Aquarium Software is a developer of end-to-end software solutions for Pet, Travel, Gadget, Health and other specialty insurance markets. We've been chatting with Mark Colonnese, the Product Marketing Director at Aquarium, to find out what the company has been up to this year, and what big plans it has for 2020.
- Hi Mark! Can you tell us a little about yourself, and introduce us to Aquarium Software and your work with pet and travel insurance?
My name is Mark Colonnese and I am the Product Marketing Director at Aquarium Software. I have been working in the software industry for 25 years, initially in aerospace and automotive, and since 2007, in the insurance space when I joined Aquarium. The Aquarium product is an “insurance in the box solution” targeted specifically at the pet, travel and gadget insurance verticals and spans: product design, rating, policy quote and buy, claims, customer self-serve apps and, in the case of travel, emergency medical assistance too.
- We’re nearing the end of 2019 - can you tell us some of the things Aquarium Software has achieved this year that you’re especially proud of?
- There are a couple of things that spring to mind that the team here has achieved that I am especially proud of. Firstly, we went live with a major UK travel insurance provider supporting its high-street banking partners to deliver a new set of innovative travel insurance propositions to more than 1.5 million UK consumers. The roll-out is transforming our client’s business and its capability to win market share in this competitive segment. It has been a massive vindication of our technological vision and clearly demonstrates we can manage scale: we are grateful for our client’s support in this huge achievement and the faith placed in the Aquarium team.
The second initiative that I am proud and excited about is that our Future Technology Team has kicked off a new phase of sustained innovation that leverages technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. We are almost half way through our first delivery phase and to say the results are promising is a massive understatement. What we are doing will revolutionise how our clients sell and service their customers in very near future.
- You’ve opened a new office in the north of the UK this year – have you any plans for branching into Europe and the US in the future?
- The new office in Manchester is a fantastic place to work and bring our clients, it really sets out our stall for the next five years in terms of who we want to grow to become. In terms of branching out, securing a foothold overseas is key to the successful execution of our strategy as a niche specialist player in the pet, travel and gadget segments. It is our ambition to become the recognised de-facto standard solution partner for these verticals worldwide and so having a physical presence in the US and elsewhere will be an important part of us delivering on that strategy.
- Can you share some of your plans for the business in 2020? Any milestones you’d like to meet?
- In 2020 we will be rolling-out some of our new technology into production with our clients and have them tell the world about what it means for their business - although I suspect they may want to keep the good news to themselves! Secondly, we have plans to get to four million UK consumers (and more!) onto our travel platform and every indication suggest we are going to achieve that. Finally, breaking into a new geography and getting new customers into production would be a fantastic achievement; fingers-crossed those wheels are already in motion.
- Aquarium has made some key leadership hires this year - what qualities do you look for in new team members when growing your tech company?
As an organisation we have already transitioned from ‘start-up’ to ‘growth’ and are now in our ‘expansion’ stage. This planned development has allowed us to align to the needs and expectations of our blue-chip clients in terms of technological, operational and commercial governance and compliance. This year, for example, we achieved PCI-DSS Level One service provider compliance, which was an important milestone on our journey and adds to the ISO compliance we have already achieved.
Our commitment to the insurance sector is reflected in some our recent hires that have direct experience of the insurance domain. That said, we are always on the lookout for new talented people to help support and build our team. We know one of the reasons clients partner with us is our innovative attitude and dynamism - we don’t want to lose that key component of our DNA.
- You’ve been shortlisted for the Outsourced Technology Partner of the Year award by the Insurance Post’s Creative & Innovation Awards (congratulations!) – why do you think partnerships are such a key innovation strategy for insurers?
- The most forward-thinking technology companies are in a great position to deliver multi-client experience, a fresh-perspective, innovation, focus, agility and results. In return, our insurer partners supply their insight into the future market direction. Compared to the alternative option of insurers developing ‘in-house’, collaborating with the right tech company delivers results and is a win-win for both parties, enabling scale and agility in one.
- As a company that has and continues to successfully scale, what would be your key piece of advice for new insurtech start-ups?
- Focus. Do one thing and do it better that anyone else.
- And finally, what is your favourite piece of tech from outside the world of insurance?
I am lucky to live in Oxford and as a university town there are so many exciting new ventures springing up. One that I have followed with interest, as I know a few people there, is Oxbotica. Since 2014 they have been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle technology, their approach and what they have achieved in making autonomous vehicles a reality is likely to have a huge impact on our daily lives over the coming decade, not to mention the potentially seismic ramifications for the motor insurance sector.