Interview with FRISS CEO Jeroen Morrenhof.
CEO Jeroen Morrenhof has led the company in growing the FRISS Score to be the insurance standard for risk management and fraud detection in Europe. What will be the next steps in becoming the global standard in this field?
A leap forward
2017 was a good year. In the first place for our customers as we really provided them with added value. The number of customers has also increased; domestically, but especially outside the Netherlands. Most of our customers are still in the Netherlands, as this is where we started 10 years ago. However, our biggest growth is from activities abroad and we are now going to take a huge leap forward. We want to and can grow strongly, especially in the top 20 insurance countries of the world.
That we are able to accelerate our growth is fully down to the trust shown by our customers and the dedication of our employees. No matter how big we grow, it is clear to me that this is only possible if we remain ourselves and stick to our main goal: a reliable insurance market, with healthy portfolios and fair premiums. This is why we do what we do.
Scale-up and expansion
To achieve these goals, we are scaling up our activities in Europe and rapidly expanding to other regions. These are mainly in Latin America and North America. We are already active in some of these countries, together with our partner Munich Re. North American insurers are enthusiastic about our product, but so far we have chosen not to actively focus on this. That is going to change: in 2018 we will open a FRISS branch in the US.
At the same time, we will focus even more on improving services to our current and new customers. Our developers are working on this every day and the FRISS lab is trying to look beyond ‘the box’. In the coming year we will focus strongly on the development of data pooling. More about this later.
Our goals have been strengthened by winning ‘VentureClash 2017’. This is an international investment competition that aims to help young, fast growing companies get a foothold in the state of Connecticut in America. Of the 400 companies in the competition, after a number of rounds we were number 1 on the podium. I am proud that we have achieved this together. Many US insurers are based in Connecticut. The prize is 1.5 million US dollars and an innovation project that we can carry out with insurance company The Hartford. This means that they could become our first customer in the US.
This competition has not only provided us with a fantastic sum of money, but it has also generated a lot of publicity and recognition of our solutions. That makes us even more certain that we should quickly make a move to the other side of the ocean.
In order to quickly scale up and expand, we have to invest. We can, of course, use the prize money from VentureClash, but more is needed. If you want to get a foothold in the United States, you have to move quickly and think big: ‘Go big or go home’, as they say over there. So we are going to do that, we are going ‘big’.
We financed our development during the first 10 years entirely from our own resources. I am very proud of this. It has given us a very good market position and so much confidence, ambition and energy that we have decided to accelerate the expansion process by looking for external financing. We succeeded and this has strengthened our conviction that our goals are very realistic. Various parties were interested in investing in us. In the end we chose two. The American Aquiline Technology Growth and the French Blackfin Capital Partners, which both have a lot of experience in the field of development and professionalization of insurtech companies. They are also very familiar with the insurance sector in EMEA and North America. Together they will invest 15 million euros in our goals. We will use about a third of this to achieve our goals in North America/Canada and the remainder for scaling up and expanding our activities in Europe and South America as well for as our development, which will continue to be located in Utrecht.
Doing business with the boss
This also has consequences for me personally. As CEO I will be focussing on setting up our operations in the US. Americans like to do business directly with the boss. This means that I will have to spend a lot of time on the spot. In order to be able to fully focus on this and to avoid having to sit in an aircraft all the time, my wife and I have decided to relocate to the US this coming summer. This move is intended to be for a few years, at least until we have firm soil under our feet. It is an exciting decision for both of us. I will remain CEO and the other five members of the management team will remain in the Netherlands.
Innovation in the FRISS Lab
An increase in scale and expansion to more countries are two important goals for the coming years. Becoming the global standard is not only good for us as a company, but also for the insurance industry and insured persons.
From our base in Utrecht, we will continue to develop and anticipate new opportunities to provide and limit risks and to outwit fraudsters. The FRISS Lab contributes to this.
Our bright young things will continue to reflect and experiment with new possibilities, without ‘market pressure’ because not every idea is feasible. They have to have the scope to do so without the CFO constantly asking what it will yield.
In the coming period we will also pay more attention to data pooling. No matter how good the data in your company is and how advanced your analysis tools are, often the added value of information is far greater when it is combined with data from other players, such as from domestic insurers, insurers outside the Netherlands and other organizations. This is how you can detect patterns and identify organized fraud.
The FRISS Score is compiled by an engine that is already stuffed with knowledge rules and advanced analytics. We feel that the time is now to really leverage on the potential of all the data that flows through our system. The FRISS Score is delivered as a whitebox, so insurers know exactly why a certain risk is attached to each policy application or claim. We want it to be the heart of the anti-fraud ecosystem and invest in feedback loops and self-learning claim models in order to solve not only todays’ insurance business challenges but also those of tomorrow. At the end of the day, for us AI not only means Artificial Intelligence but also delivering Actionable Insights -because there lies the value for our customers.
Honest insurance globally
2018 and the coming years will be exciting because we remain ambitious and our goals are achievable. We have a great group of highly dedicated employees, who work with enormous energy and creativity on finding solutions for our customers. I expect that the growth we are now experiencing and our goal to develop the FRISS Score into the global standard will mean that our company will expand to around 250 colleagues in a few years’ time. In this way we can contribute globally to honest and affordable insurance for everyone.