It was in late 2016 when London-based start-up Urban Jungle came to life, following insurance troubles revealed here by chief executive and co-founder Jimmy Williams (pictured). In this Q&A with Insurance Business, the CEO talks about “fixing the obvious” and shines a spotlight on the issue of underinsurance among home renters in the UK.
Williams also puts forward an idea for the British government, in hopes of moving the needle as far as take-up rates are concerned. The insurtech boss additionally lifts the lid on how significant it is for Urban Jungle to be supported by former Prudential UK & Europe chief executive Rob Devey.
What led you to form Urban Jungle with chief technology officer Greg Smyth?
Our story starts through a number of terrible experiences with insurance. We lived in a shared house in South London and found that because we were a big group sharing we weren’t able to buy any mainstream insurance products. A week of wasted time, a specialist broker, and a ridiculous price tag later, we got our insurance sorted – but it was a massive pain. Worse still, a claim we made a couple of years later took four months to process.
We looked around and could see that challenger brands were rising up in many other sectors, but not in insurance. No-one was out there fixing the obvious stuff, so we decided it might as well be us!
In your view, how big of a problem is underinsurance among UK renters?
The big problem around underinsurance is that people find it really difficult to value things that might happen in the future and don’t like thinking about bad stuff happening. The combination of that and the fact that renters’ insurance isn’t compulsory, means take-up rates are low.
The big problem is the less common big incidents, where your house burns down or a burglar clears out your valuables. There’s a decent chance of one of the major events happening in your lifetime and it’s very hard to save up against it. Underinsurance is leaving lots of people in major financial difficulty.
With both HM Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority stepping in to address the issue, what is your outlook for the market?
Whatever happens with the regulator, we’ll always keep working hard on this, but we’d like to see them explore insurance premium tax relief on the product. Our aim is to grow the take-up of renters’ insurance by 5-10% in the next few years.
How is insurtech helping to find solutions?
Part of the challenge with renters’ insurance is that it’s quite low-value, so the big insurers don’t focus on it. They are too inefficient to operate profitably in the space. By using technology, we keep our costs super low and as a result expand and grow the category, including developing custom products and building features that renters care about. We’ve been getting really great engagement from renters in what we are doing and are rapidly growing market share.
What does it mean for Urban Jungle to have the backing of the likes of Rob Devey?
It’s been incredibly helpful getting advice from people with lots of experience in the industry and especially Rob. They know the weaknesses of traditional insurers which they have run in the past, as well as the common pitfalls and are working hard to help us avoid them!