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Barnaby Rugge-Price

CEO, Hyperion X

Broking in the modern world

We are hearing a lot about what the future is for insurance brokers – where they add value, how they are evolving and even, in some areas, whether they are relevant at all. 

But when it comes to complicated insurance covers, the brokers that are expanding their traditional roles and moving into offering advice, analytics and data will continue playing a vital role for many years to come.

Barnaby Rugge-Price, CEO of Hyperion X, one of the divisions of Hyperion Insurance Group, joins Matthew Grant to discuss how they, as the technology arm of a fast growing broker, are expanding their offering to fit the changing needs of the customer.

Listen here, or any decent podcast platform including: Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts and Podbean.

Topics include:

  • Using data to provide real benefits to clients
  • Building a truly digital market strategy
  • How Hyperion X works with the rest of the Hyperion Insurance Group
  • Changing habits for the post-pandemic world
  • Recruiting talent from outside the industry

Tell us what you think or contact Matthew Grant on LinkedIn.

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Broking in the modern world – Episode 91 Highlights

Can you explain how Hyperion X fits into the overall Hyperion Insurance Group structure? 

When we thought about Hyperion X and its role in the digital transformation of the group, it was important that the business had its own identity and separation where it needed it. In Hyperion X we can hold all of the group’s data and do that in a way that doesn’t compromise any single part of the group.

Ultimately, our job is to transform the group. Ninety-five per cent of our work is focused on what we’re doing with Howden, RKH, and DUAL. Whether it’s helping them run a better data management process, look at in-depth analysis of their business, or helping them with digital solutions.

How are you using technology and data to challenge some of the other brokers out there?

It goes across the whole of our business. With some of the mergers that have taken place or are going on at the moment, there’s opportunity for a distribution business that does things differently. That should be everything we do in the broking business, underwriting business, and in Hyperion X.

We should be using our approach to data technology to separate us from the competition and to be different. We see ourselves as a challenger business.

You’ve got the opportunity, but also the challenge, of three different approaches to broking with the wholesale business, the MGA business, and the commercial business. Where do you see significant opportunities for Hyperion X?

There are opportunities in all three. But it’s the ability to have a view across the whole distribution chain and to put that together in a coherent ecosystem that is unique about Hyperion X.

We understand what retail brokers, wholesale brokers, and underwriting businesses need and take lessons from one to the other quickly, easily, and efficiently. Being a separate business, rather than embedded in each one, gives us a unique perspective.

You’ve managed to balance bringing in really strong individuals from the market, but also people from completely outside of insurance. You’ve got David Flandro, who is very well known for his market analysis, probably one of the leaders in that field, but also Miguel Baptista from Merck as your chief digital officer. 

We’ve been lucky enough to find a group of very inquisitive people. David’s naturally inquisitive and understands the reinsurance and capital side of the industry. That’s where he’s incredibly strong in his analysis. Miguel brings a completely different perspective. He ran data across a $40 billion pharmaceutical company. So whilst the terminology is different, there’s no challenge we could give him that he would be particularly daunted by.

We’re not a group of hackneyed insiders solving what we think the problems are, or a group of outsiders trying to solve problems for an industry they don’t really understand. We’re trying to bring a critical lens to what we do and what our clients need.

What is the balance between helping clients with traditional types of insurance versus finding or helping create new products for emerging classes of risk? That’s presumably one of the big opportunities if you can open up those markets?

We start with the data that we have. All companies have financial data, they’ve been running their P & L so they understand that bit. From there we move in one direction for risk level data from an underwriting standpoint and that informs our broking process going forward.

Eventually, we want to get beyond that to use the data to inform the products that we build in the SME space, which is less advocacy and more around efficiency and customer experience. Our focus is on the use of technology and data to transform how we work.

Everyone’s been forced to go digital in the last few months and you’ve had a significant increase in trade through your broker portals. Are we now going to see people recognising the benefits of getting data into a system, or do you think we’re going to slip back into the old ways of doing things with PDFs?

Inevitably, there’s going to be a temptation to slip back. That’s just human nature. But the pandemic has shown us the art of the possible, particularly around working flexibly. We were able to convince, certainly the London market, to do something in 24 hours that probably would have taken three years to achieve.

We were all entering the data anyway, whether it’s in our system, in PPL, or on the slip. All of the limits and values are put in at some point. Our task is to give our customers an experience that’s better than the one they’ve currently got.

It shouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to create a process that is more pleasurable, faster, and cheaper. We shouldn’t do away with the things that are vital and good, but we should stop doing the things that are unnecessary, unpleasant, and time-consuming.

There’s been a lot of news recently about companies increasing their access to capital in order to underwrite more of the same business. Is that potentially a distraction from doing new things?

The money that’s coming in now is going to be more attracted to a shorter, cheaper, faster route to customers. If you can position yourself, whereby you can add a couple of points to the return, because you figured out a better mousetrap, then you should be using that to your advantage to secure something else from that process.

If you can provide clients with a more efficient process and a deeper understanding through data, then you put yourself at the front of the queue. It may keep some of the laggards in the game for a bit longer, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals.

One of the companies you invest in through Hyperion X is Azur Underwriting. We know them well. Why did you get involved and what is your involvement now?

High net worth is a space that we as a broker have been in for a considerable period of time. As Azur evolved it just felt like a natural place for us to dip our toe in.

We liked and trusted Graham Elliot and we got to know Charlie Blackburn, so we were able to take a small position to help what looked like a promising business. My role allowed us to give them a sort of a broker’s perspective on some of the things they were up to and it’s worked really well.

You’re a broker by background, so what took you over to the other side of the floor to lead on the technology side? 

It was a result of probably 12 to 18 months of agitating at a group executive level. As the CEO of RKH, I was aware that this digital transformation process was going on in other financial services. It would be bizarre to assume that we wouldn’t be subject to the same forces being exerted elsewhere. 

I was questioning what we were doing about it and suggesting some things that we could do better. David Howden got bored of me asking the question on a plane flying across America and asked me if I’d take on the role, which I didn’t hesitate on taking.

The reason for that was knowing digital transformation is going to happen and there will be winners and losers. If we want to be a legacy company and be around for another 25 years, this is something we need to not just be successful at but be a winner in this process.

You’re now 18 months into the role at Hyperion X. What’s changed and how do you feel about the challenge now? 

It really has been a journey. At the beginning, there was a broad remit with no firm plans and four months in I was thinking why did I do this? Why did I give up that really good job? Then towards the end of the year, the things we wanted to do became clear in our minds.

Eighteen months on I have real confidence that we can take on not just Proof of Concepts, but bigger transformational projects looking at the really big subjects at the heart of transformation and the inefficiencies of the insurance industry.

We’re still going fast enough to feel pretty uncomfortable but with the confidence that we’re heading in the right direction. We’ll make lots of mistakes, but we’re building a pool of talent and an organisation that can deliver.

What’s next for Hyperion X?

In broad terms, it’s building out our digital market strategy. Whether you’re in the wholesale space, retail space, or the reinsurance space. The underwriting space is obviously different, but it’s not that different. We can start to scale that strategy with partners, decide what we think are the core components and ultimately deliver that better experience to our clients.

What does the digital broker of the future look like? Does he or she need to be placing that insurance into a digital marketplace? Do they evolve how they communicate and provide advice to their clients? Yes, they do. It’s really about scaling that out and we’ve built a core of that. 

For more information on Hyperion X, go to https://www.hyperiongrp.com

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