The Future of Insurance Podcast – Scott Whitehead

Managing Director, Markel Insurtech Underwriters

Season 3, Episode 20, October 18, 2022

Guest Bio

Scott Whitehead joined Markel after graduating with a bachelor of science in Marketing Management from Virginia Tech.  After spending a few years in marketing & advertising, Scott transitioned into an underwriting role focused on small commercial E&S.  He was later the Territory Underwriting Manager for Florida and then promoted to Director of Underwriting & Production for the Southeast region.  Scott joined the Product Line Leadership team in 2012 as Managing Director of Binding Authority.  He later transitioned into an enterprise risk management role for Markel Specialty and is now Managing Director of Markel Insurtech Underwriters (MIU fka Markel Digital).  The MIU team focuses on providing risk capacity and underwriting expertise to start-ups and digital distribution partners who are passionately building innovative insurance solutions. They seek partners who leverage emerging technologies and modern customer acquisition strategies to create the service and experience that customers now expect and demand.


Highlights from the Show

  • Markel InsurTech Underwriters was founded 5 years to engage with and embrace the wave of talent and ideas coming into the space, as a program unit to support MGAs with paper, capacity and underwriting, and they can also provide reinsurance
  • They set it up as a separate unit because it wasn’t possible to do it right as a side responsibility given that these opportunities start at $0 and would have a hard time competing for resources and priorities with larger, profitable opportunities
  • They look for solutions that are interesting, solve a genuine problem, and can scale
  • Startups, by their nature, also aren’t attractive to carrier because of the risk reward tradeoff versus stable businesses that are already delivering Combined Ratio value
  • Similarly, the industry almost prefers fast followers over first movers, including regulators who prefer commonality and conformity
    • If you file something that takes a contrarian view of something they’ve already approved, and you don’t have historical data to back it up (since it’s brand new), it creates an issue for a regulator to have two approved approaches that are at odds with each other and still claim to be acting in the public’s best interest, making it hard to go about things materially differently
  • Looking forward, Scott talks about looking for things that make it better, faster, cheaper; taking friction out of the process; or reducing losses
    • If you’re not doing any of those things, then he doesn’t see that winning for the insured or the business
    • This is why they backed Thimble, who is selling policies better fit for seasonal or non-annual business; and Counterpart, who uses data and engagement with the insured to underwrite better and make the insured a better risk
  • There’s a big flight to quality right now given the investment environment right now, and whether the fundamentals are viable or not, rather than just whether you can sell a lot and go public before your results catch up with you
  • Two ideas Scott sees growing
    • Continuous Underwriting – as you learn about a risk, engage with it differently over the course of the year rather than just at renewal, and use those insights to inform your rating continuously; Counterpart does this, as do most of the Cyber startup insurers
    • Embedded Insurance – definitely a smart way to distribute insurance, but often people miss that you need to have a licensed agent to advise on and sell the business, so some startups may overlook the need to solve for that component, as well

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This episode is brought to you by The Future of Insurance thought leadership series ( from Bryan Falchuk.

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