Paving the way for an insurtech boom

Insurtech Australia – the peak body for insurtech companies in Australia – officially launched at the end of October to a packed room in the QBE offices in Sydney.

“Insurtech is a rapidly growing sector worldwide, and Australia has the ideas and skills to compete,” says Brenton Charnley, lead and co-founder of Insurtech Australia.

Doing a Google trend search for the word ‘insurtech’, Australia comes up 11th, way ahead of countries like the US, he notes. “We have a wonderful opportunity here. We are leading the US … and have an opportunity to push forward. Particularly as Australia is known to be a high-quality exporter of things.”

Charnley notes that 2017 has been a busy year for the sector, with investments from incumbents such as IAG with Firemark Labs, QBE with its $50 million insurtech fund, and Suncorp with Trov to name a few.

An advantage we have, according to a panel discussion on the night, is that we have a regulator with an open ear.

It is not without its problems though. For instance, in relation to the ASIC fintech regulatory sandbox, founder and CEO of Evari Daniel Fogarty notes: “How can anyone do anything with $50,000 [the current limit for general insurance]? I don’t know anyone playing in the sandbox.”

And neither did anyone in the audience, making his point for him.

However, ASIC has recently released a proposal for an “enhanced” fintech regulatory sandbox – so the jury is still out on this.

It will, indeed, keep the new peak body busy as one of its other goals is to advocate on policy.

Need for speed

Another goal for Insurtech Australia is to work with organisations on both sides – incumbents and start-ups, Charnley says.

“Insurtech Australia’s mission is to foster a diverse community of insurance, startup and technology leaders to help Australia become a world leader for insurtech.”

He explains insurtechs need the incumbents to grow. Currently, he estimates there are 20 to 30 insurtechs and he would “like to see more”. So Insurtech Australia will look at “connecting people with people” to accelerate innovation and support people locally and globally.

But, a challenge, says founder and CEO of Coverhero Naby Mariyam, is the speed – or lack thereof – at which insurance companies work. “Insurance companies are open to collaboration and innovation but they take a long time [to make decisions] … the start-up world … we work in a different timeframe,” she says.

“Find a common ground where insurance companies have a space … labs, an innovation department, which is open to communications and can provide start-ups with access to resources. That will allow us to work together more efficiently.”