Low-code 101 #11 – Spotlight on Morning Data

The eleventh webinar in this series sees Netcall partners, Morning Data discuss, their use of low-code in the insurance sector.

Welcome to the newest episode of our low-code 101 webinar series. We talk to Chief Commercial Officer of Morning Data, Paul Buckle. As a leading supplier of world-class software and service solutions for the global insurance industry, Paul explains in this webinar, how they are using low-code to meet many needs of the sector.

Watch the Low-code in the insurance sector webinar below – you can find the other episodes in the Low-code 101 series.


Yad: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the latest in our Low-code 101 sessions. I’m really pleased to welcome Paul Buckle from Morning Data. Hello, Paul.

Paul: Hi, Yad. Thank you.

Yad: Thanks very much for taking the time to join us today. Paul, I wondered if you could just first off, start by introducing yourself?

Paul: Yeah, of course. I’m Paul Buckle from Morning Data. I’m actually the Chief Commercial Officer at Morning Data, I’ve been involved in the insurance market that we focus on, for over 30 years. I actually started life as a broker for a while and then moved into the, what they call the dark side, the technology side, back in 2001. And I joined Morning Data in 2016, joining Kirstin Duffield on the board of Morning Data.

Yad: All right, fantastic. So, Paul, could you start off by telling us a little bit more about Morning Data, for those who don’t know?

Paul: Absolutely. Morning Data has been running for over 30 years, so I’m only a small part of its history really, and it started life providing software to support London Market re-insurance brokers. And it’s grown since then to support quite a breadth of different operations, ranging from insurers, reinsurers, captives, brokers and MGAs and MGUs across the market. The core theme though, in terms of the operations we support, is that they are in the specialty or reinsurance arena rather than the traditional personal lines that the public would generally know.

And we provide them with what I call an end-to-end (I hate the term) back office system. So, it’s the core application that runs their insurance ledgers, allows them to create and record their quote through to policy records, claims, produce documentation. It has a really broad set of functionality. In fact, so broad that no one company necessarily uses everything, they will use parts of the system that they require. That’s the core of what we do. And we provide that both to those who sit in the intermediary space, as well as those that retain risk.

The two core products that support them are NOVUS for the intermediaries, and HELIX for those who retain risk.

There’s probably a number of dynamics that make up our USP when I talk to clients and prospects. The first thing’s our people, we’re not all technologists. As I said, I started life as a broker, so, I’ve actually been on that side of the fence, as have a number of my colleagues. We have between us quite a number of years of actual operational experience. So, we understand intimately, the needs of our clients and prospective clients. That’s the first dynamic.

One of the other things that we do that makes us unique amongst our competitors, is all of our team sit the Chartered Insurance Institute examinations. They’re a range of qualifications, but our teams at least sit the basic levels, so they have an understanding of the principles and insurers. And one of the reasons we do that, is that what we see is that that allows even those in the development team, to have a little understanding about what they’re building, why they’re building it, what it’s meant to do. It gives them the ability to challenge things, understand things. And that for us, filters through into the quality of what we provide to our clients.

Yad: Okay. So, as well as building the software and delivering that software to your customers, what other services do you provide for them?

Paul: Well, we provide all of our solutions on a hosted basis. And until very recently, we only had one or two clients who weren’t in our hosted environment, and now all of them are, so everyone’s moved in that way. We provide all the infrastructure and cloud delivery services that wrap around our applications. All the other services we provide are associated with the software. So, things like training, consultancy, integration, building bespoke functionality, if that’s required.

And I caveat that we try to steer our clients more down a generalist route, in the sense that most things that people come up with actually would fit a wider audience. So, if we build things in a more generic, compatible way, it can go in the core of the product for many. And in that instance, we share the cost and the risk in the building of that with our clients.

Yad: We’re really pleased to have you as a partner here at Netcall, and we’re really excited that you’re going to be using Liberty Create, our low-code platform, to build some of your software solutions in the future. How did that come about for you? How did you find Liberty Create? And how did you decide that, that would be useful in terms of delivering the kinds of applications that your customers need?

Paul: Well, we actually saw the Netcall team present an application in the Lloyd’s Lab. They presented a subjectivity and warranty management tool that they’d built. And in their presentation, they talked about it being a prototype and felt it needed a lot of work. We saw that and said, “Actually, you don’t need a lot more work to make that a solution that could fit a particular need in the market.” So, that was actually our first engagement. We had a number of conversations after that meeting from the Lloyd’s Lab.

But what we also saw through those conversations, as we grew towards that partnership, was that the platform offered a lot more in terms of just the application we saw. We became more interested in the low-code tool itself and what that could deliver for the benefit of our clients and how it would be complementary to the solutions that the NOVUS and HELIX have already touched on, that we already provided to the market.

Yad: Paul, I know you’ve picked up and further developed that subjectivities app. What else have you done with the platform, what other applications are you building?

Paul: We started off showing clients the subjectivity and warranty management, and what then quickly became identified was that our clients wanted a way in which to digitally engage with their clients, across a number of type of different functions. So, what we’ve now done is grown that into what we call our workbench, and that workbench will include subjectivity and warranty management as one of the apps. But we see it being a growing ecosystem with a number of apps inside that.

We are now producing a digital statement that appears in there. So, our clients at the moment, from our system, will produce statements which are traditionally either printed on paper, or turned into PDF and attached to an email. Instead, using integration and pushing data rather than a document, we’re pushing data into a low-code built app using Liberty Create, that then can be presented to their end client as a digital form, which they can obviously then save down as a document, but presented a digital form of their current statement of account with our client. So, that’s one example.

We’ve also built a prototype quote-and-bind portal as well. In our market, in that specialty and reinsurance market, although they’re a little bit behind the personalised market, which is very digital, most of us go online to buy our house or car insurance. That’s less common in the speciality, but they do have the concept of products through what they call binders. So, they put these binders together to effectively represent some form of product. And we’ve been managing and helping clients with binders for many, many years. Traditionally they collect their binder data using Excel spreadsheets, which is a very labour intensive way of getting data and processing that.

Yad: It’s not an uncommon approach though, is it? We see that happen all over the place, don’t we?

Paul: Absolutely. So, a quote-and-bind portal that fits the way people put business through the London market, fits those complex structures. And it can integrate with our back office as well, for that processing of data, was one of the needs we were trying to address. So, we’ve built this quote-and-bind portal. We’ve built prototypes that we’re now presenting to our clients right now, and they will sit as templates effectively, and hopefully would only need a small amount of tailoring and configuration to fit specific needs, but it depends on the products. We’ve also talked to third party rating engines as well, to do auto-rating products. So, it just means that in that speciality world, we’re now starting to see that digital distribution at the front end of productised insurance contracts that are coming into the London Market.

Yad: That all sounds fantastic, Paul. The workbench and all the services that you are providing through it, it sounds like it’s going to make a huge difference for your customers. From the ones that you’ve shown it to already, how have they received it? What do they think about the potential for what you are about to deliver?

Paul: Yeah, they’re very excited about it. They can absolutely see the efficiencies that will be gained from that. But one of the core things that they’re really looking to leverage is having that structured data coming in through their systems, through our platform, so that they can leverage and pass on that data to relevant participants within the market. And that’s something that the market’s really, really struggled with. As I mentioned, a lot of data being passed around in spreadsheets, but a lot of data’s also being passed around in Word documents as well. It’s probably not uncommon also.

But they are not tools in which you can leverage that data in an efficient way. So, our philosophy has always been about data first. So, these digital tools that allow us to either engage with clients at the front end or provide service at the back end for our clients, means that you can see data being inputted in a structured manner all the way from the beginning of the process and flowing right through. And that’s our aim, to be able to deliver that type of solution to our clients.

Yad: Data’s really critical in the London Market. There’s so much of it, and it’s about making sense of all those huge volumes of data, being able to turn that into information that you can action. So, this is going to make a real difference for customers to be able to manage all that data that they’re generating.

Paul: Absolutely. And we recently donated our data model to an organisation called ACORD, who are a data standards body operating in the insurance market and work very closely within the London Market itself as well. So, that means that we are leveraging a data model that we know intimately, that’s being implemented as a standard for people to use across the market as well. And we’re working very closely with the different standards setting organisations, such as Lloyd’s themselves, and ACORD, and looking to use any global standards that apply, like ISO codes, for example.

And that just puts us ahead of many of our competitive vendors in the sense that we’ve got that advanced knowledge about data structure, data models. And we can use that to the advantage of our clients so they can be ahead of the game, but not only ahead of the game in terms of the way they might want to differentiate against their own competitors, but ahead of the game in what’s coming down the road, in terms of the market setting data standards and data requirements for people to report against.

Yad: Very exciting. Paul, can I bring you back to Liberty Create and just ask you how you and your team have found using the platform?

Paul: Oh, they’ve loved using the platform. I’m not a developer, but I, myself also sat through the training program. I initially just did the basic training and I thought, “Do you know what? I’ll give the certification go.” And I’m pleased to say, I passed. A number of the team have also gone through that training program.

So, first off, excellent training program. The platform itself, I mean, once you’ve done that training, the platform becomes very intuitive. Even I can build some applications by following the steps set out in the training program. Clearly, there’ll be some complexities in there that will be beyond my personal skill sets, but my developers clearly would be able to meet those needs where they’re building more complex applications than my first attempts.

The Liberty Create and Netcall team have been really engaged and supportive, supportive to the development team. I have regular account management meetings with the team as well. So, I can’t really praise them highly enough, and it’s been a really, really productive relationship so far.

Yad: Can I ask you what you think of the Netcall Partner program?

Paul: That seems to be going very well as well. So, we’ve already had a prospective opportunity presented to us through the Partnership program, which is fantastic. So, we’ll see how that goes. And for me, that’s what partnerships are about, it’s a two-way relationship, and I’m doing everything I can to blow your trumpets and bang the Netcall drums as well. And what’s great is that you’re doing the same for us on the other side as well. And I can only see this relationship growing, we’re still early on, but as I said earlier, so far it’s been brilliant and I can only see it getting better.

Yad: Thanks, Paul – that’s great. Like you say, it is still early days, but in the medium and longer-term, what would you see as the goals for the partnership and how’d you like to see the partnership develop over time?

Paul: Yeah, it’s a great question. In the short to medium-term, I just want to increase the footprint of our applications we’re building within Liberty Create, amongst our client base. So, it’s trying to get that momentum going, and that’s just starting. So, that’s the first objective and that really then ticks the business case related to this relationship.

Looking longer-term, I can see us growing that portfolio of applications. I can see us working more closely as partners. Hopefully, we can contribute ideas that might help you with your Liberty Create platform as well itself, to the benefit of your client base and as well as ourselves. And I can see us looking to cross-fertilise opportunities and jointly work and collaborate on opportunities as well, going forward. So, it’s pretty much a more of the same type story, but getting that momentum really going initially is key.

Yad: Yes, that’s great. I mean, you’re absolutely right, partnership has to work two ways. So, Paul, I know the issue of operational resilience is particularly important in the insurance industry right now. Is there work that you’re doing at Morning Data with your systems, that help customers address that issue of operational resilience?

Paul: I’m aware that that is a challenge that operations and market need to consider. It’s not anything new for us, because it’s something we already address within the systems we provide. So, going back to our core back office systems, NOVUS and HELIX, we already have things in there that provide controls and governance and audit trails, already in-built in the systems. And so, that’s our natural thinking when we’re building applications within Liberty Create. So, we just replicate that same set of control governance etc, within the apps that we’re building in the Netcall Liberty Create Platform.

I think, taking a step back, what it will do is present us all opportunities, because as I mentioned very earlier on in this interview, there’s so much of the data being passed through in Word and Excel. Where’s the operational resilience in that? There isn’t any.

Those organisations that are reliant on those kinds of tools now need to be looking at vendors like ourselves and yourselves, to provide applications that help give that operational resilience and remove that dependency on these tools that are not governed and don’t have controls in place.

Yad: Paul, any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Paul: I suppose the only final thought, if you’re not really engaged with Netcall, talk to them – great company, and it’s a really, really good solution that they provide. So, that’s the first thing I’ll say to your audience. I can really see low-code having a much larger penetration and footprint, particularly across the insurance market, because it delivers this ability to provide speed to market with applications, you can develop and build them in a truly agile way. And it gives you that flexibility that I think we need particularly in an insurance market, which is a regulated market, it can be very complex and speed to market can be really key.

And at the moment there can be a lot of things. I mean, even just getting regulatory approval could take a long time, right? So, for entities, getting through things like regulatory approval, getting your licences, take long enough, and they tend to leave their technology requirements right to the end and then they have a very short window of time. So, having tools like Liberty Create available to the market, I think, will help enable that acceleration of deployment of applications within our market. And certainly for vendors who are in partnership with you, it just gives that ability to build applications that are very much complementary to what we do in our core business.

If you’re not really engaged with Netcall, talk to them – great company, and it’s a really, really good solution that they provide. I can really see low-code having a much larger penetration and footprint, particularly across the insurance market.

Yad: Paul, thank you ever so much for taking time out of your busy day to join us today. It’s been really insightful hearing from you about the work that you’re doing at Morning Data, and we’re really excited to have you as part of the Netcall Partner program. So, thanks for all the great work that you’re doing.

Paul: Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure.

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