Electronic Chat with Jeroen Morrenhof
Bill Sinn | January 10, 2019
Name: Jeroen Morrenhof
Title: Co-Founder and CEO
Years in the insurance business:
In 1995 (23 years ago) I did my first consulting assignment at a health insurer. I have worked in the industry ever since.
Provide a little background on yourself:
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. My parents and my granddad have run small businesses in bikes, later motorbikes and finally cars (Toyota and Lexus). A family business is never far away so I grew up with this same spirit. Since I don’t fancy cars and always loved to solve complex puzzles using a computer I started studying computer science in the late 80’s. After graduating I added a master’s in business administration, combining business and tech in my working life ever since. That study also brought me to Amsterdam where I lived until recently when I moved with my family to Chicago to open the North American office of FRISS.
Why did you create FRISS? What was your vision?
I was consulting for insurance companies and saw how much fraud was going on. When I would ask, they would tell me it was simply a cost of doing business. I believed that insurance should be an honest industry, and it was frustrating to me that honest people had to pay more because others were cheating the system. The combination of meeting likeminded people and my background (computer science and MBA) led to the founding of FRISS.
What makes FRISS different than other fraud detection companies?
The system is AI powered and uses state-of-the art technology. Looking at what sets us apart from competition, we combine the technology with actual insurance experience. Many other fraud detection companies are really data analytics or tech companies, and their solutions are decent. But the staff at FRISS has over 1,000 years of combined insurance knowledge meaning we understand the challenges insurance carriers have to overcome. The people overseeing our product development have worked in and for insurance companies. They’ve done special investigations, handled claims, underwritten commercial policies and much more… they understand what’s important and they bridge that with the most talented data scientists and tech people you can find. We packaged this combined experience and insight in a comprehensive solution to insurers in a way that can be leveraged in the day-to-day workflow of a carrier.
You use the phrase “Supporting Honest Insurance.” What does that mean?
The very foundation of insurance is all about assessing risk. When I drive my car, I am taking a risk that I can get into an accident, and my insurance will cover that. There’s a chance nothing will happen, and so my premium dollars support the risk of others as well. If I really got into an accident, I’d need my insurance to pay for the damage – and that’s the honest, proper way to use insurance. Unfortunately, a small number of people are willingly abusing the trust insurer put in them. As a result, the price of insurance for the customer is far higher than it should be. So, by helping eliminate fraud, we are helping insurance become more honest, making if more affordable and accessible. It benefits both the insurance companies and their customers.
What is your passion outside of FRISS?
We can start with the obvious – I’m Dutch, so of course I enjoy cycling! Even in Chicago when it’s very cold, I still bike to the train station every day and take my race bike out along Lake Michigan. For a while I have been planning to do a Triathlon, and my new year’s resolution for 2019 is to finish one (a quarter to start with). Please keep me to it at the end of this year! And I love travelling. Part of the fun moving to the USA is that we get to explore another part of this beautiful planet. We started by visiting Detroit, Toronto and Alaska over Christmas, for instance.
You recently relocated to the States. Why? And what have you discovered in your short time here?
Our company has been very successful in Europe over the past 12 years. From there, we grew to over 150 implementations in more than 30 countries. Our brand got recognized and momentum grew, including in North America. Until 2018 we always said “No” to request from this region as we wanted to do it right the first time. With the investment of Aquiline and Blackfin we got the financial backing to do it right. And right also means that founder DNA is needed to show we are serious and learn as quickly as possible with a tight connection between the continents.
When we started talking with carriers in the US they were very interested in our product, and it became clear we needed to have a big presence here. My family and I are enjoying living in the states. It’s been a big adjustment, but my wife and kids are taking it really, really well.
The best thing we’ve discovered so far is that…
When it comes to digitalization, insurance carriers are working hard to bridge the technology gap with Europe. They acknowledge that modernization is key to keep up with the increased expectations and provide excellent customer service. Therefore, most carriers are modernizing their systems, and with many of these core vendors we have built seamlessly integrated solutions.
What we have seen in Europe that insurers underestimated the changing behavior of customers. In a more and more digital process the (sometimes underestimated) value of the filter provided by the agent is gone. This asks for more automated and real-time controls in underwriting and claims. Our fraud and risk assessment analytics help insurers get ahead of the game and build and maintain a profitable book of business.
What are the top challenges that you are trying to address at your company today – and in the near future?
Currently we are figuring out how to best manage a global company. We have customers in 30+ countries, offices in 4 different countries on 3 different continents and employ 150+ talented people of 35+ different nationalities. I believe we did a good job in making sure we are all working towards the same “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” With all these different backgrounds and locations running the company as a well-oiled machine is a challenge. When you have nailed this please reach out to me over LinkedIn.
What do you think of the InsurTech revolution? Is it having a big impact on the insurance industry?
Absolutely. The insurance industry is not necessarily a frontrunner when it comes to adopting the latest technology. Over the past few years we’ve seen a big change, and the industry is starting to embrace InsureTech.
I often make the distinction between InsurTechs that compete and those that partner. The first group offers insurance coverage to the market typically for a very specific niche where they cherry pick an underserved market. These providers shake up the market but gain little market share, for now. However, they make carriers realize that they need to adapt and innovate quicker to compete with them. Eventually I believe many of them will get acquired by insurers that are not able to act quick enough.
The other group is a larger group of InsurTech companies that offer technology that outperforms the current capabilities for a specific function. Together with the increased easiness to integrate these solutions through API’s I see more and more carriers partner with this group of tech companies. And it makes sense, because suddenly you have these solutions that help with major problems. They tend to be rather inexpensive and easy to implement, and they help carriers save millions if not billions each year. They also improve the customer experience, which is very important given the increasing competition in the market.
And the partnering doesn’t stop at the carries, the same goes for the suppliers of policy and claim solutions where many of them adopt the platform strategy to become the core solution of choice.
If you could change one thing in the insurance world today, what would it be?
Obviously, I’m on an expedition to make insurance more honest, and it’s the whole reason I started FRISS. So, if I could only change one thing, it would be completely eliminating fraud and making the relationship between insurer and insured again based on trust.
Do you have any words of advice for today’s technology leaders?
Building and growing a tech company is one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had. And it is also a somewhat lonely job. I would love for tech leaders to get together more often to share learnings, mistakes and experiences. I always try to connect to peers but in the heat of the moment customers and the company take a lot of my time. Every time I find time to reflect, talk to peers, etc. I notice there is so much I can learn from others. And I am sure I am not the only one. My advice to tech leaders (and to myself) is to prioritize that time.
This is one of the reasons we are in offices with like-minded entrepreneurs like Creative Valley (https://www.creativevalley.nl/papendorp) in The Netherlands and Catapult (www.catapultchicago.com) in Chicago.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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