An Insurtech Identity Crisis

November 18, 2021


Tom Spier
Tom Spier

I was asked a question a couple of weeks ago, one that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. “Do you consider yourself to work in (Re)insurance or Technology?”

My gut reaction was to retreat into my comfort zone, the one I knew so well. “Reinsurance” I replied, without a hint of hesitation in my voice. After all, that’s the industry that I’d grown up in. Since I was 18 years old, paying my way through University by handling motor claims at Churchill Insurance in Bromley, this has been the industry that’s driven my career and my thinking. I credit the industry with the life I have today, the travel around the world (a few times) and some of the greatest friends and influences in my life. “It’s not sexy, doesn’t win you friends at parties, but it’s what I know and love” I thought to myself.

But, despite my apparent conviction in the heat of the moment, I’ve not actually transacted any insurance business for almost eight years and it’s been ten since I actually worked for an underwriting entity. Why do I still consider myself a (re)insurance person?

One reason for this is the sense of inclusiveness that exists in the market. Even as a vendor, a provider of services or technology, I’ve always been made to feel part of the ecosystem, part of the community that protects what matters most. If (re)insurance is the great enabler, enabling people, companies and whole nations to take risks and do things they never thought possible; then insurtech is the enabler to the enabler, reducing friction and facilitating ever more and ever more exciting business. Moreover, we’ve seen many vendors actually driving market collaboration and creating ecosystems that can connect the different market players together.

But being close to your market can drive a temptation to replicate it. My role focuses around developing the commercial side of the business. How we can prove our product is fit for the market; develop attractive value propositions that reinsurers, brokers and cedents care about; drive a self-propagating referral network through service excellence and use this to grow across territories, client types and create a self fulfilling cycle where our success breeds even more success for our clients and partners. Considering this, and despite my roots, I realised that always thinking like a (re)insurance practitioner might not be the best way of enabling the reinsurance market to flourish from a technology standpoint.

The (re)insurance world approaches its value proposition in a very particular way. Yes, product development specialists drive some innovation. The technical and wordings specialists have an important role to play as products develop but so does the market. Brokers and Underwriters have a hybrid role of selling old solutions at attractive but responsible rates; developing new products built around the needs of their core markets and internal risk appetite; and providing top-notch service during the transaction. Arguably, the meat of the value of the product is delivered at the point of loss, at which point specialist teams will step in with the aim of delivering on the trust and promises made throughout the term of the relationship with that customer.

This is where the approaches of (re)insurance practitioners and technology companies need to begin to diverge. Important lessons can be learned from the hybrid roles performed at (re)insurers, but differences must be acknowledged and dealt with as well.

It is absolutely no good if technology companies deliver a transaction with a client but the person that sold the solution has little or no involvement in the value delivery. The private lines insurance business gets media stick for only communicating with customers at renewal time when they want more money from them. It is essential that we don’t fall into the same trap as providers of reinsurance technology.

Equally it is detrimental to our aims if the product team working to improve our software is removed from interactions with clients and prospects before a sale happens. When product development teams are organisationally separate from sales teams then development is stifled and (re)insurers fail to find the connection they need with future product development. It’s important to make the market a stakeholder and have as much buy-in to what the product will be as what the product is now.

It’s for these reasons that we’ve built out the structure of our commercial function at Supercede in a particular way. We structure our account management programme so that the lead salesperson that sold you the dream can never step into the background, only to return to request more cash or deliver the news of an inflationary price increase. We ensure that product managers are directly involved in every product trial, every new relationship and every onboarding experience. Finally, we created an entire department to bring all of this together in a scalable and repeatable way. Our Client Success team is borne out of foundations set by SaaS Technology companies having people responsible for “Customer Success”, but we add that insurance flair, the confidence that can only be provided by a (recovering) practitioner in the space. Project managing and coordinating all of the other functions of the company to fit the reinsurance space like a glove.

We’re proud of our roots in reinsurance; we’re proud to be run by practitioners and we’re proud to fit everything we do around the market that is so generous to have included us as an equal and embraced our own reinsurance ecosystem with open arms. We reject the label of “disruptor” too often applied to tech companies like ours and revel in enabling the enablers.

It’s for that reason that I think I’ll be answering the question at the top of this article differently in future. I am an enabler, I help reinsurance companies to be better; which in turn helps the world to be better.

I work in Reinsurance Technology and I’m proud of it!