Andre Symes: CGO, Genasys Technologies: Agile products and speed to market


Staying relevant and able to embrace new technology is a big challenge for any established company.

Despite being 20 years old, Genasys Technologies continues to innovate and work on new solutions for emerging and establishing companies, deploying policy administration systems for insurance products, including no-code solutions.

CGO Andre Symes joined Matthew on Podcast 106 to discuss the company's approach to innovation, how Genasys is partnering with others and what has driven its growth over the past two decades.

Talking points and lessons include:

  • Combining the best of legacy with new technology
  • Implementing no-code solutions
  • Designing products at speed
  • Building a business with no external funding
  • Expanding to the UK and US

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Agile products and speed to market - Podcast 106 highlights

Matthew: Genasys is 20 years old but the company is well known for innovation and new solutions. Would you describe Genasys as an insurtech?

Andre: I see insurtech as more of a function rather than a description. We've always provided insurance technology throughout those 20 years, so we can call it insurtech. It depends on what your definition of it is.
Matthew: You’re working with both established and newer companies. Can you give an example of a typical implementation?

Andre: An example of existing business would be taxi underwriters in South Africa. There was a one-month project through to us doing a full re-platform for the country’s fourth largest insurer. Typically, we work with startups, large multinational brokers and MGAs.
Matthew: The reason Genasys came to the UK was for growth opportunities. What do you think is driving the company’s growth?

Andre: When we started exploring London and the UK everybody had concerns about time to market to deploy, the cost of deployment, and the agility of the software. The big thing that’s changed is the openness of the architecture, and the technology we had ticked all those boxes. We didn’t expect the adoption we got, which has been exciting.
Where Genasys is different to a lot of other companies is we have a lot of the tools of the new insurtechs like zero-code. That’s combined with a powerful, proven back end to support on scale. There are very few companies that tick both boxes simultaneously.
Matthew: Being around for 20 years means you have the established tools, but do you have legacy challenges in terms of refreshing those existing components?
Andre: We've got a very strong r&d department that my colleague Craig Oliver heads up. It's challenging because we fund our own r&d, with between 30 and 35% of our revenue redeployed back into our product.
We make sure it stays up to date with the latest technology, that we limit the amount of legacy we’re deploying, and obviously that we create new tools to help the changing market.
Matthew: You've continued to drive the business through Genasys’ revenue, rather than taking external funding. Why is that?
Andre: We’re proud of that approach and it’s another unique aspect of Genasys. Because we don’t have external funding, we have very little shareholder pressure on sales returns, which means we can pass on the benefits to our clients. It puts us in a better partnership position with our clients, instead of just a vendor-client relationship.
Matthew: In terms of technology, we’ve been talking a lot about low code and no-code. Has no-code changed how you build products with clients?
Andre: While some of our clients have adopted our no-code tools, a lot of them don’t want the responsibility of using them, or they don’t believe they have the expertise in-house. They don’t want to create a whole new vertical that does product.

No-code also requires an element of standardisation, which can remove some of the USP that clients want. We need to be able to create bespoke elements for clients so they can differentiate themselves.
Matthew: How do you work with clients to design and iterate products to ensure they meet the needs of the use case?
Andre: Our founder, who happens to be my dad, once told me that agile was a way of being long before it was a term. We’ve always seen implementations as being agile as we need to be able to change as we move through time. That was predominantly why we created our zero code tools, to facilitate continuous change rather than for it to be a sales tool.
Some of the younger startup clients we've had, and you know Equipsme quite well, have seen their business change dramatically in the last two years. A lot of companies start with dreams of being something very different, particularly in insurtech, but then as shareholder pressure and carrier influence comes on, they have to continuously pivot. As the IT partner, we have to be able to pivot with that.
Matthew: With new technology, systems often don't get designed with the end-user in mind. How do you avoid that happening with clients?
Andre: Using Equipsme as an example, they were extremely competent and professional. We sat down with everyone from Matthew Reed, the Managing Director, through to Andy Santoni, the Chief Underwriting Officer.
We tend to work directly with business where you can have an underwriter talking directly to the person creating the product. It takes out a lot of the lag to deploy.
Matthew: Genasys is building new technology solutions to solve legacy challenges, but how do you futureproof what the company creates?
Andre: People paint themselves into a corner when they keep building out more and more legacy. Sooner or later, they’ve got a beautiful room which they can’t get out of. What we’re trying to do is give the client some element of comfort that if they want to change down the line, or adopt an element of Genasys, they can.
We're becoming very open. We've got several hundred API endpoints. The near and medium-term future is going to be API technology.
Matthew: Genasys launched a new parametric insurance product with GENRIC earlier this year, which pays policyholders a lump sum if they’re hospitalised by Covid-19. Was it a different experience building a parametric product?
Andre: Not really, because all that functionality already resides within Genasys. The platform was out of the box. The interesting thing about the GENRIC product was that we didn’t even help them build it. We got a phone call saying their team had prepared the product and could we deploy it to their live environment.
They had done everything. Created the product, created the pricing, did all the underwriting, then bolted it on the technology stack themselves. We just had to make sure it went into production correctly.
Matthew: You’re working with technology partners like Hitachi and Rokk3r on expanding Genasys into the US. What can you tell us about those plans?
Andre: Our US expansion came off the back of onboarding Hamilton Group, which is the Lloyd’s MGA selling products out of New York and Miami. The relationship with Rokk3r itself is predominantly more focused on the Lat-Am space. They are a very cool crowd. Hilario and Pablo, who run the Rokk3r insurtech aspect, truly believe in exponential growth businesses. They partner with us because they realise that the software we offer helps their clients launch products faster with less effort.
We’re working with them on some deals in Ecuador. Mexico is another place we’re looking at, as well as Venezuela where Hilario is actually from.
Matthew: You’ve also partnered with The Data Company and Percayso Inform. How are you working with those organisations?
Andre: We’re looking at data fraud management with The Data Company. We’ve integrated some of their models to show how we can use data for motor claims. Percayso Inform is a multi bureau data source partner and there are others that I’d like to mention as well.
We’ve got about 15 partners in our particular ecosystem. Xtract is another interesting one as they have created an incredibly powerful visualisation tool for motor claims using telematics data. Codeplex is another partner offering full supplier management, panelling pricing, etc which can be part of our platform. QRater is an extremely powerful rating, a black box, and we can handle extremely complex requirements such as life emergency rating, and different types of algorithms within there. A more recent example is Flowgear from South Africa, which offers a zero-code tool that helps simplify integration with third parties where it is possible to drag and drop different endpoints and do graphical mapping.
Matthew: Can you share any recent examples of Genasys’ work with clients?
The last implementation we did was for Guardrisk in South Africa. We’ve done 68 commercial products with them, five data migrations and around 100 bespoke reports. They’ve just renewed for another couple of years and I’m excited about that.
Aon South Africa also runs its business on our platform, so we’re dealing with a lot of brokers. Another interesting one is Price Forbes, where we've been doing some of their corporate business. We also just helped a company called Franchisee First go live. They do bond insurance which is quite interesting. 
Matthew: How did you make the leap from working in South Africa to opening up an office in the UK?
Andre: Genasys ended up being one of the largest independent policy providers in South Africa, with around 30% of the outsource market share at one point. But getting into the really big insurers was challenging as a lot of them would be buying offshore products. I did a business case on expanding to the UK and it made a lot of sense.
It was evident that there was a niche for a strong policy admin proposition within the Tier 3, Tier 4, Tier 5 insurers and the MGA space. We did some small explorations, onboarded Equipsme, then onboarded eight more companies quite quickly in the following months.
It wasn't a very difficult decision for me to pack up in South Africa and move here to continue the growth. I love London, my wife loves London, and there's just so much opportunity here.
Matthew: What should we look out for from Genasys in the near future?
Andre: We are launching our brand new client portal very soon, which we're quite proud of. It should be coming out in the next week or so. Also, a lot of the really strong engineering tech that we've got is going to become more direct to consumer type technology in the near future.
Matthew: Genasys is a great supporter of InsTech London. What led you to become a Corporate Member?
Andre: We know how difficult it is to run a business, so when I see young companies doing their 30-second pitches at InsTech London events, I have a large amount of respect for what they’re doing.
Any platform that gives someone the ability to try and make a business for themselves, to be an entrepreneur, is something that should be encouraged. We have a bias towards people who run businesses because we do it ourselves. As long as InsTech London keeps supporting the little guy, keeps trying to help out the small people to become the next unicorn, we'll carry on supporting you. 

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