Nikolaus Sühr, Co-Founder and CEO of KASKO tells us about creating a digital workflow within an existing touchpoint.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nikolaus Sühr: We are doing well, all things considered. We are lucky that we can work remotely, that our clients (insurance companies) have fared well during the crisis and that our business outlook is bullish since insurers are now moving digital at a much faster rate than before.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded KASKO.
Nikolaus Sühr: I come from an insurance background, and I’ve always been fascinated with insurance being the big enabler for almost any commercial and personal enterprise. For a long time, I realised that I wanted to create and build something myself, much like my Dad, who founded and exited a leading classic car MGA. After studying Insurance and Risk Management in the UK at Cass Business School, I moved back to Germany in 2008 to work in business development and consulting in insurance management companies like Funk Gruppe, OCC and Zeb.
I met my Co-Founder, Matt, KASKO’s CTO, at university, and he worked for Accenture as a Technical Consultant, running large projects for numerous clients before founding KASKO. We wanted to create a workplace with meaningful work, meaningful relationships and fair compensation. The inefficiencies across the entire insurance value chain, especially around admin and distribution costs (which can amount to up to 40% of Insurance premiums) and the changing mindset from Insurance executives to partner with start-ups, presented a unique opportunity to solve a massively relevant problem. (You can check out the full, detailed KASKO Origin Story here.
How does KASKO innovate?
Nikolaus Sühr: We don’t really like the word innovate as it’s usually linked with doing something shiny and fancy that does not, in fact, “move the needle”. Instead, we like to do things differently in order to achieve the same thing with fewer resources or enable doing things at scale that couldn’t scale without technology. Our clients are large insurance companies who, due to legacy constraints, cannot design and scale digital insurance propositions time and cost-effectively. In practice, this means we always focus on a specific use-case for our insurance clients (a new product, digitalizing an existing product, creating a digital workflow within an existing touchpoint, aggregating various individual services into a specific solution etc.) that needs to have a positive business case. Thus, if we had to use the word “innovate”, I’d say we innovate by removing opportunity costs and allowing more bets to be placed to reach product-market fit than were previously feasible via large project-based deliveries.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Nikolaus Sühr: 2020 was tough as insurers stopped starting new IT initiatives other than those already started years ago or those around remote work and video conferencing. But we managed to achieve a small single digital growth from 2019 and improve our recurring revenue base. However, Q1 2021 was our best quarter in history with >500% growth when compared to Q1 2020 figures, as insurers are not only restarting their initiatives but doubling down to capture the accelerated demand for digital distribution services and products.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Nikolaus Sühr: Luckily no. We managed to keep the entire team on board. However, in 2020 we didn’t know what impact Covid-19 would have on our business. Therefore, we decided to be very transparent with the team and reported our monthly cash position with a clear target that we needed to achieve in terms of liquidity. We managed to hit our targets, and I believe it also created trust within the team on where we stand as an organization. Looking back, one could say that we didn’t need to do that as it also incurred several discussions about our business performance that some management teams might rather want to avoid, but we felt it was the right thing to do, and I also believe it created a forcing function on what is important to weather the storm.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Nikolaus Sühr: Previously, we engaged heavily in insurance & technology events to create leads and various f2f visits to build relationships with the decision-makers of our large customers. This has 100% moved to virtual meetings, and there is no magic bullet here; we use whatever virtual conferencing tool is available and otherwise rely on email and potentially Slack or Confluence on larger and longer engagements with our clients. What was more important is that it all of a sudden was ok to do deals fully remote and without f2f interactions, which would have been impossible pre-Covid. As a lean and solutions-oriented InsurTech, this gives us a competitive advantage over some incumbent players who are trying to deliver on-site.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Nikolaus Sühr: Without going into detail, but yes, we have benefited from specific Covid-19 related grants and interest-free financing programmes offered, especially by the German and Latvian government.
Your final thoughts?
Nikolaus Sühr: The accelerated move towards digitalization within the insurance industry and B2B sales will have a tremendously positive impact on the insurance industry as a whole in terms of lower costs and faster time to market, and KASKO is ideally positioned to benefit from the acceleration…
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