As co-founder and general manager of Delta Insurance, one of the rising stars of New Zealand’s burgeoning specialist insurance industry, Craig Kirk has been a key driving force behind the company’s digital-focused agenda.
Large incumbent insurers are the first to admit that they don’t have the DNA or the systems flexibility to be able to drive the change that is needed in the industry. This is where insurtechs have a massive role to play.
Technology lies at the heart of the Delta brand, not only in the systems that power its core business operations, but also in the unique products they have developed – from cyber and technology liability insurance to ‘drone’ operators coverage.
Speaking with FST Media, Kirk navigated us through Delta’s technology agenda, revealing a new digital-inspired offshoot “set to transform the face of insurance”, as well as opportunities that industry disruptors, including insurtechs and blockchain, bring to the industry.
FST Media: Walk me through some of Delta’s current digital priorities?
Kirk: Delta is a passionate believer in the need to embrace and harness technology. We actively seek to shape the insurance industry’s future through thought leadership and through ‘walking the talk’ ourselves.
We are continually investing in our tech capabilities; examples of this include our Delta Digital platform in Singapore and our proprietary end-to-end underwriting and claims management platform (DIMS) that we have developed. We have also made a significant strategic investment in Cove Insurance, an exciting digital-led insurance offering that we predict will transform the face of insurance, which will be launched in New Zealand in April 2018.
FST Media: As a challenger insurer, Delta is taking on some of FSI’s heaviest hitters, many of whom have significant resources at their disposal to dedicate to customer experience development. How is Delta utilising digital innovation to enhance its customer service channels?
Kirk: Our most outwardly visible innovation is the Delta Digital platform, Singapore’s first online Financial Lines insurance site. Using proprietary technology, Delta Digital offers brokers and policy buyers instant quotes for commercial insurance products such as cyber, professional liability, and management liability.
Through this platform, brokers can instantly generate a quote to present to their clients, meaning they no longer have to go through the slow and complicated process of completing a physical application form. While the process traditionally can take up to several weeks, Delta Digital is able to generate a quote within a matter of minutes – a first for the Singapore insurance market.
FST Media: How are Delta’s technology choices enabling better business management practices? Where do feel there’s room for improvement?
Kirk: Our internal underwriting and claims management platform DIMS has provided massive benefits to our business. The organisational efficiency enables us to provide market-leading service to our customer and broker partners. The benefits for business management practices are many, including deep data capture, which allows superior analysis of our portfolio, real-time management reporting, and consistency of documentation, improving customer service whilst also reducing business risk.
There is room for further improvement and one of the projects we are currently working on is the integration of DIMS with the cloud-based accounting software Xero, which will provide improved efficiency.
FST Media: How important are insurtechs in driving industry innovation? Are there plans afoot for Delta to pursue collaborative partnerships with these start-ups?
Kirk: Insurtechs are hugely important in driving industry innovation and there are many incredibly exciting companies really making waves in the APAC insurance market. Large incumbent insurers are the first to admit that they don’t have the DNA or the systems flexibility to be able to drive the change that is needed in the industry – this is where insurtechs have a massive role to play.
We are already partnering with some exciting insurtechs, including our equity stake in Cove Insurance. But another example is the digital insurance platform Frankie, which distributes our Cyber and Management Liability offering in New Zealand.
FST Media: What role do you foresee for blockchain in insurance? Should the industry pursue further development of the technology?
Kirk: Blockchain technology can potentially have a significant impact on insurance. The security benefits provided by the distributed ledger methodology could be a game changer for financial services generally. Because of the data intensiveness and complex nature of the insurance value chain, it would certainly be a key beneficiary.
Whilst the theoretical benefits are massive, my personal view is that, as yet, it is not fully tested and has a way to go before it is adopted on a wholesale basis by the industry.
FST Media: Where do predict Internet of Things (IoT) technologies will take the insurance industry?
Kirk: Developments in the IoT space create huge opportunities to provide improved and more relevant customer outcomes, but it also creates new risks in the form of cybersecurity challenges. Some examples of new solutions are insurance ‘embedded’ within hardware, utilising telematics technology to record driver behaviour and use of insured vehicles, as well as utilising connected biometric wearable devices to track and record activity and health risk.
On the flipside, with more home and industrial devices being connected to the internet, this does create increased opportunities for malicious parties to wreak havoc. Examples of this could include smart trains being hacked, software controlled manufacturing plants being shut down by malware, or hackers stealing your personal identity through unsecured home devices.
FST Media: What is the next big digital initiative for Delta and how will you measure its success?
Kirk: We are currently working on some very exciting developments with our platform DIMS (Direct Insurance Management System). To date, it has been largely internally focused; however, we are now working on ways that we can ‘plug in’ our platform to distributors, clients, and other insurance partners. The success of this would need to be measured across several factors including increased policy sales, increased organisational efficiency for ourselves and partners, reduction in customer pain points, and maintenance of a secure and stable environment.
FST Media: What existing technology would you like to see play a more prominent role in insurance over the next few years?
Kirk: With rapid improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, there is an opportunity for the insurance industry to more effectively use chatbots to provide a better customer service, improve user engagement, and streamline the claims process. So far, New Zealand companies have been slow to adopt chatbots, unlike their overseas counterparts where people are having their questions answered via customer service chatbots every day. A well-designed chatbot can help an insurance company offer a more personalised and instant service to its customers.
FST Media: Where do you predict the insurance industry will be in five years’ time?
Kirk: I foresee an insurance industry that is much more connected. All parties in the insurance value chain will be transacting digitally, and many insurers will be providing much improved and more customer-friendly insurance solutions. Claims will be managed on a more transparent basis, and customers will have much more control through customisable insurance products.
We will see an increase in solutions such as on-demand insurance and products developed to better cater for the ‘sharing economy’. Chatbot technology will be commonly used to achieve improved customer service outcomes, and cyber insurance will become a standard insurance purchase for both businesses and households.
FST Media: And finally, on a personal note, what do you do to ensure a healthy work/life balance?
Running a rapidly growing business is hugely rewarding but can also be stressful. A key mechanism for me to manage stress is through being active. I am a keen mountain biker and am fortunate to have some world class trails within minutes of my house. I also hit the gym a couple of times a week.
I have a young family and it’s important for me to maintain a work-life balance and ensure that I provide support to my wife, Lucy. I’m trying to work from home one day every two weeks and I’m finding that this is a great way to be more productive, but also be more present with my family.