Risk & Insurance spoke with Cam Serigne, the founder and CEO of vQuip on the company’s approach to tackling challenges in specialty insurance markets. The transcript of the discussion was edited for length and clarity.

Risk & Insurance: What is your company’s approach to specialty insurance markets?

Cam Serigne: At vQuip, we focus on unique, niche, and underserved markets within the specialty insurance space. Our approach is technology-first, with a specific emphasis on loss control technology.

We enter markets that have historically been challenging or have seen a high percentage of unsuccessful programs or significant losses. We first seek to understand the factors that make these markets difficult to insure, then develop technology that we leverage to mitigate those risks.

This technology-driven approach enables us to better understand these markets. Specialty insurance often involves difficult to quantify or unknown risks that have seen little investment or been largely unexplored by legacy insurance markets. By offering our clients operational workflow technology, we can gather and analyze previously unobtainable risk data, which we utilize to build tailored insurance solutions for these specialty markets.

R&I: What economic sectors or types of businesses are you targeting?

CS: Currently, we are very focused on the commercial outdoor experience market. This includes businesses that rent out equipment such as boats, jet skis, snowmobiles, side by sides, trikes, and electric bikes — essentially, anything that people might enjoy doing on vacation for fun.

Our goal is to provide tailored insurance products for businesses that rent out this type of equipment, as well as for their consumers.

R&I: How does vQuip’s technology help mitigate risk and align it appropriately between businesses and consumers in the experience market?

CS: At vQuip, we focus on mitigating risks in experience markets, such as those associated with boating, snowmobiling, or jet skiing. These activities can be particularly risky due to the involvement of consumers who may not be familiar with these motorized experiences, leading to potential injuries and damages.

We discovered a gap in coverage that left renters uninsured during their experiences. This lack of renter insurance ultimately exposes rental businesses to potential litigation from renters seeking compensation for incidents.

Our technology tools help businesses defend against negligence claims by ensuring that all waivers are signed, safety briefings are conducted, and equipment is properly checked. This creates a safer overall experience for renters.

Additionally, we provide renters with their own insurance products, making them named insured and covering their exposure during the trip. By aligning risk with the risk holder, we foster a healthier relationship between businesses and consumers in the experience market.

R&I: What is driving specialty insurance growth, and how do you view your role and ability to grow with it?

CS: Specialty insurance growth is driven by a few factors. Rising premiums, due to underperforming markets, have contributed to this growth. Additionally, business innovation constantly creates new markets that naturally fall into the specialty category.

At vQuip, we see ourselves as building capacity for hard-to-insure markets. Our initial foray into the commercial outdoor experience market, which was very challenged with only 1 or 2 markets left and premiums having increased by 500-800% over 5-10 years, exemplifies this approach.

Our playbook involves identifying the problems causing losses in these markets and targeting them with technology for loss control. We then build innovative insurance solutions around this technology to help businesses focus on running their operations without worrying about insurance.

R&I: How difficult has it been for niche businesses to obtain insurance coverage?

CS: Obtaining insurance has been extremely challenging, despite insurance being a critical component for these companies to operate effectively and successfully.

Every year, experience businesses face an insurance carousel, wondering if capacity will be available, how much their commercial premiums will increase, and whether they will be able afford coverage. Even the most skilled specialist agents struggle to find suitable products they can reasonably sell to these businesses in the current environment.

Our products offer a much-needed solution, and we have definitely felt the positive reaction from insureds and the agents we work with.

R&I: What is the key to assessing the risk of a renter when providing insurance coverage for both the renter and the business owner renting out the vehicle?

CS: Assessing the risk of a renter is a critical component when providing insurance coverage for peer-to-peer vehicle sharing. It requires finding the right balance between offering protection for the renter while also mitigating risk for the business owner.

The key is to leverage a variety of data points to build a comprehensive risk profile of the renter. This includes factors such as the renter’s driving history, credit score, and past claims. By analyzing this data through sophisticated models, we can effectively gauge the likelihood of the renter being involved in an incident and price the coverage accordingly.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a seamless experience for both parties. The renter should feel confident they have adequate protection in case something goes wrong. Meanwhile, the business owner needs to trust that their asset is properly covered without exposure to undue liability. Striking this balance is the magic formula to unlocking the potential of the sharing economy in the mobility space.

R&I: How does your company’s technology enable you to underwrite individual trips rather than on an annual basis?

CS: Our loss control system and technology are integrated into the daily operations of the businesses we serve, providing us with granular data about renters, the business itself, and even individual trips. This level of detail was previously unavailable in the market, where underwriting was based solely on basic business information and the number of units.

By having access to this comprehensive data, we can underwrite each individual trip rather than relying on annual underwriting for thousands of unknown future patrons. This approach allows us to assess the risk associated with every person utilizing one of our client’s locations, enabling more accurate and targeted underwriting decisions.

R&I: What risk mitigation and analysis innovations are you implementing or considering at vQuip?

CS: We are continuously innovating and learning from the data generated by our loss control tools. As we gather more operational data over time, it informs us about what improvements are needed.

For example, in the powersports industry, specifically snowmobiling and side-by-sides, there was an issue with children getting hurt during these experiences. We realized we could help make these activities safer by ensuring that businesses are protecting their interests and making parents aware of the risks their children are taking on.

By implementing these safety measures and risk management practices, we align the interests of both our insured businesses and ourselves. The goal is to reduce incidents, frequencies, and adverse events, which is what business owners want as well. They want people to come, have fun, and enjoy a safe experience. We are all working together to help them accomplish this objective.

R&I: What types of agents and brokers does vQuip work with, and how do you identify the right partners for your niche specialty verticals?

CS: At vQuip, we strongly believe in the value of specialist agents, especially in niche specialty verticals. These agents may be part of a larger brokerage or operate as standalone independent agents, but what sets them apart is their significant expertise in the specific types of business we focus on.

Our approach is to actively seek out and partner with these specialists who have deep knowledge and experience in our target markets. By collaborating with agents who truly understand the unique risks and requirements of these niche verticals, we can provide tailored solutions and deliver exceptional value to our clients.

R&I: What is vQuip’s strategy for finding and developing relationships with insurance agents?

CS: At vQuip, we aim to identify high-quality insurance agents who are eager to learn about innovative products they can offer to their clients. Once we find these agents, we focus on building deep relationships with them.

A key aspect of our strategy is providing comprehensive education about our products. By ensuring that the agents thoroughly understand the value and benefits of what we offer, we empower them to effectively present our solutions to their insurance customers.

We have our agency marketing team always out on the road looking for those agents. We also partner with agents who come to us because they hear about our programs and want to get access and be appointed.

We get very excited about these types of agents when they reach out because it means they’re already plugged into this industry and know it quite well.

R&I: What strategies do you recommend to agents and brokers for identifying markets and growing their businesses, especially in the face of capacity challenges?

CS: In the markets where we focus, the primary issue is not demand, as there is a significant need for insurance products. The challenge lies in finding sufficient capacity to provide sustainable and affordable coverage for insureds.

We strongly believe in the importance of loss control and risk management technology. By identifying the specific perils causing issues and driving the hard insurance market in these areas, we can collaborate with partners to develop unique, targeted solutions.

If we can successfully create these solutions, it will open up more options for agents and brokers, ultimately leading to a healthier market for everyone. This is the direction we guide them towards.

R&I: Where does vQuip sit in the insurance industry ecosystem, and how does it vary across different programs?

CS: At vQuip, we’ve coined the term “insurance chameleon” to describe our unique approach. While our collaborations all leverage our loss control technology as a core element, our role in the insurance stack varies depending on the program and the solution we aim to deliver for the market.

In our land and snow verticals, we are the underwriter. We have built and underwritten these programs ourselves, serving as Lloyd’s cover holders in partnership with Greenlight Re and One80 Intermediaries.

On the marine side, we function more as a wholesaler, collaborating with One80 Intermediaries fulfilling the role of MGA, Nationwide as the paper and reinsurance capacity from Swiss Re. Our focus is on building solutions, and we are willing to flex up and down the insurance chain, whether as a technology enabler, MGA, or wholesaler, to achieve this goal.

R&I: What are your plans for sharing best practices among your customer base to help businesses learn from each other considering you will have access to a wealth of data?

CS: Our platform is essentially an operational workflow tool, used by staff at our insureds to carry out their core safety processes. Our app collects data that informs us of what the best practices should be, while simultaneously enforcing those standards.

Standardizing operational processes and best practices across our insureds is a key element of what we’re doing, because guaranteeing that insureds follow the same safety procedures every time will make the risk more insurable over the long term. This is the concept behind our loss control technology.

This builds transparency between us and the insured in a way that the business owner can appreciate because it ultimately serves to defend and protect their business. &

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