How do you start a transformation process in insurance?

Hamish McDonald Nye, executive director at ProRisk Underwriting, explains the firm's 'Eureka moment' as it established itself as a five-star insurance innovator. He talks about the company's transformation process and innovations that are on the horizon for the firm.


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Speaker1: [00:00:13] Hello and welcome to Insurance Business Television, I'm Danny Wood, news editor of Insurance Business Australia, and we're delving deeper into our five star insurance innovators for 2021. One of our innovators is Pro Risk, the Australian underwriting agency. Hamish MacDonald is the executive director. Welcome, Hamish, and congratulations. And what do you think is the most important quality that makes you a five star insurance innovator?

Speaker2: [00:00:40] What do you think about this and what sort of ingredients went into developing the business out as it has no say? I think it's the teamwork. It's the outstanding team that we put together, including our lead on the project, Matthew Mark and our product designer, Jane Douglas. Without them, we couldn't have put this all together. And I think secondly, it was really the vision and having people buy into that vision, that's that's critical and it helps, you know where you're going, what you're trying to achieve. And that's probably the second thing. And then sort of lastly, it's really knowing who our clients are and what we're trying to do for them. And those clients in our case are our brokers. So being led by our clients and what they need

Speaker1: [00:01:29] And you are actually an interesting case for a sort of insurance innovation study because you started life was quite an old fashioned underwriting agency, but you've gone through this big change process. What was there a eureka moment back in the day when you started this process or something that made you think we've got to transform this underwriting agency?

Speaker2: [00:01:52] It's an excellent question, and there was a step that I came across when we began the journey, and that was that 70 per cent of the insurance journey for most customers starts online, probably with a Google search. And the problem with that is it doesn't get satisfied there. So I realised there that there was a an opportunity to create a solution that satisfied that journey for customers and for our brokers as well. Having a solution where people can access it 24 seven on weekends after hours was was critical.

Speaker1: [00:02:34] I mean, you're saying we but people in the insurance industry are famous for being quite old fashioned. They like to meet face to face. They're not so hot on technology a lot of the time. Did you have any issues convincing your colleagues that this transformation was necessary?

Speaker2: [00:02:48] I don't know that we did. I think we were all very excited by it, and I remember specifically having a an offside with the whole team and proposing the path that we were going down and the insurance industry. It might be old fashioned, but it's actually got a lot of very young talent in it. And when I'm talking to my staff, you know, by and large under 35 about, you know, creating a new model for distribution, new products, new technology, making it easier for them and serving our clients better. I don't think there was that much resistance to change more just enthusiasm for the the overall project.

Speaker1: [00:03:30] Can you talk about a couple of milestones on this journey? What are some important sort of technology changes that you had to make on the way?

Speaker2: [00:03:38] Well, we were targeting a pretty big project and we we set out to totally rewrite every product, all of our rating methodologies, our processes and how we engage with our our brokers. It was a mammoth task, and so there were a lot of milestones along the way. But interestingly, the first one was really we had a cyber event. We had a ransomware attack in the peak of our trading season, mid June. And what it did was it meant that we couldn't communicate with anyone and we had to work very quickly to try and create solutions. When all of our systems were down, all of our phones were down and it was during that two week period that we actually launched our first platform. And for me, that was pivotal because it said, Look, we can do this no matter what technology will give us that stability and strength and a difference in the market. And I think was a was a significant event for the business in general and the way that we approach change and and and technology. I think maybe the second thing was when I realised that this thing was really taking off. We hit our first year user registration goals within the first four months. So I did all my return on investment calculations and all of our. But I didn't anticipate have been so successful, so quickly. And the third is a kind of quite a recent goal that we had we'd set for ourselves and have now achieved and that was to deliver our first API driven solution where we are allowing a third party to use our API links to to use our platform. But they control the user experience in the front end, and it's the first of several ensure text that we're working with to deliver a different experience to to customers.

Speaker1: [00:05:51] Some of this technology journey involves accepting that you need partners that are going to control, like you say, the front end. I mean, some some ensure tax and insurance industry people might be a bit uncertain about letting go of some of that control. Is that is that one of the things that you think has helped you innovate?

Speaker2: [00:06:09] Well, look, we have trust with all of our business partners and brokers, and there's there's there's a need to to be able to create solutions which which serve our customers best and insureds best. And we know that brokers are the perfect, perfect avenue for that to happen. And having third parties that understand the customer journey and try and satisfy that through technology is really important to us and the trust thing. Well, we have a lot of vision on what our distributors do. Technology actually makes that easier. And our API technology means that we are really confident about what happens along the customer journey. But we also review those those front end platforms to make sure they're compliant because we live in a highly regulated industry and just make sure that all of the boxes are checked there. But once that's done, really, it's just creating a better user experience for people. And and, you know, the trust just follows.

Speaker1: [00:07:19] Hmm. You mentioned hacking, and it was just very interesting to hear you talking about your launching of this new product while you actually were having a ransomware attack. I mean, a lot of people might think we're going attack where it puts us actually in more danger from that sort of thing, but it sounds like innovating and using more tech as sort of protected you in some way.

Speaker2: [00:07:43] Well, I think so, we've had versions of our platform for two years, and we haven't had any downtime in that period. We've done extensive penetration testing every single year, every time we launch a new function. And you know, there is a risk, there is a danger with any technology, but we all live and work with technology. That risk already exists. It's it's making sure that the platforms are robust and and that they're they've got good uptime. And so far we've got 100 per cent uptime and fingers crossed that continues, but you can't be complacent.

Speaker1: [00:08:26] Mm-hmm. Are there any innovations that you're looking at at the moment that are on the horizon that you can talk a little about?

Speaker2: [00:08:33] I mentioned before that we're we're doing some partnerships to ensure tech's giving them access to the platform through APIs. And there's a few of those solutions and some great niche areas, one which we've recently backed and launched. It is a business called Uncover, really excited by what they're doing, but we've got some partnerships with some traditional intermediaries and brokers, and they're using our technology as well and and then also some some other businesses know fleet businesses who are really excited by what we can do because in that area of the industry, there's very heavy regulation and it's hard to comply without fantastic technology around it. So that's that's that's something that's coming down the path and where or has been launched and is really exciting. The other thing is we have recently launched our chat bot who's called Katie and and we're doubling down on that, trying to make sure that even if it's not within normal business hours, we can respond to any queries from brokers. And in the two weeks since we've launched it, we've had amazing feedback. And I think that's a great innovation that will continue to build out with more and more answers. And with that sort of, you know, great questions and great great responses, a great user experience that's there. Twenty four seven.

Speaker1: [00:10:08] Mm-hmm. How did you come up with the name Katie?

Speaker2: [00:10:10] There wasn't an awful lot to it. It was. It was really just imagining a personality that we thought would resonate with our brokers. And I think that's key to a lot of the things that we do. We we're just looking at our brokers, our client and making sure that we design things that are going to work for them.

Speaker1: [00:10:30] Hmm. I mean, with a chat bot, I can imagine some people being quite frustrated dealing with a chat bot, but it sounds like you've got the chat bot, right? I mean, what have you done to make sure that Katie isn't just a source of frustration?

Speaker2: [00:10:43] We surveyed an awful lot of and the great team of developers who have massive experience in this area, but we've been in business for eight years and in that time we feel that a lot of questions and it's really understanding what questions are likely to be asked and and making sure that we have adequate responses to those questions. And it's it's not been complacent. It's constantly innovating and building it out so that it continues to evolve. To answer queries that brokers have on a day to day basis,

Speaker1: [00:11:22] Looking at the industry from a wider perspective, for a second, we're coming out of the COVID pandemic. Natural disasters left, right and center. It's a very hard market, meaning as someone who's been in the industry a long time. What do you see as your biggest challenge right now?

Speaker2: [00:11:38] Well, I think we've gone through an unprecedented year of regulation, and I think that hopefully it slows down, but that's a challenge for all businesses. It's especially small businesses where we're a small business for 32 staff and trying to deal with updating products or just the layers of regulation. That's that's a real challenge. And it's there for a reason, but doesn't make it any less costly, whether it's in time or actual money to respond to those challenges. And I think that, you know, that's all here to stay. So that's probably one big challenge. But technology keeps on changing, and I think you just can't be complacent. You've got to stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations. And it's not the case that you just build a platform and that's that you've got to continually look at iterating it, making sure that it's suitable for your client and you're staying abreast of the major trends.

Speaker1: [00:12:42] Hamish, thanks very much for joining us.

Speaker2: [00:12:45] Absolute pleasure. Thanks, Tony. Sure.

Speaker1: [00:12:47] And Hamish MacDonald Nye is executive director of Pro Risk and the underwriting company Pro Risk is one of the five star insurance innovators for 2021. Thanks for watching everyone. Bye for now.