You’ve been in the travel insurance and assistance industry for over 25 years. What are the major changes you’ve seen in that time?
The biggest single change has probably been the development of medical screening and the ability to assess the risk associated with pre-existing medical conditions, and therefore the additional premium that should be charged. When I started in the industry this was not available. Therefore insurers were exposed to unknown, potentially high-risk customers, or customers were left exposed to being insufficiently insured if their pre-existing conditions were simply excluded.
While in general I welcome the development of screening technology, I believe in some ways it has become overly complex for the customer, who may not declare properly, either accidentally or deliberately, leading insurers to not pay claims. This has resulted in many instances of negative press, which does not help the image of the travel insurance industry.
I think it will be fascinating to see how more advanced technology can be used to take a holistic approach to monitoring and assessing a person’s lifestyle and true medical position in order to make a more personalised assessment. This would address the issues caused by everyone following the exact same decision trees through the screening process, which may not truly reflect how well or badly a person manages their conditions.
Another major change has been the distribution of travel insurance, which has moved to predominantly online with a high proportion of sales coming from B2C [business-to-consumer] channels and also through aggregator sites. The latter, in my opinion, has not always been good for the consumer as there have been many instances of customer detriment with them buying poor quality products based purely on price as products are displayed in price order. There has been some improvement in this area as more filters are now available for customers to find the cover they need. Overall, the rise of aggregator distribution has not been healthy for insurers, with premiums constantly being driven down and large commissions being demanded by the aggregators.
You have been with Kainos International for over three years. What have been the major challenges and successes you’ve experienced in your time there?
I joined Kainos International just after the first Covid-19 lockdown, when work and travel patterns were still very disrupted. So it was quite challenging to get to know colleagues and work practices while working 100 per cent remotely, but Kainos were hugely supportive in this regard. In addition, Kainos operate in products and markets that I was not so familiar with, so again this was a challenge and a steep learning curve. That said, it is very stimulating for me that at this stage in my career I am still learning and developing.
A key success for me has been the development of business in the Middle East. We have launched the first pet insurance product in Dubai and will be shortly rolling this out in Saudi Arabia. We also have a large programme of redundancy protection in the UAE where we work with the major banks offering the product alongside their personal and automotive loan portfolio.
We continue to expand our influence in the Scandinavian markets, where we work with the largest broker in the region across a variety of products, providing insurance and reinsurance solutions.
What does your current role entail?
As Global Head of Insurance, my primary objective is to grow and diversify the Kainos portfolio of business. I often describe my role as ‘joining the dots’ between distributors, products, capacity and clients. Kainos is a specialist solutions provider, and my role is to facilitate and manage the relationships.
My other key objective is to raise the profile of Kainos in the UK market since the vast majority of our business is in overseas territories. This will naturally see us expanding in niche personal lines such as travel and other personal lines as well as commercial markets.
What are the major challenges right now for international insurers?
Historically, the hardest part of international insurance was understanding and managing local regulatory requirements. Now the world is in an increasingly precarious position politically, socially and environmentally, where ‘once in a lifetime’ events now occur regularly. For an insurer, mitigating your exposure to catastrophic events is incredibly challenging given the frequency of extreme weather events and political instability often leading to terrorist attacks.
This is where the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be so crucial. By data mining vast quantities of information, an international insurer will be better able to understand, predict and therefore mitigate risks, as well as being able to prioritise the right claims at the right time to ensure a better outcome.
In contrast, actually transacting business across multiple territories or in multiple languages has definitely become easier with the advent of more sophisticated technology.
How have the geopolitical challenges of recent years, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, affected how you operate – if at all?
Thankfully, Kainos already operated seven days a week, mostly 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., with their jewellery, watch and pet claims handling operation. As such, remote working was available to all staff members, so we were mostly unaffected by the working-from-
We tend not to conduct business in politically unstable regions, although we have had to make some changes to policy terms and conditions to reflect geopolitical and environmental events.
All businesses are struggling to retain staff in the current climate. How is Kainos International responding to such a challenge?
Kainos is a compact business with a team of highly experienced individuals supported by office-based staff in Norfolk. Our structure is very flat, meaning all staff have access to the key people within the business. The supportive management style means staff are empowered to make decisions, so we naturally retain a happy and capable workforce. The management team have worked across the insurance industry in a variety of senior roles. This makes for a very stimulating work environment where one can innovate by using our own skills and experience whilst drawing on the knowledge of colleagues when needed.
How has Kainos International used new technology to assist clients, and what do you think the new innovations might include?
Kainos is primarily a wholesale and reinsurance broker; as such, we do not operate any B2C business. For our corporate clients we offer more of a managing general agent (MGA) service, where good-quality management information (MI) is critical, so we have invested heavily in our claims system. We partner with distributors who have quality systems that offer control and comprehensive MI. Additionally, for the surety business we place, we have a partner who provides a risk monitoring system which uses technology to give advanced warning of possible issues. We work with a well-known fintech for warranty distribution and in the future we will expand our insurance offering further into the fintech space as digital distribution is clearly the way forward.
The influence of AI, whilst in its infancy in the insurance world, is likely to increase exponentially in a very short period of time. AI modelling will fundamentally change the way we operate as an MGA, and strategically we have already started working internally on developing the necessary skills, which will be rolled out within the business over the next 12 months.
Kainos have also benefitted from their broker clients investing in AI, for instance to automate claims handling, to download a country’s entire household property register, and [for] an online survey system.
Some of our clients in the construction world are now using glyphometric signatures, which improves efficiency and automating policy issuance, which is in line with building regulations across the whole of the European construction space.
What do you think sets Kainos International apart from others?
For me what sets Kainos apart is the breadth of experience we have within the senior team. We have all had successful careers in the insurance industry, which brings different expertise across a wide variety of clients, products, markets, insurers and reinsurers. Therefore we can jointly offer multiple solutions to any request we receive and, if we don’t know the answer to something, we will surely know someone who does!
Our other big advantage is that as an independent business we can offer a flexibility and speed of response that larger organisations may struggle with.