Polaris MD Vivek Banga on a Record-Breaking year

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As an insurer and broker-owned organisation, the rationale behind every step taken and move made by Polaris reflects the objectives and ambitions of its key stakeholders. The mandate set for Polaris by its industry partners is to support the growth of digital trading, noted MD Vivek Banga, and its success in this arena can be seen in the record usage figures recorded in 2022.

Digging into some of the key successes, Banga emphasised that as a UK insurance industry-owned organisation, the key metric of Polaris’ success is how widely it’s been utilised by the sector.

To me, there’s no point in being industry-owned if you’re not being widely used by the industry that owns you, he said. So, for me, our client count – the fact that over 100 organisations use our standards, that 81 organisations are using our rating engine ProductWriter which is used by two-thirds of all the large insurers, those are the figures that stand out to me.

Digital trading growth across the insurance market

Also great to see is the increased uptake of Polaris’ Live-Chat service, he said, which rose 16% in 2022 registering 237,000 chats across imarket and insurer extranets. Premium from imarket policies rose by 15% to £322 million. Meanwhile, the number of policies traded on imarket increased by 1.7% to 497,883 in 2022 and, in January 2023, the platform achieved the significant milestone of trading 500,000 policies in the last 12 months.

Another number that really stands out for me is the number of hours that we get from the industry in terms of the support the industry gives us, Banga said. Since I joined Polaris as MD in 2019, I’ve done a quick addition of all the hours that we get from the industry through our various advisory forums, our user review groups. I reckon, in a typical year, with 2022 no exception, we get more than 1,000 hours from the industry, through our various advisory groups.

These continue to be extremely well-attended. That industry contribution to our products and services – and the fact that the industry feels a stake in us because we are owned by them – I think, for me, that is what really makes us unique within the insurance industry in the UK… [Because those hours] show the willingness of the industry to shape these products and services, which they then use actively.

It was a standout year for Polaris’ imarket offering, not least due to the announcement that Arch Insurance had joined the imarket insurance panel. Banga highlighted that it had already welcomed several of the leading commercial lines insurers across the UK including RSA, Aviva, AXA, Allianz and Zurich – and the addition of Arch was a most welcome one and indicative of broader market interest.

What’s next for Polaris?

Looking to the year ahead, Banga stated that continuing to expand and evolve Polaris’ current products and services was high on its agenda.

The industry expects us to do that and we will keep doing that, he said. If you look at ProductWriter, for example, in the last few years, we’ve done some very good work in terms of making ProductWriter compatible with machine-learning-based algorithms. That’s an area which will continue to grow, as rating continues to become more and more sophisticated.

And with ProductWriter over the coming years, we will continue to balance sophistication of rating with speed to market. Those are the two key drivers in the rating world. And as the provider of this rating engine to more than 80 companies in the industry, it will remain a key area of investment for us.

Looking at Polaris’ imarket and Live-Chat services, Banga noted that the industry is aware that the organisation is undergoing a significant infrastructure upgrade. As imarket volumes grew, he said, Polaris is making quite sizable investments into the infrastructure to future-proof it for growth in the coming years.

We are also looking to see if there are other solutions which solve common problems for the industry, he said. And there are some suggestions that have come to us – from both larger and smaller organisations within the industry. So, we’re looking at the kind of solutions we can offer to the market.

How Polaris works

The way Polaris works is that it invests its surplus back into projects for the betterment of the industry, Banga said. So, the strong results recorded by Polaris are great news for the wider sector as they will lead to further investments in the products and services taking the industry to the next level regarding digital trading. For him, the path ahead is a balance between continuing to evolve Polaris’ current products and services, while also looking at new innovative ideas that the industry wants it to work on.

Polaris – a message to the insurance industry

My request to industry participants always has been and will continue to be ‘come and talk to us’, he said. If you are undertaking a digital journey and trying to solve challenges within that journey, if you think there are industry issues that we as an industry-owned organisation should be looking at – come and talk to us and share them with us.

We are very experienced in terms of working in a collaborative manner, working within the boundaries of competition law and making sure that our products and services solve industry problems… We don’t rest on our laurels. The industry doesn’t expect us to and we won’t – that’s a given.