John Warburton recently co-founded commercial broking start-up Konsileo, which he says was developed as a response to the lack of innovation in the broking sector.
But before he became CEO of his own company, Warburton worked his way up the ladder in a career in insurance spanning more than two decades.
“I was on what is probably one of the best in the industry graduate training schemes, right back in the 90s, which was Commercial Union,” he told Insurance Business of his beginnings in the industry.
The scheme gave him exposure to real, operational work, which he says was an excellent grounding for his successful career in insurance.
After the graduate scheme came a stint in Asia, working in Hong Kong and Beijing, followed by a position working for a ‘dot-com’ as the internet was gaining traction, an MBA at the London Business School, and several years working for Accenture
Then, in 1994, Warburton joined Allianz
where he spent over 10 years in several strategic roles, including director of group market management and head of strategic innovation.
In 2015, Warburton began working on the birth of brokerage Konsileo – which officially launched last week and is built on its own proprietary broking platform. The idea for the company came years before, though, thanks to “some quite profound insights into how broking should really work.”
Asked what keeps him invested in the insurance industry, Warburton says its appeal is multi-faceted.
“There’s this inherent uncertainty in the economics of insurance,” he said. “There’s quite a lot of volatility in pricing… There’s this sort of oscillation of people’s behaviour in the market and their appetite for risk.”
Plus, the industry, and commercial insurance in particular, is a really interesting people business, Warburton said.
“It’s a real expert area. People live it, there’s a subculture to it, there’s language to it. I think there’s all sorts of interesting angles to it.”
But with the highs come challenges too. Having spent a chunk of his career looking at innovation, including digital and social media during his time at Allianz, Warburton says the industry can sometimes be hesitant to invest when it comes to operational ventures, despite being willing to make often huge gambles on risk investments.
“The flip side of not knowing exactly how things will turn out economically speaking, is that people have real trouble making bets on non-insurance things,” he said.
One of the defining changes he has seen happen in the industry during his career is the commoditisation and dis-intermediation of personal lines – “that’s probably been the big story.”
“I think we’re still seeing the waves of that come through, even a lot of the start-ups, the ones that are focused on personal lines, are almost still trying to plug the gaps that are still there from that movement of commoditisation,” Warburton said of the trend for aggregators and insurers going direct in the personal lines space.
In the commercial space, where Konsileo will be operating, “some of the mindset of the personal lines commoditisation sphere has also bled across,” he added.
Asked what he would be doing if it weren’t for his insurance career, Warburton reveals that he could have taken a very different path.
“When I was in my 20s I was signed up to be a naval officer,” he said. “So I might have gone and done that.”
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