The insurance industry is not being left behind in the innovation stakes, says CIO Mark Collins. The new CIO at Ageas insurance in the UK was responding to comments recently made on the Horizon CIO Podcast that the insurance sector is treading water whilst banking makes major inroads with Fintech startups.
“There is a lot more hype around Fintech and banks. Monzo created that,” Collins says. He says there are over 1000 insurance startups in the UK. “So they are coming through thick and fast.”
Challenger banks like Monzo have grown rapidly – Monzo reported customer growth of 5% a week recently, though this has resulted in heavy losses. The bank, which is App only, has won the hearts and custom of a lot of customers. Collins and many of his CIO peers are focusing on the needs of the customer.
“Customers do expect your services to be simple. There is a desire for speed. The challenge is to make it easy to understand and simple,” Collins says. He believes data is the opportunity to satisfy the needs of the customer or potential customer, as well as regulators and a need to reduce risk and see a return for the organisation.
“There is a lot that will have a niche impact, I am yet though, to find a startup that will have significant impact on the top line,” Collins says with honesty about startups in insurtech. On the niche impact Collins refers to flood sensors that can now be deployed and allow owners and insurance firms to more effectively gauge and manage risk. In car insurance, Collins is fascinated by telematics and how it “forces a certain behaviour”.
But the CIO believes the real challenge is in the complex back end of claims, premium and risk where the real need for innovation is required.
“The back end is the real challenge. In most insurance businesses the investment has been in the back end and there are mainframes in operation. But mainframe doesn’t mean you can’t be agile.
“You can harness the reliability and the skill set and then create a way to abstract from the mainstream so it becomes a system of record,” Collins says of mainframe. “There is an IBM roadmap for some time to come.”
Collins said Ageas is working on using its existing data more effectively, adding that all too often insurance company processes place repeated requests for information in front of the customer.
“Customer experience is end-to-end, so be as slick as possible and use that data to be slick. We must have a logical data that provides a consistent service.
“The pace and expectation of change will only increase,” Collins says, adding that making the IT team fit a constantly changing consumer environment means for CIOs the shape of the IT team and technology stack will constantly too.
Collins joined Ageas in April 2018. Ageas is a Belgian business, headquartered in Brussels and operates in 14 nations and was originally named Fortis Holdings; in the UK Ageas providers personal and commercial insurance.
“The focus for me is around the infrastructure and how do we modernise to make employees lives better. So the journey to the cloud continues and the options are fairly significant. We are accelerating towards continuos delivery and making sure we are focused on the customer journey,” he says of his new role.
Collins is the first CIO for the UK arm of Ageas. He was with Vitality insurance from 2012 until beginning at Ageas, the South African insurance business has been, to date, the most successful challenger to the existing market. Its introduction of a membership model that includes an Apple iWatch offer and points system to use the gym has grown into being a business that helps organisations understand the wellbeing of their teams.
Vitality was Collins’ first entry into financial services, having been a business technology leader with Vodafone, the telecoms firm from October 2006 until he joined Vitality in 2012.