Straight talking from the Editor’s keyboard, as we enter a new decade. Get set for the Roaring Twenties; Massive investment lies ahead, the Go button is going to be pushed on hundreds of deals, mergers and new projects, and most important of all, Insurtech Is Going To Shake The World.
DOGS BREXIT IS BETTER THAN NO BREXIT
First, let’s deal with Brexit. It won’t mean that the UK leaves the EU as regards following the rules on financial regulations, data protection, serious fraud or insurance cover whilst driving in the remaining EU bloc. That would be madness, and no politician will allow such disparity between the UK and the EU, although there will be the usual posturing, preening, point-scoring and tedious arguments throughout the decade ahead.
But look at the bright side, the General Election proved one immutable truth; the public are sick and tired of any further debate or back-pedalling on Brexit. For better or worse, we are forging ahead. Good.
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO
In the last few years money has poured into insurtech projects, start-up companies and partnership deals between bigger players and smaller fish that have big ideas, but lack the resources to market and distribute them globally. But you know what, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The Telegraph reported that an estimated £4 billion went into the London stock market in the ten days or so of trading after the GE result. Globally, gold bullion, stocks and shares, land, luxury goods such as watches, second homes, yachts etc have all seen demand rise as the wealthy look for relatively safe investments. There is plenty of potential investment cash out there, it just needs luring out of the luxury villa market and into insurtech.
As regards the UK in particular, throughout 2019 surveys by business journals, Chambers of Commerce and the CBI all suggested that companies large and small were stockpiling cash, building up reserves of goods, delaying the hiring of staff and putting off important investment decisions. That uncertainty, in most sectors of the UK economy has now vanished. That means the brakes will come off and the green light will come on for all kinds of business deals.
CHANGE WILL HAPPEN, ADAPT OR DIE
Insurance is still ripe for change in so many ways. Car insurance is stuck in the 1990s, with TPFT or Fully Comp the default options. Ridiculous. PAYG has to replace that tired model. Home insurance needs to rethink itself, as smart devices connect people to their stuff.
`Alexa, find me the cheapest car/bike/contents/Rolex/Luis Vuitton handbag insurance’ – that conversation is going to happen everyone, so wake up! Build something good before Amazon do it for you.
Health insurance is another distress purchase that needs to be re-aligned with people’s lives. The consumer buying decision points are out there online, but very few companies have realised the potential that lies in selling WELLNESS cover, not scary-scary, you-might-die insurance. Big difference. Huge.
LONDON IS NOT A SEPARATE COUNTRY, THE REST OF US MATTER
As well as private investment, there can be little doubt that Johnson’s new government MUST inest in infrastructure across the neglected regions of the UK – even Scotland – for poltical reasons. The seats won so surprisingly in December 2019 could just as easily drift back to Labour, or others, if voters see no return on their investment, apart from getting Brexit done. That all adds up to HS2 being cancelled, new green energy power plants being built, tech hubs being set up in the North, Wales and Midlands, plus new roads, hospitals, schools and all the other stuff that is simply wearing out under the load of coping with Britian’s ever-expanding population.
For brokers, insurers and MGAs alike, there is the opportunity for public-private partnerships over new fintech R&D hubs that SHOULD be located at a handful of locations around the UK. Online banks like Monzo and Starling are a natural fit with insurtech start-ups like Zego, Dead Happy, Genasys Tech, ThingCo, Buzzvault and many more. Those companies should have a Google campus type location built by a pro-business government, so that new ideas can thrive in a hothouse environment. Innovation could be nurtured anywhere; Belfast, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Lincoln, Nottingham – it doesn’t matter, so long as it is ANYWHERE BUT LONDON.
The barely disguised contempt that many academics have for business across UK Universities needs to be dealt with, at a fundamental level, if this public-private partnership is to truly light the blue touchpaper for UK Plc.
For decades many Universities have bolted on Business Schools as an afterthought, basically a bit of bait to catch some company funding for various courses and personal empire building via endowments. Every single one of them needs to be re-branded as Start-Up Academies, with tutors who OWN companies doing the teaching, plus course materials that are truly cutting edge, not some copy & paste SEO workbook from 2016.
Finally, and most important of all, the days of de facto Londonista domination when it comes to creative new companies has to come to a shuddering halt if the Twenties really are a decade which roars ahead. There is no god-given right to glam, well paid, tech jobs held by the residents of Shoreditch or Brighton. That message needs to be drummed into the heads of public sector departments, and insurance companies. Talent knows no limits; skin colour, gender, accent, class or age.
Those who can turn up, work hard and make things happen need to win places at Start-Up Academies, while those who were born with a sense of entitlement but regard profit as a dirty word, should be directed elsewhere – The University of Virtue Signalling is perhaps a better bet. This decade could be as transformational for Britain as the 1980s, when the jobsworthism of the 1970s, the clapped-out nationalised industries and the neo-Edwardian housing stock of much of the UK, was all consigned to the dustbin of history.
The world is awash with money. Our country is full of people buzzing with creative, futuristic ideas and energy. Let’s get to work in 2020, let’s re-invent insurance for an online age that works, seamlessly, and adapts to people’s lifestyles without box-ticking or tedious phone calls. If we make it less painful, more transparent and more customisable, then insurtech can truly realise its promise.