Insurance has long been seen as a traditional sector which can be loath to harness technology.

It is a well-deserved reputation, says serial entrepreneur Nigel Lombard, who believes the industry “needs to transform”.

Lombard has worked in insurance, technology and digital for his whole career and previously founded InsurTech startups Drivology and Hedgehog before PeppercornAI, his current project, which featured on our InsurTech 50 ranking late last year.

“Insurance started being sold online well over 20 years ago but the market has barely changed since then,” he tells BusinessCloud. “That’s because the insurance industry has tied itself to systems and processes that favour providers, inefficient and costing consumers dearly. 

“Previously, I looked to change the model through different means of technology; but since then, AI has matured sufficiently to be applied as a force for good for both insurance providers and consumers. That’s how we got to PeppercornAI, which uses AI to completely turn the insurance model on its head.”

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The CEO describes PeppercornAI, founded in early 2020, as an evolution of his previous experience.

“At the time, I could see the potential for AI to completely transform industries but awareness, understanding – and even the capability – of the technology was relatively low,” he explains.

“Since then, we’ve seen mass awareness of NLU (Natural Language Understanding) and LLMs (Large Language Models) such as ChatGPT; but an understanding and realisation of how AI can revolutionise the insurance market was lacking, and still is.”

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PeppercornAI offers a wholly digital experience that replaces traditional online forms and call centres to empower consumers to buy and manage insurance policies. 

Its SaaS platform, Pipr, contains an insurance-specific assistant that uses AI to help the customer navigate the process of buying, managing and understanding their insurance. Lombard says this results in a more personalised, empowering experience, putting the customer in control of the conversation and taking the confusion out of insurance. 

On the other side, providers are able to use the data from the SaaS platform to provide a better customer experience, better protect risk and identify and prevent fraud more effectively – all at a radically lower operating cost. 

“An example is when a customer purchasing insurance doesn’t include coverage for commuting, which is one of the most common reasons why people get caught out,” Lombard says. “In this instance, our platform could detect that the customer works full-time and perhaps has a relatively high mileage for just social and domestic use then trigger a prompt to verify details with the customer. 

“By connecting this data, we’re able to ensure the customer is completely aware of what they are and are not covered for, which leads to a more informed purchase decision and helps to take the confusion out of insurance reducing claims repudiation.” 

Industrial revolution

The rapid rise of artificial intelligence – which Lombard describes as an “industrial revolution” – means the timing could not be better for PeppercornAI.

A key decision we made was to accelerate plans to take our Pipr platform to the B2B SaaS market,” he answers when asked if there was a pivot or change of direction at any point.

“There were many reasons for this, but mainly because the platform performed better than we ever dreamt in all respects, not least consumers embracing it. 

“And it’s clear that the capability of AI is developing at pace, driving an industrial revolution. The timing couldn’t be better.”

PeppercornAI’s team of 23 people is fully remote and spread around the UK, but contains a strong presence in Cardiff. A member of Fintech Wales as well as Insurtech UK, it has found South Wales to be something of a hub for InsurTech.

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2024 plans

“The next 12 months will be focused on growing Pipr’s presence amongst insurance providers. We’ve already seen keen interest in the platform amongst the industry, but our focus will be ensuring Pipr is a core revenue stream for us,” Lombard acknowledges.

To date, his company has received £2.1 million in seed funding from EHE Capital and will soon be closing another fundraise.

What did it mean to the entrepreneur to be included on BusinessCloud’s InsurTech 50 ranking? 

“It’s something I’m extremely proud of,” he says. “Our team has worked incredibly hard to launch a product that will change the entire industry and this, as well as our fantastic customer and industry feedback so far, really validates the work we’re doing.”

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