We sit down with Will Panchaud, Concirrus’ Product Director to talk about his journey at Concirrus from ‘Innovation Technologist’ to ‘Head of Innovation and Delivery’ to ‘Product Director’, the challenges he’s faced and where he sees the insurance market in five years’ time.
What did you study at Uni?
I studied BSc Digital Art and Technology at the University of Plymouth It was largely course work based with a focus on coding, innovation and the capabilities of new technology. Throughout the course, businesses would pitch problems that required new solutions. We’d use emerging technologies to solve such issues, often leading to new digital experiences.
I’d thought about alternatives to university, but when I attended the open day I was really inspired and loved the idea of experimenting with new technology.
What is your favourite part about your job as Product Director?
Building and delivering a product or feature from the ground up, particularly the journey from initial idea to reality. Seeing the team collaborate and apply different skill sets to shape a product, from Design to the Data Science, is inspiring. When complete, it’s extremely rewarding to see what you created make a difference in someone’s day-to-day.
I remember back at the start, when we first started to think about where we wanted Quest to evolve to, risk scoring/modelling and pricing were a key part of that discussion. Seeing those features being used by the market today is really satisfying.
I enjoy management as much as development, helping my team decide where they want to go in their career. My role is to ensure they have what they need to realise their goals, which includes open discussions with them about what they do and don’t enjoy. It’s great to work on self-development, but helping others in this endeavour is even more interesting!
In what ways have you seen the industry change since joining Concirrus in 2016?
The insurance industry has responded to the need to be more progressive, adopting new technologies to curb the level of unprofitability it’s been facing for many years. I think this has been partly led by innovation within InsurTech, making people aware of what’s possible and how easy it can be to adopt.
The general mindset of underwriters within the market is more open now they can see how technology can enhance their capabilities, rather than seeing technology as a threat. We’re continuing to on-board new clients at an increasing rate which shows people believe in the product. The sales process is less about the ‘why’ and more about the ‘how’, focusing more on the specifics of modelling which is really nice to see.
What skills are important to be a good leader and what are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop?
I experienced leadership for the first time at Concirrus, which has made me open to learning and developing as a manager. My general approach is to try and build as much trust and respect with my team as possible. There are some roles within my team that I’ve never done myself; e.g. Product Design, so I apply the relevant knowledge and experience I have whilst listening to my team. When you have specialist colleagues you can rely on you can rest assured that you can take a step back and let them apply their knowledge. It’s not just about them trusting me, it works both ways.
To ensure my own growth and development as a manager, I spend time each quarter focusing on how my team have developed. It’s down to me to ensure they receive what they need to grow within the company. Feedback from people like Andy Yeoman has been a great help, both in terms of leadership advice and sustaining sarcasm levels!
Quest Marine has changed so much over the years, how have you seen it go from strength to strength?
Quest Marine has evolved from a vessel tracking solution through to a far more comprehensive underwriting tool. Quest Marine’s underwriting capabilities in particular have grown massively to get to this point, including popular predictive modelling features. What is great, is we can now quantify our value. The platform is capable of more than sitting alongside current processes, it is a new process. Quest Marine is now something that people are increasingly adopting as their primary risk modelling and pricing tool. When you look back it’s amazing to see how far the platform has come.
What gives you the most confidence?
Trust. Trust is a key part of working at Concirrus. We each have a lot of responsibility, and it’s accepted that in innovation there are things that aren’t achieved first time. It means sometimes you will fail and what you learn from it will make for a better solution.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
This has to be the journey of refining Quest Marine into something that delivers tangible value and has achieved product market fit. It’s a fine balance in uncovering user needs, building an innovative road-map and allocating resources available within a reasonable time-frame. There are so many exciting opportunities for us, it can be a bit overwhelming! You have to prioritise and understand that ‘that exciting thing over there can wait because you have to focus on getting this right first’. That mantra is what has helped us get to where we are today, maintaining a level of ambition without going off the rails.
What would you say to your 18-year-old self?
Be more confident. You’re in this position because you know what you’re talking about. So many people experience ‘Imposter Syndrome’, which needs to be shaken off so you can focus on what you’re good at and what you enjoy.
What do you believe the market will look like in five years’ time?
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for pushing digitalisation, it will continue to have a massive impact in the way people do business, with remote working becoming more prominent in all industries, but likely to have a greater effect on insurance than many others.
As we continue to innovate, the placement of commoditised risks will become automated, enabling Underwriters and Brokers to be able to use their experience to focus on more complex risk, portfolio management, and new product innovation. I believe those who don’t embrace technological change will fall by the wayside, and those who are willing to push the boundaries will take a larger chunk of the market.
In addition, I think it is safe to expect in the next five years there will be continued and accelerated disruption to global supply chain from the likes of Amazon, pushing traditional participants to innovate to maintain relevance and efficiency. We certainly have an interesting few years ahead of us and I look forward to seeing this market evolve.