Insurance Edge caught up with John Bibby, CEO at CETA recently. The independent broker sector is in a period of transformation right now and more tech is being deployed to help those with non-standard needs find the right types of cover.
IE; How did CETA start out and find its niche?
JB; We’ve being going for 25 years now and the CETA name originally stood for Central Electronic Trading Agency, which sounded really hi-tech at the time. We used to store customer records on floppy disks instead of using paper filing cabinets and that was considered cutting edge a long time ago!
We specialise in Home, Trades-persons and Sole Trader cover, boats and caravans – anything that doesn’t quite fit the mainstream really. In 2017 there was a private equity backed buyout and since then we have built a brand new digital trading platform which we call Infinity. The great thing about Infinity is that it allows other brokers or Independent Financial Advisers to find all sorts of bespoke cover online. It uses tech to back up the traditional personal broker touch if you like.
IE; So is a high net worth client has say two properties, a car abroad at the second home, a workshop at one location that’s also a part-time business workplace, Infinity can help a broker cover all the bases – sort of online Lloyd’s syndicate?
JB; It’s maybe closer to an Amazon for brokers and IFAs. In the same way that you get pretty much anything you want from Amazon, you can cover almost any risk using Infinity. So say you had a HNW client who lived on a houseboat, rented out another property, needs life cover etc. then you can sort out quotes very quickly – even when there are issues like flood plain postcodes, convictions and so on. What it does is find solutions to common problems within the insurance sector.
IE; there are always going to be customers who fall through the net in some regards though?
JB; Yes always, but we thought about that a few years ago. We developed a product called Lightning, which uses data enrichment to generate a binding quote. Because the more data from a range of sources that you can consider then the more accurately and quickly you can quote.
We also got to a point where we could use technology to build new insurance products to meet the demand. So let’s say that you can’t find cover on a particular risk, or a new trend emerges in the economy, regulatory change prompts new insurance queries etc. We built our own MGA to help resolve these problems, which is called Arkel underwriting and it sits on the panel within Infinity too. The thing is that GI enquiries tend to open the door on other insurance needs, so it’s good to have that level of flexibility within your system.
An IFA could get into a conversation about a mortgage for example and that will lead to buildings and contents, life cover changes, boats maybe – there are all these follow-on scenarios.
IE; We have to mention Coronavirus and the effect this could have on the number of empty properties, as many people are stranded and away from their main residence for months. What about the usual 30 day empty property clause, how can insurers deal with that?
JB; Yes houses and commercial premises are possibly going to be empty for months, so new short-term cover needs are perhaps best for many people. Then you have lots of small businesses who have to relocate to working from home. If you’re in say jewellery and you normally fire up a blowtorch in a workshop, then you don’t really want to be doing that at home in your garage without the right cover. With Infinity, multi-locations can be covered for business use, like everyone in the industry now we are trying to be as flexible as possible to help policyholders.
IE; The Corona epidemic has made the mainstream media forget about all the people affected by flooding. Do you think that tech can help improve flood insurance in terms of detailed risk by individual property, not just postcode?
JB; You can pull in official flood history data, Google Earth photos and things like local flood defences – or the lack of them. But are we at the point where policyholder’s smartphone footage can be added into the system, along with drone filming and public domain photos? Not yet, that’s still the future.
IE; What’s the most unusual building quote that CETA has done?
JB; Probably insuring floating caravans. Definitely something that’s non-standard and interesting tech as they rise up along with the water levels. Think they are designs that started out in the Netherlands. Fact is, people do love living near water even though there is that ever present risk, so it’s great to enable them to live that lifestyle.
IE; Are you finding some traditional small brokers and IFAs are struggling during the virus lockdown?
JB; A few are yes, and it tends to be in rural areas where the broadband isn’t that great so working from home is difficult. CETA can help IFAs right now in fact, by putting you into our Infinity system and generating quotes for you. We will pay a brokerage fee and try to take care of any admin problems if you haven’t got home or remote working 100% up and running yet, or you have some key staff self-isolating for obvious reasons.
Everyone in the industry is determined to get through this crisis and keep on providing a great service for brokers and customers alike.
IE; Thanks for the insights.