how the product "must" be built - which aligns to us, as a company. We are a flexible team that grafts, adapts and learns, across borders.
KASKO specialises in working with large insurers to design, distribute and run digital insurance products for any distribution channel. Without having to re-prioritise IT legacy systems and structure, KASKO provides innovative solutions at speed for larger and more traditional insurers. KASKO to date has worked with insurance brands such as Allianz, AXA, Baloise, FRI:DAY, Swiss Re and Zurich and Co-Op to name a few. Whereas traditionally it takes around 18months to build insurance products, KASKO achieves this in around five weeks.