Bitesize InsurTech: Windward
May 3, 2019 Chris Sandilands
Windward is a marine risk analytics company with a product for marine insurance.
The company – founded in 2010 in Tel Aviv – has its origins in the public sector. Its original product (now called ‘Intelligence’) helps agencies such as the UN Security Council, Frontex (the European border and coast guard agency) and US DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) identify nefarious behaviour. This is done through a combination of historic data and real-time telematics which can trigger operational alerts.
The company’s second product, Compliance, follows a similar theme. As Founder and CEO Ami Daniel explains, the burden on companies to demonstrate compliance with international rules and sanctions has become much more onerous, and in particular has moved much further up the fulfilment chain. OFAC – the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control – puts it thus: “[t]hose who in any way facilitate the financial transfers, logistics, or insurance associated with…[sanctions-busting] shipments…are at risk of being targeted by the United States for sanctions…regardless of location or nationality.” In other words, if you’re a bank or bunkering provider, you need to look deep into your client.
The natural extension from this activity is, of course, marine insurance, where Windward has been active for the last 2.5 years. The insurance proposition consists of six components:
- Evaluate – an underwriting engine
- Select – a risk selection module
- Enhance – a pricing module
- Investigate – a claims tool
- Comply – a compliance tool
- Review – a portfolio analytics tool
The company is cagey about its insurance clients with announcements “coming soon”. The fact that XL Innovate, one of AXA’s venture capital firms, led Windward’s 2018 $16.5m Series C round may provide some clues.
The company has around 65 employees in its Tel Aviv HQ and offices in London and Washington, DC. But perhaps the strongest signal regarding Windward’s traction is its group of private investors. These include Lord Browne, the former CEO of BP, General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA, and Marc Benioff, Founder of Salesforce.
Lord Browne will be amongst the speakers at Windward’s marine insurance conference in London on 22 May.
The Oxbow Partners view
Marine insurance appears to be becoming a two-track class of business. A small but growing number of companies have identified data-driven innovation as a critical success factor; others continue to pursue the traditional business model.
We are quoted in a recent Financial Times article as saying, “the industry does not get to choose where innovation happens. Entrepreneurs do.” We believe that marine insurance is ripe for disruption. On the hull and P&I side, our hypothesis is heavily influenced by a look across to personal lines which have unequivocally proven the transformational importance of granular data (and to some extent telematics) in the underwriting process.
For high volume products such as war APs or many cargo policies, we look at digital trading platforms used in areas such as SME packages and see a different future to the status quo. It’s what Lloyd’s of London CEO John Neal called the “standardised risk exchange” when he launched The Future At Lloyd’s Wednesday.
Marine insurers therefore need to determine whether they are pioneers or followers with regard to marine insurance innovation. The challenge for large groups may be an awareness that a review of the marine business and operating model is essential, but competing priorities which make focus or investment impossible. Might there by consolidation (M&A) opportunities in the market towards a smaller number of tech-savvy specialists? That would imply a risk for followers or laggards.
Finally, insurers should not forget that InsurTech is typically only one aspect of a solution. Clearly the potential of enhanced analytics on the loss ratio is exciting – but what about the broader end-to-end underwriting operating model? Our challenge to insurers is not only to embed insights from companies like Windward into their underwriting process, but to think about how their underwriting function can be reconfigured for a technology-led approach. It’s one of the themes in our 2018 paper on InsurTech in the Lloyd’s Market.
Impact 25 company Concirrus has a similar proposition.