“Play to your strengths – what makes you different is your greatest asset…” – Charlotte Halkett

To give readers a quick personal impression: what are your top 3 books everyone today needs to read and your top 3 tech gadgets one needs to have?

I can’t possibly pick just three books – I love to read everything and anything, and think you can learn as much from something you disagree with as something you agree with.

I will, however, nominate my favorite fairy story from growing up – The Emperor’s’ New Clothes.  It’s still my philosophy today – don’t blindly follow the crowd, question everything and be the one to call out what you see. 

My top three tech essentials are internet researching, smart networking and my buzzvault!

You are quite a well-known person in the insurance industry. What makes you so successful and what kind of secret tips are you able to share, especially for women who see you as a role model in such a male-dominated industry?

  1. Play to your strengths – what makes you different is your greatest asset.  
  2. The Emperor regularly has No Clothes:  just because everyone seems to be following a process doesn’t mean it is right. But make sure you you understand the environment before launching a revolution. My training as an actuary and experience within the traditional insurance sector has been invaluable when considering how insurtech can change insurance products for the better.
  3. Align yourself with great people who deserve your commitment – a team of diverse people with shared goals that challenge and inspire you. Not only will you achieve more, you’ll be happy and have some fun along the way. 

If you find yourself working in a sexist environment: you could stay and change it, but also do consider leaving. Why should an organisation with a poor culture get the benefit of your work? You have the option to go and find another company that will celebrate your achievements and help them beat the dinosaurs! 

What is your analysis of the #fintech and #insurtech ecosystems in your home market, the UK? How are people responding to new technologies, strategies and business processes? What are the new trends and use cases you are seeing?

The #insurtech world is in a state of revolution right now, and it’s a great time for the industry. 

We’ve seen massive year-on-year growth in UK Insurtech deals over the past couple of years. In 2016, it was $19 million. In 2017, it was $364 million.

Most insurtech startups are focusing on new specific parts of the insurance value chain and trying to do them really well – this is certainly a quicker win for entrepreneurs than trying to build a whole new insurance carrier from scratch. 

In particular, there’s a lot of innovation at the front end looking for new, better ways to reach and serve the customer, especially round claims. This goes to show that insurance innovation is not always about reinventing the wheel. Often it’s as simple as creating a more customer-friendly, intuitive way to select, manage and claim on insurance policies – typically via a mobile app.

Take buzzvault for instance – we’ve integrated home insurance into the home-move process, which allows us to create personalized home contents policies for customers right at the moment when home insurance is 100% top of mind.

By focusing on this and leaving the risk-holding with our partner Munich Re, we’ve been able to bring a new insurtech product to market in rapid time and with the best results for our customers. The MGA route is certainly very popular right now, and we’ve recently seen a whole raft of British MGAs – many graduating, like us, from Startup Bootcamp.

In our last personal talk I was really excited about your vision. Please tell us more about buzzvault and buzzmove and what role they will play in the insurance ecosystem.

For us, it’s all about embedding insurance at relevant points in people’s lives. You can’t expect the river to come to your waterwheel – so it’s up to you to position yourself where you’re going to add the most value.

We’ve been helping people move house with buzzmove for a number of years now. And part of this has been using our video technology to help homeowners create household inventories. 

We realized that this data is gold dust from an insurance perspective: a secure digital list of what people own and how much it is worth. By building on an insurance product at this point, we can offer hyper-personalized cover to moving customers – with next to no extra work on their part.

And this isn’t all. Your buzzvault becomes a lasting record of your things – and you can add new items to your insurance policy as you go, all at the tap of a button. And, if you need to claim, you can do so with a fraction of the heartache – because there is a clear record of what you’re claiming on and how much it was worth.

For the time being we are focused on home and contents insurance. But your buzzvault is an immensely valuable, data-rich asset that could prove useful in so many ways. So there’s plenty of potential for us to serve customers in different parts of the ecosystem in future, with commercial, pet or travel cover for instance.

A lot of traditional companies are struggling to adapt to the rapid changes we witness today. In your opinion, where are the biggest opportunities for traditional companies to use digital transformation to their advantage? What are the biggest hurdles and how should corporates overcome them?

One of the biggest areas where incumbents can improve their service through digital tech is claims – and this is proving a key point of differentiation for new market entrants as well.

The digital revolution of the past 20 years has set a new bar for customer service – just think Amazon and next-day delivery, all of which would have seemed a fantasy a generation ago. Conversely, insurance claims – at least how they have traditionally been managed – set this bar rather low.

In this sense, claims experience is the Achilles Heel of the traditional industry. New entrants may not have oodles of underwriting capacity and regulatory expertise. But they will find plenty of people ready to turn their backs on traditional providers over claims.

To give you an idea of what’s wrong: sometimes as much as 50% of customer premiums go towards covering claims costs (processing, investigating, de-frauding, adjusting and repeat). There are also some sectors, like Home Insurance, where a huge number of non-fraudulent claims are rejected, because people simply don’t understand their policies. However you weigh this, that’s thousands of thoroughly put-out customers every year.

So how can traditional companies revamp their claims with digital technologies? Well, a big part of it is transparency – by which we mean tech-enabled transparency. Customers want simple processes for understanding if they can claim and then for actually making the claim itself. Self-service apps and portals are an increasingly big part of the picture.

Fewer erroneous claims doesn’t just mean fewer angry customers, it saves money as well, all of which can, in the longer run, be passed back to consumers. 

There’s plenty of other digital tech around to help with claims, like robotic process automation – moving insurers towards claims management by exception, with routine claims evaluated and paid out automatically. And IoT, photo and video innovation is helping insurance companies to better understand what’s being claimed on and its value.

The biggest hurdle for incumbents from a technology point of view is probably trying to own all the technology themselves. We need to move away from big proprietary IT towards more of an ecosystem approach – so that it’s easy to work with lots of different startups and tech vendors without prohibitive costs or turnaround times.

What would you recommend to young people who are just starting their career today?

Identify the movers and shakers in your business and make yourself useful to them. Business is all about people at the end of the day. If you can find ways to give to others, then they will most likely give back to you too.

Also – do the graft! There are no shortcuts and every successful person sits upon a mountain of effort.

Short biography:

Charlotte is currently MD Insurance Product at {buzz – a young, London-based technology firm. They have just released their first insurtech product – buzzvault household insurance – to sit alongside their technology solutions within the household moving industry. 

Charlotte is an insurtech veteran, having previously been a well-known figure in the telematics motor insurance revolution as part of insurethebox. She is a qualified actuary and lives just outside London, UK. You can follow her on Twitter @charliehalkett.

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