André Symes, managing director of international and chief growth officer at Genasys, explores whether insurance product quality and long-term sustainability is being sacrificed for faster turnaround speeds on sector innovations

Seeing Zego partner with e-scooter firm Ginger to provide insurance for the UK’s first e-scooter trial in Tees Valley was no surprise. The partnership epitomises what’s cool about insurtechs. They’re at the e-scooter and skateboard end of the insurance spectrum, focused on speed, whether that’s customer on-boarding or paying claims.

If you don’t get what I mean, then look no further than Lemonade – you can get a homeowner, renters or pet policy in 90 seconds and get a claim paid superfast. They currently boast the world record of taking just three seconds to handle one claim.

There’s a lot of clever tech enabling all of this in the background, but as the cyclists and bikers out there know all too well, as you pick up speed, you run the risk of a speed wobble. You might have the latest bike available and you might not be being reckless, but what starts as a small wobble can all too quickly get out of control with potentially disastrous consequences.

As a passionate road cyclist and a passionate techie, I’m a fan of speed. I’ve certainly made my opinions clear when it comes to the need for speed in today’s insurance industry – the need to innovate and get new ideas out to market fast and quickly evaluate and adapt those ideas to create a sustainable new product or service. And my business has (fortunately for me) backed up my words by building solutions to enable insurers, MGAs, brokers and startups to do just that.

Andre Symes

André Symes

However, I am a little alarmed that there seems to be a race on at the moment within the industry – who can build products the fastest. Many insurtechs and tech providers seem to be obsessed with how quickly they can deliver products to market – but what happens if there is significant uptake? Can what I like to call the neoPAS providers out there actually handle the volumes of a successful product launch?

As I’ve already said – I’m a speed freak, but what concerns me is that we could be heading down the same road as price-driven motor policies, sacrificing the quality and sustainability of the product itself for the sake of speed or cost.

To paraphrase the classic Pirelli ad, speed is nothing without control.

It is one thing to do something fast, but it’s another to do it sustainably and that has to be the driver behind every piece of product innovation in our industry today. While every insurance business will have its own process for getting a new idea signed off – some will be faster than others – but you can bet your last pound on the fact that no product board will approve a trial unless they’ve been convinced that the product could have a long, profitable shelf-life.

The challenge lies in the tech used to deliver it. What is required is software that allows the insurance business to build and launch the product fast, but that is also coupled with the scalability and control of a proven back-end system. This is the equivalent of blending the coolness and agility of the insurtech e-scooter with the proven track record and reliability of a Mercedes-like multinational insurance provider.

When Annie Leibovitz shot the ad of Carl Lewis in the starting blocks sporting a pair of red high-heels, there was huge trepidation on the part of his team, but her vision for an ad that would ultimately go global convinced him to do it. Originally used in Europe, the ad and resulting campaign was so successful that it – like Pirelli’s products – did go global. Just goes to show that you can have your heels and win the race as long as you’ve blended innovation and speed with sustainability.