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InsurTech Spotlight with Waleed Sarwar

Welcome to the ABI InsurTech Spotlight, Week 12. 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 Waleed Sarwar, Founder and CEO of CoVi Analytics.

Hi Waleed, could you tell us in a nutshell what CoVi Analytics is all about?

The nutshell version - CoVi is all about making compliance simple!

But let me paint a few details in. At CoVi we break the compliance journey down into two legs – ‘Regulation to Interpretation’ and ‘Interpretation to Operationalization’. We are developing an AI powered SaaS suite to simplify and automate these journeys.

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

I’m not sure how surprised the audience will be, but I am a gamekeeper turned poacher. Prior to starting CoVi Analytics, I was working at the UK regulator (PRA) as a policy advisor. My day job involved putting in place rules for insurance groups under Solvency II.

Other than that, I am an avid photographer and videographer. Before CoVi, I used to make music videos for UK based Indi bands in my spare time.

Having worked in consulting and for the PRA, what inspired you to change tack and become an InsurTech founder?

When I started working on the idea of simplifying compliance I knew nothing about InsurTech, RegTech or the start-up world of accelerators, incubators and the endless stream of conferences.

All I had was a question of how can regulation and compliance be simplified, a question that dawned on me while at the PRA, after seeing how overwhelmed firms were under the weight of compliance. In my search for an answer I started exploring ways to visualise regulatory information with the right context to simplify compliance, giving birth to the company name ‘Context Visualised’ (CoVi).

So to answer your question, I never intentionally set out to become an InsurTech founder – I simply wanted to make compliance simple.  

How different is your average working day now compared to working in an established corporate environment?

Interesting question. Short answer - it depends on whether we’re in a product deployment or development phase.

Regarding deployment, I think of it as a tennis match. No matter how fast a game you want to play, the overall pace of the game is set by both players. To that extent, we often end up normalising to our clients’ pace. That’s not to say we don’t push to increase the tempo but given that we are dealing with the most conservative folks (risk and compliance) in a very conservative sector (insurance) we need to be realistic in our expectations.    

Regarding development, the delta between pre & post corporate life is the highest. In addition to incorporating customer feedback, we spend a few days every other month working on a completely unrelated project. For our last project we had 48 hours to create artwork that could express feelings. These projects help break the monotony and inject some creativity into our problem solving when we get back to our day job.

I can’t imagine taking a break from monthly reporting to do this in an established corporate environment.   

You’ve been a participant in Startupbootcamp. What did you get out of that programme, and how important is it to be building your business in a city with not only a thriving insurance sector but also a thriving tech community?

The most valuable takeaway from Startupbootcamp was understanding how to deliver and iterate our message.

Given the un-sexy world of compliance, our biggest challenge has always been to excite the gate keepers of firms at conferences where we have been pitching alongside the much more sexy chatbots, internet of things innovations and other brokerage solutions. We never had any problems exciting our target audience of risk and compliance folks, but these folks tend to be too busy fighting fires back at the office.

The second most valuable takeaway was obviously the network of mentors and partners who have been a great help in refining our proposition.

Talk to us a little more about why you think the services CoVi Analytics offers are so exciting and important for insurers.

CoVi is empowering firms to take control of their business processes.

What do I mean by that? Currently, insurers are running many of their compliance processes in parallel to their business processes, with an aim to tick a regulatory box. Every regulatory update triggers a new project (most recent – GDPR) which brings with it new processes, more tasks and more spreadsheets.

CoVi is re-designing how compliance requirements are communicated within the business – not via policies, standards and procedures, but rather through a set of activities linked directly to the regulation. This unique approach to simplifying compliance, supported by technology, is what’s exciting our current customers to take the first steps with us.

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

In addition to growing our presence in the insurance market, our main goal for 2018 is gaining traction with brokers and intermediaries.

Many start-ups don’t realise that getting authorised only gets them Day 1 compliance. There are regulatory expectations that certain activities are undertaken on a regular basis to retain authorisation.

Currently we are shadowing a start-up through their MiFID application and are in discussions with a few MGA applicants. By summer 2018, we plan to offer an out-of-the-box compliance solution for intermediaries that can configured for their business with minimal effort.  

Last updated 23/11/2017