How startup Wrisk is rethinking insurance for the connected generation

Apr 26, 2018
Wrisk app screens overlayed with The Times logo

Wrisk CEO Niall Barton being interviewed in The Times 'Future of Insurance' report - Published 26 April 2018

What is Wrisk?

The quick answer is that it’s a smartphone app for insurance. A few taps and you are covered immediately. We are starting with contents insurance, for goods such as your iPhone and laptop, and will soon add cover for your car, health, home and more. The fuller answer is that we want to reinvent insurance for the mobile age. Spotify changed music. Uber changed the taxi industry. We want Wrisk to do the same for personal insurance.

Bold claim. How can you do that?

Insurance is a conservative industry. As a result it has been in the slow lane compared to the rest of the fintech revolution. Banking has challengers like Monzo and Atom; share trading has disrupters like eToro. But there’s very little of a similar profile in insurance. We want to push change. We are working with the biggest names in insurance, such as Munich Re and Hiscox, to rethink, redesign and re-engineer the entire insurance experience from the ground up.

What are your innovations?

Let me give you three. First, we offer transparency to users. Today, when you get an insurance quote, you are pretty much in the dark as to what actually influences the price. To change this, we have what we call our Wrisk Score, which helps customers understand the different factors that affect their risk, how these impact their price and what they can do to improve things. 

Second, we bill consumers differently. Traditional insurance is renewed annually. Some people might choose to pay monthly, but they are more often than not charged extra for the privilege. But why? Wrisk’s insurance is ongoing, with monthly payments and no extra charges, either for cancellation or flexible payments. It is more like a subscription model for something like Netflix. 

Our third innovation is to end the hassle of multiple providers and disconnected policies. We are creating something that brings together protection for the different risks people care about. Wrisk is creating a single seamless experience where “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. We are building a single plan that adapts to fit your life, rather than forcing you into the traditional industry’s ideas of what should be different products. Eventually, this means you’ll never need to purchase separate home, contents, motor, travel or any other kind of insurance. It all works together with the customer at the heart of it. We call this Macroinsurance.

Is Wrisk insurance cheaper than normal?

Our research shows we are competitive. You start with a rough quote, but as you progressively share more information, you’ll see your price go down as your Wrisk Score improves. We help you better understand your risk, and identify things you can do to improve your situation and reduce your premium. Unlike a traditional insurer, we are a digital-first company which means our overheads are lower. Better efficiency through technology means we can pass on lower premiums while still offering great service to customers.

Might consumers be nervous about buying insurance from a newcomer?

I mentioned we are working with Munich Re and Hiscox. We operate on the basis of formal pre-approval from them to allow us to issue insurance. The app is innovative and fresh, but our insurance model is proven and trusted.

Can Wrisk customers talk to humans when needed?

Absolutely. Customers want their claims handled in the most efficient and caring manner possible. We are committed to making Wrisk feel both human and personal. Technology might allow us to process some of our simpler claims automatically. However, we also have dedicated teams of people ready to provide customer support and service more complex claims with a human touch. We have in-app messaging built into our platform, so contacting us is quick, easy and painless. We believe Wrisk will exceed the performance of traditional insurance by using modern communication channels around both claims handling and customer support.

Who is the team behind Wrisk?

I’ve been in insurance for 40 years, both as a broker and underwriter. I have founded new companies, worked to scale up existing business, as well as working in one of the largest global players. A common theme has probably been that I like to push change wherever possible. My co-founder, Darius Kumana, is a product genius. He was head of user experience at ThoughtWorks, a highly regarded technical agency, and also head of digital at specialist insurer Markel International, so he has deep industry knowledge. Our advisory board is composed of 14 entrepreneurs, investors and insurance luminaries, including Bindi Karia, former vice president at Silicon Valley Bank, and Justin Balcombe, managing director at Boston Consulting Group.

BMW are involved too. How?

BMW appreciate that the whole field of “mobility” is changing and need their customers to have flexible insurance for that changing landscape. We learnt BMW was going to run an Innovation Lab, the first fintech incubator in the UK automotive sector. We applied and found we’d beaten more than 100 other startups to become one of the five startups working with them. We now have a distribution deal to offer our insurance to BMW customers, which we’ll be launching later this year. It’s a fabulous endorsement of our model.

Are you regulated?

We are regulated and approved by the Financial Conduct Authority. The regulators have been fantastic. HM Treasury too. They say they want the UK to be a world leader in insurtech. London is the home of the world insurance industry, and Wrisk combines the financial and digital know-how of the capital.

How are you funded?

We have institutional investors, including Oxford Capital, Qatar Insurance Group and Hiscox. We also raised £600,000 on the crowdfunding platform Seedrs. A pleasant surprise was we hit our target in five days and choose to overfund due to incredible support from 500 investors from 27 different countries.

Is Wrisk in the UK only?

We are starting in the UK, then will expand to the United States and Europe. The model works well across global markets, so that’s a big factor in our business plan. It’s a reason our investors are so enthusiastic.

What’s your mission with Wrisk?

Insurance at its core is truly purposeful. It’s about being there to help people recover when they are at their most vulnerable, just after some kind of disaster has struck. While this ideal is at the heart of insurance, it doesn’t always feel like this is what the industry currently does – mistrust is everywhere. Wrisk is going to change this by putting customers back in control and making insurance so simple it’s almost unrecognisable.

The Times 'Future of Insurance' Report front cover

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Picture of Wrisk CEO Niall Barton
Niall Barton

Co-Founder and CEO

Insurance made so simple it’s almost unrecognisable ✨

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