Minecraft programmer Chris van der Kuyl and ex-Aviva broker distribution director Fraser Edmond speak to Insurance Times about their cross-sector insurtech project looking to redefine the how insurers do business with regional brokers

Video gaming and insurance are not the most natural of bedfellows.

But in an overcrowded insurtech market where start-ups are competing harder than ever to stand out from the crowd, it’s a combination that is driving results for Broker Insights.

Fraser Edmond and Iain Crole were Aviva high-flyers when they gave up their jobs less than two years ago with the ambition to revolutionise the broker-insurer relationship through a digital platform filled with broker data, allowing insurers to search for the particular risk they wish to write.

“When you work with entrepreneur brokers every day in the job that I was doing it fuels your appetite to try and do something yourself,” Edmond said of the decision to leave his role of broker distribution director at Aviva.

Fraser edmond broker insight insurtech

Fraser Edmond (left) and Chris van der Kuyl

With 110,000 commercial policies equating to £250m of broker business made available to selected insurers through the platform since its launch in October 2018, the risk looks to have paid off.


But arguably none of it would have been possible if it weren’t for the touch of fate that brought millionaire Minecraft programmers Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns onboard as investors.

Edmond and van der Kuyl lived in the same part of Dundee and were acquainted through their children going to the same school. He had approached van der Kuyl initially looking for advice on how to get the idea off the ground, but soon found himself having more and more meetings until the investors decided it was a project they wanted to back personally.

“When Fraser and Iain told us the kind of opportunity that was in the insurance market and what they saw from their experience and expertise, it just made our eyes light up,” van der Kuyl told Insurance Times.

“We were delighted to get an opportunity to work with people who were really experts in their sector because I think the biggest problem with many businesses, especially started and run by technologists, is people like me think they know more than they really do about specific industries.

“We’ve done enough investing in enough projects that didn’t quite get anywhere to understand that if you don’t really have people who understand the sector that you want to operate in, it’s normally a bridge too far.”

Who is Chris van der Kuyl?

- Co-founded 4J Studios in April 2005, the programmers behind worldwide hit game Minecraft

- Chairman of Entrepreneurial Scotland from September 2014-September 2018

- Ranked 76th in the Times Scottish Rich List

- Currently chairman of four other businesses including Broker Insights

Van der Kuyl and Burns each own 20% of Broker Insights and play an active role in managing the company’s strategy.

While Edmond, as chief executive, and Crole, as commercial director, run the business on a day-to-day basis, van der Kuyl is chairman, and Burns a non-executive director. Van der Kuyl said he speaks most days with Edmond, and has been supporting the firm’s ambitions to introduce features that deliver new information to brokers about their businesses.

Van der Kuyl and Burns are serial investors in tech start-ups across other sectors. But in the insurance sector, van der Kuyl said they found a market where their skills could be game-changing.

In particular, he said there were parallels between insurance and gaming surrounding the user experience.

“When people are playing games, if the game doesn’t feel right, if they don’t have a fulfilling and fun experience, they’ll soon switch off and go to play somebody else’s game,” he said.

“In business software, I think people have had a rough deal for too long, they’ve put up with rubbish software because they have to, because it’s the software that was either chosen for them by the corporation or the only one in the market.

“What we’re really keen on doing with Broker Insights is embracing the idea of making the user front and centre of that experience.”

Broker Insights

- Platform currently has 110,000 commercial policies, worth over £250m on it

- Most expensive policy worth £800,000, cheapest is a couple of hundred pounds

- 16 staff

- By October wants to have £500m on the platform

- Around 200 people at insurers regularly using Broker Insights to find business every day

- Brokers are not charged anything to put their data into the platform, but can receive an added revenue based on the amount of business written through the platform

- Insurers pay to search for business against a range of filters - insurers currently signed up on a rolling yearly contract are AXA, Ageas, Ecclesiastical, Hiscox, QBE and Zurich

Van der Kuyl and Burns have already helped to shape the business up to now, getting it into a position where 35 individual brokers have offered up their data to be used in the platform. The inclusion of Coversure’s franchise brokers in this list means the six insurers signed up to access the platform actually have around 140 different broker offices to choose from when searching for business to write.  

Edmond, who joined Aviva straight from school and had spent 25 years with the insurer when he decided to leave in December 2017, said it had always been his ambition to set up a business.

The plan for Broker Insights was inspired by the difficulty he said all insurers have in accessing smaller regional brokers.

And he said the extensive combined experiences of himself and Crole working with brokers and seeing the challenges first-hand gave them a distinct advantage over other insurtech ventures.

“In insurtech there are lots and lots of people with technology backgrounds trying to push into insurance,” he said.

“I firmly believe you need to have an intimate understanding of insurance as a business and then if you can partner with people with technology backgrounds, insights and capabilities then you’ve got the perfect blend of skills.”


Edmond followed van der Kuyl’s advice by launching the product live early, and making adjustments based on client feedback.

Edmond said it was this fresh perspective that is driving the company forward and inspiring new innovations at the business.

He added: “I really love working here because we have a lot of technology people working here not from the insurance industry. We’ve got a really nice blend of skills and some real diversity in the team as well.

“I absolutely value diversity because it gives you a totally different perspective and that has been abundantly clear so far. The day that they all start talking like insurance people is the day we’ll know we need to refresh some resources.”

The business now consists of 16 staff, including five regional salespeople looking to sign up brokers from across the country. The more business on the platform, the more valuable it becomes to the insurers paying to use it.

The aim is to have 100 different individual brokers signed up by October 2019, with £40-50m of policies being added to the platform every month. Beyond the UK, Edmond has spoken with the Californian regulator and says there could be opportunities in the US as well.

“I’ve always been a new business and ideas person. I enjoy seeing a problem and trying to come up with a solution to that. Any kind of job I’ve been in I’ve always relished that first phase of how can I optimise this and make it better - that’s something I enjoy doing. 

“Coming up with this idea and getting stuck into it has been an opportunity. I feel quite excited about whether we could make a meaningful change in the way that commercial intermediated business is operated. Creating a legacy from that which in 5-10 years’ time we could say ’this is how you now do this’, that would be amazing.”