This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Insurance series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and insurance.
In this interview we speak with Brent Williams, CEO of Benekiva, to understand how his company using blockchain to transform the insurance business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Benekiva? Why and how did you begin?
BW: In 2014, I was working as a trusted financial advisor for a Fortune 500 insurance and investment company, and heard from a continuing education course instructor that a tremendous number of life insurance policies go unclaimed each year. Granted, plenty of industries today operate around broken systems and need to be examined and disrupted, but the problems affecting the life insurance industry felt more urgent. This is an industry where the beneficiary making a claim is presumably already dealing with a life event that is emotionally and materially taxing. The last thing anyone in that situation needs is to have to deal with an equally distressing claims process.
Motivated to make a difference, I began researching the 258-year-old life insurance claims industry, connecting with insurance carriers, CFOs, claims professionals, attorneys and even began interviewing my own clients. One client assured me that when a beneficiary files a claim, insurance companies simply write them a check. After digging deeper, however, I found the process is actually fraught with a series of bottlenecks. Among the most significant is the audit process, a required and substantial recurring cost for insurance companies. Through my investigation, I eventually confirmed what I’d heard from the continuing education instructor in 2014. Two-thirds of the policy holders and beneficiaries I interviewed either experienced issues with the life insurance process themselves, or knew someone who had.
2. Please describe your use case and how Benekiva uses blockchain:
BW: Benekiva’s end-to-end platform integrates with legacy insurance systems to dramatically improve the life insurance experience for claims professionals, policyholders and beneficiaries. Rather than having to login to multiple systems across different providers to complete the claims process, claims professionals need only login once to Benekiva’s system in order to manage everything. Benekiva enables claims professionals to process claims anywhere and on any device.
Benekiva has integrated with Fluree’s blockchain database technology to improve the auditing process. Audits, conducted by regulators, can take upwards of numerous weeks to prepare, requiring insurance companies to commit extensive time and resources. Fluree’s graph database solution stores data on a blockchain, and can enable the insurance industry to easily commit all of its claim data to an immutable blockchain ledger, ensuring auditors unprecedented integrity. Fluree’s unique time travel feature not only ensures auditors access to an immutable body of key insurance data, but it allows them to query that data chronologically and over the course of the claims process timeline. Leveraging our Fluree integration, we can cut down the time it takes regulators and claims professionals to complete an audit from weeks to a matter of minutes.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
BW: Benekiva launched in March 2018 and has three life insurance carriers that have implemented or are implementing the claims solution in their organizations. We currently have three POCs that are underway.
In terms of our integration with Fluree, it’s still early days for blockchain in the insurtech and insurance industries. Today, Benekiva is focused on educating our network of carriers and partners on our Fluree integration and the benefits blockchain poses for the industry at large. My colleagues and I have committed a lot of time to speaking engagements and events where we can address these stakeholders directly, get a sense of the obstacles they’re dealing with and coach them on how they can overcome the reluctance of their organizations to adopt blockchain.
4. What other blockchain use cases in insurance are you excited about?
BW: In addition to streamlining the audit process, my team and I are looking closely at blockchain’s potential to eliminate things like insurance fraud. In removing much of the confusion around the claims process, Benekiva has already done a lot to stem this problem among the carriers we serve. Above all, however, blockchain’s capacity to be a major disruptor in this space is due to its ability to build systems of inherent trust.
We believe at Benekiva that our end-to-end platform paired with Fluree’s advanced blockchain-based database solution can create the foundation for an improved claims experience and greater transparency, which ultimately helps the consumers and claimants. One where carriers, claims professionals and regulators are not burdened by audit work, and claimants have less complexity to deal with.
5. Where will Benekiva be in 5 years?
BW: Today, my team and I are working hard to reform the life insurance industry in a big way, and establish a platform every immediate stakeholder across the claims process feels comfortable using. In five years, we want to expand our influence and begin disrupting the experiences of a larger number of stakeholders also implicated in the broader “end-of-life” industry. There are, for instance, plenty of opportunities to take the model we’ve developed for our current platform, and extend it to help reform the claims processing in banking and retirement accounts, estate management, and the experiences of estate trustees and beneficiaries.
Over the next five years, our partnership with Fluree will continue to play a pivotal role as we work to persuade a greater share of carriers and providers to adopt blockchain technology. Fluree’s graph database design, in particular, will be key in achieving consistent data management even as we integrate data for a greater number of stakeholders and for a greater number of processes. Fluree’s inherent flexibility maps as much to our broader mission as does its provisions for blockchain.