Insurtech: Driving innovation in the insurance industry

14 Dec 2017

How is insurtech driving innovation? Image: Guguart/Shutterstock

Liberty IT’s Felim O’Donnell talks about being on the crest of the insurtech wave.

A number of years ago, I worked in the banking industry and everyone was talking about fintech.

I remember clearly attending a talk from Brett King (author and co-founder of Moven) in early 2012, where he talked about the technology that was coming to help start-up companies disrupt the traditional banks in the same way that the music industry, video industry and book sales industry had been disrupted.

In the last couple of years, we have seen these predictions starting to bear fruit, initially with the likes of Simple Bank and Metro Bank; and, in the last year or so, we have seen the likes of Atom, Monzo and Starling Bank all receive their banking licences.

The main strategic driver for fintech is the customer experience. These digital banking platforms offer ease of use for the customer, which can be difficult for incumbent banks to match.

They also offer integration into other digital platforms, which are more and more part of our daily lives. The strategy argument stands up when you start to consider the examples King gave in his talk back in 2012.

I personally never thought I would read a book on a device rather than in paper form but, when you have instant access to any book you want (providing you have a credit card and the right app), and when you can access that book from a device in your pocket, then it becomes harder not to go with the new technology.

So now, I work for a company building insurance software and, as part of a natural evolution, everyone is talking about insurtech. Global insurtech funding reached $1bn in Q2 2017 (150pc higher than in the same period a year ago).

Insurance companies are reacting the same way the banks did with the emergence of fintech. There is an increased focus on customer journeys and identifying what the customer needs (not just what they are asking for), and there is also a focus on integration insurance offerings into broader social technology ecosystems. It makes for a really interesting time to be working in technology.

At Liberty IT, we have always had a focus on technical and engineering excellence but, over the last 24 months, we have had a heightened focus on innovation.

Two of our applied innovation team members (Gillian McCann and Gillian Armstrong) were on stage at the AWS re:Invent conference last month talking about how they built a cloud native platform for creating conversational (chat) interfaces.

Using the latest Amazon voice services to make the agent-employee journey easier is starting to get really interesting.

But it isn’t just our innovation teams; we have been rolling out our collaboration platform (the LIT Method), which has been used by teams to experiment more on solid engineering practices and techniques. We have also been collaborating across many teams to change our mindset.

We don’t do projects; we now build platforms to deliver products. This combination of innovation, technology and engineering is an extremely attractive value proposition for our customers.

All of a sudden, insurtech is very real and it feels like we are on the crest of a wave.

By Felim O’Donnell

Felim O’Donnell is the account and operations director at Liberty IT.