Electronic Chat with Chris Ewing, Founder and CEO, One Inc
Staff Writer | July 12, 2021
Christopher Ewing is President and CEO of One Inc, which offers a single platform for processing premiums and claims payments, designed to integrate with insurance core systems. The platform helps insurers to increase retention and persistency, reduce admin expenses, and simplify PCI compliance.
Research finds that 75% of property/casualty carrier claims payments are still mailed via check. Is this due to customer resistance to digital payment, or are there other reasons?
Nobody wants checks anymore. When you go to grocery store, you probably haven’t seen someone writing a check in years because we’ve had the ability to send a quick ACH or instant payment for almost a decade. But It’s difficult to solve all use cases and paper processes in insurance all at once. One big issue is delivering other documentation such as multiparty signoffs, where writing a check is the easiest thing to do. For claim settlements, insurers can send policyholders a check along with the settlement documentation. But creating a great digital experience and changing the way things have been done requires a lot of different software. There’s a disconnect between insurers and payment options with legacy banks and people that provide payment rails. They’re missing the ability to introduce software, which is where we come in. Software can handle all these issues digitally.
Even today, almost 80% of all claims are paid by check or paper process. But we see this dramatically changing over the next three to five years, when all claims will be paid digitally. The entire industry will switch on a dime by changing these processes. One Inc has built a platform that solves this problem. The biggest opportunity I’ve seen in my entire career is in transforming the industry from paper check and paper bill.
What was the impetus of founding One Inc?
I was running insurance operations at a company and one day we had a major outage across a bunch of platforms: billing, payments with banks, the website that connected to another partner, and connection between our policy and billing systems. We embarked on a multi-day maze of trying to determine where the problem was. I kept wondering why there wasn’t a single vendor that does all this stuff -- that’s where I came up with the idea.
Most recently, One Inc’s Digital Payments Accelerator has become available through the Guidewire Marketplace. Please describe your relationship with Guidewire and how you expect this partnership to increase the usage of your product.
Guidewire is clearly a leader in the core space and they’re an outstanding partner. One of our goals is to have a tight integration between core systems and payments platform – because if it’s hard to get done, carriers won’t want it. Creating integration between core systems and our platforms through Digital Payments Accelerator is a brilliant way to do that. Ours is a full integration; we are deep in our relationship with Guidewire, and it has been well received – more than 60 Guidewire customers are now using our product. As we move forward with solving more issues, integrations with our ERP partners are getting deeper. Our goal is literally a “flip of the switch” integration so carriers can go live with Guidewire and use our entire platform to send out claims payments and other processes.
The One Inc product is widely used in the insurance and insurtech space, with customers ranging from the California FAIR plan to startups like Hippo. What would you say is the common experience between these diverse users?
At the heart of insurance is a promise: I promise to pay you if a peril occurs if you promise to pay me premiums. Having systems and software is what we’re building; every carrier regardless of size or use case needs to make that experience, the most frequent touchpoint as frictionless and digital as possible. Our customers include P&C carriers, commercial lines, life insurers, medical insurers, disability insurers, all across the spectrum. They all need a great customer experience for inbound payments and digital payments on an outbound perspective. We provide both so our customers can make a payment via debit card on the inbound side, and pay claims instantly on the same payment instrument. Having both sides of the equation is very powerful.
We also provide the ability to remove all credit card data from carrier networks. The best way to do that is to use a third party to handle all the actual payment transactions and remove data. That is what our platform can do so the security risk is minimized.
All carriers want to make sure that what happened to Target and other large retailers doesn’t happen to them. A major hack can literally cause a carrier to go out of business. Using a third party like One Inc takes all credit card data off the carrier’s network and tokenizes it so there is literally no data available for hackers to get.
Can you share any specific examples of how the use of One Inc products has improved a customer’s performance (e.g., Hippo, John Hancock, etc.)?
Last year, the CEO of an over 100-year-old carrier announced that the company would be digitizing all payments over the next 12 months. For a large carrier with multiple systems to achieve that required more than 100 people across the organization to examine how paper processes were done. The first question they needed to answer was what actual digitization looks like from the carrier’s perspective.
Two big use cases where carriers digitize are making sure insureds can get information and make payments any way they want to, and having a vendor that can handle all use cases with their platform. Claims payment is probably the biggest area we’re helping carriers today. The other issue is billing -- if I send a bill in the mail and you get the bill and go online and pay it, that’s not really digitized.
Insurance has traditionally been very reactive: if I don’t make a payment, I cancel your policy. We’ve found that this creates a bad customer experience. I myself had problems with a large carrier I had eight policies with because for some reason a bank payment didn’t go through and they decided to cancel all our policies without any notification to us except for a single notice sent through the mail. With our platform, carriers can reach out to insureds digitally when there’s a problem, and the customer can make payment through a text, phone call, or email, through the whole lifespan of a policy. That’s really what’s meant by digitizing the customer experience.
COVID threw a curveball at how insurers operate. What impact did the pandemic have on the demand for One Inc’s products, and how do you see insurers’ operations changing going forward?
COVID really shined a light on these paper processes that carriers need to resolve. During quarantine, carrier employees couldn’t go into the office to print bills, or sign and mail checks. In some cases, CFOs of large carriers had to print and sign checks at home for months. Insureds needed digital access to their accounts because they were working from home. This created a huge demand for digitizing what we’ve been talking about, and that demand has resulted in many carriers speeding up their digital initiatives, especially around claims payments. We’ve seen a huge increase in demand for our services.
We had our own issues in terms of how we act as a remote company. We made the decision to be a more remote company in February 2020, before covid really hit, so we were a little more prepared. It’s made carriers realize that getting rid of paper and digitizing is really important, especially as everybody was ordering goods online, ordering food, going to Amazon – and then turned to their insurer and most weren’t there yet.
What are your future plans for the company?
We have been growing exponentially and have seen a 105% increase in payment volume. Last year we acquired Invenger-InsurPay, which expanded our product line when we adopted their claims payment platform. The big thing we’re moving into now is real-time payments and how to make digital processes faster and better for everyone involved in the payment chain. Our newest product added to distribution is refunds and commissions. During COVID, a lot of carriers had to refund premium, so our platform could digitize those payments and get them out in the middle of the pandemic.
Our goal should be to digitize every single inbound and outbound payment from all vectors. That’s where our growth is coming from, and it’s really an exciting time.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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