“Insurance relies on lots of relationships and complex products,” says David Jack, CIO of Hyperion Insurance Group. Jack started with London headquartered Hyperion in June 2013. “My speciality is transformation and this has been the most eclectic transformation,” Jack says with his typical air of excitement and energy.
Outside of financial services Hyperion Insurance Group is not well known. Hyperion is an international insurance intermediary group with insurance broking and underwriting agency arms. It consists of international underwriting agency Dual Group, Howden Broking Group, and recently added RKH another employee owned insurance and reinsurance broker. The business has projected revenues of £400 million in revenues and employs 3000 people across its international business, which operates in 37 countries at 121 offices. Hyperion belongs to the GA private equity group and under its ownership and the leadership of CEO David Howden, the name behind the Howden business, Hyperion has grown on average 20% a year. “So that’s why it’s interesting,” Jack says of the insurance business that has grown while the rest of the sector struggles.
Jack clearly has a chemistry with boss Howden, describing how the CEO describes their sector as: “Enabling business. Insurance means you can take a risk, you can build, fly or move something, without it people and business do less”. Despite the investment from GA, 70% of the Hyperion Insurance Group is owned by the staff and the CIO enjoys the simplistic journalistic description of Hyperion being a cooperative deep in the City of London.
“What that means is that the people who are generating revenue have a vested interest as the shareholders,” Jack says. Hyperion also attracts growth and acquisition partners with a positive attitude to change, adding: “We have the scale of a multi-national, but the feel of a smaller independent organisation.
“We’ve just bought a business in Brazil and the business leaders is a young technology entrepreneur and she wants to grow her business beyond where it is today,” he says.
Anyone who's met or seen Jack at a CIO event will know he’s full of energy and has an effervescent passion for information and how technology can enable information to make a change. So while on the surface a move from the only successful train ticketing dotcom retailer to the sober suits of insurance may seem a strange move, Jack will, enthusiastically, disagree.
“There is a much higher margin in this business and therefore the scale and complexity is larger and also the opportunity to be more efficient. Trainline had a different set of challenges with tiny transactional margin,” he says of his previous role.
“Insurance has an opportunity to be better, whether it’s from zero friction of transaction or finding better products for people. Many of our businesses will create a product, we probably have four or five mining industry products, so we have an increasing portfolio of interesting products,” he says of how his role and department can ensure the organisation grows products and revenues sustainably.
“Insurance is a very silo based industry, there are teams in professional indemnity, teams selling to solicitors and to big corporates. It is not as simple as online retail or personal insurance. But if you can really break down the silos then the opportunity in commercial insurance can be amazing. "One view of the customer; one view of the product, one view of the workforce,” he says.
As well as liberating information, Jack’s role is ensure that Hyperion is a disruptive force in its market as financial services increasingly faces challenger brands and in the case of banking, entirely new models. Jack and Hyperion are actively exploring the opportunities for novel, time and context based approaches to insurance, he says new ways of deriving needs and delivering insurance will not only challenge the marketplace, but also the capital providers. He says existing insurance business processes and products are too costly and cumbersome to match the customer’s actual needs and that an insight rich approach will enable leaner processes, more cost-effective, desirable and innovative products for the market. Given how budget retailers, rent not own businesses, cloud services and over-the-top telecoms have disrupted their markets through data initiatives, with low cost to market and tight margins it is only a matter of time before similar challenges impact the insurance sector.
As this title has detailed in recent years, the insurance sector is already under great pressure as under-performing global stock markets make it hard for insurance firms to trade their revenues to create a surplus and environmental and economic factors hit payout and premium levels.
“There are three familiar retail consumer dynamics taking place in the commercial market, firstly every customer interaction is becoming an asset, secondly there is a growing demand for complex and dynamic pricing (especially in developing markets) and of course a mobile first expectation – for initial engagement, for information services and for ongoing relationship building
“Delivery of a flawless Omi-channel, data informed, customer engagement is a key focus point. Why would our customers have a lower expectation of a commercial transaction than they do from buying a pair of shoes?” Jack believes that commercial insurance is ripe for the same online transformation that the high-street experienced years ago. I simply don’t believe the argument that the difficulty of commoditising a complex insurance product will somehow keep the transaction offline.”
“Data will be on the balance sheets. The big insurers sell data to the industry and it creates tens of millions for them,” Jack says of how important the data that CIOs can capture and understand will be for his sector and more widely.
“So we are grabbing the talent in the market to exploit the data, because it is key and we are at the vanguard of “whole-business” data exploitation,” he says. I believe that we have one of the most exciting commercial insurance data-warehouses that exist in the market today – built fast, built lean, and built to show direct commercial value at day one. We are now accelerating the venture and will extend across all our global trading platforms by the end of the year.
“When we first started delivering insight, some of which was extremely challenging to traditional teams, not all the feedback from the business users was positive, but they couldn’t help but start engaging with it,” he says.
“We can be in the top five from a data perspective,” he believes and the start has been incredible. Jack’s year one data team was just four members of staff. “What they delivered from a standing start is just phenomenal.
“We’ve gone from an initiative that said data can be transformational to the first level of outcomes with the UK business spotting opportunities and customer issues in a matter of months. The data team showed a mistake that took place 17 years ago.
“So if you do Big Data analysis you miss it, but in a more insightful frame of mind, you can spot issues and clear them up. Make data egalitarian. Within regulatory restrictions all our dashboards are available to investors GA as I want them to have real insight and I want us to be challenged in an adult way and I want us to be confident with data. So it is warts and all and we have no fear and let’s show them,” he says of the single view of all operational and commercial data.
A large part of the Hyperion business technology sits in the cloud. Without any fanfare and in less than 24 months Jack and his team built a transformational global architecture on Salesforce, Anaplan, Workday and Microsoft Analytics and some others. He believes that foundations are perfect for next stage of explosive growth.
“If I look at what we did with a tiny team in that first year,” he says with pride of his team. “We rolled out Salesforce to every desktop and we are using it as our enterprise content management (ECM) for the intranet. This isn’t about CRM it is far more profound than that, Salesforce is the foundation technology to build a truly transformational collaborative autonomous environment.”
On the subject of collaboration, Jack’s team rolled out Blue Jeans Networks for greater video conferencing.
“Anyone in the company can say I want to talk to someone else and it is pretty low tech, but that is what everyone wants. Anaplan provides financial consolidation, sales and operational planning and at the time of our meeting Workday HR tools were being implemented.
“Now technology is the tail wagging the dog. Individual foundation solutions such as Anaplan can be re-used to solve numerous business issues. We deployed it to solve a global accounting issue but it is such a powerful tool, both in terms of speed (in memory database) and modelling capability we can re-use it for many other things.
“Salesforce is our data aggregation platform, and a jump-off point to other applications. We use Cornerstone training tools for example, fully integrated with Salesforce, which means all our tools are just tabs in the same platform,” he says of how he sees these cloud platforms simplifying not only his estate, but the daily working lives of the employees of Hyperion.
“We had a rocky road with Salesforce at the start,” he says of how, surprisingly, Salesforce were a bit taken aback by the vision of Jack and Hyperion.
Jack has focused his strategy on cloud based technology tools to match the growth and acquisition trajectory Hyperion is on.
“If you suddenly have to add 750 people to your organisation, that has to work well. The RKH deal was the test of that and the only thing I would accept is a perfect transition on May 1st so that no one would notice the change of ownership,” he says.
A further advantage of Jack’s cloud strategy is that creates platforms for consolidation. “There were lots of trading platforms, now we have a chance to bring some of these together.
“We are in 37 countries and there was innovation all over the place. Our Israeli team is amazing and has been working with a cool vendor on a trading solution that we now have been able to share across a number of countries,” he says of how cloud platforms mean his team is free to find new tools that will make a real difference to the business and then drive adoption of those tools beyond national branches.
Jack’s appointment at Hyperion was not your usual CIO search experience. “I was known to General Atlantic and was flattered to be approached, but it was David Howden’s intuition that there was a huge opportunity for a global insurance business not just enabled by but fuelled by technology that attracted me,” General Atlantic investment house has had an investment into Hyperion since 2013.
“When interest rates dropped a set of new capital providers came into the sector like hedge funds. They understand risk over a portfolio of investments and they are highly technology focused and merciless at looking at how to optimise supply chains. That makes a dynamic shift, which is great for people like us at Hyperion to work with smart capital providers and feed their need for data insight.
“GA is an evergreen fund too that stays post-IPO and they have a strong technology bias. They even have two CIOs in residence, one a former Expedia CTO. So it is a fascinating business to do business with. Their approach interests me and they have resources I can call on as the CIO of Hyperion, so it is nice to have scale way beyond our buying power.”