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Mar 2, 2016

Harnessing the Chaos: It’s Time for Innovation in the Insurance Industry

by Jennifer Overhulse

By all accounts in the media, the insurance industry has reached (another?) tipping point, but this one feels a little different than those of the past. This tipping point has the industry breaking business models, transforming legacy processes, and even hacking the fundamentals of what makes insurance. 

It seems innovation is lurking around every corner, and investments are being made from all directions both inside and outside the industry. In fact, ACORD recently announced a partnership with the Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA or the Accelerator) which will bring the first of this year’s semi-final events for the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge (AIIC) to Des Moines on April 26, just prior to the opening reception for the 2016 Global Insurance Symposium.

Assuming that innovation in the insurance industry is now inevitable, it must be undertaken in a way which focuses the chaos and the clutter. Originally envisioned by the Greater Des Moines Partnership (GDMP), the GIA was launched in January 2015 through the collaboration of and investment by seven Iowa-based insurance/financial services companies (American Equity, Delta Dental of Iowa, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Farmers Mutual Hail, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, IMT Insurance Company, and Principal Financial Group). Today, the GIA is one of the industry’s strongest hubs for innovation, and is hard at work not only in Des Moines, but globally, consolidating, concentrating and harnessing startup activity.

“The GDMP recognized that now was the time for Des Moines to play a prominent role in helping accelerate innovation in insurance globally through a focus on startups in the insurance industry,” said Doug Fick, vice president and chief technology officer for Principal Financial Group, and board member for the GIA. 

Having just announced the GIA’s second class, which is based on an applicant pool more than double the size of 2015’s numbers, Brian Hemesath, managing director of the GIA, is excited about the increasing interest in growth, in investment, and in transformation for the insurance industry.

“The announcement of the class is a unique event which is the culmination of a lot of effort and hard decisions made during the selection process,” said Hemesath. “Doubling the applicants in 2016 was outside validation that startups are beginning to recognize the value presented by the opportunity to collaborate with insurance companies. We had several later-stage companies apply in year two, which is a positive signal of the accelerator’s strength.”

“To my knowledge, having insurance companies as the sole investors in an Accelerator is very new,” said Fick. “Our mentor pool is made up of executives and entrepreneurial minds from both inside and outside of the insurance industry. We’re bringing the brightest business minds to bear to assist these new companies in the development of their value proposition. Partnering with ACORD [on the Des Moines Semi-Final event for the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge] is a logical and exciting next step, as I indicated earlier. Our collaborative approach to bringing the Accelerator online reflects our desire to engage in the right partnerships to ensure innovative success for our industries.” 

ACORD started the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge (AIIC) in 2015 as an innovation competition/business incubator hybrid, and considering the alignment of the goals of the AIIC and the GIA, a partnership made sense. 

“We’re both aligned on the fronts of supporting early stage companies and improving the industry,” said Hemesath. “We’re thrilled to be working so closely with ACORD.”

Going into 2016, and the upcoming Global Insurance Symposium, the GIA is looking forward to a bright future. 

“It’s important to recognize Brian [Hemesath] for the passion and leadership he’s brought to the Global Insurance Accelerator,” said Fick. “Through his efforts, we’ve been thrilled with the success of our first class, and look forward to even more success with the second.  We’re also looking to grow our list of insurance company investors (from both inside and outside of Iowa). Most of all, we’re looking for the next set of great ideas that will continue to help our industry serve the needs of our customers now and in the future.”

The Global Insurance Symposium will take place April 26-28 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.  The Des Moines Semi-Final of the AIIC will be held on April 25 at the Iowa Events Center, just prior to the opening reception for the Global Insurance Symposium.

For more information about the Global Insurance Accelerator, visit

For more information about the Global Insurance Symposium, visit

For more information about the ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge, visit