I left an insurance company… to build an insurance company
It was the clearest decision I’ve ever made. At the beginning of the new year, I had no choice but to hand in my letter of resignation to Aviva. this may have seemed like an unwise choice, considering he wasn’t walking into a flashy new job. instead, he was pacing in utter uncertainty. When people asked me why I was leaving, there were some puzzled looks as I honestly explained “I’m leaving to build an insurance company.” probably not what most women in their twenties dream of.
Reading: How to start an insurance business
customers deserve better
Insurance wasn’t an industry I knew much about before I joined it, and it’s fair to say I “fell into it” like many others. It wasn’t long before I was underwriting trading risks, trading with brokers, passing my IIC exams, and having all the correct jargon rolling off my tongue. however, when I was away from my day job, I was asked the dreaded question “what do you do for a living?” knowing that my answer would unblock all sorts of customer frustrations. this ranged from hours spent shopping, not having the slightest idea what they are really covered for, why their premiums keep going up, and the sheer belief that insurers would cheat them at every opportunity. And I hardly blame them! insurance is very opaque to the average customer and is often rated as one of the worst industries for customer satisfaction.
incremental change is not enough
I was wondering what the hell was going on in the industry that was making customers feel this way and what was being done to change it. I started by looking at the parallels between innovation in insurance and innovation everywhere else. we tend to judge the things we interact with through a process of comparison. Today, with the tap of an app, you can exchange cryptocurrency, call an uber, monitor your health, and share photos with strangers around the world. what all these new apps and products have in common is that they are immediate, simple and completely transparent… and this is what we, as consumers, expect. Now let’s go back to insurance, and in the last few decades all that has changed fundamentally is the distribution channels. direct online shopping and comparison through aggregators are the key innovations we have seen; other than that, customers are buying exactly the same products as before.
Appearances are deceiving
Insurers have been talking about the digital age, transformation, big data and disruption for some time now, and have invested vast amounts of money and resources in these areas. Despite the optimism and desire, achieving real change from within the industry is like moving a tank of oil, and it’s no surprise that legacy systems and legacy thinking keep the incumbents from moving fast. you would expect to see real penetration coming from outsiders, as has happened in other industries. the conditions are perfect: customers are dissatisfied, the market is old, it’s a trillion pound industry and it’s time for something clear, transparent and concise. so it bothered me that there were hardly any new start-ups revolutionizing the way insurance is traded today. Surely insurance should be a breeding ground for entrepreneurs?
what is a typical day like in brolly?
Why doesn’t anyone innovate?
Is it because the tech-savvy youngsters who dominate the world are unlikely to have used insurance products, therefore it’s just not on their industries radar to “disrupt”? I have realized that this is not quite the case. Insurance is on the hit list, but insurance is riddled with complexities that present a huge barrier to entrepreneurs who don’t have a deep understanding of its inner mechanics. Add the additional barrier that insurance is one of the most highly regulated industries with ever-increasing capital requirements, and it’s not surprising that many are staying away. sure you’ve been wallowing comfortably in a lukewarm bath for too long, developing deep wrinkles. It’s been decades since it’s seen radical change, and it’s crying out for a facelift.
change will happen
Now it’s just a matter of time. we are swimming in new data points to analyze risk, new ways to market to customers, connected devices, changes in customer behavior, and revolutionary technological advances like blockchain, neural networks, and artificial intelligence. That’s why I gave up building an insurance company, because I want to create a better future for customers. Currently I have been in the first entrepreneur program for a month and I have begun to build an umbrella. It’s going to be a great journey and I hope you’ll join me here on this blog.
phoebe hugh is co-founder and CEO of insurance startup brolly, www.heybrolly.com, co-founder of ambition first, a talent organization focused on diversity and inclusion, www. ambitionfirst.com, and former employee of aviva.