The chief executive and co-founder of Neos is looking for more insurer partnerships within home as well as the SME insurance sector and has his eye on the international market
When the UK’s largest insurer decides to invest in an insurtech, it’s a sign that it must be doing something right.
And with Aviva’s backing after it took a majority stake in connected-home insurtech Neos in November last year, the firm has recently started to ramp up it’s growth plans.
April saw the firm sign two international partnerships - last week with the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) which allows customers to monitor their homes via a smartphone app, and another with American Family Insurance, with the insurtech’s smart-home and protective services set to launch in Arizona and Washington later this year.
Its chief executive and co-founder, Matt Poll divulged his wider plans for the business - saying that he is actively looking for more partnerships with insurers within home and the SME insurance sector and that internationalising the business is his core focus at the moment.
He told Insurance Times: “The Aviva and Neos partnership runs very deep. Aviva were an early investor and they are a big believer in this connected space as well.
“They really liked what we were doing so they invested early, we then worked with them on some pilot stuff with their own customers and developed the relationship further.
“Last year they took a majority stake in the business, and we are doing some interesting things at the moment with the connect home proposition tied to their core products.”
He hinted that in the coming year there will be some big announcements.
But this hasn’t always been the case, the move from the corporate world to the insurtech arena has been somewhat challenging for Poll as he had to get “get his hands dirty” and get involved in everything.
“While I have enjoyed the journey, it has certainly been a lot harder than I had originally thought,” he said.
With so many aspects to manage in the business particularly on the investment side, it proved tricky.
“The technology pace is critical, and not having a detailed technology background I went on quite a fast learning curve with that,” he added.
These were some of his biggest challenges.
The chief executive ran RSA-backed More Th>n for three and a half years as commercial director when Janet Connor left to join the AA as its managing director. Poll left to set up Neos in 2016.
He said: “I just got to the point where I thought I could offer more value to customers. I also saw how ‘connected technology’ could be an enabler. I always thought that smart home was the way to drive that ‘value added’ bit back home.”
He continued: “I used to get customers continually say to me ‘I pay all this money every year for insurance, and I never claim but I also never get anything back and then I get ‘rewarded’ by price hikes at the end of the year.”
Poll said that the Neos’ proposition allows customers to protect their own homes, so everyone benefits. In other words, the customer is happy as their home is safe and insurer suffers less claims.
Explaining that he has always had a passion for innovation, with various propositions like fitbits for dogs in his previous role at More Th>n. He was also responsible for developing key partnership business with the likes of John Lewis.
“I love brokering, particularly working in financial services insurance where I have worked for most of my life. I love ‘progress’ particularly working in financial services. In insurance I think there is a slight lack of innovation, I wanted to change that in my own small way. If you look at most insurance products, they haven’t really changed much for 50 plus years.
“I always thought it was an industry that needed to step up in the innovation realm. It’s a great industry – without it you wouldn’t be able to do much at all,” he added.
Pace of technology
Poll said that Neos is ‘device agnostic,’ meaning it will partner with multiple device players to offer customers what they need.
But in reality, he said that a device which is good today will in eighteen months become obsolete because there will be something better and more cost effective on the market.
Being a small business like Neos, it is difficult to distribute insurance, hence Poll’s collaborative approach of partnering up with likeminded major insurers which already have a distribution channel.
His says his biggest achievement in his career remains setting up Neos, having taken a gamble leaving More Th>n with little to no knowledge on how to launch an insurtech from scratch.
Neos now has a staff force of approximately 50 members and is in the process of recruiting more.
Another achievement Poll said was being recognised by Insurance Times for a Tech award in 2017 when it won the ‘Internet of Things breakthrough award’ beating By Miles and DWF to top place.
Neos will be retailing some of its products directly to customers – such as its smart camera, which Poll said is a bestseller on Amazon. In the first five weeks of retailing this it has already sold over 10,000 units.
Poll said he will use this to lead with technology and link in insurance at a later date.
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