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Insurance startup Neos focuses on the customer

Matt Poll, founder of insurance challenger Neos tells Horizon Live podcast that customer focus is key to Internet of Things success

BY MARK CHILLINGWORTH


 

“I became frustrated with corporate life, may be it it was a midlife crisis,” Matt Poll, CEO and founder of internet of things insurance start up told attendees at the Innovation Leadership Summit. Poll’s presentation is this week’s Horizon Live podcast, our series of inspirational presentations from events for CTOs and CIOs. The next Horizon Live event is a roundtable dinner in London featuring hotel challenger brand Yotel, its CIO Fergus Boyd will share his insights in a keynote and dinner debate on March 8, click here to join us.

“I was running a large direct to consumer insurance firm and the apathy that exists, and as part of the leadership team I have to put my hand up to being part of it, frustrated me,” Poll told a packed room of CTOs and CIOs. “There were some great intention, the team, the employees, there were some great ideas, but the processes and the governance, the way IT was done, couple that with the fact that insurance is really hated by the customer and I get that,” Poll says of the corner the insurance industry has painted itself into.

“It is a bizarre industry, you offer brand new customers a great deal, while loyal customers that have never claimed you penalise, the mind boggles at that. Those things together made me look at it and reassess the sector,” he sees.

As Poll was reconsidering the place of insurance he was becoming very aware of the latest trends in technology and the impact they could have. “I see that technology is the key enabler and how we can create customer value,” he says in the Horizon Live podcast. Armed with an understanding of the impact the Internet of Things (IoT) could have and those margin obsessed frustrations Poll broke away from corporate life and formed startup Neos Insurance; a business that provides a customer centric insurance service using IoT technologies.

“Neos is a new type of insurance that focuses on delivering value to the customer and that is our primary thought and we are using technology to enable that. We are focusing on home insurance to protect the people and things that you care about,” he says.

Neos is more than its technology vision though, as is very clear in Poll’s podcast and the passion in his voice it is the culture of a startup that he has created and its care and focus on the customer.

“One thing that really drives successful business in terms of culture is a sense of purpose, the team, the employees and the leadership all really push for it. At Neos, we want to change the face of insurance so that it is something that the customer really likes and values.”

And it is this care and centricity on the customer that drives the adoption of IoT. Poll describes the power of IoT and “big data”, but if these developments are not adding value to the customer then he questions the point of them. “It is about how we use that data to drive customer value, to drive products, services that drive intrinsic value.

“Insurance has already started on the IOT journey, it started with telematics, again insurers have got it wrong again, it’s all about price again. If you are a young driver paying £3000 then telematics can make sense, for most people the value you save is not enough and that is where the insurance industry has made a big mistake. They have the technology in place, but they are focusing on it purely for their needs, pricing needs, competitive advantage needs, and creating better pricing algorithms. Rather than saying we have this technology in the car how can we deliver some customer value.”

Neos focuses on home insurance. “Insurance at its core should be about protection. Every customer says it is dead money if they don’t make a claim. Can we use data to protect their home, if a leak happens we can switch their water off, or if there is intruder they can use cameras to see if it is a masked man or a neighbour feeding the cat. It is piece of mind, not a piece of paper – cliche, but actually it is a win win for our insurance provider. It adds value to them, as it is about prevention. As a customer you probably don’t want to make a claim, as it is probably a ball ache!”

“Probably you would have preferred that the claim didn’t happen, and that is the feedback we get and insurers don’t want you to make a claim either. So if we can prevent a claim, the customer and the insurance firm wins too and hopefully we get some credit for providing a good service,” Poll says of how being customer focused benefits the bottom line of the business.

In just nine months Neos created a service and customer package that sees the customer get a set of motion sensors smart smoke and Co2 alarms, a specialist valve to cut the water off and a single App that controls the home. The App provides alerts, but customers can add a circle of friends and family to it to manage the home if you are away and there is a 24 hour call centre.

All of this was developed through constant involvement of the most important constituent any organisation has, its customer.

“We have integrated four major hardware providers, Google, Fibaro home intelligence, Samsung, Netatmo and we have built our own smart hub and a smartapp. As well as partnered with a major insurer and we will be fully regulated and have raised significant capital. All this in nine months, when I look at my corporate career I’d have said no way that can be achieved,”

“We set up a stand at the Grand Designs show and talked to 1500 people over seven days and got some great feedback on what they liked and what they didn’t like. Recently we held an event for customers in Hoxton Square and we gave them some free beer and pizza and asked for their thoughts and that will form the basis of our next iteration,” Poll explains before juxtaposing the speed and agility of Neos with traditional insurance providers: “We used to do a focus group and they’d tell us we are doing great as we are paying them. Then you’d take that idea and be told it would take 12 months to build at a cost of a million and the payback would be 20 times the investment. It would in truth take two years to build and cost £5 million and the business case would fail as we have not involved the customer. Get the customer involved from the start point.”

Poll is realistic about life as a startup in the highly competitive world of insurance though:
“I had no idea how this would pan out and we have made a lot of mistakes, too many, and we have learned from them on the way.

“We have integrated four major hardware providers, Google, Fibaro home intelligence, Samsung, Netatmo and we have built our own smart hub and a smartapp. As well as partnered with a major insurer and we will be fully regulated and have raised significant capital. All this in nine months, when I look at my corporate career I’d have said no way that can be achieved,” Poll says.

“The main thing is we have a small team that is focused.”

 

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