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More Bordeaux, less bordereaux

My leisure time is dominated by two things – sport and wine. It may be difficult to imagine now, but on the sports front I was blessed with a modicum of talent, although even in my prime I showed limited commitment to making best use of it. I was quick with a good eye for a ball, but hated training and once I attained levels that required me to do that a couple of days midweek and play at weekends I settled back into mediocrity and had stopped playing everything but golf by my mid-twenties.

I started to fill the extra hours at my disposal with a new passion – wine. This time it’s the other way round. I have very little natural ability (a very average palate and am certainly no super-taster) but have dedicated many hours of my life to trying to improve on the little I had to work with. Even with limited aptitude, you can glean an awful lot of knowledge from over 35 years of drinking (mostly) decent wine most nights. It’s training of sorts, just much more enjoyable.

And so, now in my mid-sixties I have with some justification obtained the reputation of being a wine snob. This is not something I seek to smother using my default setting of private school honed self-deprecation. On the contrary, I revel in it. It’s something I’ve worked hard to attain because the moniker carries with it a series of underappreciated benefits:

  • When entertaining at home, party guests feel they need to bring decent wine for fearing of some withering comment about the quality – “it should be okay to cook with” usually does it.

  • When out for dinner fellow diners give you the wine list to choose something on behalf of the whole table thereby enabling you to pick the wines you like at your particular price point.

  • You become a lightning rod for good wine recommendations enabling you to crowd-source your cellar from a myriad of other much more sophisticated palates.

What’s all this got to do with insurance and innovation? Not much, except perhaps this. My love of wine is driven by curiosity. I quickly tire of the same wine and rarely buy more than a case before moving on. What drives my passion is a desire to find the next big thing before others do. To find underappreciated wine from non-traditional places or using unusual grapes at a reasonable price point and then share my discoveries. The good value thing is important. It’s not that difficult to source great wine for over £30 a bottle from the top wine producing regions of the world. The quest that never ends is to find the bottle that tastes like a £30 bottle at a fraction of that price and for it to be to a revelation to those you share it with.

It’s much the same for technology of course. The safe and obvious thing to do when choosing a technology provider is to go for the “usual suspects.” Those that your peers have adopted and that have established their credentials over many years and as a result are able to charge accordingly. But in this increasingly nimble and modular world there are plenty of unsung technology and data heroes out there with very effective solutions built using new and exciting technologies just waiting to be appreciated.

This is the compulsion that led me to set up InsTech and why I still greatly enjoy what we do. It’s about being relentlessly curious. How can we deliver insurance better than we do now? What are the issues that most need to be addressed? What data sources and toolsets lie out there that will help us do that? What does the future of insurance of insurance look like? Once again, a genuinely held passion is a powerful force which for getting buy in and attracting like-minded folk. People who want to share their own discoveries, visions, solutions and ideas and meet with other people doing the same.

Occasionally, the two worlds come together as they will on the 5th October at the 2023 InsTech wine tasting. We are inviting members and friends of InsTech to a wine tasting in London for a blend of networking, innovation, social purpose with a big dose of curiosity thrown in. Wines are being provided courtesy of Generali, who will bring wine from their own Italian estates, QBE who will be showcasing the Australian wine industry, PKF Littlejohn who are flying the flag for English wines and EY who are contributing wines from producers in Japan, Ukraine, Austria and Morocco representing the innovative and underappreciated end of the wine spectrum.

The event is for members and friends only and, unsurprisingly, has nearly sold out. If you are a member and haven’t registered yet, please do soon. If you are not but want to come along we have reserved 5 tickets for anyone from the insurance industry or the technology and data companies that serve it, who provides the most compelling reason why they should get a ticket. Extra points will be awarded for those that focus on curiosity and innovation in their answers.


The InsTech Wine Tasting event is back by popular demand! This is an invite-only event. You will have to be personally invited and registered to be able to attend. Email [email protected] to find out more.

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