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A different perspective on a different year

Technology, Startup, Thought Leadership, Insurtech6Mins
2021-01-13Written by Amrit Santhirasenan

hyperexponential co-founder and CEO Amrit Santhirasenan looks back on what 2020 meant for hx

There will be no shortage of cliché filled wrap ups of 2020. It was certainly a year that redefined a lot of our expectations. We’ve all learned not to take things for granted, be it political stability, our own health, or even just the ability to drop the kids off at school instead of juggling them and zoom calls simultaneously.

But commiserating about a year we’re all happy to see the back of isn’t the point of this article. Instead, and on a happier note, I want to look at some of the positive changes that 2020 has brought — for hx, the insurance industry at large, and even myself at home.

Hysteresis — a lesson in ongoing change

In a year that has imposed profound change on all of us, many of us learned that we are all more adaptable than first believed. How many businesses transformed to digital workplaces in weeks rather than months or years? How many became afficionados of modern technology like Spatial Chat, Miro or Notion? The insurance industry, famously slow to embrace new technology, is no exception.

Change as a result of massive upheaval is not surprising. However, what is most exciting about the momentum caused by 2020, is that the effects seem likely to outlast the cause. In economics, the phenomenon is known as Hysteresis.

"Hysteresis(fromGreekὑστέρησις hysterēsis, from ύστερέω hystereō, “(I) lag behind, come later than”)[1][2]consists of effects that persist after the initial causes giving rise to the effects are removed.” Wikipedia

hx CEO, Amrit Santhirasenan

The pandemic isn’t the only factor in the shift in the insurance market away from slow legacy programmes to a more agile focus on data and sophisticated analysis tools. In December, Lloyds released the second version of their blueprint. This time, the aim is to build the world’s most ‘technologically advanced insurance marketplace’. Wholeheartedly embracing the power of technology as a fundamental goal, supported by programmes like the Lloyds Lab (of which hx was a member), creates more fertile ground for digital innovation in the market.

Inevitably there will always be stragglers. However, figures released early this year of the submissions and risks placed electronically in the final quarter of 2019 show an increasing embrace of digital architecture. As the industry continues to meet electronic placement targets, these goals will become norms. The industry will become digital by default, allowing insurers to integrate more sophisticated tools to make better and more accurate pricing decisions. We’ve certainly seen a dramatic rise of usage in Renew as digital systems become a point of convergence for analysis far beyond just “data in, price out”.

Learning to deliver at scale

Our great early success often masks the fact that hx is still a relatively young company — we incorporated in Nov 2017, and hx as a business really kicked-off at the end of 2018, when we launched our platform Renew. In an industry that’s touted as having a sales cycle of 18–24 months, this youth can often work against you. For many of our clients, working with agile technology is a new step and building trust and consistency is an essential part of that process.

As a result, 2020 was really the year where early Renew deployments hit their stride, and we were able to deliver “production” at scale. We had some big projects to deliver for our ambitious, premium-brand clients which in turn led to some very big deliverables for a company that just turned two! Although it wasn’t easy, and we made our fair share of mistakes along the way, we learned a lot of valuable lessons on how to deliver our services to hx standard, in a client-centric way. As our initial supporters and champions, we hold our early clients very dear. I’m proud of what we achieved with them throughout 2020, and of the endorsements we received from them for our work.

The hx team grew considerably this year

The right team is the single strongest foundation for success

At home, as at work, having the right team can make the difference between success and failure. It’s why we’ve had such a laser focus on only choosing people who share our values, motivations and care for each other as we have grown. Personally, I have been lucky to be able to welcome a new ‘teammate’ at home (though it may take a few years before we can get her coding…)

My first child Evie was born at the end of 2019, so 2020 was my first year as a Startup Dad. Learning to balance the challenges of fatherhood with the challenges of scaling a fast-growing business was (and still is) a serious learning experience! Luckily, with hx’s flexible approach to work-life fit, I’ve found a new groove. It’s not been easy, but it’s been a fun and rewarding experience so far and I’ve realised that both have lots in common. This learning curve has inspired me to create a podcast called Startup Dads, which is available on Apple and Spotify. I’ve also created a community on Facebook for other parent entrepreneurs to share advice and connect.

While we will have to wait a while for Evie to add her own lines of code to the Renew platform, we more than made of up for that with the new team members that did join hx. Our desire to keep the team small and quality very high means that we are extremely fussy in whom we hire; fortunately, we have welcomed some superstars across the business. They represent much more than headcount growth — this year we established formal Product and Talent teams, as well as cemented our core Leadership team with the hiring of Tom Clark as CTO, positioning us incredibly well for growth in 2021.

A “New Way of Working”

If COVID-19 has a silver lining, it’s that it catalysed a wholesale shift in the way we work at hx. This shift has been on the cards for a while — as a modern tech company our tech stack is primarily cloud-based and we have been distributed for a while, with engineers in Slovakia and Romania as well as London, and strong ties to Lithuania. That’s before you factor in Michael’s Kiwi roots!

However, the future of work at hx isn’t about migrating our existing processes to Teams meetings. One of hx’s values is Thoughtfulness, and whenever we make a big change I always want us to build on a foundation of the positive aspects of what came before. A big part of this is retaining the energy and camaraderie that sit at the core of hx’s culture, which is hard to do remotely.

To change something so fundamental has been a mammoth task, but I’m really happy with what we’ve arrived at. Our new operating model permeates everything we do; from our processes (remote-first, but not remote-only: human contact with our teammates/friends is important to hxers); to our office and location strategy (a decentralised approach with many hubs where people can come together to work in-person whenever it makes sense); to how we work (matching the location and way we engage, to the needs of our clients, team and partners).

I expect this “New Way of Working” (as it’s come to be known at hx) to be a critical factor in enabling our growth, success and happiness in 2021 and beyond.

Thank you to everyone who made 2020 such a success for hx

Thank-you to everyone who made our 2020 success possible

This year has been one where we’ve made lots of friends in the technology and consulting sectors. A key lesson I’ve learned on my journey at hx is that building a great product (although an absolute necessity for success in enterprise technology) is not enough on its own. You need world-class delivery and integration into your clients’ technology ecosystems.

The work we’ve done with our Renew Connect offering as well as with our delivery partners (from one-person-bands up to the Big Four) have already borne fruit for everyone involved. Most importantly we have built an ecosystem which supports our clients, bringing them easy access to a huge range of cutting-edge technology, data and services to supercharge their pricing systems.

Building these integrations and partnerships has been a lot of fun, and we’ve made a lot of new friends along the way. I believe these friendships are emblematic of the larger change that 2020 has seen in the insurance industry. A desire to work together to embrace technology and digital strategy. The knock-on effect for hx, and for myself personally, is that 2020 can be boiled down to a year filled with lots of learning, new friendships and better technology. And who can really complain about that?

Interested in finding out more about hx?

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