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InsurTech Spotlight with Edmund Dilger

Welcome to the ABI InsurTech Spotlight, Week 10. Each week I’ll be putting questions to one of the movers and shakers of the UK InsurTech arena – the leaders of exciting InsurTech businesses, InsurTech and innovation leaders within ABI members companies, InsurTech experts, commentators and investors. This week we talk to Edmund Dilger – Founder and CEO of PolicyCastle.

Hi Edmund, could you tell us in one sentence what PolicyCastle is all about?

PolicyCastle is a digital platform for selling and managing insurance, enabling increased service levels for customers and insurers through better use of data; we sell to consumers under our own brand and also have a white label offering using our technology.

And what about you – could you tell our audience something interesting or surprising about you?

I have been chased by a black bear and a polar bear, on different occasions and in different locations but within the space of a month, while working in Canada. Both times I got away unharmed, but I like to think my risk assessment skills have improved since then.

We’ve seen PolicyCastle in the press recently on the subject of insurance discounts for smart homes. Talk to us in some more detail about how you’re helping an insurance carrier with this offering.

What we are doing is creating the first “live” database relating different smart home devices, perils and claims, and we will work with insurers to provide tailored policies for customers based on the data – we are developing our first specific smart home product with an insurer at the moment. We have seen a huge amount of interest from insurers in the benefits from smart home devices.

Discounts are available for new or existing PolicyCastle customers who have installed in their homes qualifying surveillance or leak detecting smart devices from a range of manufacturers. We are going to work with nCube, a smart home hub that allows users to control and monitor their whole home from anywhere in the world with one single app, to access the detailed usage data provided by the devices themselves and also to access a wider dataset than just the devices that qualify for a discount.

Why do you think it’s only now that we’re seeing innovation like this emerge in the home insurance space when motor telematics has been around for so long?

Motor telematics adoption has been driven (sorry!) by the insurance industry and the devices are trackers of an existing activity. The observer effect works in driving as it does in quantum mechanics - the tracking in itself discourages bad driving. And the insurance USP of lower premiums for young drivers is a clear selling point.

Smart home devices have developed separately from the insurance industry, so from the start there has been a different set of expectations regarding what the tech is for and how it should work. Also many smart home devices potentially create a new set of behaviours, they don’t just track and effect existing behaviour. Consumer adoption of smart home devices at scale is still relatively new, so there isn’t a long track record showing the impact of a smart camera or a leak detector, let alone how different types of customer may use them. And of course it is still uncertain how well some devices work. By coincidence cyber risk moved up the agenda at the same time as smart home devices have become more popular and perhaps that has meant the sector has focused more on the potential negatives than the positives.

What have been the biggest challenges in creating a new business in the insurance industry?

Our biggest challenge is to keep moving fast, not always easy when dealing with large organisations (though I don’t think insurance is any worse than other sectors in this respect). However, the second biggest challenge is to avoid taking the path of least resistance just because it will be quickest.

What role do you think firms like yours can play in helping improve the reputation of the insurance sector?

I am sceptical that insurtech is going to improve directly the reputation of the insurance sector as a whole with consumers; the challenger banks haven’t improved the reputation of banking, though they may be individually popular with their customers. As a sector I think we don’t make enough of the benefit provided to society by insurance; we should shout more about the good news stories.

I think insurtech may help attract a wider and more diverse pool of talent into the sector, which I think may help in the longer term.

Finally, what would you expect to have achieved with PolicyCastle in a year’s time?

We have achieved a lot in the last 12 months and we have a very long list of things we want to achieve within the next year. Most important is to continue to improve our service to our customers, using the data they provide to us and external data. To choose one thing from our To Do list, I would like our customers to realise how easy it is to set up their photo inventory within their PolicyCastle account on their smartphone.

Last updated 26/10/2017