OpenUnderwriter Blog

Open, insightful discussion and commentary from the team behind OpenUnderwriter, covering topics important to us such as insurance, open source, emerging markets and technology.

Disrupting Insurance

Why is meaningful change taking so long?


Insurance is a unique industry and like no other I’ve worked in. As Lemonade’s Chief Behavioural Officer Dan Ariely said, “If you wanted to create a system to bring out the worst in humans, it would look a lot like the insurance of today”.

Ask people who work in Insurance how they began and they will probably tell you they stumbled in to it.Ask consumers about their interactions with Insurance companies and it will more than likely be a tale of dissatisfaction (I remember making my first insurance claim after someone had run into my parked car and painfully finding out what a £500 excess was). Ask any non home-owning, non car-owning millennial to describe the basic concepts of insurance and most will struggle (although InsNerds Simplest Glossary would be a good place to start).

Yet this is a $4.5 Trillion industry with global premiums equating to 6.5% of global GDP in 2015.

Most analysts have agreed for several years that it is an industry ripe for transformation, so why is it taking so long for any meaningful change? 

I put it down to three things:

The internet

The retail industry was completely democratised by the internet. Anybody with an eBay account could take on the big boys and consumers were given a near perfect view of product, price and proximity. Compare the retail industry of 20 years ago to today and it has been transformed beyond recognition.

Not so Insurance.

One big problem is that the average consumer typically doesn’t understand the product they’re buying. When they were buying insurance from a high street broker, they at least had someone to advise them and explain the relative benefits of different products. In today’s on-line aggregated world, consumers are usually looking at price only and have little idea whether a policy is adequate for their needs. This results in huge dissatisfaction when claims are made and consumers realise they’re under insured.

This leads to anger from consumers, claims getting embellished and ultimately an unsatisfactory and adversarial business arrangement with distrust at it’s core and the true value of the insurance buried under huge admin and fraud costs. So rather than improve the situation, apart from creating some very rich aggregators, the internet has magnified the industry’s problems.

The are signs that things are changing and the industry is starting to embrace technology to improve customer engagement. Certainly the innovative use of chatbots and AI from the likes of Lemonade is starting to change the way the man on the street views insurance, which can only be a good thing.


Most people I know in the industry have stumbled into it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some really smart people but if I ask a new graduate today to name the top 20 companies they want to work for, I doubt whether Insurance would figure particularly prominently. I’ve seen plenty of initiatives over the years but ultimately, Insurance has an image problem and until the public’s perception of the industry starts to change, then we are unlikely to see a huge influx of talent. That said, the recent rise in number of InsurTech start-ups is beginning to shake things up. I've noted myself the shifting demographic of conference attendees being markedly different to 5 years ago. Still a few too many ties for my liking but we’re moving in the right direction.

Another recurring problem I’ve seen is new start-ups emerging with really smart people and great technology but who lack any practical knowledge of insurance. The initial enthusiasm is quickly dampened as they become embroiled in regulation and archaic standards and usually decide that there are easier paths in other, more glamorous fields. I think the change has to be driven from within the industry. The game changers will be people who can combine entrepreneurial spirit and technical expertise with deep industry knowledge.

That said, a broad well informed panel of industry commentators and a significant rise in global InsurTech investment is beginning to turn a few heads, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some high profile appointments over the next 12 months.


Thanks in part to the large capital requirements, we’ve yet to see the big disruptor in Insurance and to be honest unless Jeff, Mark or Larry decide it’s something high on their priority list then we’re not going to see an Uber moment any time soon. This is an industry that is based on risk aversion so although a lot of the big companies are making the right noises, I think the truth is they’re hedging their bets whilst keeping an eye on what the competition are up to. I’d love to be proven wrong but I think the challenges of regulation, legacy technology and shrinking margins are paralysing a lot of boardrooms.

However, parallels could be drawn with the wider fintech market of 10 years ago which after a some tentative first steps was just preparing to embark on a period of exponential growth.

So the question is, what happens next? Will the new wave of InsurTechs slowly but surely change the face of the industry? Will we see a major play by one of the tech giants? Or will it be a case of the more things change, the more things stay the same?

Watch this space.

How Mutual and Cooperative Insurers in the Developing World Will Benefit from InsurTech

The InsurTech revolution is in full swing with millions of pounds being invested trying to re-think inefficient and outdated operating models.

This article was written for Insurance Day – Issue 4,605 - Monday 23 May 2016.

With the demand for low cost insurance growing at a phenomenal rate and a large increase in the number of member and community based organisations (cooperatives and mutual) especially in the developing world, the demand for innovative, cost effective technology has never been higher. With enormous potential benefits to both state and consumer, low cost insurance provides a financial safety net to some of the lowest income families around the globe but to date, traditional technology solutions have been ill equipped to support this market.

Cloud Insurance Services for the African Market

New platform to give African insurance providers a low cost distribution channel.

Tech Equity Ltd and OpenUnderwriter have today announced a partnership to provide an innovative set of cloud insurance services to the African market.

The partnership offers a robust, cloud hosted platform that will give African insurance providers a low cost distribution channel for their products. It will allow these products to be provisioned and purchased using SMS (as well as traditional methods), which will potentially open up a whole new market for low cost insurance.

Quote comparison and Other New Features in 3.0EA3

OpenUnderwriter 3.0EA3 is ready for download

I'm always very pleased to announce the availability of a new release, but this time it's one that has a couple of features that the team are very proud of. One is large the other is comparatively small, but both make a big difference to OpenUnderwriter's capabilities.

The Evolution of OpenUnderwriter

To coincide with the release of OpenUnderwriter 2.2, we want to tell you a little bit about what you can find in the release, along with some other exciting developments that have been happening behind the scenes here.

The Evolution of OpenUnderwriter

Over the last few months the team has been working really hard to implement some major milestones in OpenUnderwriter's roadmap.

FML Choose OpenUnderwriter

Specialist Southend based broker, FML Insurance Services Ltd have become OpenUnderwriter's latest insurance client.

FML specialise in schemes including leisure and entertainment and have initially gone live with OpenUnderwriter's quote and buy software for it's equipment hirer product.

The Rapidly Changing Face of Selling On-Line

UK on-line retail sales are set to hit £52.5bn in 2015 and for the first time ever the IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report has revealed that visits to on-line shopping sites on mobiles has overtaken desktop.

This means it is now more important than ever for brokers to have a clear digital strategy if they want to remain relevant in today's increasingly competitive marketplace.

25-34 year olds are leading the way in this mobile usage and although the majority may not yet own homes or businesses and may be driving their parent's car, they have a completely different approach to purchasing that needs to be catered for effectively. If you can’t service this demographic through a mobile device then you are going to be invisible to a growing and lucrative sector of the market.

Gaining Competitive Advantage Through Collaboration

Technology has played a large part in addressing the challenges faced by mutual and co-operative insurers in the developing world, but it is time for new and more innovative approaches to be considered.

This article was written for Insurance Day – Issue 4,361 - Monday 1 June 2015.

Enabling huge areas of the globe develop insurance solutions depends very heavily on cheap and reliable technology. The demand for low cost insurance is growing at a phenomenal rate and as a result we’ve seen a large increase in the number of member and community based organisations (cooperatives and mutual) especially in the developing world. With enormous potential benefits to both state and consumer, low cost insurance provides a financial safety net to some of the lowest income families around the globe.

Demonstration Broker Website - Customer Focus...

We have spent a long time demonstrating OpenUnderwriter to many different organisations over the past 6 months.

Demonstration Broker Website - Customer Focus...

One of the common pieces of feedback that we have received is that while we give a comprehensive overview of the technical and administration aspects of the system, we haven’t focussed too much on the customer experience. In order to address this, we have now developed a new public website for our very own demo broker - Star Insurance.

OpenUnderwriter 2.1 – Whats New…

The OpenUnderwriter team is really proud to announce the release of OpenUnderwriter 2.1.

OpenUnderwriter 2.1 – Whats New…

Following on from the success of version 2.0 earlier this year, this latest release further refines and expands the software's feature set. The focus, as always, is delivering innovative software that allows Insurance organisations to deliver results and quickly and efficiently.

Strategy Update

Hello everyone, I'm David and I joined the OpenUnderwriter team in March this year as Strategy Director.

I was previously CEO of Insurecom who were an Insurance Technology company in Brighton before they were acquired by Applied Systems in Aug 2013. I'm passionate about the innovative use of technology to make business more efficient and I really think that the Insurance Industry can be better served.


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