In conversation with Mark Arnold, CEO, Picnic (Previously Swarm)

Published on August 1, 2017

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Mark Arnold, CEO of Picnic Insurance / Swarm

Mark has over 20 years’ experience in business, technology, finance and start-ups. His focus in life is to imagine, reinvent and create, and he loves everything about entrepreneurial start-ups and business innovation dramatically improving the value for the customer.

Mark is the Founder and CEO of (now called Picnic Insurance), an InsurTech company completely re-imagining insurance from the ground up. Mark is also a Founder and Non-Executive Director of Articulate, specialists in enterprise technology adoption. He is one of the Founding Non-Executive Directors of the Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation and an avid supporter of non-profit organisations investing in life-changing opportunities for vulnerable young people in our community.

Over the next 24 months, how do you see the insurance industry changing – what are the key business challenges and risks facing the industry?  There are some really exciting things happening with telematics, IoT, Big Data, machine learning and bots, all offering the potential for dramatic improvements to the model for the insurer and the consumer. Blockchain also presents a very interesting set of opportunities for insurance and will be something to watch very closely. I do think the radically new/old models like peer-to-peer or micro-insurance will start to be proven over the next 24 months, as some start to get traction and others do not. The reinvented models are the ones I’m most excited about and the ones I think have the potential to really shake the market up in the favour of the consumer.

What solutions does Picnic insurtech provide for the industry? Picnic Insurance will offer a peer-to-peer or collective model.  We think our model will be well differentiated from other peer-to-peer companies seeking to enter the market, and will create a frictionless, meaningful, personalised and connected experience for our customers. More details on our model will be released as we near launch.

Are there any obstacles your business is facing in terms of industry growth and how do you plan to overcome them? We don’t currently have a regulatory environment which supports and encourages real innovation in insurance, so regulation can be tricky for an InsurTech seeking to reinvent old insurance models. Treasury and the regulators seem to be open and listening, which is fantastic. We need our regulatory setting to lead the world with policy designed for the next generation of tech and insurance business models.

What differentiates your technology platform from other InsurTechs? As we are yet to launch, our key differentiating factors are under wraps right now. We will start to reveal some nuggets as we get closer.

Where will you be focusing most of your spend in the next 24 months? We are spending heavily on R&D and establishing strong governance models. There are a lot of items on our roadmap that need to be proven over the coming 24 months, so R&D is expected to remain strong. We also expect regulation and compliance will continue to be an area requiring significant focus and budget, but we are super excited to start to spend budget on customer engagement and an amazing customer experience.

How important is technology to insurers to remain relevant and competitive? Technology is an absolutely critical enabler, there is no doubt about it. It’s not everything, though. What’s equally important is tipping the value exchange back towards the customer and providing an uncompromising customer experience and something that will round out the three primary areas in our view.

What is your advice to Government? Don’t play the short political game; take courageous policy decisions. We stand in a moment where we can become an innovation centre – or the world can leave us behind. Advancing innovation is for the Australian economy; the equivalent to policy decisions like floating of the dollar, introducing superannuation or the GST. We are no longer a manufacturing economy. In time, it’s possible we will cease to be a service economy with the rise of robotics and AI. Canberra needs to take action to shift us towards becoming an innovation economy, with a policy setting designed for the next generation of tech and distributed business models.

Technology is providing insurers with the opportunity to re-think their business model. Is collaborating with InsurTechs a way for these organisations to realise more business opportunities? Yes, but I think the challenge for any established industry is the proactive cannibalisation of existing (cash cow) revenue streams. Every industry has been guilty of success and complacency in the face of innovation. Case studies are littered across the years: cameras and Kodak, mobiles and Blackberry, video rentals and Blockbuster, book sales with Borders, hotels, taxis, energy…and insurance.

How has the customer played a role in reshaping the insurance industry? The industry seems to just tell people what they can have. It’s complex, ambiguous and product line focused. As customers find value in some of the new insurance business models, they will start to play a stronger role in reshaping the industry. They will demand more value, transparency and control.

What’s going to happen to those insurers who don’t shift from a product-centric to customer-centric focus? Insurance, like any other sector, is going to be susceptible to new and innovative tech models. Those that don’t respond are likely to be dramatically impacted. Over the next 24 months, the new InsurTech models surfacing today will be proven or disproven by the customer. When customers find the value they seek, they will leave in droves.

What are you seeing as the next best trending or emerging insurance service/product for 2017? I think it will be all about transparency with the consumer, shifting the power from institutions and intermediaries back to the consumer, and just giving the consumer amazing value, which is basically expected these days.

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