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Complexity and volatility have long been key elements in the world of risk. But a new wrinkle is emerging and is especially visible in the sharing economy: velocity. The speed of risk has become challenging for many sharing-economy enterprises, creating narrow windows of opportunity and sharp reductions in timeframes normally allotted for insurance program design and execution.

As our colleague Mukadder Erdoenmez, AXA XL Head of International Casualty Europe & Emerging Markets writes in a recent piece on insuring the sharing economy: “It sometimes feels as if the sharing economy, which is how companies that facilitate peer-to-peer transactions via an online platform/smartphone app are referred to, emerged virtually overnight.” In fact, he adds, it’s also projected to continue expanding and disrupting many established industries as the range of products and services available through peer-to-peer exchanges continues to grow. For example, platforms offering shared workspaces, storage, delivery and logistics have attracted nearly US$ 2 billion in venture capital funding since 2013.

A fast-growing company, in a short period of time might see multiple opportunities to enter new markets as regulatory environments change and customer appetites shift. Each new opportunity is accompanied by downside risks, however. These include greater exposure to property damage and liability and an increased compliance burden. Protecting sharing economy businesses with insurance policies in differing markets is a complex challenge, and to overcome it, the business’s risk management needs partners that can keep pace with them.

The race is to the swift

Sharing economy businesses have a heightened sense of urgency in making timely decisions to capitalize on their growth opportunities. Managing risk in this environment requires a comparable urgency. In that sense, fast-growing companies need their risk management partners to be equally swift and responsive to change. Partners need to come to the table with a possibility-thinking mindset where the environment is not “if” but “how”.

An effective response involves more than being fast, though. As Zimbabwean-born philosopher and writer Matshone Dhliwayo said: “Speed is inconsequential if you are headed in the wrong direction.” For insurance organizations, service and execution are where the rubber meets the road. The effectiveness of their response to risk is a matter of understanding and anticipating the customer’s needs.

Responsiveness is a function of organizational structure and the team members’ commitment to solve problems for the client. Organizations with too many layers can take too long for information to reach decision makers and flow back down. By contrast, flatter organizations — where decision makers are much closer to the customer — can move nimbly and respond to time-sensitive issues and emerging customer needs faster.


The effectiveness of [insurers'] response to risk is a matter of understanding and anticipating the customer's needs.

Insurance is getting faster

One of the challenges — or, depending on perspective, opportunities — in protecting the sharing economy is that traditional insurance models don’t always fit these new business models.Many Fortune 1000 and startup companies are pursuing rapid growth strategies, which call for expertly tailored risk management solutions. To meet and exceed their expectations, an insurer must be ready, willing and able to support that level of growth and invest in finding ever faster ways to meet their needs. Sometimes, that requires the insurer to look internally and reorganize its resources and processes accordingly. The benefits for the customer — and the insurer — are enormous.AXA XL’s growing expertise partnering with companies competing in the sharing economy across the US, Europe and Asia is transforming the way our teams work. Here are some of the feats that are possible when an insurance company can get leaders at all levels to come together, visualize the destination and commit to helping a customer take advantage of opportunities:

  • Issue numerous policies with customized wordings in less than two weeks. A 30-day standard for issuance of a handful of policies is considered best practice in commercial insurance, but a shorter time frame is almost unprecedented.
  • File regulatory paperwork and receive approval in days or weeks, not months or years.. Having exceptional relationships with state regulators is a must when considering a carrier partner.
  • Deliver results as an integrated team, with actuaries, underwriters, account servicers and business leaders constantly conversing and looking for creative solutions on behalf of the customer.

At AXA XL we understand that to keep pace with the pacesetters our underwriters, claims specialists and regulatory experts need to maximize the use of data and analytics to expedite processes and shorten response time. We are working continuously and, making the most of our global capabilities to create solutions that allow sharing economy companies to not only cover their immediate risks but also enable them to meet their growth potential.



About the Authors

Nina Corbo is Head of US Risk Management at AXA XL. She can be reached at or +1-212-915-6432. Jaime Vento is Chief Underwriting Officer of Global Risk Management at AXA XL. She can be reached at or +1-212-915-6948.

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