A British insurtech which is aiming to build an easier and more intuitive consumer insurance experience, is setting down roots in Hartford. The venture is described by the firm’s co-founder as the natural next step as his team looks for new US opportunities.

“Symbolically, Hartford is the home of US insurance,” said London-based Wrisk executive chairman Niall Barton. “It’s seen as a very influential place and a hub, so [setting up there] seemed logical.”

Wrisk recently announced plans for its first US office, and Barton said the company is in the early stages of finding a site in Hartford. The plan is to set up a temporary base in the Boat Building on Constitution Plaza until a permanent location is found.

The company will have up to 20 employees in Hartford by the end of next year, a sizable operation for an organization with around 40 workers in total.

Wrisk provides a customizable platform that companies can deploy to help clients to evaluate and manage their insurance needs. Their mobile-first technology, originally focused on insurance for high-value personal possessions, has been embraced by the automotive world. The firm hopes to expand in the automotive industry in the US, as well as branching out into other sectors.

“The US is the prize,” said Barton. “We hope to enter a market where nothing has changed in a while and bring in a platform that makes insurance frictionless.”

Barton co-founded Wrisk in 2015 with Darius Kumana, its chief product officer.

The business had an early boost from a partnership with BMW after being selected to take part in the automaker’s business incubator program. That collaboration led to Wrisk becoming BMW and MINI’s sole UK car insurance supplier.

The BMW partnership gives Wrisk access to data on customer behavior and preferences, used to improve and refine the purchasing experience.

Wrisk has also experimented with ways to make the BMW platform easier to use and more appealing to potential buyers, including periods of free coverage.

The approach is encouraged by the regulatory environment in the United Kingdom where insurers are more free to experiment than in the US, and UK institutions such as Lloyds have taken the lead globally in rolling out innovative and novel insurance products.

“The UK insurance industry is pretty advanced,” he said. “We have regulators that are good and very receptive to new ideas. London is a friendly and fertile place for insurtech.”

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was “painful” for the business, according to Barton, but the crisis ultimately helped popularize Wrisk’s offerings,pushing consumers toward digital interfaces.

People emerged better equipped to navigate online ordering systems, and buying and evaluating insurance online using similar technology no longer seemed too complicated.

“BMW were concerned about the conservatism of some clients,” Barton said, referring to the average age of a typical British BMW buyer. “However it turned out that 70-year-olds were happy to do it and use the services.”

Another factor attracting Wrisk to Hartford was the launch in March of an “insurtech corridor” between Britain and Connecticut.

Industry groups, and The US and British governments signed an agreement that removed jurisdictional barriers to expansion and cooperation. The move is intended to help British insurtech firms do business in Connecticut, and vice-versa.

The UK government was interested in forging closer links with the Greater Hartford region because of the many insurance and finance firms based there, including The Hartford, Nassau Financial Group,  Aetna, Conning and Travelers.

Barton, who is a co-founder of Insurtech UK, the UK trade group involved in the deal, said the arrangement would help stimulate a knowledge and ideas exchange between each country’s insurtech sector.

More:  Seeking foothold in U.S. market, British insurtech sets sights on Hartford | Hartford Business Journal

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