The insurance industry has a long way to go to improve the lack of females in insurtech c-suite and technology roles 

By Technology editor Clare Ruel

Senior level technology and insurtech jobs have long been thought of as a man’s game, in my opinion. 

Clare Ruel

Clare Ruel

A quick skim of the founders of top insurtechs proves this theory to be true – most of these founders are men.

This begs the question – where are all the female insurtech founders and chief executives?

Business data firm Crunchbase reported in 2020 that only 11 investments in female led insurtechs were made that year – this equates to 4.2% of the 262 insurtech investments that were completed in 2020.

Katie Palencsar, managing director and global head of venture studio at fintech investment company Anthemis Group, told me that she has always championed women working at the helm of technology and insurtech companies, but “it wasn’t always looked upon positively to talk about female founders, data and what’s happening”.

But Palencsar believes “female founders are over-mentored and underfunded”.

For example, data from capital market research firm PitchBook, published in October 2020, revealed that funding for female founders hit a three-year low in the third quarter of 2020 - PitchBook attributed this to the Covid-19 pandemic having a negative effect on female and minority founded startups.

Driving change

Founded in 2010 by co-founders Amy Nauiokas and Sean Park, Anthemis Group is on a mission to create “change in financial services”, Palencsar explained. The business is a venture capital fund and platform that invests in fintechs, including insurtechs.

In alignment with Palencsar’s views, Anthemis Group practices what it preaches - 52% of its overall staff are female and 57% of the decision-makers in its investment team are women.

For Palencsar, this level of female employees in a tech, finance and fintech focused business is rare.

Another way Anthemis Group has sought to support female insurtech entrepreneurs is through its Female Innovators Lab Fund, which was launched in September 2019 in conjunction with banking organisation Barclays.

Designed to bridge the funding gap experienced by female insurtech founders, the programme aims to help female entrepreneurs and their founding teams with concept development, business launch and seed investment, connecting insurtechs and investors.

Palencsar said: “What we started to look at is where the needs of our founders were – how could we leverage our networks, not only from a financial institution capacity, but this female investor pool that we have. That’s how the Anthemis Female Innovators Lab Fund was born.”

The fund now backs female entrepreneurs in fintech and insurtech across the UK, Europe, Canada and the US.

On 27 September 2022, insurer Aviva became a strategic investor in the Female Innovators Lab Fund, contributing $10m (£8.7m).

The insurer’s investment will specifically support UK-based fintech firms that are founded by women.

Palencsar added: “[What Anthemis Group has] done over the past few years is shattered the notion of a pipeline problem and that’s what has been allowing us to really grow this fund and expand it rapidly.”

Starting from the back of a napkin

Palencsar, who joined Anthemis Group at the end of 2019 to lead the Female Innovators Lab Fund, told me she had a track record of “starting things from the back of a napkin and building revenue streams within organisations”.

Her past experience makes her a suitably apt leader of the Female Innovators Lab Fund - she founded data services firm Unbound Concepts in 2012, which she later sold to Certica Solutions in 2017.

For me, the representation of female founders in insurtech has somewhat improved – a couple of examples spring to mind, such as Tapoly’s chief executive and founder Janthana Kaenprakhamroy and Upsurance’s founder and chief executive Nour Alnuaimi.

However, the insurtech and insurance industry as a whole still has a long way to go to reach a more balanced gender split in leadership positions.