Talking InsurTech with start-up InsuredHQ

Insurance software

Talking InsurTech with start-up InsuredHQ

From emerging markets that need full featured insurance software without the enterprise cost, to developed countries that are selling insurance through non-traditional channels, InsuredHQ has created a novel solution. We sat down with Pauline Davies, the company’s CEO, to learn about making quality insurance tools ubiquitous.

After December 2009, in the aftermath of the tsunami in Samoa that caused mass devastation and left more than 3,000 people homeless, Pauline and Matthew Davies set out to support the local community by providing insurance services. Together, they created the only resident brokerage in Samoa.

However, they soon found the software solutions available to small insurance businesses such as their own were either cheap and low on functionality, or expensive, and built for large corporates. In an economy where average household income is almost a third of what it is in New Zealand, and with 26.9% of the population at the time living below the poverty line, the cost of the latter made it no real option at all, while the former was virtually useless.

On further investigation, Matt and Pauline found that there is a tangible gap in the market for management and distribution systems for microinsurance, while SME businesses in more developed countries were singing out for affordable industry software that can handle policy management, claims, reporting, transactions, document production and more. It was a gap that, a few years later, Pauline and Matthew, together with system architect Ben Goudie-Park, would be all too happy to fill.

Today, the product of their combined 60 years’ experience in the industry, InsuredHQ, has been sold in eight countries, including ones where the microinsurance market is particularly underdeveloped. In recognition of that product and the company behind it, InsuredHQ was a finalist in both the 2016 Hi-Tech Awards and the 2016 New Zealand Innovation Awards.

Co-founder and CEO of the company, Pauline Davies, explains how the company has got to this point and how her team is helping to make affordable insurance software ubiquitous.

Four-hour implementation

“To make things very simple and cost-effective for the small-business audience, we’ve created some important packages,” Pauline begins. “InsuredHQ Essentials is almost a plug and play in the most basic form, and it’s given us even more room to be even more valuable in places where SME businesses have the same technology expense problem as we had ourselves, and also in places where microinsurance needs to be delivered more cost effectively and efficiently.”

One of those places is Papua New Guinea, where Pauline’s team reached a new personal landmark when setting up a new client with essential insurance tools.

“We had them up and running and processing policies within four hours. We’re immensely proud of that. And we’re still automating parts of that process, so we’re expecting to become even quicker in the near future.”

Pauline says it’s the ability for users to only pay for what they need that makes it easier to enter both developed and emerging markets On top of a basic software package, she says users can start adding extra functionality – mobile applications, broker and client portals and payment management. It’s this choice to focus on user-chosen design, as well as the flexibility to do so through cloud software, that Pauline thinks have been the real advantages for her company.

“You don’t have to have what we tell you you’re getting; you get what you want, and people really like that,” Pauline explains. “We can make the system do pretty much anything a client wants it to do, or what they’re used to already – it’s almost infinitely flexible.”

Support when it’s needed

With speed and flexibility so important to InsurTech businesses, Pauline and her team often need fast answers to their commercial or financial questions, which she says is one of the advantages she finds of working with PwC.

“We wanted to have a virtual CFO (chief financial officer) relationship with somebody,” says Pauline. “From the companies we interviewed, we liked the approach PwC took in what they were prepared to do for us.

“PwC does all our accounting, our payroll, pays our bills, and provides tax advice and returns. We’re thrilled by the support and the availability of people and the willingness to offer advice and assistance.

“I know I can go to the team and say ‘I need to know something or someone in a particular country’ and they’ll find the answer or make that connection for me. It’s a very useful resource to have.”

InsuredHQ is part of the SaaS Club, which is a PwC-hosted networking group for founders, senior management and directors of software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses. Pauline and her team are also one of the early adopters of PwC’s Next – a purpose-built, cloud-based tool for managing all of a business’s digital information, bringing together insights from Xero, MYOB, Spotlight Reporting, Shoeboxed and plenty more.

Having used the platform for around a year, and with plenty of experience working with cloud technology herself, Pauline shares her feelings.

“We’ve had a really good experience with PwC’s Next so far. It’s very useful for pulling out the metrics that we need and keeping track of the smaller details in one place.”

On cloud nine

So what’s next for the company? Pauline says there are plenty of opportunities to continue filling the gap where microinsurance, and affordable insurance tools in general, have been lacking – both in New Zealand and overseas.

“We’ve been on the market for about two and a half years, and now work in Samoa, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, New Zealand, Curacao, Ghana, the Solomon Islands and the United States,” Pauline explains.

“Looking ahead, Africa is a big potential market for us. Internet accessibility is growing at thousands of percent each year. Many SME businesses are going straight from Word docs and spreadsheets to the cloud, skipping that intermediate step of having an enterprise legacy system, which puts them at an advantage.

“Our initial take that there’s a gap in the market has proved correct. Microinsurance is being under-addressed because of, among other issues, the cost of distribution. We can reduce distribution costs because of the cloud.”

However, while the nature of the cloud has been one of the biggest success factors for InsuredHQ, it has also held them back – an unfortunate scenario that Pauline thinks is starting to change.

“Probably the biggest challenge has been persuading people that the cloud is a viable way of doing business. That’s reducing quickly as the cloud becomes more established. Most businesses today are at least having the conversation, which two years ago would have been unheard of.”

From Samoa and New Zealand to the world, it’s another example of how Kiwis are collaborating, innovating and taking great strides to change the game on a global scale.

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