Ignite speaks exclusively to Insurance Times about the launch of its new in-house accelerator for startup brokers, which it hopes will address the lack of women in broking and insurance technology jobs 

Ignite Insurance Systems (Ignite) has today (10 January 2023) launched its very own in-house accelerator aimed at startup brokers. 

The policy adminstration software house will be aiming to co-fund an equal 50/50 split of male and female founders – given the lack of female founders in both broking firms and insurtechs.

In March 2022, Aviva’s chief executive Amanda Blanc noted that it could take the insurance industry three decades to achieve gender parity in senior level roles.

On a similar note, business data firm Crunchbase reported in 2020 that only 11 investments in female led insurtechs were made that year – just 4.2% of the 262 insurtech investments that were completed in 2020.

Ignite will be targeting women via insurance networks to achieve this goal. 

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Ignite’s managing director Toby MacLachlan said: “Over the years, Ignite has provided policy administration systems to lots of brokers – maybe 20-30% of them have been at startup brokerages that use our technology to run their company. Some of the most successful brands have been from those that have done this.

“We have combined this with the knowledge that there aren’t as many female leaders in technology or insurance as there should be. It’s something we wanted to make sure we did our bit for as a platform and to provide opportunity for that.”

Firms that join the accelerator will be there for 12 weeks, however they will probably be partnered with Ignite for at least the first year. Ignite hopes to take three or four firms on this year in its very first cohort.

Skin in the game

Each Ignite employee involved in the accelerator has relevant expertise.

For example, Christian Wright, Ignite’s head of business development, knows the technology market inside out having worked at CDL for 21 years.

Meanwhile, MacLachlan himself has implemented a great deal of systems and learned the complexities of this process.

He explained that “one of the big things that startups often struggle with is capacity” – and added that building a network for this project was vital to counteract this.

Speaking about the sort of candidates Ignite is looking for, Wright added: “We need people who have got some skin in the game, who have been in insurance, they need to have been in something relevant. [But] a lot of it is going to come down to our gut feel as to whether or not these [candidates] are capable of doing it.”

MacLachlan added: “We are seeing this as more of a point of attraction for individuals or small groups of individuals – we are trying to encourage insurance professionals and help them set up something new.

“We are not ruling anything out. Insurance is an exciting sector to be in, it’s somewhere you should want to work in and it’s innovating. If you are a dynamic person with ideas, this is an outlet for that. We’re expecting people with good business ideas.”

Lack of women in insurance

Addressing why Ignite decided on aiming for a 50/50 ratio target of males and females, MacLachlan continued: “It occurred to us that we should not just be doing that from a staffing point of view but also from a business systems point of view.

”We should be creating and playing our part to create the conditions in which opportunity could arise for women to get involved in starting up new enterprises.”

To achieve this, Ignite has been observing businesses and what it can do to encourage more females to come on board.

For example, the firm has been looking closely at job specifications, how these are promoted and how company culture is talked about.

Secondly, Ignite also noted that a number of successful c-suite staff in corporate legacy companies who were entrepreneurial wanted to set up some kind of business but needed funding to do so.

MacLaclan added: “We realised that we had the toolkit to help with all of those things. So, if someone was out there – and we’ve known lots of them – people who were saying ‘I’m getting really frustrated with being part of a big corporate, it’s slow moving.

“If I was just doing this myself with my own team and my own technology, I know that I could do it better’.”

In the new programme, Ignite will provide its administration software solution as well as offering access to capacity, distrubution channels, data enrichment, regulation and compliance and marketing support. 

MacLachlan said: “We want to be an accelerator for these entrepreneurs. We are providing a safety net for them as a startup business.

“This is leveraging our position as an [established] insurtech to accelerate people’s ambitions to become insurance brokers and do innovative things.”