Cytora CEO and Co-Founder Richard Hartley discusses current digitisation in the insurance industry and Cytora’s role in it

After striking a partnership with hyperexponential earlier this week for faster underwriting processes, Cytora’s CEO and Co-Founder, Richard Hartley, speaks to InsurTech Digital about AI’s growing impact on digital innovation in the insurance industry, and how Cytora is helping companies process risks by leveraging this tech.

What role is AI playing in digitisation in the insurance industry?
In the insurance industry, insurers have been using AI for quite a while now. For example, using it to help them with risk selection, help them triage claims. So, you could view AI as an evolution, as opposed to a revolution. It is the launch of Large Language Models which accelerated not just the conversation about AI but also real capabilities in that space. It offers a significant opportunity, and there are different areas of value, especially in helping the industry be more productive.

Processing risk is a manual and time-consuming process and if done with the help of technology and AI it drives profitable growth without adding operational costs. For example, it can help insurers write more risks or increase the volume of risks that they can write relative to each person or organisation. AI offers a huge opportunity to increase the volume of risk that insurers can write. At the same time, it can help them identify the rights risks, based on appetite, ensuring decisions on risks are optimised.

You definitely can’t take the human out of the equation though. You need underwriters to be involved. People that have the expertise and experience – AI can really maximise their productivity and opportunities. We don’t see as AI replacing people, but rather assisting and enabling them to maximise their potential, efficiencies and quality of work.

How is Cytora leveraging tech to help companies effectively process risk?
Cytora is creating new foundations for insurance and providing insurers with the building blocks they need to deliver efficient, accurate underwriting and seamless customer experiences.

We have an AI-first platform that enables commercial insurers to process risks with greater efficiency and accuracy. Cytora digitises every incoming risk, augments them with additional data sources, evaluates them against multiple rules, including appetite and priority rules, and routes them to downstream systems for automated or manual underwriting.

With Cytora, insurers can increase premiums and at the same time improve their underwriting margins. The byproduct is that Cytora also gives brokers – who provide the risk to insurance companies – a much better service, and a much faster turnaround time.

Cytora supports the whole underwriting workflow process for commercial insurers – digitises, evaluates, and routes all incoming risks. Underwriters receive decision-ready risks that sit within the appetite and have a high propensity to bind. We are especially proud of some of our unique features which include customisation for carriers’ needs (workflows for each line of business, rules, and technical environments they require), prioritisation (arranging risks by priority score and appetite filtering), and analytics (provides carriers with several types of actionable insights).

Run us through your time as a founder. What are the challenges and future ambitions?
As someone that hasn’t worked in the insurance industry before, it was a pure learning process. That, however, applies to everyone who starts something new, especially a company. It took us some time to truly understand the difference between problems that are superficial and actual real problems, that are important for the company and its customers.

It also took us a while to build up the skills to be able to execute the vision we have successfully. The main enabler of that was building an efficient team with different skill sets that can work together really well and complement one another. It also took us some time to have people on the tech side work well together with the insurance industry experts that understand how commercial insurance works.

What we learned is that customer value has to be one of your main priorities. Customers are usually very rational but they won’t buy a product that doesn’t create value for them. So it’s paramount to fixate on that. At the same time though you have to be agile and keep improving the product. Each new feature, function, and service of our product has to answer ‘yes’ to the question of whether the product is valuable.

In the past year, Cytora has rapidly grown to serve clients globally. Many of the world’s largest insurers have now adopted Cytora’s platform – including Allianz, Beazley, Markel, Starr, and HDI.

We have live deployments worldwide – Europe, the US, and Asia. Countries where we live include Australia, the US, Germany, Spain, and the UK. We’re at a point where we are very global in the markets we’re addressing. Our major areas of focus today are the US and Europe, simply because that’s where our major customer base is.

It’s a really exciting time because it’s a time with real geographic scale and growth. It feels like every day, there’s a new person joining who’s coming from a different country, and it’s creating a very diverse team as well, which is particularly exciting.