’We need to get the message out that insurtech is a super important market and not just a subset of fintech,’ says new chief executive 

Not even a week into her new role, and Melissa Collett has embraced the task before her as trade association Insurtech UK’s very first chief executive.

Speaking to Insurance Times, she says: “When I heard they were looking for a chief executive, I just thought it was perfect timing because this is where I want to be – I’m passionate about innovation and I feel that insurtech is the future of insurance.

“For me, it’s a golden opportunity to get more involved in an area that I am passionate about.”

With the appointment of Collett, the trade association is now focused on building an insurtech community for founders and their teams to connect members of the sector more effectively.

These stakeholders include brokers, insurers and investors, as well as insurtech-related regulators.

Collett continues: “We want to be the voice of the insurtech community in the UK. We need to make sure that voice is loud, strong, robust and emphasising the positives that insurtech can bring.

“We need to get the message out that insurtech is a super important market and not just a subset of fintech.”

Collett’s previous experience includes a stint in insurance law as a solicitor for Hogan and Lovells, where she spent five years between 1999 and 2004. 

But what initially piqued Collett’s interest in the world of insurtech was being invited on an insurtech trade mission to New York through her current advisory board position at government agency Innovate UK, where she had the chance to meet people involved in the insurtech corridor.

Insurtech UK launched its insurtech corridor between the UK and Connecticut, USA back in March 2022 in a bid to remove marketplace access barriers faced by insurtechs in both the UK and US.

The trade association also plans to build out more of these corridors with other US states, Europe and other jurisdictions.

With funding being an ongoing challenge, Collett aims to liaise with investors on the issue of funding, as well as on the topic of simplifying the regulatory regime for indirect funding such as research and development (R&D) tax relief.

A stable of unicorns

For Collett, the timing of her new role could not be more perfect, as she was able to present at the official launch of the joint Insurtech UK and McKinsey report The United Kingdom: The Nexus of Insurtech just last week (13 September 2023).

She notes that the report demonstrated that the UK is a “success story” in terms of insurtech.

For example, it explained that the UK has eight insurtech unicorns – privately held startups with a valuation of more than $1bn (£802.2bn).

“We want to see a whole stable full of unicorn,” Collett adds.

Speaking about the insurtech sector, she says: “It’s only continuing to grow, so I see a really bright future for the sector and for Insurtech UK. It’s important to me because I love seeing how insurtech can transform people’s lives.

“It makes things easier [and] cheaper for customers, it helps people who could not get insurance obtain cover – [such as] young drivers [and] people in flood ridden areas.

“I love the idea of insurtech preventing risk from arising in the first place. Every single one of our members is meeting a need, it’s filling a gap that traditional incumbents haven’t built.”

Insurtech UK member Zego uses usage-based policies to cater to the gig economy, for example.

“And then, there’s other insurtechs that help incumbents do things better,” she continues.

“All these things just blow my mind.”

Another member, Lemonade, partnered with Aviva last year to bring its content insurance policies to the UK.

The new chief executive will also be focusing on engaging with insurers to facilitate further partnerships with insurtechs.

Big believer in insurtech

Previously, Collett worked at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) as its professional standards director for nearly six years, where she represented the professional body at events.

Melissa Collett_Insurtech UK ceo

Melissa Collett, Insurtech UK chief executive 

“It was important or me to be out talking and publicly advocating for standards and insurance,” she says.

Collett sees her current role at Insurtech UK as “an extension” of the CII position as it gave her a taste of the insurtech sector.

“At the CII, I became involved in insurtech because I chaired the Digital Ethics Forum (DEF). I met people across the insurtech sector who joined our forum and we developed the Digital Ethics Companion (DEC),” she says.

The CII’s DEC provides information to stakeholders on how the Code of Ethics remains relevant in insurance roles within a digital world. 

Following this, Collett was invited to speak at various insurtech events, which further built her expertise in the sector.

Before this, Collett spent more than a decade at the Financial Ombudsman Service as a senior ombudsman, where she was at the “cutting edge of resolving consumer disputes about insurance”.

She continues: “That gave me a real insight into what goes wrong with insurance and how it could be improved. So I have always been a huge champion of using technology to make improvements.”

One example she gives is how technology can make underwriting easier, as it eliminates the need for the dated proposal form.

 “I have seen first hand how consumers can suffer harm if they do not fill out the proposal form correctly and how it can have life changing consequences.

“It could just be a simple misunderstanding of the questions. During that time, I was hoping for ways that things could get better using technology. That’s why I am a big believer in insurtech,” she adds.

An insurance a proposal form is completed by the policyholder when applying for cover for the purpose of gathering information about the risk being insured.

“I have always been an advocate for change in the insurance sector and that’s what I want to continue to do – and insurtech is at the heart of that,” she finishes.