Karina Buch: Chief Commercial Officer, Insurance Business Applications: Digital insurance platforms - getting ahead and staying ahead

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Insurance Business Applications (IBA) has established itself as a genuine insurance innovator over the past decade, embracing new technologies to offer a full cycle property and casualty insurance platform in the cloud.

Chief Commercial Officer Karina Buch joins Robin to discuss the company's origins and growth so far, why global insurers like Zurich and AIG are choosing to use its IBSuite platform, and the potential of both embedded and parametric insurance.  

Talking points include:

  • Why speed matters when building products
  • Re-platforming vs greenfield development
  • Covid-19 and the race to modernise
  • The demand and attraction of embedded insurance
  • Integrating external data for parametric triggers

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Continuing Professional Development

InsTech London is accredited by The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII). By listening to an InsTech London podcast, or reading the accompanying transcript, you can claim up to 0.5 CPD hours towards the CII member CPD scheme.

The Learning Objectives for this podcast are:

  • Understand what a full cycle insurance platform is and some of its benefits
  • Compare some of the differences between building a new platform or onto a preexisting one
  • Realise some of the potential opportunities within parametric and embedded insurance

To continue learning about platforms in insurance, read our report No-Code/Low-Code Platforms - A Bridge from Legacy to Digital?

Let us know you have listened to this podcast and if your organisation is a member of InsTech London you will receive a quarterly summary of the CPD hours you have earned.

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Digital insurance platforms - getting ahead and staying ahead - Episode 156 highlights

Robin: Insurance Business Applications (IBA) offers a full cycle property and casualty insurance platform in the cloud: IBSuite. The origins of IBA go all the way back to 2010 - what was the genesis for it?

Karina: Our founder, who is now CTO, was asked by an insurance company to help build a platform. Despite originating from the telecommunications industry and with no prior insurance experience he took it on. The platform was designed in the cloud, focused around APIs. He also decided to make it multi-language and multi-currency from the beginning, instead of having to add this in later. His final design principle was that everything had to be easy to configure. 

Robin: IBA has now spread far and wide with offices in the UK, US, Spain and Romania. Was that always the plan?

Karina: IBA has used a land and expand strategy. We go where the customers are, focusing on our case studies and minimising any big investments.

Robin: A lot of companies offer policy admin systems. Why do you think you’ve been particularly successful with IBSuite?

Karina: When we ask our customers why they chose IBSuite, there are two main reasons. The team and speed to market. The team has both insurance and technological knowledge and is able to give guidance and advice. 

Robin: Your clients include the likes of Zurich and AIG. After selling to one of their office locations, is it easy to get into others?

Karina: Insurance companies have different approaches and models in each country and decide on their own tech, so there's no guarantee that because we’ve got into one office that we’ll get into the rest. We are a strategic partner of Zurich’s, which means the IBSuite platform is evaluated as new opportunities arise. We still have to be proactive ensuring we are continuously developing the platform and evaluating market developments.  There's no leaning back for software platforms in the industry.

Robin: IBA works with both startups and big incumbent insurance companies. What does your ideal customer look like?

Karina: Clients need to have a desire to be in the cloud and have to be able to pay our service fee. We have clients that are very small with only five people in the office, and we also interact with those larger companies you mentioned. It's not about being a small or big company, it’s about whether we can fulfil their needs and can grow on the platform because we are rewarded for that growth.

Robin: What is the charging model?

Karina: There are three components. We charge a fixed fee that is paid quarterly upfront, and then a percentage of the Gross Premium that is adjusted down as the company grows. On top of those two, there is a fee of 25% of those two components for support and maintenance.

Robin: Do you mostly get Greenfield sites to develop on, or do you have to build around existing legacy platforms?

Karina: We get both: re-platforming, where we have to work with what the insurer already has in their system architecture, and then also Greenfield. There is a trend right now of companies racing to modernise, after being able to come back to work since COVID. New business models such as embedded insurance, which you covered earlier this year in your report, and on-demand insurance are progressing quickly and are very attractive right now. The customer journey is changing, with insurers seeing customers as individuals. APIs enable this personalisation. 

Robin: Does IBA do its own implementations, or do you have preferred SI (system integrator) partners that you work with?

Karina: SI partners are part of our projects. We haven't yet moved to a model where we outsource all of the implementation. Today, we have a Senior Project Manager, Solution Architect and Business Architect from IBA on every project, and then the rest of the roles are outsourced to our SI partners. We do this as one of our competitive edges is the time to deliver. 

Robin: I see that you have Bought By Many on your client list. What do you do for them?

Karina: Bought By Many runs their UK business on our platform, and they've done that from the beginning. Their first pet insurance product was launched on our platform a long time ago.

Robin: How big is IBA these days?

Karina: There are currently over 70 of us, but we are growing rapidly. By the end of the year, we will have grown to around 100. From a sales and marketing perspective, feet on the ground is important. Having someone in France that speaks French, for example, works well to build relationships. Even though we are very online, it’s important to have in-person meetings because, at the end of the day, people buy from someone that they trust.

Robin: So far, I've only dealt with women at IBA. That would be very unusual in the UK - is having a good gender balance in the leadership team something you work on?

Karina: We have a good mix of genders at IBA, but it's not by design. We look at the skills of a person and the chemistry we have with them, not their gender. We don’t have a policy that says 50% of staff have to be women, we just really look at the talent. Sometimes I hear people say that it's hard to find good consultants or software engineers that are women, but that is not true. 

Robin: You haven't always worked in insurance. What did you used to do in London?

Karina: I was lucky to get a job as global CIO for Christie’s auction house in London. Besides all of the amazing art, it is a business. Someone goes out to find something, brokers it, sells it and then gets a percentage of the sale. We had such a strong global team, and I had to make sure that everything was up and running 24/7. It was great to work with such fantastic people across the globe, who were both commercial focused and incredibly passionate about art.

Robin: What themes does IBA see for the future, and what are you working towards?

Karina: I see continued growth and expansion across the world for IBA. We are likely to work with more partners that offer tools or solutions that can be easily added to the IBSuite platform so that we can provide a wider range of customer requirements. Areas we’re looking at include parametric and AI. 

Robin: Having joined the InsTech London community, what sort of companies do you want to hear from?

Karina: If you’re interested in our platform, as an insurer, MGA or insurtech startup, please do get in touch. Also, if you think you are sitting on some complementary new technology but aren’t building an end- to- end platform, we’d love to hear from you. 

Robin: IBA very kindly sponsors our Parametric Post newsletter. What was the thinking behind that?

Karina: Parametric is interesting to us as our platform can easily integrate with external data sources and support payment triggers.

Robin: Do you have a final message for our community?

Karina: I’d like to encourage people to have a look at our customer case studies. Also, we are open to sharing knowledge, so come along and listen to our webinars. If there is anything that IBA could do to help, let me know.