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Bitesize InsurTech: Teambrella

If you separate out a Tiramisu into a pot of cream, some sponge fingers and a shot of coffee, you’ve made a deconstructed Tiramisu.

If you separate out insurance into its constituent parts, you’ve made Teambrella.

I’m never quite sure what I think of deconstructed Tiramisu – it’s interesting, but confusing.  It’s exactly how I feel about Teambrella.  We’d love your views.

So, what’s Teambrella?  Teambrella is a technology platform that allows “teams” to insure themselves (we’ll come on to the deconstruction point in a second).  In our recent blog on peer to peer insurance, we held them up as “genuine p2p”.  That’s because they have no insurer balance sheet sitting in the background.

Teambrella are not regulated and have no plans to be regulated. A very interesting philosophical point made by the company is that “regulation is a tool for resolving conflicts”.  Teambrella argue that their model – which integrates things like game theory – manages the risk of conflict before it occurs, therefore negating the requirement for regulation.

The way they do this is, for example, by allowing members of each team to vote on actions – for example whether claims should be paid.  As Alex Paperno, one of the three founders (and a former professional poker player) says, “our system enforces the golden rule that you to treat others as you want to be treated”.

Naturally, some people won’t always want to vote on claims and the way Teambrella handles this is by allowing you to give your vote to others.

And this is where the deconstruction point comes in.  Teambrella have effectively disaggregated insurance into its constituent parts and have created a technology platform that allows them to be re-aggregated into mini, bespoke insurance companies.  In other words, by giving others my vote for claims, for example, I’m re-designing the role of the claims handlers, who is appointed by the “will of the people” rather than the chief executive.

Teambrella lay out all of their thinking in an academic-style white paper.  You will not be surprised to hear that the only currency they accept is Bitcoin.  They are about to launch and plan to target tech savvy consumers – and because of their platform, they can be anywhere in the world.

Why are we excited about Teambrella?

Teambrella is a genuinely new look at the insurance “stack”.  It feels like they’re taking it apart like an old car, polishing every piece, and putting it back together to build a better, shinier car.  Some serious brainpower has gone into this.  But we are skeptical whether this will work even as a niche retail proposition: frankly, it’s too complicated.

What we are keen to explore is whether the Teambrella thinking and model could inform the future model for things like captives and industry mutuals.  Is this how, for example, P&I clubs enter the 21st century, and is the future of broking to manage these kind of platforms rather than intermediating between insurers and reinsurers?  Is this a platform for a future risk trading exchange – is it the future of Lloyd’s?

We’re still thinking about these questions – your answers on a postcard (or email), please.

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Chris Sandilands

Partner at Oxbow Partners
Chris Sandilands, ACII is a Partner at Oxbow Partners. Chris advises (re)insurers and brokers on a range of strategy topics and M&A. Chris started his career as a D&O underwriter at Munich Re, before joining Oliver Wyman, the consulting firm. You can reach him at csandilands@oxbowpartners.com.

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