Naspers-backed start-up Ctrl in digital insurance offensive

Pieter Venter, CEO of Ctrl.

Naspers-backed start-up Ctrl is looking to disrupt South Africa’s digital insurance space through its platform, which connects consumers, brokers and insurers in one place.

So says Pieter Venter, CEO of Ctrl, in an e-mail interview with ITWeb.

The insurtech firm received R34 million funding from Naspers Foundry in July.

Ctrl was founded by three friends – Pieter Venter, Francois Venter and Pieter Erasmus – in 2018.

“All of us have had long careers in the insurance and financial industries and saw how the insurance industry was lagging in terms of digitalisation,” says Venter.

“The banks were already adopting this global trend, but insurance, and especially the broker space, was not keeping up with consumer expectations.

“Noticing people’s frustrations with their car and home insurance, and the uncertainty about what they were covered for, we decided to create a simpler, more convenient and transparent way to get and manage your cover.”

White-labelling proprietary tech

Launched in 2018, Ctrl is an intelligent insurance app that provides a turnkey solution, allowing consumers to add assets, compare quotes from different insurers, take out cover and submit claims.

Two years later, Ctrl introduced a business-to-business offering to allow intermediaries to white-label its proprietary technology, giving them a way to interact with clients and improve their efficiency as brokers.

By the end of 2018, Ctrl had Santam knocking on its door, and in 2021, it had gained the attention of one of the world’s biggest technology investors, Naspers.

Both signed on as minority shareholders, meaning Ctrl is able to retain its independence, while reaping the benefits of this funding and endorsement, says Venter.

Ctrl was created as a digital insurance advisor. “It enables consumers to compare real quotes from different insurance on a like for like basis and get immediate cover in the app, without call centres or paperwork.

“The idea is to put control in the hands of consumers by providing real quotes, backed by solid advice and an app to manage it all.”

According to Venter, the company is set up trilaterally. He explains that Ctrl Investment Holdings is the mother company of Ctrl Financial Intermediaries (CFI), which is the digital broker, and Ctrl Technologies, which is the software-as-a-service business that develops solutions for the insurance industry, especially the intermediary space.

He points out that CFI is technically the first client of Ctrl Technologies.

Venter is excited about the many opportunities for digitalisation in the South African insurance landscape.

“As the country’s first digital insurance advisor, we are in pole position to spot these opportunities and we’ve been approached by role-players with exciting ideas and possibilities that will complement our current offering.

“The focus at the moment, however, is on further enhancements and optimisation of our current solution and offering. This includes further integrations with third-parties to better serve channel-specific needs. Further alignment and nurturing of relationships with insurers and existing traditional brokers remain key.”

Describing the trends Ctrl is witnessing in SA’s insurtech industry, Venter says with the rise of the internet of things, the company is able to measure risk instead of predicting it.

“Risk modellers can adjust their models based on actual data. In the insurance world, that means underwriters can adjust products and premiums to reward ‘safe’ behaviour and penalise ‘unsafe’ behaviour, thereby charging the right premium for the right risk.”

As consumers’ valuable risk data is collected, the question is who owns that data, Venter asks.

“It is much better for the consumer if an independent third-party or broker is the custodian of that personal data than any single insurer because the independent broker would be able to take the data and use it to get better quotes from different insurers if needed.”

He notes the other trend is that brands that are already trusted by consumers can now move horizontally to offer other services because they already know how to interact with consumers digitally.

“So, insurers are realising they should continue to position themselves as underwriters, as well as create needs-based products while leaving the client interaction to the trusted consumer-facing brand that already has the connection with the consumer. This is a worldwide trend.”

Thirdly, he says, there is the increasing trend of insurance on-demand, or as it is also referred to, “needs-based insurance”, as was clearly seen and accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic as people wanted to stop paying insurance for their cars because they weren’t using them as regularly.

He explains the pricing and monitoring of this switching on and off must be done carefully, but can only be done where there is a digital link between the product provider and end-user.

“Without digital channels, insurers will find it impossible to be agile enough to make insurance on-demand a possibility for consumers.”

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