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InsurTech Spotlight Urban Jungle

After a few months off, the InsurTech Spotlight blog returns this week. In the past, the blog has interviewed the leaders of exciting InsurTech businesses, InsurTech and innovation leaders within ABI members companies, InsurTech experts, commentators and investors. This week is no different, as we talk to Jimmy Williams, the Co-Founder and CEO of Urban Jungle.

Hi Jimmy, could you tell us in one sentence what Urban Junle is all about?

Urban Jungle gives customers access to cheaper, better suited cover, and quickly. Right now, we’re focused on helping renters, which until now has been a massively under-served space.

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

A couple of years back I took a sabbatical and drove from London to Cape Town. It was amazing, we spent most of the time driving off road and camping wild. Without a doubt the craziest and most fun thing I’ve ever done (other than starting an insurance business!) I still use the car as my London runaround.

So why should insurers, and their customers, care about Urban Jungle?

Customers expect more from their insurance providers nowadays. People want and expect it be like ASOS or Netflix, but instead are having the same insurance experiences that their grandparents had. Our team have a background in insurance, but also bring experience from e-commerce and media. We also spend a lot of time with a younger base and have a unique insight into how both their expectations, and the types of risk that they face are changing. We work with insurers to help them improve products and increase eligibility among renters. This is a segment in which they have been shy in the past, and which can no longer be ignored because of the rapid growth in the number of renters. This helps us get more customers covered, with better suited policies, and more quickly.

Don’t renters just have lots of parties and break things!?

This definitely has not been our experience so far. The profile of a renter is changing massively. Younger people are getting branded ‘generation sensible’, but we’re also seeing a changing breed of renter. People are renting much later, which means they are much more likely to go through more life stages in this time. For example, many more people rent with children now. We need to evolve insurance products to match these changing needs.

Talk to us about the influences that led to your decision to build a business in the insurance sector.

It all started years ago for me, when I was renting with a few friends. We were all professionals who were (fairly) sensible and had start accumulating things we cared about. We found it almost impossible to get cover - I couldn’t believe it! To me, it felt totally unjust. That, plus a couple of nasty experiences in non-fault motor claims, got me really interested in the sector.

I then spent some time working with various companies in insurance as a consultant. When I got under the hood I could see all of the problems that insurers and brokers are having with legacy technology. It just seemed like there was a huge opportunity to build something with a clean technology stack which was much better.

And what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced up to this point in doing so?

Insurers can be a conservative bunch; it’s a generalisation, but they often struggle with new things. We like to go from idea to live in 6-8 weeks, and either double down or kill it depending on whether it's working or not. It can take me that long to get a meeting with an insurer sometimes! We’ve worked with some great people who have helped us overcome the bureaucracy of their own organisations, but the reality of running an InsurTech like us that works with insurers is that you need to co-track a load of things and hope that they don’t all come to a head at once!

How do you think insurers should approach working with InsurTechs?

For me, the most important thing for insurers to do when working with startups is to not use any existing internal process. They need a new startup process, which is picked back to the bare bones on things like compliance and stakeholder sign off. For example, we’ve walked away from various things because it was taking months just to get the right people in the room. To allow for this, it’s best to work in bitesize chunks, which most startups would be happy with.

We’re a few years into InsurTech now, and it seems to be becoming clearer which models might work. How do you see the future of InsurTech playing out in the coming years?

I know a few people like BoughtByMany have been around for a while now, but I think we are still pretty much at ground zero with InsurTech. Insurance is such a huge market, and we’ve only seen a tiny fraction of what’s to come. I always use retail as an analogy - you spend about the same on non-food retail as you do on insurance in a given year, and there are thousands of businesses operating e-commerce. It’s exciting to think about what entrepreneurs will come up with over the next few years.

Finally, what do you expect to have achieved with Urban Jungle in a year’s time?

At the moment we’re growing at an incredible rate. When your customer base doubles every 3 months, it’s hard to think about what the company might look like even over a year’s timeframe! I suspect we’ll have added a load more products for renters, and also be moving into new segments. We’d like to support our customers as they move on to buy their first place, so it’s likely we’ll move in that direction.

Last updated 22/10/2018