Brockman noted that expanding the vocabulary of the public has not been the only opportunity to emerge from the past year. Despite the challenges, he said, it was overall a very positive time for ThingCo as it allowed the business to significantly catch up with its development of Theo (previously known as Little Theo) to get it ready for the B2B market before it was launched in August 2020. Through discussions before and during the COVID period, he realised that the best market to direct this product towards was the broker market.
“I intimately know the insurer market, and what is clear is that insurers, traditionally and probably still today, are slow-moving beasts, especially when it comes to new ideas,” he said. “Many of them have tried telematics and honestly not really succeeded in a successful strategy, so they’re lukewarm to a new idea. The typical response we received was ‘we tried that and it didn’t work’ rather than looking at it with new sets of eyes.
“So, we started speaking to brokers and the thing about brokers is that they’re much smaller and they’re not riddled with politics. The CEOs of brokerages are much more entrepreneurial and what they’re mainly interested in is selling policies to customers. The COVID period has been a difficult one for them so they are looking for things that are new and different.”
Meanwhile, customers are looking for products in response to the changes COVID has made to the way they live, he said, and with cars sitting on front drives for a long time, people are interested in the flexibility offered by telematics. Brokers have embraced this offering, with Freedom Brokers being the first to do so. Sam White, chief executive of Freedom Brokers is a real entrepreneur who is always on the lookout for new ideas, Brockman said, and the business made an ideal first partner.
The product was then also launched with Policywise and Van Compare, Brockman said, and, because this is the insurance industry, word of mouth has spread fast and ThingCo has now signed up nine brokers and an insurer. Its fourth broker will go live in just a short time, and the next four to five months will see the other five brokers launch their campaigns, while ThingCo’s insurer partner is expected to do so in the middle of the year.
“People are liking our product because it’s different, and, as I’ve always said, it’s better to be different than it is to be better because otherwise you won’t stand out from the crowd,” he said. “So, we’re quite buoyant at the moment and what we’re doing now, as a business, is busily recruiting people to meet the demand.”
The ThingCo team has expanded to about 20 people over the last year, he said, and is on the lookout for new talent in its Newcastle and London locations. These staff will be onboarded to engage with brokers and insurers and help get their accounts up and running, and provide support once they are live. ThingCo is also looking for operational people to deal with partners and customers and to resolve any issues that arise as the business scales up dramatically.
Looking to 2021 and beyond, Brockman highlighted that in addition to building its team and delivering services to the broker market, ThingCo will also utilise its recent £3 million investment from BHL(UK) Holdings Ltd to further evolve its proposition. The partnership came at the perfect time, he said, and is a weight off his mind as it allows him and the team to concentrate on growing the business.
The future of telematics is exciting because the COVID crisis has given insurers both the time and the warning that they need to think differently. Hopefully, they will now see telematics in a different way, he said, which will open the market up further. Traditionally, the insurance industry has made two key mistakes when it comes to telematics – firstly, it has given the products away free which can mean people don’t value them enough, and secondly, it has concentrated too much just on the negative aspects of telematics.
“If we concentrate on all the many positives aspects of telematics then we could open up to a whole market, which is something [the industry] has failed to do over the last 10 years,” he said. “I’m optimistic we can sort that out now and I think the next few years are going to be interesting.”