Biba’s Andy Thornley called on software houses to do more to enable brokers to offer subscription style products

The concept of ’flexible’ insurance has taken the industry by storm this year.

While the idea is nothing new, after Aviva sent the idea of ‘subscription insurance’ mainstream with its AvivaPlus product, investors have shown a keener interest to get on board this growing trend.

Insurtech Brolly is the latest to launch a flexible subscription product. The concept is one which incentivises the provider to reward loyalty, and in the case of Brolly, its new Brolly Contents offering actually reduces in price every month.

AvivaPlus has already written 150,000 policies, having only fully launched in March, so if traditional personal lines brokers don’t want to miss this lucrative boat they need to act fast.

However, if brokers are to offer these kind of flexible policies, Biba’s head of corporate affairs Andy Thornley said it is the software houses that need to raise their game.

“The majority of software providers can’t currently offer the services required to allow brokers to offer their customers subscription insurance, but there are startups which are emerging that have invented their own platforms that are taking advantage of this,” he told Insurance Times.

Technology solutions

Thornley has met with all the main software houses to discuss his concerns. There are obstacles the software houses need to overcome, but the major players are confident they can provide for brokers.

“The way we are plugged into the insurer’s policy systems is back when typically a policy was sold for 12 months,” said Nick Giddings, chief marketing officer at Open GI. “But that doesn’t mean technology can’t provide solutions.

“I agree with Andy [Thornley] in terms of where we used to be as an industry, but we’re in a better place now,” Giddings said.

There is still progress to be made though.

Like Open GI, SSP’s provision for short term cover is driven by when brokers ask for it. SSP director of broker David Chapman said this is a growing market, and that the industry had to be wary to keep up.

“We see this as an area of insurance that is growing in popularity, especially among younger consumers who need the convenience that short term cover offers,” Chapman said.

“I’m not sure whether software houses need to ‘up their game’, but short term cover certainly needs to be something that is more widely available across the industry.

“We would certainly be willing to engage in conversations with all partners to improve the availability and access to market for short term products.”

Flexible insurance

Thornley insisted the software houses have to do more. He said to compete with subscription models, brokers must offer the policyholder more ways to flex their policy. This could include increasing/decreasing levels of cover and/or limits in a way which can be done themselves through a self-serve portal or app.

“As customer demand seems to be moving towards subscription-based products, it is likely insurance will also need to follow suit,” Thornley said. “We now see a variety of products, from gym memberships and music streaming to Microsoft Office 365 and cloud computing, shifting to flexible plans that can be altered by the end user themselves.

“Brokers tell us that these types of services for insurance are not currently available, which is why we think technology partners and industry should work together so that brokers can offer the products that customers want.”

And software houses generally agree with Thornley that the personal lines market is moving towards subscription models.

CDL commercial director Nigel Phillips said: “We have also been clear for some time now that there is strong consumer appetite for subscription-based models, driven by mainstream offerings from Netflix to Spotify, and we are working closely with a number of brokers to bring such products to market. This includes collaborating with insurtechs to provide the technology to underpin new product and payment propositions.”

Phillips said CDL’s Chorus mobile platform unveiled last year was all about enabling brokers to offer on-demand services.

“Models like these offer the industry a valuable opportunity to break the annual renewals cycle and embrace a more modern way of doing business,” he said.


To get where Thornley wants the software houses to get to, a key stumbling block is cost.

Giddings told Insurance Times providing solutions to brokers that were cost effective to the software houses had held back technological advancements in the past.

And Aviva GI’s head of intermediaries Phil Bayles said that this was one of the problem areas in rolling out features of the AvivaPlus product to brokers.

“It’s a very complex process to build AvivaPlus via the software houses,” Bayles said. “Product builds cost a lot of money on software houses and take a lot of time. It doesn’t exist anywhere outside of the Aviva systems which we built for AvivaPlus. That makes it more difficult for the software houses because they’ve not built this before.

“I’m not blaming the software houses, but it’s up to who’s willing to spend the time and money in investing to create it.”

Insurtech partnerships

However, there are signs that the software houses are starting to work with insurtechs to develop these kinds of flexible subscription-style offerings that brokers are seeing an increasing demand for.

Giddings has held meetings with trade body Insurtech UK and said Open GI wants to work with insurtechs to provide the broker with the kind of policies customers are asking for.

He added: “Our view is as a software house we provide tech and solutions to brokers, and provided it’s cost effective we would be the place that the broker goes to for an enhancement to whatever they’re doing.”

Through the Open GI Mobius platform Giddings said the software house is already providing bespoke cover options for brokers to sell, and he said the cost of providing these was reducing.

Chapman too told Insurance Times SSP was open to collaboration with insurtechs to provide tailored solutions to brokers, and with Applied Systems set to benefit from the expertise of Google, it is at least taking the software houses closer to where Thornley wants them to be.