Ted Stuckey is the Managing Director of QBE Ventures. Agency Checklists was intrigued when we learned that one of the largest insurance carriers in the world would be the presenting sponsor at this year’s Insurtech Boston event. We also thought our readers’ interest might be piqued as well. We got in touch with Mr. Stuckey and he was kind enough to take the time to answer our questions about QBE Ventures, the QBE Innovation Lab, and QBE’s decision to present at this week’s Insurtech Boston event.
Could you give our readers an overview of QBE Ventures as well as the Innovation Lab?
QBE is one of the largest insurance companies on the globe. We are primarily a commercial specialty P&C carrier with operations in over 30 countries. So from both a geographic reach and a product reach we are remarkably diverse and fairly unique.
The innovation story at QBE is one that has been going on for several years now. A part of that story is our innovation lab, one of which in Madison, Wisconsin. We also have a team in Sydney, Australia, and a team in Manila, Philippines.
The goal of our lab and the role that it plays within our digital innovation ecosystem is to operationalize emerging technology. That means everything from customer-facing portals and websites to chat bots. Our labs serve as the engine which drive the digital innovation efforts that we have across QBE.
On top of that we have QBE Ventures which is an 18-month old corporate venture capital fund. At QBE Ventures we invest in start-ups who provide intelligence and resolution to the global insurance ecosystem through technically challenging and industry changing ideas.
What is your own personal background with respect to insurance? Could you explain your own career trajectory and how you came to work at QBE?
I have always been in the insurance industry. I started out my career at a small insurance carrier that had me based out of Rhode Island, where I was doing underwriting and analytics work.
From there, I moved to the Travelers in Hartford, CT. I spent about five years at Travelers as part of their business insurance team. About two and a half years ago I moved to QBE to start our innovation lab and to help build out QBE Ventures.
How has your experiences with QBE Ventures and the Innovation Lab been so far?
Amazing. For someone who loves insurance and who gets very excited about the opportunities in insurance, this is a great time to be in the industry. It’s sort of a perfect storm of interest, excitement, investment and energy. To be able to do what I do for a company like QBE is pretty unique and pretty special.
If you look at the largest insurance carriers today and you try to forecast what they will look like in 10 years time, I think you will find that what differentiates the best carriers in 10 years is going to be a lot different from what differentiates the best carriers today.
I think a lot of that differentiation is going to be driven by their ability to adopt technology and the types of service that a lot of these start-ups are bringing to the table. I like to say as a challenge to leaders and everyone in QBE is, “How do we become that partner of choice?” “How do we become the carrier that start-ups want to work with?” And the fact that I get to play a role in building that sort of future for QBE—that’s pretty cool.
Where do you see the whole Insurtech movement fitting within the mission of the QBE Ventures and the Innovation Lab?
For QBE, the investments that we make through QBE Ventures aim to accelerate our adoption of the emerging technologies that will differentiate us in the future. So we are not making strictly financial investments, we are making extremely strategic investments.
What about Insurtech, in general. Do you think it is “maturing” as many people say?
I think that the players who are at the table are for the most part carrying their weight, other than maybe the carriers. We probably need to be a bit more aggressive and a bit more nimble in what we are doing.
I do think the starts-ups are maturing. I think the talent that is going into the start-ups community is really driving a lot of that maturity. You are also beginning to see some really, really interesting partnerships between carriers and start-ups. This trend is only going to accelerate and the benefits are only going to increase. The start-ups are only going to get better and the stakes are only going to get higher for carriers.
How do you think regulators are responding to innovation and Insurtech demands?
In my opinion, the regulators are doing a really good job here in the US. I continue to hear better and better stories of early stage start-ups and their interactions with regulators. I recently spoke with a start-up who was attempting to get their insurance license and the response time from the regulator was actually too fast. The start-up wasn’t ready to move fast enough. While this is only one example – I feel like its indicative of how the regulators are responding.
What drew you to come to Insurtech Boston and what are you looking to accomplish at the event?
Boston is a very important area for us from a scouting perspective. QBE Ventures spends a lot of time scouting and working with start-ups and venture capitalists and other carriers in areas to make sure we are engaging with the best and the brightest, and many times the best and the brightest are coming out of the greater Boston area.
We work really hard to build strong relationships with people who we feel are going to be incredibly influential in the further growth and evolution of what today is known as Insurtech. Allan Egbert and Michael Albert are all of that and then some. They have got a great eye for what carriers need, what brokers and agents need, and what our customers need. We have always thought really highly of the work that they do and once they started putting on these events we knew that it was something we needed to be involved in.
We have to pick the events that we think are going to bring together the best thought leaders. For us, as a venture capital firm, this event has been on our calendar now for almost a year and we were clamoring to have the opportunity to sponsor it, to speak at it, to bring some of our portfolio companies to it.
Speaking of scouting opportunities, what type of things do you look for when you look to invest or to bring on a partner?
It definitely starts with the team. I think, more and more, it is incredibly important when you are doing an Insurtech start up to have a really strong team.
One, because I think the bar is pretty high on who carriers work with. Having a strong team is vital to that, and two, given how hard it is work with carriers, if you don’t have your foundation right it is going to be really challenging to be successful.
As for what we look for, we are very much looking for start-ups that are solving core strategic problems for us. Right now, a lot of what we’re focusing on at QBE is around what we call our “Brilliant Basics”. Specifically, it’s a focus on underwriting, pricing, and claims – the “basics” of what we do as an insurer.
Anything else you’d like to say or include?
I certainly appreciate the fact that you are highlighting this great event and giving me the opportunity to speak about QBE Ventures and the Innovation Lab.
The pleasure is ours. Best of luck at the Insurtech Boston event.