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The ‘D word’ (Disruption)

General Manager Craig Kirk talks to ANZIIF Writer Anna Game-Lopata about FinTechNZ, the new kid on the block:

New Zealand already has a very vibrant tech sector with some world-leading innovations. By nature, Kiwis are incredibly pioneering and resilient and this has created a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem of companies with a ‘can-do’ attitude who support each other. That’s according to Delta Insurance co-founder and director Craig Kirk, who is also on the Core Working Group of the New Zealand Financial Innovation and Technology Association (FinTechNZ).

While Kirk concedes that the insurtech movement in New Zealand is still evolving and may not be as advanced as that of other countries such as Australia or Singapore, he says it’s definitely not standing still.

‘I know of a number of very exciting insurtech companies in New Zealand; some who are already established and others who are in the process of setting up,’ he says.

‘All are developing fantastic models and solutions, with many destined to be leaders in their field.

‘Most of these companies have global ambitions and NZ is a great innovation-friendly market to test out ideas and concepts before taking them overseas.’

Companies that are making waves in New Zealand insurtech include Frankie, which offers online cyber and management liability insurance, and InsuredHQ, which provides innovative cloud-based software solutions for the insurance industry.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

Launched in February this year, FinTechNZ is helping to connect, promote and advance companies like these that reflect the burgeoning trends shaping the fintech ecosystem, including insurance.

Delta Insurance is a founding member of 70 organisations, a number that is rapidly reaching the 100 mark.

‘We are an industry working group of financial innovation and technology participants,’ says Craig Kirk.

‘We aim to assist New Zealand innovators in becoming strong contributors in the fintech revolution and our key purpose is to actively contribute to the prosperity of New Zealand through financial innovation.’

FinTechNZ helps fintech businesses in New Zealand succeed by providing a collaborative voice, creating connections and by promoting fintech.

Kirk says the association has already connected entrepreneurs with investment partners and capacity providers.

‘Since establishing the association in February, we have hosted a number of fintech events, including insurance discussion groups, and our next round of FinTechNZ Connect events in October will be entirely dedicated to the insurance sector,’ he says.

‘We also provide a voice for the sector to engage with government and offshore affiliated organisations, an example being the provision of industry input around a proposed regulatory exemption on “robo advice”.’

WORLD STAGE

In supporting international growth, FinTechNZ endeavours to advocate, attract and develop talent, with a view to increase export opportunities.

‘FinTechNZ provides thought leadership for the fintech sector and we believe that we can partner with companies to help NZ be more competitive on the international stage,’ Kirk says.

‘Joining FinTechNZ enables us to be at the forefront of this movement to help lead and shape the future of the financial services industry in NZ.’

As a founding member of FinTechNZ, Delta Insurance is a major believer in embracing technology to provide increased efficiency within the business and provide more effective solutions to customers and business partners.

‘To achieve this we have built our own cloud-based insurance management system hosted on a Microsoft Azure platform,’ Kirk says.

‘This system is a fully integrated end-to-end application encompassing CRM, underwriting, claims and financial reporting modules. We have just launched a digital offering in Singapore that will enable us to issue quotations and policies online.

‘We also have a number of very exciting technology partnership opportunities that we are currently exploring.’

HARNESSING TECHNOLOGY

Prior to founding Delta in April 2014, Craig Kirk was the head of Financial Lines and Casualty at Lumley in New Zealand and, before that, the European Regional Manager for the Professional Indemnity at AIG, based in London.

But his career highlight to date has been co-founding Delta, a Lloyd’s of London Coverholder that provides speciality insurance solutions for niche and emerging risks such as technology and cyber liability, environmental liability, professional and management liability and UAV (drone) insurance.

‘When we started the business in New Zealand we felt that the market lacked innovation,’ he says.

‘Products were generally inferior compared to overseas markets, service standards were deteriorating and most of the major insurers struggled to effectively harness technology.

‘Through focusing on service (assisted by efficient technology), product quality and thought leadership, we’ve been able to develop a portfolio of over 7,000 clients and we can now boast a team of 15 insurance professionals in NZ.’

On the back of its success in NZ, Delta has just launched as the first Financial Lines Lloyd’s of London Coverholder in Singapore.

TAKING ACTION

The clear macro trends Delta saw developing internationally prompted the decision for Delta to help found FinTechNZ.

‘It has become increasingly obvious to us that technology will transform the insurance industry,’ Kirk says.

‘Everyone likes to talk about the “D” word — disruption — and I think that we will see new entrants to the insurance market that will provide very different insurance solutions in a very different manner to how incumbents have traditionally transacted.’

Kirk says that disruption is inevitable to a degree; however, he believes enhanced technological advancements such as machine learning, predictive analytics and blockchain technology can all provide huge benefits to the current players within the insurance market — many of which will find creative ways to adapt, survive and co-habit with these new entrants.

LIVELY DEBATE

Kirk aims to communicate this strongly held belief as part of a FinTechNZ panel discussion to be held at the Insurance Conference NZ in Auckland on 7th September.

The topic of the panel discussion reflects the overall conference theme of customer experience: Technology and Insurance — how technology can add value to the customer and customer experience.

It plans to debate the following aspects of insurance that insurtech might improve and influence:

  • Cost and efficiency of customer acquisition and engagement
  • The underwriting process
  • Fraud detection/prevention
  • Claims management
  • Product development and risk pricing
  • Are we responding quickly enough to customer needs and expectations?

NEW WAY OF THINKING

 Instead of feeling threatened by insurtech, Kirk wants participants to feel excited and energised by understanding the benefit that insurtech innovations can bring to the industry.

‘For example, predictive analytics enables us to make better underwriting decisions; chatbot innovations, such as Ambit’s conversational AI platform, enable us to more effectively and economically sell insurance.

‘Developments with the “internet of things” enable the insurance industry to better monitor and price product and infrastructure risks and the advent of cloud-based claims management systems enables us to provide more transparent, efficient and cost-effective claims outcomes.

‘If that isn’t enough, the availability of SaaS anti-fraud monitoring systems enables the industry to better manage the frictional cost of fraudulent claims.

For example, a local Kiwi company Propello is using next generation data analysis tools, including machine learning and image recognition to compile comprehensive and real-time data sets to monitor fraudulent activity.

Kirk hopes that conference participants walk away with a clearer understanding of how insurtech can help them with their day-to-day roles.

‘I would also like to see greater awareness of the fintech movement in NZ and greater engagement by insurance industry participants,’ he says.

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