“The small stain we as individuals leave on the world is lightened or darkened by how we treat others.”
Graham Elliott, Founder and CEO, Azur
Azur CEO Graham Elliott loves a good puzzle. And setting up and running a business is the biggest puzzle of all. We talked to Graham about how great partnerships, user experiences, and technologies can help you achieve great things.
The insurance sector is a $4.3 trillion industry but a lot of companies, especially managing general agents, have been slow to seize the digital opportunity. When I founded Azur in 2015, I had a vision for a cloud-first, digital-native managing general agency. At first it was just myself and one colleague, but Azur now compromises 70-plus people. And they’ve helped make our original vision become a reality. Azur underwrites insurance products and distributes them on digital platforms that we’ve developed. In 2020, we will write double the amount of premium compared with 2017.
Building a sustainable and successful company is not just about what you do but how you do it. People need to know they matter - that’s what makes them go the extra mile. When I interview someone, I will ask a junior member of the team to join me. If the candidate doesn’t involve them in the conversation, I won’t hire them as it’s good indication of how they will treat other colleagues. Although our culture is what binds our people together, I’ve never tried to define it. If you write a culture down, it can slip through your fingers like water. A company culture should always be a work in progress; it’s an aspiration not an end state. Startups are about taking risks, cultivating creativity, and inspiring optimism. If you build a business around those things, it immediately becomes an attractive place to work. I am really proud of the diverse and talented team that we have at Azur - we’re challenging the status quo together. I don’t want to be right; I want to get it right.
We’re about to enter the third age of insurance, which is going to be driven by products and slick user experiences. People will expect a more personalised service from their insurance providers and brokers - and that means changing how risks are assessed, how products are sold, and how policies are delivered. Digitalisation will be essential to executing these changes and unlocking new insights. I can see a day when customers sign up to ‘insurance as a service’ with providers helping them to manage and predict risk on a continuous basis and assisting with remediation. We’ve actually launched a cyber insurance product based on this model, which gives policyholders access to a 24/7 helpline and remediation services before the problem becomes a claim. Insurance is the wrapper and provides a safety net, but what the policyholder actually receives is access to an expert who can help them deal with the problem and mitigate its effects.
If you give people a memorable user experience, your business will be more sustainable. And I don’t just mean customers: employees, partners, suppliers, regulators, and investors are all part of an organisation’s user community and they all have different needs and expectations. I take a 360-degree view of the user experience - we need to understand how our actions impact not only other people but also the overall planet. The small stain we as individuals leave on the world is lightened or darkened by how we treat others.
A good experience needs to combine speed and simplicity with a bit of personality. We try to humanise what we do and put a smile on people’s faces. If we have to decline a request or risk, a little broken heart pops up on the screen. Having all the data in the right place is essential for providing an exceptional user experience. We couldn’t have achieved this without Salesforce. It’s been part of our business since day one and has enabled us to make it easier for brokers to source home insurance quotes as well as keep their professional accreditations up to date. One of the things we have learned about user experience is that it is often asymmetrical in nature: the client and broker want to get a quote and to bind it quickly without having to answer 40 questions, but the capital provider wants increasing amounts of underwriting sophistication around the risk. This can only be delivered at scale on a modern cloud-based configurable platform.
I would rather have a giant on my side than try to fight them. I don’t think the language of disruption is appropriate for us - or indeed some other fintechs. The big players in financial services are still the same big players of yesteryear in spite of all the hype about disruption. There are a lot of large, highly-sophisticated companies in the insurance sector and it would be arrogant to think that we are going to displace them. We’re part of an ecosystem and want to partner with other organisations so we can go on the journey together. That’s one of the things I like about Salesforce - it recognises and encourages partnerships and ecosystems, which unlocks benefits for everyone involved. Salesforce is an accelerant for growth and change - it’s become much more than a CRM solution for us. With Salesforce, we can stand on the shoulders of giants.
I am mad on puzzles and do the crossword every day. Running a business is a bit like a puzzle.
A lot of businesses plug a problem by sourcing a new piece of technology, and end up with a mishmash of solutions. If you view technology as a strategic enabler rather than a tactical solution, you can avoid falling into this trap. But having the right tools doesn’t guarantee success. You need the right people and culture to get the most out of your tools and technologies. Azur is an early adopter and I want to shine the light down the path for the next digitally-enabled players.
By combining great people with great processes, Azur is making it easier and quicker for brokers and their customers to access the right insurance at the right time. Find out more about how Azur is pushing the digital boundaries here.