With the telematics market making a comeback due to people’s driving behaviour changing over the course of the UK’s lockdown, Martin Williams ThingCo’s new board director and chief operating officer tells Insurance Times why it is the perfect time to roll-out Theo as the insurtech aims to go global 

Insurtech ThingCo is looking to expand globally after it establishes a strong foothold in the UK telematics market.

China, Japan, Europe, the US and Australia have all been earmarked as possible locations.

This is according to Martin Williams, ThingCo’s new board director and chief operating officer.

Williams was previously managing director of Octo UK for over seven years, where he worked closely with the InsuretheBox team as well as Mike Brockman who founded the telematics firm and held a chief executive role until he launched his own insurtech, ThingCo in 2018.

But Williams has also worked previously at BGL Group as its head of business development and also defunct telematics broker Coverbox.

Williams will also be responsible for the rollout of Theo – the insurtechs’s solar powered telematics device, across the UK and he will be solving a key problem for small and medium sized brokers.

“I am very excited to be part of this journey, what I want to try and do is establish a good solid market within the UK, and then we will be focusing on rolling out on a global basis [Theo]. I want to absolutely nail the UK first, before we take the product further afield,” Williams told Insurance Times.

He hopes to target the larger market where most vehicles are including mainland Europe including Italy, France, Spain, Germany.

Going global

Martin Williams Thingco

Martin Williams, Thingco 

“It’s a global product, and because it’s on an AWS [Amazon Web Services] platform, it’s very portable. This is a massive bonus for telematics in general, [because] we can roll a client out within seven days,” William continued.

He said as it is a global product it is of benefit to brokers.

“This is fantastic news for small and medium sized brokers, because they have been unable to get into the telematics market as its been expensive to build, it normally takes a long time and things change in this industry sometimes on a daily basis with new technology coming out so it’s always prohibited brokers of a smaller or medium size to enter the market. This is one of the main focuses I will [have] over the coming months,” Williams added.

Speaking of scaling he believes that the market will drive the product.

“In addition to that, I would like to take it to the next stage by approaching direct insurers,” he said.

Both Brockman and Williams have been in the telematics industry for years.

“The mass market adoption does need a push market does need a push, it’s a push is from all telematics service providers,” Williams said.

Perfect timing

Speaking about the rolling out of Theo at a time when driving behaviour has changed due to the pandemic lockdown in the UK, Williams said that this is “perfect timing, the stars are all aligned now”.

The UK’s lockdown has seen drivers using their vehicles less and favouring more flexible insurance policies like telematics-based ones.

Telematics prior to the pandemic did not have the easiest time in the market with the demise of Coverbox, of which Williams was chief operating officer between 2012-2013.

“Insurer loss ratios have benefited in that there haven’t been as many cars on the road, so people have been driving les for four or five months now since lockdown, and therefore with less people on the road, less accidents happen.

”I think it is absolutely perfect timing. That period of not knowing what is happening has been perfect for ThingCo to do all the behind the scenes work product development, and the safety on the roads is a massive bonus,” he said.

He likened Little Theo to a guardian angel product as it watches over the driver throughout the journey.

“If you are parent of a young 17-year-old driving at night, you have that comfort,” he said. “You can’t argue with data, it’s very straightforward and simple. It says this is exactly what happened, it is not hearsay. That bit is taken care of by technology, not an eye-witness report. It is on the basis of fact and not fiction.”

Slower than expected

Although telematics has been growing but at a slower rate than what had been predicted by market analysts.

“I think that’s because a lot of brokers and insurers do not use the full technological capability of standard telematics products.

”As technology has evolved so quickly [including] connected cars, it used to be always after-market fittings of devices which is similar to what we are doing at ThingCo. But manufacturers are now fitting cars with these devices,” he said.

This is therefore attracting a larger mass market to the product.

Adding to this, he said: “Within the UK, telematics was on a growth trajectory, five or six years ago and slowly dwindled down.

”It is still growing but at a slower rate than what we all would have wanted and because of changes in pricing, it was quite difficult for the insurer to make it work, just from a cost perspective. I think the penetration of telematics in the UK still stands at 6-7% but of course according to who you are speaking to they will give different figures.”

ThingCo now intends to use its telematics data to integrate with various insurers to support claims management systems and help identify fraud.

Read more…Motor insurance and coronavirus-golden era or further misery?

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