Interview with Derren Teo, Co-Founder, Surer

Surer is a cloud-based collaborative platform and network orchestrator in the General Insurance industry that enables insurance intermediaries to close a deal with greater speed and allows insurers to distribute their product with better efficiency. Launched in September 2020 in Singapore, Surer has seen strong traction with over 300 intermediary users, more than 1,000 proposals sent and over S$1,000,000 in gross written premiums transacted via the platform.

  1. 1. What is the story of the birth of Surer?

    I have spent my entire career in the insurance industry - close to 12 years now. In the last 12 years, I saw that technology has been underutilised in the industry; essentially where technology is (and was) available to drive digitisation and automation in workflows that are repetitive and tiresome, it has largely been ignored. I had a pretty good idea of a solution that would solve these inefficiencies and sounded this out to my buddy and ex-classmate, Gordon (who is now one of my co-founders). Along with a third co-founder, Renfred, we formed a team of experts who have held positions to grow the highly successful startups like PropertyGuru and Carousell and founded Surer - the manifestation of this solution I have been nurturing. Along with my co-founders, we spent close to two years building the Surer platform and rounds of iteration stemming from feedback from beta users, and were able to launch Surer in September 2020. Essentially, the problem Surer will solve is to fix an inefficient General Insurance market in Singapore where there is a mismatch between demand; 70% of SMEs in Singapore are underinsured and supply; 90% of insurers are underrepresented. The vision of Surer is to be a fully connected platform that can, facilitate a ‘triple-win’ situation where policyholders can be presented more options because of a highly efficient intermediary sales force who can now advise better, close faster; which ultimately also means more business for insurers from an expanded product distribution channel and recruitment avenue of ‘supercharged’ intermediaries.

  2. 2. It's been more than a year since COVID-19 happened, tell us what has changed?

    While this Winston Churchill quote - ‘never waste a good crisis’ - may be overused and come across as cliche, this has been the case for Surer. The pandemic, while unfortunate, has done two things - It has raised awareness amongst business on the importance of insurance; their business can be disrupted by even the most unimaginable of situations. It has also made insurers and intermediaries realise the importance of digital transformation and the need to leverage technology to serve consumers, the end policyholders better. During the most serious times of the pandemic, we saw a huge change in the mindset of both the consumers, and the parties within the insurance ecosystem - something that accelerated the growth of Surer. More than a year since the outbreak, momentum has continued, where insurtech is taking further importance in conversations - insurtech is no longer just a buzzword but an actuality. This switch in mindset has meant a willingness and openness to try solutions; which has also led to eyes being opened at the fact that digital transformation is not as cumbersome and ‘scary’ to get going.

  3. 3. Share with us what's the latest happenings, how has Surer adapted to the new environment?

    Along with the answer to the previous question, while we do not wish for the pandemic in any way or sense, what I has done is also pushed new opportunities for engagement, collaboration and digitalisation. An example of such would be the boom in webinars as an engagement / training channel. Here at Surer, we have been able to engage with our users through our monthly webinar where General Insurance Intermediaries who attend the full duration of the webinar will be provided a certificate of attendance by Singapore Insurance Institute for 2-CPD hours eligibility. On the point of collaboration, Surer has built various functionality to essentially allow the different intermediary types to work with each other and leverage various ‘super powers’ that each of them have. For example, a General Insurance focused agent would have product expertise while a Financial Advisor, who may not necessarily focus on General Insurance, can tap on this expertise to serve the client better. Another exciting feature that will be launched soon is one where we allow insurers to showcase their products to intermediaries and generate quotations instantaneously. This is then fed back into the intermediaries’ workflow where they can use Surer to automatically present such a quote, along with pertinent information to clients, and have clients approve this digitally. Essentially, a deal can be done fully digitally - something that the new environment has forced all of us to think about, which may not be a bad thing.

  4. 4. What is your perspective of the insurtech scene here in Singapore? What do you look forward to?

    The insurtech scene in Singapore has evolved bit by bit through the years and our view is that it is now a more exciting space than ever with much more activity and startups, like Surer, trying to solve problems. While about 5 years back, insurtech was arguably synonymous with consumer facing insurance product aggregators or marketplaces, the evolution has taken on a new face to help with distribution that, as far as possible, is product agnostic. What the aggregators have done was interesting and showcased how tech can create new channels for distribution, however, what we have noticed is that because it is consumer facing, products that can be showcased are limited to simpler and/or personal lines. Regardless, it has sparked a rejuvenation in the industry – to drive more conversations around applying technology to the traditional systems and processes that the industry has been built on. These conversations are also arising organically, from people who are part of this system, as they now start to recognise the challenges they or the industry have been facing. We are of the opinion that tech should not be built to disrupt for the sake of it. While ‘disruption’ is always a sexy term to use, we need to think back to the fundamentals of introducing new technology. Simply put, it should be leveraged, to deliver the proposition better. If this means leveraging technology to support and supercharge an existing process – the process that has been built over many years, with multiple nuances involving complex human relationships, trust and empathy - then so be it.

  5. 5. You'll be joining us as a speaker at the inaugural ITC Asia 2021, tell us what excites you the most?

    As an extension to the previous question, it is exciting to see a greater variety of solutions focused on various parts of this complex value-chain which is also why we are looking forward to being on the panel to discuss the topic of ‘From disruptive to collaborative: driving insurtech growth through partnerships’ at ITC Asia 2021; to be able to have robust thought exchanges on the topic of disruption vs collaboration and if they need to be mutually exclusive.

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