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InsurTech Spotlight with Nigel Walsh

Welcome to the ABI InsurTech Spotlight, Week 13. 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 Deloitte Partner, and renowned InsurTech expert, Nigel Walsh.

Hi Nigel, could you tell us in a nutshell what you spend your working life doing?

Navigating! I help our clients work through a number of challenges, almost always focussed on technology and how they deploy it best. This leads to a number of distinct areas:

  • Enterprise Transformation (core systems transformation, like Claims, Policy, Billing etc.) – what I refer to as ‘left to right’ or ‘inside out’ based approaches.
  • Digital Transformation – my ‘right to left’ or outside in approach that many also look to take, often in parallel to the first one but typically includes UI/UX, robotics, data, and so much more.
  • InsurTech - Leveraging, finding, working with (InsurTech) start-ups & incumbent insurers, joining the dots, making introductions and much more. We call this S3 – Sensing, Scanning and Scouting.
  • I own our FUSION lab for Insurance, which is where incumbents, start-ups and everyone in between can come and work.

What has your career journey entailed to get to this point? I can’t imagine becoming an insurance and technology expert was top of your list when you were growing up?

Funnily enough I wanted to be an actuary, always had a fascination with numbers and loved stats at school and through university. I did a sandwich degree course with a 3rd year out.  To find a job, I grabbed a bunch of yellow pages and wrote 210 letters and sent them off to companies in the area (I remember this so well).  I just wasn’t prepared to queue up for the careers counsellor and wait to see what turned up.

I was fortunate and was offered a few opportunities, but the one I chose gave me six months experience in IT and six months in Accounting - I figured “best of both worlds”.

Honestly, I never wanted to go into IT, but I had a knack for understanding people’s requirements and translating them to get the technology to do what we needed it to do. After this, I went through a bunch of software companies and then on to Capgemini, where I led the UK Insurance business for seven years.

Then last year I was delighted to be approached by Deloitte and join the team here which is full of some amazing talent and capability. I often pinch myself and we are very privileged to get to work on some of the most exciting engagements in the industry.

I have always loved technology (and gadgets) but not for technology’s sake – it has to pass the ‘so what?’ test for me, which is so applicable when it comes to insurance and InsurTech. We don’t have the time nor the money for it not be focussed and aligned.

You’ve been one of the leading industry experts on insurance innovation and technology for some time now. Talk to us about how the incumbent players have evolved in this space in recent years.

It reminds me of the saying ‘those that watch the world go by and those that make the world go by’. There are very few companies now who don’t talk about innovation and the need to do things, be agile or move quicker. Some are just that – really great at talking about it. However, what is encouraging is the number of companies who are now beyond talking and giving it a go.

I have helped companies identify and define the areas that matter most to them (be it a technology challenge or business opportunity to explore), what to focus on and why, whether to partner, look to make investments in firms etc. Do we establish a lab, a garage, a shed? Do we use our own people or get help?  These are just some of the questions we get daily.

So, they are mostly all doing something, some much faster than others, some with greater degrees of success than others, but those still talking and not doing should really get a move on. In my view, it will be quite hard and expensive to play catch up later, if at all!

And how do you see the landscape for the ever growing surge of InsureTech start-ups? Is all the hype justified?

YES! We are still at the very beginning of the journey in my view, given the scale of the challenge ahead. Just ask any insurer whether they want a cheaper legacy estate with a better way to engage brokers, customers, agents and partners.

New firms are breaking down age old problems and then rebuilding them in more efficient and effective ways. And with all the money flowing in, we will see more and more folks encouraged to compete here. I remember when the hype started there was one company that did ‘chatbots’; now there is a whole host of them. We will of course see failure (but hats off for trying), success, consolidation and acquisition. Normal hype cycle behaviour!

Between incumbents and start-ups, the market is facing disruption right across the value chain. Which sectors of the market and which parts of the value chain in particular do you think are seeing the most exciting progress being made?

If you follow the money, the simple answer is distribution. This by far has had the most investment to date, however it may not be where all the value is; it’s just easy pickings.

Claims is everyone’s moment of truth, yet there is so much still to be done just to play catch up to the other frictionless experiences we have become accustomed to. I’ve had personal experience of both great and woeful experiences here, and the latter is something no one should ever have to experience.

Finally there is the use of Data and all the buzzwords that surround it (AI, Machine Learning, Big, Small, etc.) to understand and predict risk better. This in turn will move us from a reactive claims management industry to a proactive service organisation. I love all the use cases and examples from health, to motor to connected offices that have emerged over the last few years.

As someone with a global perspective, I’m interested in your views on where the UK, and London in particular, sits as an InsurTech hub? Is there more that policymakers can do to facilitate the UK being a great location for insurance innovation and disruption?

This one of course is on everyone’s mind given the political changes underway and will be implemented over the coming years. It’s imperative that we provide the certainty needed for these global carriers to be able to do business and remain competitive whilst at the same time seeding and enabling the right talent here in London and beyond.

Keep an eye on Germany as there is such a hot bed of activity and start-ups now there focussed on Insurance.

And finally, what keeps you busy away from work? Could you tell our readers something interesting about you?

Ha, so I’m a middle-aged dad, with two young kids and a very understanding way smarter wife than I (PhD in Psychology) who fully supports me in doing what I enjoy so much. What that means like many of us, is a full-on week followed by dad’s taxi at weekends, clubs, parties, lessons etc. 

I’m also always up for a challenge and there’s definitely a competitive streak in me. It’s a great way to support a number of charities in doing so. Over the years I’ve cycled from London to Paris a few times, from Geneva to Nice, completed Tough Mudders, Duathlons and most recently started running after saying I could never run for 10+ years because of my asthma. I’ve just completed my second half marathon (see pic) which was great. Sounds like a mid-life crisis now I read it!

I was also the ambassador for the Princes Trust at Capgemini and am likewise supporting the efforts here at Deloitte – such a great cause for supporting young people.

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Last updated 30/11/2017