Awards, Uber, and Changing Insurance for the Better

Steven Mendel By Steven Mendel

I am hugely proud that Bought By Many won the Insurance Startup Award at last night's BIAs. It is yet another fantastic vindication of everything we have achieved in the last 12 months - our growth from 14,000 to over 75,000 members, the new partnerships we have built, and the influential plaudits from Boston Consulting Group, The World Economic Forum and others.

But in many ways, the experience of getting home from the awards says more about the state of innovation in the insurance industry than Bought By Many collecting a gong.

Leaving the Royal Albert Hall last night, I saw hundreds of men in penguin suits and women in evening dresses scanning the horizon for black cabs. It had been a great party, and there was a sense of camaraderie as everyone not within walking distance of their home or hotel resigned themselves to a long wait. A woman offered me a menthol cigarette; a man asked if I was interested in joining a group looking for a black cab to take them to Ealing.

At that moment I got a text from my Uber driver saying "I am parked outside Door 3". I had booked from my table at the awards, using the Uber app on my iPhone, five minutes previously. I got into a clean, modern, saloon car and was whisked away. The driver was delightful & I enjoyed talking to him about my work and his work - he works 20% less for the same income since becoming an Uber driver. Meanwhile, my wife was following my journey on her phone. I got home to North London so much faster and so much more comfortably than if I had taken a black cab. Better still, it was literally half the price.

Uber makes the experience of taking a cab dramatically more consumer-centric, and much cheaper. But incumbent taxi companies, with their vested interest in the status quo, are standing in the way. They are trying to resist, while the world moves on.

This could easily be the fate of the insurance industry too. It sells the same policies in the same way that it has done for years. It congratulates and celebrates the status quo. Although it was great to see so much more twitter activity last night than at any other insurance event I have attended, social media is still a peripheral concern for most insurance companies - good for a sunglasses selfie, but not a serious part of their business. Meanwhile, the vast majority of new entrants are traditional brokers - the "black cabs" of the insurance industry.

In the cab market, it has taken Uber, a new entrant from outside with technology at the heart of its business, to transform the experience of the industry's customers. The same disruption is happening in insurance, and I really hope that - instead of entrenching, like the cab companies - the industry will get behind it.

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