Cytora’s Hartley: AI is the “reusable rocket” of the insurance world

The insurance industry has stepped up its approach insurtech and technology capabilities in recent years, but has yet to experience transformative change, according to Cytora co-founder and CEO Richard Hartley.

“Even though improvements have been made and even though so much brain power has been invested, we're still yet to see the step function changes that we've seen in other industries, like electrification, or the internet, or reusable rockets,” Hartley told The Insurer TV.

However, he argued that the industry could now be on the precipice of that kind of transformational change.

Generative AI is helping insurtechs like Cytora vastly improve risk assessment and inaugurate a dramatic shift in the industry, according to Hartley.

“Risk is often hard to understand. Sometimes it's enigmatic. It's extremely complex, the different relationships between the data fields, and that's really what generative AI is.

It's an extra filter of context, which really means quite deep insights can be unlocked from understanding risk, using large language models,” he said.

The UK insurtech uses an AI-based platform to create analytics that help commercial insurers underwrite risk, and specialises in streamlining information for underwriters.

For example, underwriters need to examine flood and wildfire risk along with financial data from various internal and external sources – but it can be difficult and time-consuming to assess all those inputs.

“Our platform brings all of that data together. It digitises it and it turns it into a decision-ready format for underwriters to really make decisions on risk,” said Hartley.

“Even though [underwriters are] not in control of the data they receive from brokers, they can actually see risk in a decision-ready format and then make decisions on it,” he said.

Industry traction

Cytora’s AI-first platform originated at the University of Cambridge in 2014. Its initial focus was on sourcing data, but it now centres on information flow, improving communication and allowing underwriters “to quote a much higher volume of risks” according to Hartley.

“It enables underwriters to give much more on-the-front-foot responses and a much quicker and much more confident ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Brokers love that.”

And for an industry with a high cost of usage, a product that can create a more streamlined value chain can benefit both parties, according to Hartley.

But handling all this client data comes with inherent risks. Cytora addresses client fears by establishing vigorous accreditations surrounding data security.

“We're ISO certified as a company. Beyond the accreditations, we also have very robust processes in place.”

Most firms today recognise the value of data in an AI-driven world. In insurance, as in any other sector, data fuels models, and the models are only as powerful as the data itself.

“So, we invest a lot in making sure insurers' data is fully secure,” said Hartley.

Cytora has attracted several industry veterans to its board, giving it a credibility that other insurtechs may lack.

In August, the AI insurtech added former Hiscox CEO Bronek Masojada to its global advisory board alongside industry veterans Jeffrey Hayman, Bill Bloom and John Bruno, in a move designed to support the firm’s global growth.

Commenting on this, Hartley said: “I think people have very authentic and personal reasons for spending their careers in insurance and I think it's often kind of hard to interpret. I'm so passionate about solving this problem and I think many people on our advisory board, they've yet to see this foundational step function change of productivity in the industry.

“I think our advisory board believes Cytora is a company to bring that into being – to inaugurate a new shift in the industry,” he concluded.

Watch this 9-minute video to learn more about:

  • How Cytora uses large language models
  • Why many in the industry are embracing Generative AI techniques
  • How Cytora keeps client data safe
  • What techniques could improve underwriting workflow