As McKenzie Intelligence Services (MIS) celebrates its 10th anniversary, CEO and founder Forbes McKenzie looks back on the company’s beginnings and reflects on what the next decade may bring
It is hard to imagine that the concept for MIS started a decade ago on a fold-out table in the confined space of a one-bedroom London flat. Back then, we had the ambition to harness the insights and expertise we’d gained in the military to blaze a trail in finding commercial applications for geospatial technology and analytics, but we knew research and development would be the crucial foundation of our offering.
So after spending the first six years in business refining, researching and building out what we offered, we became ‘productised’ in 2017 – and now we are a global operation, with a loyal and growing team, proud to be attracting fresh talent and hyped with new ideas and perspectives to bring to our commercial partners.
In the insurance sector, when we first began operating, use of geospatial technology for claims management was unheard of. So a lot of our conversations were focused on educating and building trust in the technology and analytics at our disposal, but it wasn’t long before the sector saw the benefits on offer, and now use of satellite, drone and geospatial data is a key tool for catastrophe exposure and claims management.
This speed of adoption has been a real success story for an industry which is often perceived as slow to innovate. Our experience has been very positive.
But let’s rewind back to the start. We were full of ideas but strapped for cash, as back in 2015 the angel and venture capitalist investors were more focused on the fintech market, so in those early days our own product development was bootstrapped by conducting Intelligence consulting in the heart of Africa. We delivered cutting edge Intelligence in anti-poaching operations – protecting Elephants and Rhino.
This didn’t leave us much money spare for an all singing all dancing Go To Market strategic plan, but thankfully we are adept at lateral thinking. Instead, we took the view that a ‘top down’ solution would work.
The Lloyd’s market provided a perfect platform for this, where we were delighted to be met with interest from the outset. And those initial discussions have now become the forerunner to the Lloyd’s Lab, and blazed the trail for other insurtechs to follow suit and become part of the now established ecosystem.
The start of a competitive market
From the onset, our ethos was to listen to what companies wanted; we weren’t in the game to tender for work, we wanted to talk to the market about the technologies available, and ultimately operate as a scalable business that was built on trust, empowerment, transparency and adaptability.
After years of R&D and waiting for the right technology to become available for civilian use, we were in a position to develop affordable solutions for clients. Fast forward ten years, and from being a lone innovator, we are now part of a vibrant and competitive environment.
For the global industry, this expansion and the entrance of other similar companies can only be a good thing – providing proof points on cost and affordability, and helping attract private equity and investment to the sector.
The next 10 years
The last decade has seen truly transformational changes in the technologies that companies now have at their disposal – above and beyond the insurance sector, other use cases include monitoring remote environments for environmental, social and governance reasons across industries.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, we think several key trends will emerge:
- Geospatial and satellite technology will evolve at a faster pace, with ever more detailed levels of micro fidelity and more advanced analytics available than ever before. We are currently developing a Global Events Observatory in partnership with the European Space Agency that will play a significant role in this evolution.
- Drone flocks will become commonplace in exposure management and for ESG monitoring around the world.
- Parametric insurance solutions will evolve and sharpen from relatively blunt tools with single triggers to single products for instance paying out for household flooding, or utilities cut off for individual policyholders.
- The Internet of Things will play an increasingly important role in the above, with embedded devices feeding data that fuels more accurate and relevant insurance products, and supporting the monitoring of systemic risks like climate change at a highly localised level across businesses and homes.
- There will quickly be aggregated geospatial databases of collected intelligence that will give enough depth for underwriters to have the confidence to begin opening up new lines of insurance. The Global Events Observatory is geared towards this very opportunity.
A culture we are proud of
At the 10 year point in our development, we also wanted to pause and reflect on the culture of the business we are developing, and how we would like this to develop in the future.
We are aware how lucky we are to have attracted a steady stream of highly motivated and innovative people, and to have retained team members who have been with us from the very start.
At the beginning, we had that typical start-up mentality of working all hours, and pushing ourselves – understandable and natural, but as we have matured we want our values to be focused more on the balance and wellbeing of our team, and to open idea sharing that is not constrained by hierarchical structures.
We have learnt from experience that freedom breeds innovation, and want our team to be empowered to trust in diligent agency. Mistakes are learning opportunities, so humility is also critical, as is striving together as a team community to progress. Anyone is capable of greatness, and transparency is key – we know that shared intelligence is shared success.
And finally, the one thing we can all be sure of is that everything will change. Adaptability is central to our culture, we expect evolution – and we are here to help shape it.
Huge thanks to everyone who has been part of our journey so far and continues to support and grow with us. Here’s to the butterfly effect over the next 10 years…