The Editor has a vision of InsurTech products of the future being forged in the Victorian splendour of the past. Plus the insurance industry needs to get out of the London bubble frankly.
Sometimes fate just throws a lucky seven on the dice and the press release today from the agents handling the sale of Brighton’s amazing British Engineerium building is a golden opportunity for one of the big inurers – or their InsurTech partners – to establish a showcase headquarters where innovation meets Britain’s industrial past.
Yes, I hear you say, “All the VC/crowdfunding finance and the PR/media people are in London.”
Maybe so, but London is a short train ride from Brighton and you could argue that Brighton is already a rather genteel suburb of South London, given the huge influx of red-troused hipsters over the last decade or so. In any case, the insurance industry is far too London-centric and surely it is time for a heavy hitter to take the first step away from our over-populated, ridiculously expensive and difficult to travel to capital city. Brighton is also an emblematic LGBTQ town as well, so a HQ there would be another positive step away from the traditional `white middle-aged guy in a suit’ image, which insurance still has, to an extent.
The final reason? Very simple; businesses need to move out because London is a total pain to navigate now. If I want to hold a morning meeting or attend a conference it costs £160 MINIMUM by train. Standard class, not First Class. Drive down? Forget it. It can take three hours to get from Manchester to the other side of Birmingham and then when you arrive in London allow another two hours to get into the centre and park.
You cannot even cycle, or use public transport in London without getting into conflict with other users – every mode of transport is an ordeal, a daily test of endurance. For many women travelling home alone after 7pm at night is also unpleasant and some might say, intimidating. So come on, let’s move on and admit there’s more to corporate life than being in London in an age of Skype, video conferencing and flexible working hours.
Brighton & Hove’ s unique British Engineerium is a truly amazing building and if the Zurich Innovation Foundry was there, then our magazine – and many others – could probably drive there 2 hours quicker than getting into central London. The Freehold of this unique estate is now for sale by the way, with expressions of interest to be submitted before Friday 8th June.
It’s a decent 2.5 acre estate, which adjoins the Greyhound Stadium and City Park, the city’s largest business park. So you could hold a Munich Re Boot Camp there once a year, or perhaps attend the AXA Accelerator Partnership Show? You see where I’m going with this? It is ultimately all about focussing the brightest AI talent, the gifted mentors and the most visionary CEOs in one place. A Menlo Park for InsurTech.
They have spent money restoring this building too, so it isn’t like it’s a crumbling shell which needs millions throwing at it just to open a vegan cafe in the Annexe.
There’s a “Militarium” exhibition hall over two floors, lavishly refurbished to display fully working steam engines, plus a Gate House, ticket hall, shop and café already added. That could be your reception/event space and catering area right there, with minimal re-modelling.
Chris Oakley at Oakley Property is handling the sale:
“The Engineerium is a major heritage site. The steam engines original buildings are Grade II Listed and must remain; however, the could also be an inspiring media centre, or unique multi concession leisure and dining experience with potential D1, D2 or B1 uses.”
For me, the Engineerium has the potential to be a flagship of futurism for any insurance company that wants to shake off its staid public perception, and make itself a catalyst for AI-powered products and smartphone based services. This site is an incredible, rare opportunity. The former World Motorcycle Champion Barry Sheene had a great saying, which went something like this;
“Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out halfway and meet the bu**er.”
Start your engines.