Insurance Technology: Betterview Features Defensible Space; Clara Analytics Tackles Commercial Auto; Ascend Raises $30M for Premium Finance

Insurance Technology: Betterview Features Defensible Space; Clara Analytics Tackles Commercial Auto; Ascend Raises $30M for Premium Finance

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Betterview, an insurtech provider of property intelligence to property/casualty insurance companies, now has available what it calls its Defensible Space feature that enables insurers using the company’s Remote Property Intelligence Platform to better protect vulnerable properties against catastrophic weather damage.

According to CalFire definition, defensible space is the buffer created between a building on a property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it.

Betterview’s Defensible Space feature includes a color-coded map and a numerical score for each structure. The map displays the amount of defensible space in each of three zones, as defined by CalFire and other disaster preparedness authorities, surrounding the structure. The score, similar to Betterview’s Roof Spotlight Index, shows the defensible space for each structure, and how vulnerable it is to damage.

In addition to this map and score, the Betterview platform pulls in weather and catastrophe-specific third-party data from companies such as RedZone and Canopy Weather to further inform a property’s level of risk.

“Defensible space has become a major area of interest for P/C insurers recently,” said Madeleine Lopeman, lead data scientist for Betterview. “In addition to overall property condition, insurers writing in high-risk regions are starting to consider how maintaining defensible space helps protect properties against damage from different types of catastrophic events. This new feature easily identifies the defensible space for each structure and provides a score indicating whether that space is sufficient or not to protect against damage.”

CLARA Analytics Takes On Escalating Commercial Auto Claims

As commercial auto losses continue to climb, CLARA Analytics, which provides artificial intelligence technology in the commercial insurance industry, has released its latest Litigation for Commercial Auto, which helps insurers evaluate litigation risk, identify the best attorneys for each claim, resolve claims quickly, and control escalating costs.

“Powered with advanced AI technology, insurers now have a path to control the rapidly increasing costs by optimizing claims management and avoid litigation,” the company says.

CLARA uses natural language processing to perform contextual analysis, incorporating structured, semi-structured and unstructured data into its AI analysis.

“CLARA Litigation for Commercial Auto was launched at a critical time for this industry,” said Tom Warden, chief insurance and science officer at CLARA, noting that legal costs make up 40% of losses for commercial auto.

Ascend Raises $30 Million

Insurance payments platform Ascend raised $30 million in Series A equity funding, bringing its total funding raised to $39 million along with a $250 million lending commitment to finance insurance premium loans through its platform.

The funding was facilitated by Hudson Structured Capital Management Ltd. — doing its reinsurance business as HSCM Bermuda — an investment adviser that specializes in reinsurance, insurtech and transportation investments.

Ascend Co-CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Wynn said this capital raise came at the right time as the insurance industry has changed a lot in the past few years due to disrupters such as digitization, COVID-19 and the hardening market.

“Those changes helped prime the market for a product like Ascend, and now we’re at a point of rapid growth,” he said. “In order to scale our team and our product, we felt it was necessary to bring in the additional financing.”

Ascend’s payment APIs (application programming interface) and no code products automate insurance payments end-to-end, whether it’s through an online point of sale with buy now, pay later financing or the distribution of commissions and carrier payables. With these products, the company aims to make the process of buying commercial insurance more efficient.

“Traditional premium financing companies allow for payment plans and the cultivation of relationships. However, they can be difficult to work with and cause more friction than they alleviate when it comes to workflow,” Wynn said. “Ascend’s no-code and API products eliminate the need for independent agents and brokerages, online sellers, and distributors of commercial insurance to build their own payment offerings.”

The Series A funding was led by Index Ventures with participation from new investors such as Distributed Ventures and its anchor limited partner NFP, a global property/casualty insurance brokerage, HSCM Bermuda, XYZ Ventures, and a series of strategic angel investors. Also participating were existing investors First Round Capital, Susa Ventures, and FirstMark Capital.

Wynn said the lending capacity will be used to streamline both commercial and personal lines of insurance loans, helping to ease the friction with modern financing infrastructure and the increasing demand for high-quality customer experiences. The additional equity capital will be used to hire dozens of new team members on the product and marketing side out of Ascend’s New York, Columbus and California offices.

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