Low Ego, High Collaboration – Richard Watson, CEO, Inigo Insurance
This week’s guest on The Voice of Insurance podcast is Richard Watson, the co-founder and CEO of Inigo Insurance, a specialty insurance and reinsurance start-up at Lloyd’s. In this discussion, Mark Geoghegan and Richard chat about Inigo’s strategy and priorities, ESG, the application of algorithmic underwriting, investing in data and smart technologies, and Lloyd’s market reform.
Kicking off the discussion, Richard discusses the motivation behind starting Inigo Insurance, which began its journey in 2020 and started its business in January this year. Further in the podcast, Richard talks about Inigo´s company culture and its aim to have the best underwriters and apply new thinking and analysis to specialty risk.
Speaking about culture, Richard describes how he spent a lot of time thinking about this and how important it was to create an environment where people inherently want to come and work. Richard discusses that one specific element is critical: its ability to foster a low ego and high collaboration environment. Placing emphasis on learning and development are also crucial aspects of Inigo’s culture, in addition to having fun: “It’s got to be fun. I hope that doesn’t sound trite to start with that, but I meet so many people who work in big companies where they feel totally subsumed by this huge organisation, and they´re not having fun anymore, and I don´t think fun has to be diametrically opposed to being professional.”
Investing in Technologies
The growing pace in data-driven decisions and applying analytics to every step in the insurance value chain is fast becoming a necessity and not an opportunity in the insurance market. Mark asks Richard about his views on analytics and smart technologies, with Richard responding: “But I think in the bigger ticket, that whole kind of capability of data analytics really hasn’t been applied anywhere near as much as it could be. We´re still rating risks in a way that is really quite basic if we´re being honest with ourselves.”
As the conversation moves to innovative technologies impacting the industry, Mark and Richard discuss the potential to leverage Artificial Intelligence and machine learning on improving processes. “I think the bit I find more interesting is that machine learning and that Artificial Intelligence; the bit that will help you try and understand is it coincidence, is it causation, etc.,” says Richard. However, he also cautions that the industry must be careful looking at data sets and do it carefully, and not to expect that technology can reinvent the wheel, “I think if you can work from your existing base and use the data to make you 1% better here, 2% better here, 1% better on this aspect that’s how you open up performance over time.”
Start-ups have the advantage of having no legacy technology. Mark asks if Inigo is positioning itself in this fashion. Richard replies: “We are spending a lot of time investing in the data and the analytics. We set ourselves up to be a company that is really based around great people doing great things with data and with science, so to do that, you need to invest in the teams and the capabilities… If we’re going to shout and scream about anything, I’d like to think it´s the fact that we bought a bunch of really good underwriters to the market working in areas where we know they can add value and people want to talk to them.”
Algorithmic underwriting is increasingly being leveraged across the industry; Mark asks Richard if it appeals to him and his business or whether it’s best suited to another type of business: “We’re all going to do it. I mean everybody who listens to your programme we’ll all be doing this if we´re not doing it already. I mean, if you substitute algorithmic underwriting with rules-based underwriting, which in my mind is essentially what it is, I think it´s been going on for years.”
Enjoy the podcast.