The Covid pandemic has prompted many insurers and brokers to accelerate their digital transformation. But for brokers it can be difficult to spot new trends, or demand, and respond rapidly by building a new scheme. One way to speed up that process is to have a chat with Adam Bishop at SchemeServe. Which is exactly what IE did.
IE; How did SchemeServe get into building insurance systems for schemes?
AB; We’ve been in business for 20 years now. When we started it was all about replacing legacy systems and building desktop websites that were very much like online shop windows. It’s easy to forget how things worked in the early days of the internet, it was often about getting people to pick up the phone, very few people actually bought a policy online.
Now, we’re essentially about solving problems and giving the market a seamless insurance lifecycle. The tech gives users more time, freedom, and security to grow. Yes, it is true that we can get insurance products up and running in days, and speed to market is vital, but equally important is that we have a proven process with 20 years of innovation under our belt. MGAs have traditionally been our niche, but our offering now is much broader than 12 months ago; we cater for brokers (with agency management and accounting), MGAs (giving them policy admin and scheme design) and now increasingly we work with leading insurers
on distribution in the UK and internationally.
SchemeServe has over 300 schemes now on its platform across multiple lines. Quite a bit of that growth has been under the radar. In some ways we are a sleeping giant because all that build experience gives us a real insight into what works.
IE; What were the key changes in the last ten years or so online, the events that really changed digital insurance?
AB; Definitely the cloud. We were born on the web and the first to do that in insurance; it changed the way data was stored and suddenly there was a lot more flexibility, but we were perhaps a victim then of being ‘before our time’ – very few in the market understood or embraced the cloud at the time. Then came the launch of the iPhone back in 2007. Suddenly people began to shop online and also started to expect things to work better. I guess the expansion of Cloud and Amazon Web Services from about the same time was the other big change. It became possible to deliver everything faster, to a handheld smartphone and you could do lots of stuff on the move. In the 90s everything had to be done online through a cable, but smartphones enabled brokers and insurers to reach customers anytime, just about anywhere.
IE; If a broker was launching a new product today what would be your top tips for them?
AB; First, I would say promote your head of User Experience to Board level. Really. It is that important. So many brands in the insurance sector still have online products and processes that are poorly designed in terms of the customer experience. UX is the difference between mediocre and great insurtech. Also, I always say to clients learn something about SEO, or hire someone who does get it. By that I mean creating readable content, stuff that’s useful and interesting, not just throwing money at a PPC ad campaign to buy a page 1 position on Google. Focus on getting all the technical details right, doing some A/B testing, checking the bounce rate etc. and then putting some useful, persuasive content up there. Optimise for humans, not search engines.
IE; How important is timing when it comes to launching new stuff?
AB; As an industry, we are sometimes failing with new insurtech ideas because the time isn’t quite right. In some ways it is easy to be ahead of the perfect launch moment because you tend to build for the future. But any new idea, like say an out-of-the-box solution to an existing insurance problem, can still fail because of things like weak communication with the customer, the end user. For brokers, speed to market with schemes is vital, which is why we can get new schemes up and running in 10 days.
IE; Do you see varying levels of online expertise across the UK broker spectrum?
AB; Definitely. Some bigger brokers, MGAs or insurers might have a crack team of digital specialists within their organisation. So they know web design, SEO, apps, APIs and much more. Others and this is true of smaller brokers, might only have a handful of staff responsible for the online offer. That’s where you need support because there are always other things to do within your business. What you don’t want to do is lose focus and start to become an IT company, rather than an insurance brand. That’s why we have Wunderwriters – engineers that all come from insurance backgrounds, so they understand insurance, but their focus is the technology – we call it Obsessive Support.
IE; What new niches do you see developing for brokers after Covid?
AB; One thing we have noticed now is that many brands are essentially rebranding existing products to make them more appealing, and easier to use, as a purely online offer. The other thing to consider is that we are going into a post Covid recession in some respects. Brokers should be agile in looking at future trends but the end of lockdown, furlough and other factors all present opportunities. SchemeServe probably enjoyed its fastest period of expansion after the financial crisis of 2008-10.
The time is right to think global right now; cyber is going to be huge and the best strategy is perhaps having your cyber protection health-checked in every device that policyholders use. Joining up data and spotting cyber threats is going to be just as important as underwriting the actual risk.
Then there’s the new normal as regards work patterns. Less commuting and more home based business set-ups. The home/workplace hybrid model opens up the Home and Commercial insurance sectors alike as the lines blur between the two. As you collate more data from homes, or cars, then there’s potential in all the technology that surrounds AI risk pricing. More personalised quotes, and renewals. More automation in both those processes. That’s not to say that there won’t be a place for the human element in underwriting especially in niche areas, but AI underwriting really opens up possibilities for brokers.
IE; What about new tech like Blockchain, can that help speed up claims or compliance processes for brokers?
AB; It can, but the impact of Blockchain isn’t huge. The UX is the core element of every system, every website and app. That means that brokers can succeed by making AI and a well designed user experience online work together to solve problems. Things like chatbots for example, which are still developing AI-learning techniques, can only be a help if they’re giving online policyholders the answers and information that they’re looking for. The future is similar to the past in one way; see an insurance problem, and solve it by deploying a better UX. We know that works.
IE; Adam thank you.