Get to know… Genasys Group CEO Andre Symes

31 August 2023

Modern Insurance Magazine catches up with Andre Symes, Group Chief Executive Officer at Genasys Technologies, to find out more about his journey into the insurance technology sector, challenges being faced and predictions for the industry in 2023 and beyond.

Q. Let’s start by talking all about your role at Genasys. What does the average day look like for you?

A: As Group CEO at Genasys Technologies, I’m responsible for the overall strategy and growth of our company as we expand in existing markets and enter new territories. We’ve always seen ourselves as a challenger brand and we’re proud of our ‘disruptor’ status – but we’re equally proud of the fact that we’re now regarded as one of the leading core tech players in insurance. At Genasys, we want to make insurance more accessible to everyone. We partner with businesses who share our vision, businesses that want to innovate and evolve their technology to realise their commercial aspirations. Put simply, our focus is to help insurance businesses bring new product lines to market, at speed, and drive digital efficiency by using the right tech without incurring hefty digital development costs.

Through our product and our talented team, we support clients across Africa, North America, Oceania and the UK, and in doing so manage a gross written premium of over £1 billion. What’s exciting is that our client list is so diverse, from ahead-of-the-curve start-ups through to industry heritage brands wanting to realise their digital capabilities.

We’re here to enable our clients to evolve their technology while succeeding fast on the customer experience. Right now, we’re laser-focused on our clients’ needs, how we scale and grow at a controlled pace, continuing to do what we do and continuing to do it well.

Q. What challenges are facing your business right now, and how are you working to overcome them?  

A. One of the biggest challenges for Genasys is having to make sense of the damage that some of the larger players have created in the market through overpriced ‘digital transformation’ projects and multi-million-pound deals. As result, the insurance industry has become disillusioned with technology projects, so we’re focusing a lot of our time on rebuilding confidence and resetting expectations, moving the mindset of insurance businesses towards digital ‘evolution’ rather than digital ‘transformation’.

For us, this means cutting through the hype by simplifying technology and by making it clear to insurance business that you don’t need a complex, costly, and time-consuming digital ‘transformation’ journey. Instead, you really can evolve your digital capabilities by working at a scale, budget and pace that suits your business.

Q. If you could go back to the start of your professional career, knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give to yourself?    

A.  I would have told the younger André to be much more patient. Things will take longer than you might think, particularly in the insurance and technology spaces. Having said that, whilst it would have been a good piece of advice, I probably wouldn’t tell it to my younger self in this lifetime, because I think it would have discouraged the tenacity and the veracity with which I (and the Genasys team) have approached the market. I don’t know if we would have collectively achieved what we have up to this point if we’d known that we had a marathon ahead of us.

Q. What would be your prediction for the industry in 2023 and beyond?    

A.  A while ago, Genasys predicted that big tech would come into the insurance space. Insurers initially scoffed at the idea that this could happen, as insurance is highly regulated or perceived as complicated. In reality, some of these companies are building self-driving cars, flying drones, or building complex software, and actually, the regulation around those technologies is a lot tighter than it is in the insurance industry.

Big tech companies entering the insurance market might find that their annual return on investment is lower and slower than they’re used to – it takes a long time to make a profit in insurance. Ultimately, it’s a stable, solid diversification of an investment portfolio for them, so we’re certainly going to see more forays into insurance, and it’ll be interesting to see what sticks and what doesn’t.

How can I neglect to mention AI? It’s such a hot topic at a global, societal level, with the power to transform so many aspects of our personal and professional lives. Without doubt, it has a role in the future of insurance for the sector and the consumer. The real challenge for the industry is how to use AI at scale, because insurance is rarely clear cut. But there’s real potential to use responsible AI to improve the customer experience – to figure out what each customer does need, and where the real risks are in half the time. For me that’s the real value: it has the ability to enhance the customer experience by making it personal. We mustn’t forget though, that the use of responsible technology in all its forms should be helping insurance businesses offer the best policy price and the best customer experience.

Q. What made you want to work in this sector?     

A. I think many people that end up in the insurance space never intended on being there in the first place. Insurance isn’t the most attractive or exciting industry when looking at it through the lens of an outsider. Even from my perspective, Genasys is a technology provider servicing the insurance industry – we’re all about the tech. But I’ve been involved in helping technology businesses grow since leaving college, and the growth potential of insurtech was a key ‘pull’ factor for me right from the start.

In a broader sense, technology has improved since Genasys first entered this space, and insurance is taking steps in the right direction in becoming a more attractive destination for new talent. When we first started out, nobody would have left college or university with a view of ‘Oh, you know what, I want to go and work for a mutual and build mainframe systems’. But now many young developers are saying ‘It’s amazing how much AI data analysis is being done in insurance’.

Talent is key within our sector, and at Genasys, our people are critical to our success. Through the creation of our new Genasys Product and Innovation Campus in Cape Town, we’re creating a workspace that supports our team to drive our technology expansion and to attract insurtech talent – including outstanding university graduates.

Q. So far, what has been your most significant or proudest achievement in your current or previous roles?   

A. I’m super proud of the fact that we built a business from the ground up, acquired large customers and expanded into new territories, all without external funding. We self-funded our way to success, and whilst we’re not the first business ever to do it, the personal discipline and challenges that came with that made the successes all that much sweeter. We did secure funding in the latter stages of 2021, but that was off the back of running a profitable business for 23 years.

We’re serious about investing in our product development, and most importantly, in our people, who have always been what sets Genasys apart. As we take on more customers, across more territories and in a highly competitive market, there’s never been a more crucial time for us to invest in our product development and focus on staying ahead of the market. It’s an exciting time for Genasys!

As published by Modern Insurance Magazine here.

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