Dexter Cousins recently interviewed Ben Webster, the founder of Insurtech AGILE Underwriting, (a Lloyd's cover holder, MGA, and Insurtech company) on Fintech Chatter. Ben has been a pioneer in the industry and has built a reputation for his expertise in niche insurance markets. We discuss AGILE's unique approach to insurance, the challenges of distribution, and the future of the Insurtech ecosystem.
AGILE Model: Niche Insurance, Diverse Portfolio
AGILE specialises in niche insurance products, focusing on areas that are often overlooked or under-serviced by traditional insurers. Ben explains, "We work in really niche insurance markets, such as pilot personal accident insurance, wedding insurance, scaffolders insurance, vacant land insurance, and many more." This approach sets Agile apart from the mainstream insurance industry, which tends to focus on more common products like home and motor insurance.
When asked about the decision to focus on niche markets, Ben explains, "There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is the diversity it provides. During the COVID-19 pandemic, while our travel insurance business suffered, our diverse portfolio allowed us to ride the wave and come out stronger. Additionally, at the heart of every insurance policy are similar fundamentals, such as insured parties, coverage periods, and events covered. Once you have these fundamentals in place, the individual rating factors for each product are what vary."
Overcoming Challenges in Distribution
One of the biggest challenges for any Insurtech company is distribution. Ben acknowledges this, stating, "Once you have the pipeline of finding capacity and building a product, the hardest problem is distribution." He goes on to explain that launching a product can take 18 to 24 months, and even after all the hard work, it can be met with silence. To overcome this, Agile has developed strategies to validate products early on and ensure there is a market demand. Ben also emphasizes the importance of brokers in their distribution strategy, as they play a crucial role in reaching customers.
The Entrepreneur Flying Under the Radar
Throughout the conversation, it becomes clear why Dexter Cousins considers Ben one of the most under appreciated entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. His ability to navigate the challenges of the insurance industry, his focus on building a strong company culture, a track record in bootstrapping and growing businesses and his resilience in the face of adversity are all qualities that set him apart. Ben's experience in the industry, from his early days at WorldNomads.com to his current ventures, has shaped his approach to entrepreneurship and has earned him the respect of his peers.
The Importance of Finding the Right Talent
Finding the right talent is another challenge that Ben has faced throughout his entrepreneurial journey. He explains, "Insurance is an incredibly siloed industry, and there is a gender imbalance in senior positions. We hire specialists, but we also look for generalists who can work across departments. We invest in training juniors to develop a well-rounded understanding of the industry. However, finding the right people is not easy."
Dealing with Failure and Moving Forward
Ben's journey has not been without its share of failures. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on his previous venture, Insured By Us, was particularly challenging. He had to make difficult decisions, including letting go of a talented team. However, Ben's stoic mindset and focus on what he can control helped him navigate through the tough times. He emphasises the importance of learning from failures and using them as stepping stones to future success.
The Future of Insurtech
Looking ahead, Ben believes that the Insurtech ecosystem needs to evolve at a faster pace. He highlights the need for regulatory changes to make it easier for startups to enter the market. Ben also sees potential in parametric insurance, which simplifies the claims process by providing predefined payouts based on specific events. He believes that this approach can help bridge the gap between insurers and customers, making insurance products more accessible and transparent.
In conclusion, Ben Webster's journey in the Insurtech industry is a testament to the resilience and innovation required to succeed in a rapidly evolving landscape. His focus on niche markets, commitment to building a strong company culture, and ability to navigate challenges have positioned AGILE as a leader in the industry. As the Insurtech ecosystem continues to grow, Ben's insights and experiences will undoubtedly shape the future of the industry.
Note: This article is a transcription of a conversation and includes direct quotes from Ben Webster. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fintech Chatter.
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