Lloyd’s of London recently revealed a “Response to COVID-19” programme via its accelerator the Lloyd’s Lab, to enable the insurance sector to bring coronavirus related innovations to the marketplace as quickly as possible. Three businesses were selected to participate in this fast-tracked Lloyd’s Lab, among them Dialogue, the specialty insurtech focused on credit and political risk.
Dialogue, which is building an online platform for brokers and underwriters to create, submit, negotiate and place complex credit and political risk insurance (CPRI) transactions, has joined the Lab for a ten-week programme which involves partnering with mentors from managing agents across the market. The founder and CEO of the start-up, Ben Heaney (pictured), recently spoke with Insurance Business on how Dialogue first came to be and what this vote of confidence from Lloyd’s will mean for the business.
Having spent almost 10 years working as CPRI broker in London and Paris, operating in both the retail and wholesale environments Heaney left his role at Aon to go dedicate his time to Dialogue. He noted from his time in the market as a broker, and briefly as an underwriter, the real gap in the provision of a bespoke platform for niche and complex classes such as CPRI.
Before Dialogue entered the marketplace, this landscape was comprised of three disparate categories, Heaney said. The broker-controlled platforms made up the majority, but these broker-centric approaches meant they would only be used by that specific broker. The underwriter-controlled platforms, meanwhile, are flawed from a broker’s perspective because the brokers need to approach many more underwriters to undertake a comprehensive marketing review for their clients.
“Thinking logically, an independent platform solution should solve this problem,” he said, “and I do think we’re getting there, that we’re on the road to a successful solution. But if we look at the current platforms out there… I don’t feel, and our users don’t feel, that a one-size-fits-all approach works, where you can place any type of risk on the platform.
“What we believe is that you should absolutely have a platform, but you need to make sure that platform is tailored towards [your] competency as much as it can be. And that is what Dialogue is all about, and we’re starting with CPRI.”
When Lloyd’s first came out with this new cohort, Heaney noted that applying was about more than just winning a place and that the theme of the application ‘Responses to the COVID-19’ highlighted what Lloyd’s believes the market needs the most at this time. Dialogue’s solution fits neatly within this parameter, he said, and he saw the opportunity to accelerate its development within the lab.
Heaney outlined how the insurtech applied for the lab with three concepts, the first two both specific to CPRI and the third a more generalised innovation for the entire global marketplace.
The first pitch was to complete and transact a recognised electronic placement for CPRI (as an example of complex risk), which has come a long way in terms of development and testing.
The second, which is nearly completed, he said, is the creation of the world’s first standardised dataset for CPRI. While this class of business has been around for several decades, many brokers and underwriters are using slightly different terminology to describe the same thing, so Dialogue is developing a functioning version of a data standard that anyone can use, for example, to enhance internal systems.
“The third concept proposed to the Lloyd’s Lab was an expansion of an existing product that we launched last year called Box Hours,” he explained. “We said, ‘look we’ve got this functioning website that was received really successful when it launched and… what it does is allow underwriters to post their availability to a centralised area where brokers can see that availability.’
“And if you’ve worked in the market, then you’ll know that weekly email or alert from an underwriting team which tells you when they will be available. But there are so many managing agents at Lloyd’s and, as a broker, there are loads of underwriters that you want to speak to. And it’s much easier, and it’s much more obvious and logical to have all this information in one place rather than searching around all the individual alerts.”
When Dialogue launched the product last December, the idea met with significant success and users found the process highly accessible as it required no training and so, Heaney said, it was pitched to Lloyd’s Lab as a concept which could be executed both quickly and with great efficiency. While it was originally designed for CPRI risks, the team at Dialogue had built its functionality so that it could be expanded to encompass multiple classes.
The need for this solution has become much more marked in the time of COVID-19, he said, which has seen the landscape become increasingly complicated. Now it is not as simple as figuring out whether underwriters are in the office or at Lloyd’s as the pandemic has meant so many are working remotely and can only be reached through a variety of different communication channels. The need for innovations which match the flexibility demanded by the COVID situation has never been more evident, and it will be fascinating to note the long-term effects these will have on the insurance marketplace.