Remember that time when you read a piece of insurance regulation and you fully understood it? No? Don’t worry, you’re not alone and the solution is already here. Compliance is about to become a lot easier thanks to a new platform developed by CoVi Analytics. Having just graduated from Startupbootcamp InsurTech, they are making information “beautiful and insightful” so that insurers can make better decisions faster, reduce operational risk and costs. CEO and founder, Waleed Sarwar has told us how it all started and how their products are making regulation insurer-friendly.
Hello, Waleed! First of all, how did you come up with the idea for your start-up?
The short and long of it … while creating the problem.
I was in the Policy team at the UK regulator (the PRA, part of the Bank of England). My day job was to co-create rules that insurance groups are expected to follow under the new insurance regulation – Solvency II. I was developing these with peers from the Bank [of England] and counterparts in other European regulators.
Now I say we “creating the problem”, I would like to clarify at this point that regulation itself or the regulators are not the problem. In fact they are the bedrock of financial services. Would you put all your hard earned money in a bank if there were no guarantee that you will get it back? Regulators make sure there is trust in the system. Therefore, insurance regulation is in place so we can ‘trust’ that for the premium we have paid today, we will be made good when the risk crystalizes for us.
That said, the problem is the manner in which the regulation is delivered – thorough many many documents and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make for exciting reading.
While creating the rules for insurance groups, even I struggled (the chap drafting them) keeping track of which rule lived where and which one is the latest version. That’s when I thought to myself “there has to be better way!!”
What is your start-up all about?
Given that we are in the business of making things simple, I shall keep my response to this question in line with our values – simple. We are making compliance simple.
How is your start-up changing / challenging the insurance industry?
We consider ourselves as enablers – enabling insurers to do things better.
We want to change how people feel about compliance or regulation. Instead of feeling a knot forming in your throat or the ‘evil’ butterflies in your tummy we want people to have warm fuzzy feeling when they hear the words compliance, regulator or regulators.
We have a two-prong approach.
First we are making the compliance text easier to navigate and fun to interact with. We want to take away the overwhelming sense of unease when people are asked that dreaded question – “What does the regulation say about —–?”. I know, I have been there.
The second, we want to put the reports insurers prepare for their regulators to work. Currently insurers take a lot of information from their infamous legacy systems, clean, review and potentially audit it before putting it in front of the board to sign-off. What happens to all this work once leaves the building to go to the regulation – a big fat NOTHING. This is the reason why compliance is a massive cost center – insurers do all that work which adds nothing to the business. This is often dismissed as “cost of doing business”.
But hold on, if a third party (regulator) can assess your risk exposures based on these regulatory reports – then why can’t you? Why aren’t these regulatory reports being used to replace internal management reporting processes? By using these reports insurers can eliminate replicated requests to the finance team for the same information.
We help insurers put their regulator reports to work. We combine these regulatory reports with AI technologies and superfluid visualisations, allowing insurers to extract value from reports which otherwise get shelved once submitted to the regulator. We take compliance from an activity that only cost money to an activity that adds value to the business.
What’s the most difficult aspect about running a start-up?
Working in a startup means that everyone wears multiple hats. When one of the weekly sprints is running behind schedule I find myself being dragged in the coding-cave to help with development.
Similarly, when we are trying to reach out to all the interesting people we meet at conferences I drag my CTO from his coding-cave to help.
Titles and designations means diddly squat when you are a startup, only ownership of different activities are what that matters, other than that we are all ‘floating’ resource.
As a CEO, I have the most hats since I need to keep an eye on team CoVi, finances and sales. Juggling these can be tricky on most days, especially when you have been dragged into the coding-cave.
What’s the best aspect?
It never gets boring and each day is different. But best of all, since everyone is ‘floating’ between different aspects of the business everyone get a holistic view. There are no silos and therefore there are no drawn out catch-up meetings.
As they say “still rivers run dry” so we have adopted a line from Glen Ross – “Always Be Learning” … that’s right … coffee is for learners.
Can you describe your start-up in 3 words?
Making complex simple.
What are 3 key aspects you wish you knew before starting up your business?
- how much fun it is – I would’ve done it earlier;
- the importance of community – having people around you in & outside your business is amazing;
- the fund raising process – we thought we were queuing up for “it’s a small world” ride only to be ushered onto “space mountain”. It’s lots of ups & downs in the dark and it’s not long before you lose your sense of orientation.
What other insurtech start-ups are you excited about?
That is like asking a parent which of your kids you like the most. As mentioned above we feel like part of a community and we are equally excited about all the cool things that are happening in the ecosystem – particularly by our StartupBootcamp InsurTech brethren.
Do you have any advice for others who might want to venture into the start-up world?
You need two things:
- jump-in both feet – there is no part-timing it, that never works;
- get lots of and lots of passion – fill all the buckets and boxes you have at home with passion around the problem you want to solve. As a startup your biggest challenge is to get others excited about your solution to the problem. You need this passion to excite others to join you, invest in you, root for you and buy from you.
Can you give me an example of innovation / technology that has impressed you lately?
I personally am very excited about Virtual and Augmented reality. I believe it’s the next evolutionary step that might frog-leap the tablet era, fundamentally changing the work place like computers did for paper records.
What gadget can’t you live without?
My dual monitor setup. I physically feel sick when I have to use a laptop screen to do real work.
Can you describe the current state of the insurance industry in 3 words?
Ready to change
How can insurers be more innovative?
Breaking down silos. During my time in the industry I have seen two different teams trying to solve the same problem completely unaware of the other. Just by talking to each other is a step in the right direction.
What can insurers do to make it easier for you to collaborate with them?
Know-thy-self. From our discussions with insurers every day we meet individuals wanting to change the arcane ways of doing things but don’t know how to do that as a collective. Due to the silos, it’s often not clear who else needs to be consulted to engage with startups.
In your opinion, what is going to be the next big thing in insurance?
Automation leading to personalization.
Insurers will stop crying “legacy systems” and get their acts together. Startups like us and RightIndem will help insurers do just that.
On the back of that startups like Fit Sense, Quantifyle, Spixii, Domotoz, MyFutureNow and Buzzmove will take it a step further and help personalize the product offerings and support insurers provide to their policyholders.
What else would you be doing if you hadn’t started up your current business?
I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Let’s put it this way – I had the option to take the blue pill or the red pill in December 2015. I took the red one and there is no going back to the Work-eat-sleep-bonus-repeat corporate life for me.
I think the insurance industry will agree with me when I say you’ve chosen the right pill. Thank you, Waleed, for taking part in our interview series.
If you want to make regulatory compliance simpler you can find CoVi Analytics here.
For more insight into the insurtech start-up scene keep an eye on this space 🙂
Marketing assistant @Ingenin