12 Questions with Matthew Grant
Welcome to 12 Questions, a Q&A series where we pose the same set of 12 questions to intriguing folks at the intersection of insurance, risk management, commercial real estate, and digital innovation.
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1. What is the most interesting idea you’ve encountered in your world lately?
I’m intrigued by the concept of digital twins for property – that it’s possible to create a complete digital representation of a building and its core elements and present them in the form of data that can be used to understand risk and performance. There are a few companies in the UK and the US providing unique property identities, which is a starting point. I think we do still have a long way to go to create a comprehensive and trusted database of digital twins and it’s harder than people think, but it’s an intriguing goal (and one that Archipelago looks like it will be a major part of).
2. Where do you think no one is looking right now?
I think the insurance industry is missing out on offering preferential insurance rates to people that are prepared to share their personal data about their life and how they look after their possessions, who are not trying to defraud anyone and generally just want to get paid when things go wrong. USAA has built a $36 billion insurance business by focusing on customers with this type of demographic (military and ex-services), but the industry generally still spreads its risk too widely across its customer base and there are issues with trust from the insurance buyers. A few insurtech companies are testing this out, but it needs a lot of funding to break into the personal lines market.
3. If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry?
Despite the efforts by many insurers creating innovation teams, there are still far too few insurance organizations willing to deploy real underwriting capacity against new opportunities to develop and learn new ideas. However, I’d call out Swiss Re, Munich Re, and Liberty Mutual on the one hand as companies putting in innovation efforts at scale, and Atrium, Chaucer, Ascot, and Aegis doing it in a small but important way through Lloyd’s.
4. What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
It’s seeing the founders of start-ups and scale-ups we’ve had on stage or interviewed in the last few years becoming credible providers of data and analytics to the insurance industry, bringing in real clients, and generating real revenue. And also seeing them contribute back by supporting us to give the next generation of start-ups some visibility and help.
5. What do you envision the next 12 months will bring?
2021 is the year when regulators, investors, and customers are dramatically stepping up expectations in how companies – and that includes insurers – measure and manage future climate change risk. We are going to see a massive surge in the need for new and enhanced analytical tools in this area. I explain more in this article I recently published.
6. What’s your favorite building?
The Ca's Xorc hotel in Mallorca in the Mediterranean. It’s a converted olive mill in the hills looking out over the sea. When I’m there, everything else makes sense.
7. Please dispel a myth or misconception about your work.
At InsTech London, we have expanded into a lot more than both London and insurtech. We are spending time with data and technology companies from the brand new to the very well established and from all around the world. Innovation didn’t just start 10 years ago and there are a lot of great established companies offering tools to insurers and helping the newer arrivals through partnerships. London’s an excellent hub, but over 50% of the people that watch, listen, read, and follow us are based outside of the UK.
8. What are the tools, apps, or gadgets that you just can’t live without?
For personal life, I’ve picked up my camera again and become rather obsessed with getting pictures of ruins, landscapes, and birds. Not sure what a psychologist would make of that.
9. What’s your biggest pleasant surprise related to remote work?
It’s been the ease of getting to know old friends again (Hello, Hemant) and meeting so many new people around the world. But we also value face-to-face contact, so we have a shared workspace for our expanding team, and we are starting up our evening events again in London in July, and California in November.
10. What’s your favorite productivity tip for staying motivated and getting work done?
First thing every day, create a handwritten list of things to do. Then refer to the list – and start to cross things off.
Check emails in the middle of the day and end of the day. Don’t get too focused on answering emails first thing in the morning.
11. What or who do you read/watch to keep informed?
I’ve just started re-reading the Economist again – readable and insightful on current topics. My go-to source for breaking insurance news is Insurance Insider. Henry Gale writes our bi-weekly newsletter on parametric insurance that ensures I don’t miss any of the most recent developments. Steve Evans’ Reinsurancene.ws is the best free source of news and insights.
12. Please nominate folks who should answer this next.
- Martha has an incredible knowledge of the people and companies driving new innovations in insurance around the world, and she is very honest, open, and comfortable sharing her views.
- Robert’s book The Cure for Catastrophes is highly recommended. It explains, in a very readable way, how earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters occur and the practical ways the world could be a lot more resilient in reducing losses from these. This is the review I wrote on it back in 2016.
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Written by Matthew Grant
Co-Managing Partner of InsTech London: Matthew Grant spent 25 years introducing catastrophe modeling to the world. Matthew has spent the last four years as Co-Managing Partner of InsTech London, growing it into a leading global networks and research company connecting builders and buyers of innovative technology, analytics, and data around the world. He also hosts regular, lively discussions on the weekly InsTech London podcast.