Fintech: my new car?

I was recently speaking with a colleague, lamenting the fact not everyone 'gets' fintech, and there are still some people who haven't recognised the impact technology will have on our industry. "Fintech is everywhere," I said. "How haven't they noticed?"

My colleague suggested perhaps fintech was just like buying a new car. You know, the moment when you decide you want a new car and suddenly, out of nowhere, that exact make and model is EVERYWHERE!

This got me thinking – is fintech showing up everywhere just because I'm interested, or is this a real change with a real impact on the re/insurance industry?

I decided it's not just me. There is definitely more discussion about fintech than there are black, convertible, Audi A3s on the road.

But why?

The fintech space is open to anyone. In fact, in many instances it's better not to be an expert in financial services if you want to run a fintech start-up. Last week I heard Greg Moshal from Prospa speak. Multiple times he said that before starting his lending company he didn't know anything about financial services. Rather, he had been a customer. He understood the pain points. He knew the types of solutions that would have helped him in his previous business life. That's what got him started.


Effectively anyone can have an idea to address a customer problem, but it takes more than that. By definition, fintech requires technology. I've worked in re/insurance for 15 years and for the majority of that time I've heard about the need to focus more on the customer.

What's different now is that we all walk around with supercomputers in our pockets or on our wrists. While we may not know how to code (although most school age children are learning), we have a greater sense of what's possible. This enables us to ask questions. To challenge the status quo. To lift expectations. To have ideas. These are the foundations of fintech.

As we discussed at our recent Dialogue Series roundtable on Technology Shaping Risk, most technology solutions used in insurance were never designed for that purpose. Rather, these innovative and customer-focused technologies are being introduced because that's what customers expect and the potential risk management outcomes are better.

The final reason fintech is not just a dream car is big data. In re/insurance, even more than financial services, this is possibly the most pervasive and relevant concept. For those that consider Big Data to be a buzz term, perhaps they are just overwhelmed by the torrent of information available. What do we do with it?

From the customers we engage with (because we understand and can anticipate their needs), to the people in our business (because of the exciting and different skill set required). This will be a new era. There is a new generation in insurance leadership coming and we need to encourage them to want to be part of our fantastic industry, particularly by showing them the difference they can have on people's lives.

Realistically, I think fintech will substantially change my life before I get that convertible (I know I have at least a few more years of booster seats in the back of my current car). I can't wait to be part of it!

Noelene Palmer is head of Australia and New Zealand strategy and operations for SwissRe

Fintech: my new car?
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