By Steve Vickers, AFL Managing Director
The Worldwide Broker Network (WBN) recently published its 2017 Annual Review. It was entitled Disrupt, and looked back on a momentous year of change for the industry.
By definition, disruptive technology will fundamentally influence the way we work. The industry should not be blasé about it, especially given that the number of insurtech startups in the UK is growing exponentially, and some concern has been voiced by insiders that regulation may struggle to keep up with innovations in the market.
A speech on the subject of new technology at WBN’s conference in Paris came from the entrepreneur – and France’s digital champion to the EU – Gilles Babinet. He offered compelling arguments for the industry to develop a working knowledge of big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other digitally transformative processes. “Successful companies,” he said, “focus not on a digital strategy but a strategy for the digital age.”
The insurtech revolution has created a buzz in the (re)insurance industry – and at AFL, where we are also buzzing with disruptive ideas from our innovative Incubator Division.
I’m writing from our Manchester office, and the bee is, in fact, a historic symbol of Manchester, stemming from the days when textile mills were hives of activity, filled with workers. Today, it is still an appropriate representation of the city’s industrious and innovative people.
At AFL, we have adopted the bee symbol, in part to honour our roots in Manchester, but also to celebrate our sense of community and connected goals, as well as the ‘outside-the-hive’ thinking of the busy AFL team.
Working practices like ours can be found, not just in hives, but also in some of the world’s most innovative companies, such as Google. The tech giant’s famous ‘20% time’ – in which staff are allowed to focus on projects of interest to them for 20% of the working week – resulted in Google Moderator, the technology giving every member of staff the potential to have a voice in top-level company discussions.
And, like bees, we operate as a collective, both within AFL and as part of the wider WBN network, collaborating on projects across all ranks and responsibilities.
Our Corporate Division is working with Fortune 100 and LSE 50 companies on a daily basis – companies who rely on us to deliver the right advice when it’s required. And, of course, we do deliver, because our Corporate team members are highly-skilled individuals and independent thinkers.
AFL is made stronger thanks to its membership of the WBN, an innovative network which allows independent brokers like us to reach the required critical mass to compete with and offer an alternative to the behemoth international broking houses, and their wholly-owned global networks.
The WBN is the largest non-owned network of independent brokers, collectively currently handling premiums in excess of £50 billion.
There is strength in numbers, but also the advantage that each individual broker is incentivised to give the best possible, personal and bespoke service in their region, offering multinational retail clients a real alternative to the one size fits all approach on the table elsewhere.
To my mind, that is as positively disruptive as any technology I have so far encountered.