Technology in Insurance

Articles from the OpenUnderwriter team discussing technology, how it can help the industry today and its potential for the future.

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 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.

Extended Document Support in OpenUnderwriter 2.1 and the Benefits of Product Structure

Among the other new features and enhancements included in OpenUnderwriter 2.1 is support for an extended set of document types.

As well as quotation documents, which have been supported for some time, the system now generates certificates, wordings, and invoices. Like all product features, document definitions benefit from product inheritance - meaning that each product need only define the ways in which if differs and need not define common elements.

Challenges for Technology in the Microinsurance Sector

The use of new technology is critical for the microinsurance sector, but without reliable data or actuarial capacity, it will be a struggle to design sustainable products.

This article was written for Insurance Day – Issue 4,194 - Monday 22 September 2014.

We live in a world dependent upon technology, we use it every day, at home, in our jobs, it touches everything we do, but rarely do we consider the process and decisions that have gone on behind the scenes to deliver that technology into our lives.

GWT Comes to Play

OpenUnderwriter is delighted to announce the arrival of Google Web Toolkit (GWT) into the project.

We chose GWT to provide a richer and more interactive web UI experience for end users of the OpenUnderwriter product suite. We looked at a few other technologies for the job including JQuery, Vaadin and Yahoo-UI, but in the end GWT won through for us on its cross-browser support, flexible internationalisation, responsiveness and rich features. Plus, being Java based makes it consistent with the rest of the OpenUnderwriter project.

Affordable Technology Platforms

How do you provide affordable technology platforms for mutual and other insurers in the developing world?

This article was written for Insurance Day – Issue 4,115 - Monday 2 June 2014.

The demand for low cost insurance is growing at a phenomenal rate. 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.

Are we being used?

How can you tell how much your open source software is being used?

One of the questions that haunts many open source projects is How much is the thing we're developing really being used? For commercial software, it's an easy question to answer, you can count the licenses. It's indirect of course - you don't know that someone who owns a license is actually using the system - but it is accurate enough for most especially as it generally relates to income!

OpenQuote becomes OpenUnderwriter

OpenQuote still exists, but it is now a component application within OpenUnderwriter.

There has been something of a hiatus in OpenQuote 2.0 development lately, but the break has allowed us extend the scope of OpenQuote which is something we're very excited about. In fact the scope has been extended to the point where the name "OpenQuote" is now simply too restrictive. So we've renamed the whole project.


Get in touch with the team



Mocatta House
Trafalgar Place
United Kingdom

 +44 (0)20 7183 4578