“Why I’m excited about InsurTech!” Ant Barker from Aviva Ventures

Anthony Barker, from Aviva Ventures, talks to Cocoon on why InsurTech is exciting and how Aviva is disrupting the insurance industry
Cocoon Labs

Technology is changing the centuries-old insurance industry. Capturing the imagination of businesses, big and small, who are adopting technology to do things differently. With Ant Barker, from Aviva Ventures, we explore what InsurTech means for the insurance industry and people across the UK.

Cocoon is a small business making big changes. They’re offering innovative ways for insurance companies to look after their customers through their smart home technology. Cocoon is already working with the likes of Policy Castle, a digital insurance broker, and Aviva, the UK’s biggest home insurer.

Aviva Ventures, the venture capital arm of the UK’s leading insurer, made their first investment in Cocoon shortly after launching. They are investing in a range of digital and new technology businesses, and working with entrepreneurs to change insurance for the better.

Ant Barker is part of the Aviva Ventures family. He tells us a little about what they do, and why he’s excited about InsurTech.

What’s special about Aviva Ventures?

Aviva Ventures was set up to deliver a long-term financial return alongside strategic benefits. We are focused on making investments in early-stage, high growth potential businesses. With the aim of bringing new opportunities, ideas and insight into Aviva. My role really focusses on deal execution, portfolio management, and ensuring that the insight and opportunities from investments are capitalised on in the Aviva business units.

What needs to change in the insurance industry?

Given the size and relevance of the insurance industry, it still has a relatively low degree of digitalisation. A lot of the start-ups we have seen in InsurTech to date are focusing on distribution. I think where we will see real impact going forward is in the propositions. For example, home insurance premiums aligned with smart home prevention, and moving from being simply insured to protected.

The other key area is in operations and the ability for technology to transform processes for claims, customer service, and underwriting.

What’s most exciting in InsurTech right now?

There are a number of things on the horizon. The move to open finance, and tech giants like Google and Amazon, entering the market. In addition to data and AI chatbots which improve the ability to respond to customers quickly, and the potential for machine learning to increase automated processes and customer interactions. These are all great opportunities for insurers.

I think the use of AI & data in streamlining the customer journeys will be a game changer in insurance. It’s certainly an area Aviva is focussed on. We are looking at advanced analytics, deep data and customer value to make smarter decisions whilst asking fewer questions (or none!).

IoT and the connected home is also an exciting area which has huge potential, but it is not yet mass-market.

How do you think smart home technology is impacting insurance?

The connected world will change the way we do business. Whether it is your car, home, business or health – Internet of Things technology will fundamentally impact the way we look at risk.

For example, the move to real-time data and a greater ability to prevent claims rather than simply paying out to fix things after the event. These things will all work to change the traditional insurance business model.

How is Aviva working with new technology businesses to innovate?

Clearly, we are in a period of significant technological change and our customers’ wants and needs are changing in this increasingly digital world. With this in mind, our approach to innovation has to place ourselves in the heart of the start-up ecosystem. That’s why we have the Digital Garage located here in Hoxton. From here we have a number of options from co-creating and piloting with start-ups, to buying in services from them or making investments in them.

What appeals to you about changing an industry that’s 300+ years old?

I had been working in a couple of start-ups (including a building technology company and a wine company!). The roles I had were always in finance, and eventually, I took a job with Aviva down in Norwich.

Life is very uncertain and has a way of throwing surprises at you when you least expect it. The core of any insurance plan is to offer you with protection. Aviva’s purpose has developed beyond this to really helping people to defy uncertainty. That’s something that resonates with me and why I am still here today.

Why is it important that the big insurers work with small companies like Cocoon?

As part of the Aviva Ventures team we are here to do two things – accelerate our strategy and challenge thinking within Aviva. Working with small companies, like Cocoon, enables us to get much closer to emerging customer trends, technology trends, and to be on the ground as things are happening.

As a large corporate we have found that it is very difficult to innovate on our own. We believe that real innovation starts with being able to collaborate, to co-create, and to partner beyond our own internal environment.

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