Lou Lwin, chief technology officer of Markerstudy
Insurer/managing general agent (MGA) Markerstudy defines itself as a digital company since embarking on a road of innovation and ultimately transformation five years ago—a journey that continues to reshape the company and which often yields some surprising results.
That is how Lou Lwin, chief technology officer of Markerstudy, describes the company he has had a central role in reshaping and reinventing as it has embraced many forms of insurtech and put technology at the heart of its business model.
Lwin will describe this journey and the lessons he has learned on the way at Intelligent InsurTech Europe, which will take place in October in London.
A good example of how the company has benefited from insurtech occurred earlier this year when it applied machine learning to the way it quotes renewal business.
“Transparency rules mean we must show how we ensure our customers get a fair deal, so setting a competitive price by use of machine learning still allows for both the customer and the company to benefit,” Lwin says.
The technology establishes at what pricing point a customer is happy simply to renew, as opposed to shopping around for a different deal. Its renewal rates on one book of business improved by 40 percent shortly after the company started using this.
“OUR BUSINESS IS TRANSACTIONAL AND FAST-PACED, SO HAVING VISIBILITY INTO ALL THE SYSTEMS THAT SUPPORT OUR DIFFERENT BUSINESS UNITS IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO ENSURE CONTINUITY OF SERVICE.”“The ethos behind this is that our customers want the renewal process to be easy and reflect good value; it ensures that our customers are happy simply to renew,” Lwin says.
“We of course have a threshold for the rate we want but we can now work much more accurately within this. It has been made possible because of machine learning.”
Lwin has almost 30 years of experience in technology, covering everything from infrastructure to security, data centre to cloud, IT operations to enterprise architecture and digital transformation to innovation. He has spent the last six years at Markerstudy, leading numerous digital transformation initiatives. He is currently focusing on legacy modernisation and robotic process automation.
He explains that the company took the strategic decision to invest in its IT department and allow it the space to grow and develop into a function that would be at the heart of the company’s offering.
As part of Group transformation, Markerstudy has become what is now the largest MGA in the UK, which it has branded as Markerstudy Insurance Services Limited. The company said the move and consolidation of some of the Group businesses was to simplify the operation for partners and customers, and that no changes to key personnel are envisaged.
Lwin started by standardising the firm’s technology, simplifying its supply chain and dropping any activity that did not add value. By removing the complexity, the company’s IT department could focus properly on digital transformation, which it then approached on a project-by-project basis.
“Some of these things were small changes but they were operations-affecting and started to have a big impact on the efficiency of the workforce,” he says. “We could then focus on some of the bigger items.”
Lwin notes that historically, Markerstudy makes high numbers of acquisitions and the company understood that this would not be sustainable without very high quality centralised systems and a back office with a strategy and vision that could help the entire Group.
“Without this, we knew we would fall behind,” he says.
This put the company on the front foot and the IT department suddenly had the bandwidth and motivation to start to implement more fundamental change.
“There was resistance at first in some quarters but then people started to see the results,” he says.
“Intelligent automation and machine learning are huge on our agenda at the moment. We are applying these to processes across the business. There can be resistance at first, but people are increasingly realising this technology does not replace their jobs, but rather helps them work smarter and more efficiently.”
In the pipeline
Lwin admits that so many ideas have now been put forward for the application of these technologies that the company is having to prioritise.
One of its latest implementations is the creation of a new data lake—a central bank of information drawing on many parts of the company that can be treated separately.
“One of our mottos as an IT department is that we base decisions on data rather than gut feelings,” he says.
Markerstudy has not done everything internally: it has announced a partnership with Nexthink that aims to accurately measure the end-user experience to provide a more proactive level of support to achieve business outcomes.
“Our business is transactional and fast-paced, so having visibility into all the systems that support our different business units is absolutely essential to ensure continuity of service,” says Lwin.
“In a highly regulated industry such as ours, Nexthink’s unique analytics and visualisations provide new insight, enabling us to adopt proactive operations, reduce costs and ultimately enhance end-user business productivity.”
Summing up some of the lessons he has learned in recent years, Lwin suggests that other chief technology officers start small and simply, and use the vast amounts of data they have to achieve a very specific objective in the business, rather than trying to do too much too soon.
“Seek forgiveness, not permission,” he concludes. “Not everyone will buy in, so just get on with it and prove what is possible.”
Lou Lwin will describe this journey and the lessons he has learned on the way at Intelligent InsurTech Europe, which will take place in October in London.
Automation, Markerstudy, MGA, Digital transformation, Lou Lwin, Insurtech, London