Hiring for an InsurTech (*is tough)

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InsurTech v FinTech

InsurTech’s are all too often referred to in the same context as FinTech’s; as a broadly defined part of ‘financial services’, the Insurance industry is characterised as the slow-moving ‘older brother’ of banking.

The use and reference to FinTech firms happened after the 2007 financial crash, when ‘fintech’ became a common term outside of the finance world, owing to various venture capitalist firms making huge investments into fintech businesses which aimed to disrupt the failed financial institutions. InsurTech, as expected, was a term coined later.

In InsurTech market in the UK, according to the recognised commentator Nigel Walsh, is divided into “3 categories” in a recent blog post – 1). cloud-native equivalents of the traditional (large) core system 2). a similar model to ‘Category 1’, however, with the option to write business in specific states or geographies, and 3). adjacent InsurTech players that have been built from the ground up to solve a niche, single specific problem.

The main challenge for these burgeoning technology start-ups in InsurTech is the same as it was for the FinTech companies – hiring talent! 

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The War for Talent

The use of the phrase ‘war for talent’ has been used (and overused) considerably since the recession and one conclusion had been drawn – the talent won! 

It is a candidate-driven market now and companies find themselves aggressively competing for technical talent. As an employer now, your brand position, culture, environment, mission, technology stack, benefits (i.e. pension, flexible working policy) and overall offering are scrutinised and considered at every stage of the recruitment process. Fail to get the brand positioning and message to market wrong and you don’t attract or engage talent and if you give little or no consideration to the candidate experience, you will lose candidates from the process or simply get ‘ghosted’.

The dynamics of the market are such now that, as the employer, you have a significant challenge to recruit talent – you are no longer in direct control – therefore, your approach needs to change to be successful.

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Define the differences

Life in a start-up and scale-up is different from operating in an established SME or enterprise business – in most cases in the Insurance industry if you’ve worked for a major Insurance carrier, you have been ‘the client’. This is one of the most significant differences and one of 3 major differences.

1). Client v Service Provider

There is a mindset shift that is required to operate successfully in an InsurTech; stakeholders are no longer internal or 3rd party suppliers – they are actual customers. You are now customer-facing, driving a commercial agreement to deliver a project(s) that have implications for the end clients’ business and significant impact on the reputation and revenue of the InsurTech you represent.

There is no hiding place – you are front and centre and you will be responsible for all the commercial conversations, issues and escalations, client engagement and end-to-end delivery. You will be dealing with ambiguity, crafting solutions with limited amounts of resource available and you will be under pressure both internally and externally as the focal point. Would you be comfortable with this level of exposure and scrutiny?

2). Learning while in-flight

Typically, an InsurTech won’t have a slick on-boarding process that provides you with training on all the core products and services, an induction about the current state of the business and a few days grace to orientate yourself with your environment and colleagues and/or team members. The approach is often ‘laptop-open-and-GO!’.

You will need to be resourceful and collect information, data and self-learn as you start to take on responsibility for deliverables (both new and existing); the onus will be on you to set-up meetings with your peers and team to introduce yourself and get a sense of them, their role and how they fit into the dynamic of a constantly growing business.

In short, if your first question is ‘what’s the induction process?’ – this isn’t the environment for you.

3). What does success look like? 

Creating the exact psychometric profile for an individual that will be successful in a start-up and scale-up has been the pursuit of many incubators and accelerator programmes, VC and Angel investors and talent acquisition and recruitment companies. There doesn’t, at this stage, appear to be a definitive profile that guarantees success.

In my experience, there are 3 characteristics that are commonly found in the companies I have partnered with when they are scaling their business.


The pressure to deliver, the pressure to find solutions, time-pressure, pressure from client demands and pressure to be forward-thinking requires one thing – resilience. If you don’t have experience of dealing with pressure, finding ways to personally reconcile the demands of the business whilst maintaining healthy mental well-being, this environment can be challenging.

A resilient mindset will help steer you through the ambiguity, find solutions when there appears to be no straight-forward answer and it will ensure you protect your team when the demands are high and the final phases are close to being delivered. You will lead where others simply manage.


Ambition can be seen as an unattractive, slightly disruptive, quality in an individual. Ambition in a start-up is essential. Start-ups are built on the ambition of its founders. Assessing the ambition of an individual that wants to join a start-up can be approached in a number of ways; have they been or sought promotion in their previous companies? why do they want to join a start-up? do they have a plan for their role within the start-up and what are they going to improve, change or add to the business?

If working in a start-up ‘appeals to you’, or you think you could ‘add value’ or perhaps you think you have ‘relevant skills and experience’ – make sure you define the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to support these statements. Start-ups run fast, run hard and ask questions – they don’t make unsupported statements. 

Critical thinking 

What is critical thinking? – that’s a question I get asked by recruitment agencies and candidates. In the context of the companies, I have partnered with, it’s the ability (based on intellect and experience) to critically evaluate a decision, solution and/or existing project, commercial process or scenario and then provide a number of options – even options that haven’t been tested (but, could quickly be tested and validated).

It’s not the ‘ability to think outside the box’ as that cliche means very little in the context of a highly pressurised project delivery.

Critical thinking also requires you to trust your own decision-making process and be comfortable with known ‘unknowns’. It also means trusting your team and their knowledge and input, however, being confident enough to make and take the final decision.

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Joining an InsurTech, on face-value, maybe be very appealing – and these companies need talent like any established business – however, the environment, requirements and the ability to be successful are determined by different factors on a personal and professional level. If you think you want this kind of challenge, feel free to contact me for an introductory chat. InsurTech needs great talent! 


Reference material:

Nigel Walsh post entitled “Is the insurance core system the lowest common denominator in the InsurTech (r)evolution?” – Read the full post here

TechBullion – “What is InsurTech, Origin and History in Financial Technology?”


Bot Project  -  to Be or not to Be?



My thought process was pretty simple, “..why do it on Google Forms when I could create a ChatBot!” – that was back on Monday 19th November 2018; as I sit here typing this post, I think I’ve gone too far down the chatbot-shaped rabbit hole. In short, I think I’ve over complicated it!

The motivation behind the chatbot, was to create an interactive survey as part of my on-going research into the job interview and my attempt to answer one question – “Has the job interview format changed that much?”

Why am I interested in interviews?

The reason for this is twofold; one, there has been a proliferation of technology that has been created to support, automate and replace the ‘human element’ of the interview process. Secondly, the traditional interview focused on skills and experience are also now starting to incorporate (or be replaced) by the assessment of soft skills, behavioural and motivational drivers and, the often referenced, ‘future potential’.

In addition, I wanted the survey to be a ‘community project’ as I intend to share the results with everyone that requests a copy of the report; in short, if you’re a Hiring Manager, In-House Talent Acquisition Professional, Agency Recruiter, HR Professional or you work for an RPO, the report could inform your plans for 2019. Also, as an interviewee, this could provide you with valuable insight into the formats you might experience during the interview process next year.



Like most non-techies, I used Chatfuel to create my Bot and I started with the usual ‘Welcome message’ and choices of options for the end user basically giving them the option to start the survey, be persuaded by me to take the survey or completely opt out (see slide show below).

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Then I had used the Google Forms template to create the sections of the conversation tree and options for the person interacting with the Bot – the difference between the Forms and a Bot is that you have to put a lot more thought into the flow because you’re no longer just asking someone to ‘tick boxes’. Now you’ve reached the start of the process of constructing your ‘Groups’ and/or ‘Sequences’ which is both a wonderful option, however, I had to consider the ‘experience’ of the person now.

I think this was the point that I started to layer numerous options for two reasons; I was thinking about what possible answers and options a person might want to see, also, I was thinking about the options I’d like to see and experience.

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The survey basically aims to answer the following questions:

  • What has been your role within interviews during the course of 2018?
  • What is your industry sector or your clients industry sector?
  • What interview formats have you used in 2018?
  • What interview questions have you used in 2018?
  • What interview technology have you used in 2018?
  • What interview formats, questions and technology are you planning to use / use more of / implement in 2019?

: however, with the Bot at my fingertips, I started to expand the details of the question(s) to see if I could add more value to the survey results (the thereby, add more value for everyone who wanted a copy of the report afterwards).


This is the point I am at now….do I continue with the Bot or do I stick to the Google Forms option?


GIF courtesy of Sylvia Boomer Yang @boomeryang








Reject me, just don’t ignore me!

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It’s Not You, It’s Someone Else…

We’ve all been there…we’ve received the generic ‘Sorry, your application didn’t progress’ or ‘We offered the role to a more suitable candidate’; or even, you’ve been one of the many people that takes time and energy out of their day to attend an interview and you’ve received zero feedback! Nothing! – a virtual ‘feedback blackhole’.

So why do the majority of companies, and more specifically, Hiring Managers / Leaders still find it so difficult to provide feedback; extend a simple professional courtesy to another professional? – I mean, there is advice out there if you’re worried about the implications of providing feedback to an individual you don’t intend to offer a role.



…you’re focusing your time and energy on the person you intend to offer and that process is your top priority…you’ll get round to the rejected individuals when you’ve got your ‘chosen one’ secured? – it’ll take 5-10 minutes out of your day to make a call and provide feedback, however, the impact of this action will be positively received by the individual. 

…there is a potential disconnect between you (Hiring Manager/Leader) and the in-house HR/Recruitment team and the feedback hasn’t been passed along or got lost in a whole host of hiring activities the in-house team are managing? – it should be the Hiring Manager/Leader’s responsibility to prioritise the feedback activities with the in-house team and follow-up to ensure is has been actioned. 

…the fear of disappointing another individual and you’re a perpetual ‘pleaser’ and you’d lie awake at night worrying about what that person might be saying about you across social media? – leaving an individual with no feedback leaves the door open to speculation and a greater sense of rejection. In short, inaction has had the complete opposite effect.

…the Recruitment Agency that introduced the individual and the feedback hasn’t been passed back because the Agency lost interest as soon as they knew it wasn’t ‘their candidate’ that was to be offered the role? – again, it should be the Hiring Manager/Leader’s responsibility to prioritise the feedback activities and request confirmation that it has been actioned. 

In all these potential scenarios, the responsibility, or delegation of responsibility, for providing feedback sits with the Hiring Manager / Leader in my opinion. Specifically linked to this are the concepts ‘Candidate Experience‘ and ‘Brand Advocacy‘.


What’s your baseline? 

When any client asks me to assess their ‘Candidate Experience’, I start with the purpose of answering one question – ‘How do they treat the people they don’t hire’? – that’s my baseline. Interestingly, I often find that the data and information available for the individuals that haven’t been offered a role with a company is often sporadic, undocumented and very inconsistent in approach from one Hiring Manager or team to another.

Many have asked, why bother with the people we haven’t hired? 

My counter to that question is, if the experience for the people you haven’t offered is really engaging, the experience for the people you do hire must be amazing!

The net result of an amazing offer and on-boarding experience correlates to a reduction in the loss of individuals to counter offers or other opportunities. 

The obvious result from an engaging experience for individuals you do and don’t hire is brand advocacy and that could lead to referrals and that will lead to a boost to your talent pipeline! Also, you may not have hired the individual today, however, what about in another 6, 12 or 18 months time?

What is your Candidate Experience baseline?

If you’re the hiring manager, team leader, company or HR / Recruitment professional about to embark on a overhaul or improvement programme focused on your Candidate Experience (CX), please let me offer some advice;

  • your current CX is only as good as the last negative feedback you received
  • data is important, however, stories of human experience are more valuable
  • focus on the individual and build the process around them
  • personalisation should underpin your CX journey
  • build your CX vision, don’t replicate
  • be creative and be brave

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