Beazley Digital: Underwriting Risk in the Digital Era

Beazley Digital: Underwriting Risk in the Digital Era

Head of Technology James Wright introduces Beazley Group’s brand-new dedicated digital division and the future of digital, specialist insurance

Innovation and technological advancement have been at the heart of the Beazley Group since it was established in 1986. The specialist insurer has always remained close to the rapidly evolving industries it serves, with a client base that is highly diverse, in size, industry and geography, and leaders in their field. For more than three decades the group has experienced consistent growth, writing close to US$4 billion of premiums in 2021, and with greater ambitions for the year ahead.

But as the world is changing, so is Beazley. In January 2022 the group launched a new division to elevate its digital capabilities and lead from the forefront of accessible, always-on insurance, rather than react to the demands of clients and trends in the sector. Beazley Digital is helmed by James Wright, an insurance veteran who joined the firm in 2004 and has held a variety of roles in the intervening 17 years. His latest charge as Head of Technology will see him grapple with new challenges, but also seize new opportunities. 

“We started to hear more and more from our brokers that they wanted simpler, faster, more digital ways of placing risk with us,” says Wright. “Our brokers want digital but they also didn't want to lose that kind of specialist, face-to-face, expert relationship that we’re known for. So we decided to bring together all of the talent from those digital channels into one division, to create a more joined up, holistic service back to our brokers, and to our clients.”

Beazley Digital is built upon an objectives and key results framework (OKR) - a common approach for technology companies - with five overarching objectives that define the division’s output. Not only does this carve a transparent roadmap, it also allows each individual to understand how the work they do impacts and improves the outcome. It is important, Wright says, that the firm’s experts evolve as much as the technology itself. 

Beazley Digital’s Five Key Objectives

The first of Beazley Digital’s core objectives is brilliant basics, a commitment to get the fundamentals right and deliver an exceptional service in a very automated manner. The second is to meet brokers where they want to be met, creating from the perspective of brokers rather than an insular ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. 

“Our third objective is access to specialists,” Wright explains. “This is really important. We’re hearing loud and clear that our brokers and our clients still want to be able to access a specialist, whether a claims manager or underwriter, to better understand their risk. Fourthly - and this is becoming more common across the industry anyway - is using data to drive insight and leveraging that in our everyday business operations to better understand how our products are performing and what our clients want.”

The final mission statement is to do better, to continue to innovate beyond base level expectations. Refining Beazley’s current business is not enough for Wright. With a new cross-functional team freed from their ‘day job’ and able to focus on pioneering truly transformative projects, Beazley Digital is building for the future, a near future where the Amazon effect has already brought friction free, zero-touch accessibility to everything from finance to supply chain procurement. 

“I’m sure we have a broker demographic that is becoming younger and much more digitally adept,” says Wright. “I think the way of doing business historically is probably not how it's going to be done in the future. Yes, in some markets the way that business is done is going to persist for the next few years, and that’s why we’ve got one eye on the future and developing those new channels that can really connect with our brokers in new ways to drive that digital efficiency.”

To do this, Beazley Digital is stepping away from how insurance firms traditionally prioritise products, instead focussing on distribution channels through which clients and brokers access them. Wright says the team is “very deliberately organised” to serve four core channels: APIs, leveraging Microsoft’s cloud expertise to deliver safe and secure products and processes; a digital brokers’ portal; market hubs, where Beazley products are accessible to brokers in international, digital marketplaces; and email and phone, the traditional channels which remain the standard route for clients in the US and other major markets around the globe. 

“So as I say, we’re working with our brokers and their needs and feedback, and that means we are going to continue supporting that traditional channel,” Wright says. “But we are going to bring new digital technologies to the fold, specifically around email ingestion and using things like NLP and data enrichment to improve that service without changing what fundamentally makes it work.” 

To realise these objectives, Wright has embedded a philosophy of agility into Beazley Digital’s culture. Delivery sprints are biweekly, allowing the division to prioritise and react to emerging demands. Quarterly planning also allows the team to roadmap and deliver product changes in close to real time. It is a mindset that Wright also extends to the technology partners and collaborators that underpin the insurers digital offering. 

Partnering for Digital Excellence

“We are changing how we work with vendors and partners in terms of our agile method and realisation framework,” Wright explains. “We’re ensuring that those partners are aligned with that way of working, and we're using a common set of tools and language to drive the right outcomes, bringing our vendors closer together in this environment.”

Endava is a key technology partner for Beazley, with delivery units around the world. “What this means is they've got access to talent markets that we don't have access to. And given that everyone's trying to digitise at the moment, in every industry, there is a real war on talent,” Wright explains. “Endava provides that talent pipeline for us, which is crucial, and has empowered us to scale our ideas and concepts quite quickly using very, very strong engineers that we wouldn't ordinarily have access to.” 

One example Wright points to is the Beazley Digital API gateway, a complex combination of proprietary, internally developed technology that relies on Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure. “Endava’s engineering team have been able to very quickly scale that operation up, so we can provide numerous products and services via API.”

Under the bonnet, Beazley Digital’s products leverage Verisk’s Sequel Rulebook, a robust rules engine into which the insurer inputs its underwriting rules, logic, rating and documents. It’s something Wright needs to do, but partnering with Sequel goes beyond necessity. 

“Sequel also have an ambition to move and digitise a broader part of the market,” he explains. “To do that they've got this concept called the Sequel Hub, which we’re a partner of, and that allows us to put products into a one-to-many environment, allowing lots of brokers to access our products. The reason we really love that is that it is starting to bring some standards to our industry.” 

This product is surfaced to brokers under the MyBeazley brand, an evolving broker trading portal already on the market in four countries that illustrates where Wright’s division is headed. MyBeazley provides brokers with access to 14 products, providing instant insurance quotes and terms they can feed back to clients. It is an immensely customisable portal that Beazley has been developing for several years. 

“MyBeazley has been built in a very client-centric way; we haven't just taken the Sequel rulebook product off the shelf,” says Wright. “Over the past three years it has been heavily customised, specifically from broker feedback, and as a result of that is being very well received by brokers. We’re even attracting underwriting talent as a result of having a system of that nature, and the plan now is to launch that into Canada and the US. It’s a very solid example of how we’re using digital in a competitive way.” 

The Future of Beazley Digital

Beazley Digital is a brand-new division. While much of the insurance firm’s digital acumen is today centred upon the transactional elements of buying and selling insurance products, Wright is emphatic that a focus on channels before products will change that. It means providing a true gateway experience, where digital training materials about Beazley products will better equip brokers, where risk information is instantly available at their fingertips, and where having a video call with a specialist ensures Beazley’s reputation for access to expertise endures. 

“We see that this as an experience that's much broader than just the trading portal element,” explains Wright. “That's really that's a core part of what our proposition is going to become over time. Winning the market is very important, but providing that true omni-channel experience, giving the client choice, is the really exciting part of what we're offering.” 

Over the coming year, Wright hopes to establish a digital foundation to build upon, an agile delivery framework, and “rather than just me saying it”, feedback from brokers that vindicate the division’s OKR approach. 

“Five years out, the real way to prove that is by building a meaningful book of business,” Wright adds. “Across multiple territories, across multiple products, what we'd like to be saying in five years is that we're writing somewhere between US$400-500 million of small business and 80% of that is digitally underwritten, straight through processes, and with broker and client feedback being very positive about that.” 

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