Having been in the insurance market for over forty years, our Head of Business Architecture, Martin Lancaster, has seen a number of attempts at digital evolution in the London Market. In our latest Q&A, Martin reflects on the progress of digitisation within the London Market over the years and what may yet lie ahead. He also shares his insight into best practice for technology integration, and explains why as part of introducing technology it’s crucial to understand how technology is affecting the wider business, from the benefits achieved, to the impact on individuals and their ways of working.
Find out more about Martin’s journey and his thoughts on how the market adapts to the digital transformation:
During my time in the market, I’ve had a number of roles that have firmly cemented the foundations of my insurance career, and given me first-hand experience of the challenges of innovating within a business.
I first started work at in Lloyd’s in Chatham back in 1978 as a very raw 16-year-old. Everything back then was paper–based and ‘work’ was transported in suitcases from London on a daily minibus! I eventually moved into Project work and was heavily involved in early versions of Electronic Placing and Closing and the implementation of Risk Registration, Accounting splits and Delinking. Looking back, it was incredible to be working on such ambitious digital projects for the market, at a time when most of us did not even have email and the other tools that today we all take for granted!
When Xchanging took over the central market services, I was involved in a number of projects aimed at moving the market on to a more electronic footing including the introduction of a workflow system and electronic submissions.
In 2008 I left Xchanging and broadened my horizons to work directly for carriers, firstly Canopius, and then AXIS Capital. I spent 11 years involved in Business and IT projects, regulatory changes, mergers and operational roles.
The final step in my career was to join Send in 2019. It’s been amazing to be part of the Send journey, and see how the company has grown from those early days as a start–up to an award-winning company with over 80 employees.
As I look ahead to retirement this year, it’s interesting to take a step back and reflect on how much has changed in the market, and what remains the same.
I joined Send as Head of Business Architecture. As always with the embryonic stages of a company it’s a case of rolling up your sleeves and taking on whatever is needed. My role has evolved into a mixture of business architecture, analysis and customer liaison. I provide the business perspective of things whilst others focus on the more technical development of the customer solutions.
As part of that, my role involves working with customers to understand what their requirements are and how they want to operate. My experience enables me to speak with both business users and projects teams, using their own language. It also helps me bring wider London Market knowledge to Send.
The underwriting technology drives better performance and results for our customers. The solutions that we provide are an integral part of our customers’ business processes, so we need to understand what these processes are, where the pain points are, and what they are trying to achieve. I can help them turn this into requirements to provide guidance to our teams about what the solution needs to do and look like, to deliver the benefits. As technology advances, companies want to adopt the latest technology and to maximize the advantages of automation and speed.
It’s important to think about how they’re going to implement a new system, making sure they understand how it will work alongside the business processes and how people are going to adopt it and use it. Nowadays customers are moving away from the big bang, multi-year projects and are recognizing the value in incremental steps and phased roll-outs. We like to help our customers see the value from day one, and not try to ‘boil the ocean’.
We openly nurture a close working relationship with our customers, one that relies on honest feedback, mutual goal-setting and an internal voice supporting the end users on the journey.
When I first started the market was paper–based and mainframe computers were the main technology. So there have been huge advances in the technology available in everyone’s daily lives as well as the business environment.
The thirst for data and the tools that are used to analyse it, have made huge steps forward and are continuing to evolve. The dependency upon spreadsheets is rapidly being replaced with sophisticated reporting tools, hand–in–hand with that is the need to capture high quality, reliable data that is used across organisations, from Underwriting to Finance and Pricing to Operations.
The changes in claims processing where electronic presentation, handling and settlement have been accepted so smoothly across the board, has been a great benefit to the market.
The quest for market–wide Electronic Placing has never quite landed with a number of failed initiatives over the years. Although a by-product of the Covid pandemic was the increase in risks that were placed electronically.
While rollout of rich market-wide solutions has been difficult over the years, individual organisations have made significant steps forwards with the technology they use.
Blueprint 2 is a big step for the market and it’s exciting to see it getting support; momentum is certainly building. While the market has struggled to adopt market-wide initiatives over the years, the principles of reusing data, and improving data quality and efficiencies have been consistent.
The market is more technology-focused today and we all take technology for granted, so the adoption of new technology should be much smoother than in the past. Younger generations have grown up with rapidly evolving technology and have higher expectations, I hope that they will challenge the norm and push the market forward.
I think that the wider use of GenAI is exciting, and it will be interesting to see how that gets used and adopted. AI in insurance isn’t a new phenomenon. For example, we’ve been using machine learning to spot patterns, optical character recognition (OCR) to interpret data from various sources, and natural language processing (NLP) to read documents and contracts. Automation that really makes the life of the underwriter easier and frees them up to focus on what they love doing, underwriting!
I hope the use of Placing platforms continues to grow and streamline the end-to-end process. APIs enable systems to ‘speak’ to each other for tech-driven collaboration, this could help extract submission risk data earlier in the process and speed up the underwriting process.
Another important focus needs to be how to train (and retain) new and evolving underwriters. The technology is here, but we need the skills to support it. The underwriter of the future will need a broader set of skills including data appreciation and digital fluency. Alongside this, we need to, collectively as an industry, address the recruitment challenge and frame insurance as a career of choice, not chance.
It depends how you define true digitisation. I think the London Market will always be a hybrid model as face-to-face engagement is a key part of doing business. However, Underwriters and Brokers can continue to have their discussions and negotiations (with a ‘human in the loop’), but use technology to aid and inform, to enable and accelerate. Already, renewals and simple lines of business have become more automated with straight-through-processing.
Data is key to the market, and many insurers suffer from the burden of administration. Technology today can help data flow easily between systems and remove the silos, helping to surface insights.
We’re getting much better at collaboration and partnering, working together to solve problems. There continue to be great leaps in innovation, it’s really an exciting time to be in the market!
If you’d like to connect with Martin, you can find him here.