Insurtech UK CEO on making the UK the global hub for insurance innovation

Why insurtechs are the 'grit in the oyster'

Insurtech UK CEO on making the UK the global hub for insurance innovation


By Mia Wallace

The thought process behind Insurtech UK’s decision to appoint its first-ever CEO was simple – after five successful years, the time was right to take the only trade association for insurtechs in the UK to the next level. The organisation soon found a natural leader in Melissa Collett (pictured), who was drawn to the opportunity to combine several of her passions – insurance, technology, and standing up for consumer rights.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been focused on ensuring consumers are treated fairly and achieve good outcomes,” she said. “I’ve seen firsthand how traditional insurance can be cumbersome, hard to access and sometimes unfairly exclude. That’s why I’ve long been a champion of insurtech, because insurtech has the power to make insurance easier, faster, more accessible, and more inclusive for customers. Insurtechs are the ‘grit in the oyster’ – stimulating insurers to embrace innovation.”

Insurtech UK mission

Collett noted that the mission of Insurtech UK is an ambitious one – to make the UK the global hub for insurance innovation. What that means in practice is creating an ecosystem that supports startups in obtaining access to funding, while continuing to nurture those businesses as they grow and evolve. Access is the key word here, she said, access to funding, partnerships and policymakers and at the heart of her role, is bringing that access to the widest possible membership. 

“I believe we have the tools to do it,” she said. “When I look at our existing membership and partners – and we have over 100 members and 30 partners already - I see the really strong foundation that we’re building this mission on. But I’d really like to see us broaden our base to include more insurers and investors because I know our members are very keen to meet and partner with them.

“To those considering joining or partnering with us, I’d remind them that we are one of the largest insurtech alliances in the world. So, joining means getting access to insights, access to partners, access to investment, access to key stakeholders in the sector and access to new markets globally. It’s essence, it’s about access to a community.”

Global insurtech leader

Collett highlighted the collaboration required to achieve the weighty ambition of making the UK the global insurtech leader. Insurtech UK has been quick to partner with UK bodies such as Innovate UK and the Department for Business and Trade, she said, and this has helped foster the exponential growth enjoyed by UK insurtechs since they burst on the scene in 2015.

She noted that the ‘The Nexus of Insurtech’ report recently carried out by McKinsey & Company in partnership with Insurtech UK offers a clear picture of where the UK stands today in terms of insurtech investment – but also where it could go next. Among the key findings, it was revealed that the total value of the UK insurtech sector is estimated at $20 billion, with London playing host to more insurtech ‘unicorns’ than the rest of Europe combined.

“The UK has the highest density of insurtechs among major economies, so it really is a global epicentre of insurtech at the moment,” she said. “But the great thing is that it’s not just London-centric, one-third of the UK’s 280 insurtech firms are based outside of London. And certainly, we have Insurtech UK members all over the UK. Something high on my agenda is to go on a regional tour next year to talk to them and share the insights of this report with them.”

Insurtech advantages in the UK

Another key advantage of the UK market and why it is such a renowned insurtech hub is its customer base, she said, because UK customers are some of the most sophisticated insurance customers in the world. They’re very heavily insured compared to other countries but they’re also more open to innovation and new products which represents a tremendous opportunity for insurtechs looking to start in the UK.

“There are so many factors that make the UK attractive as an insurtech destination, which is why I’m going to the ITC Vegas conference in the US this month to highlight the findings of this report and the advantages of the UK to investors and insurers at the conference,” she said. “That’s really important because, in order to scale, there needs to be investment coming into the UK, as well as the opportunities to expand globally beyond the UK. It’s a two-way street that could be most beneficial.”

There have been lots of examples of insurtechs being successful abroad and then expanding into the UK as part of their rapid scale-up, she said, and so she’s keen to promote the advantages of the UK as the next destination on their expansion agendas. She highlighted how Insurtech UK has opened up a corridor between the UK and the state of Connecticut in the US, particularly Hartford which is known as the ‘Insurance Capital of the US’.

“We’ve built some really good relationships with our counterparts there,” she said. “On a previous trade mission I went on with Innovate UK, we met the regulators, the trade associations, the universities and insurers and reinsurers in the market there and found they were extremely receptive to having UK companies come there to scale and to make Connecticut their first landing spot in the US.”

There’s no question that without the right attention and investment, the UK could stand to lose its status as a hub for innovation. With that in mind, Insurtech UK is actively involved in lobbying on behalf of its members to make the regulatory environment in the UK as favourable as it can be for growth.

“There are some barriers that make it difficult for insurtechs to become carriers in the UK and the process can be very lengthy and onerous,” she said. “That’s something that we’re speaking to regulators and policymakers about on behalf of our members to try and make that smoother and encourage more insurtechs to become carriers in the UK rather than having to go and set up abroad. That’s one of the key policy issues we’re continuing to focus on.”

Looking to her first year in place at Insurtech UK, Collett shared how excited she is to be working with some of the most innovative entrepreneurial businesses in the UK. These companies are all about fostering creative solutions to support consumers in getting access to uncomplicated but innovative insurance products and she’s delighted at the prospect of getting to work alongside many more as the association’s membership continues to grow.

“By the end of the year I want to see our community grow, to see it thrive,” she said. “I want our insurtechs to be well connected in the UK and globally, and I want to see an ecosystem in the UK that encourages growth and helps innovative companies to serve customers. And, finally, I want Insurtech UK to be the go-to place for new insurance startups.”

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