Founded in 2005, Ascent has a key mission: help insurers and reinsurers become more profitable by accelerating their ability to transact. We recently spoke to CCO George Earp and Principal Architect Konrad Pfeffer to find out more.
1. Where did the idea for Ascent come from, was there a lightbulb moment?
GE: The vision for Ascent was to create a more accessible, commercially aware digital services business, with the ability to rapidly and practically demonstrate customer value and ROI. CEO Stewart Smythe designed and built a business with equal capability across software, data and cloud, ensuring that Ascent could both be an end-to-end digital partner for its large corporate customers and operate seamlessly within an enterprise customer’s partner ecosystem.
Insurance has always been part of our DNA, and is now our primary sector focus. We have carefully built out a domain specialism thanks to a number of strategic acquisitions in the UK and Germany over recent years, and a highly focussed approach to talent sourcing.
2. What was the problem in the Insurance market Ascent wanted to solve?
KP: The first is simple: our mission is to help insurers and reinsurers become more profitable by accelerating their ability to transact, and this ultimately comes down to enabling and empowering the underwriters and actuaries with technology and digital services. A number of our colleagues come from actuarial backgrounds, so we are wellplaced to help insurers shake off the manual and fragmented processes that inhibit scale. We build platforms and automation solutions that take on heavy lifting, freeing up time for growth-oriented activities. We’ve enabled hundreds of millions of euros of premiums to be written as a result.
The second is around the idea of legacy, which in insurance could refer to a tech stack or systems in production that are anywhere between two and 25 years old. The sector has been part of the fabric of society for centuries, and as society continuously evolves, so must insurers. We wanted to be part of the wave of modernisation that enables existing or more traditional players to compete better with cloud-native new entrants and disruptors, particularly in the era of ‘predict and prevent’ rather than ‘replace and rebuild’.
3. How is Ascent transforming insurance? And how does it differentiate itself from other providers?
GE: We’re a professional services business rather than a SaaS provider – which means instead of a one-size-fits-all product approach, we help our customers to find the right balance between off-the-shelf solutions and custom implementations. This enables us to solve a broader set of problems in the sector and take on more niche challenges. Our domain specialists take the time to listen and understand the problems and opportunities our customers face, working with them to build repeatable, scalable solutions in the cloud that extend the capabilities and increase the throughput of actuaries and underwriters.
KP: A large proportion of our projects in the sector focus on breaking down data siloes to establish new cross-functional business models, and modernising systems with cloud-native services and platforms. This approach helps customers transform functional efficiency, delivering consistent, cost-effective, compliant and secure business services, from infrastructure to insight and ecommerce.
As a specialist in Microsoft Azure, we have also made a raft of technical investments that drive rapid ROI for our insurance customers. We deliver continuous value in increments rather than via major transformation programs – with short, sharp engagements that initially prove then productionise new capabilities. This gives our customers the confidence to take their modernisation journeys further at pace.
4. Is there a successful customer story you can share?
KP: A recent project that was transformative in terms of business value was one where we automated the processing of exposure data in the cloud. We processed terabytes of portfolio data to calculate estimated losses against natural disasters, enabling the customer to build portfolio insight and make better contract decisions. It was a particularly sensitive piece of work as the processing of big data in a highly regulated environment requires careful planning and testing.
We are in the midst of some high impact modernisation projects, including rewriting a legacy pricing tool on a modern data platform. This will simultaneously increase the effectiveness of underwriters and actuaries, evolve the customer’s analytical capability and enable the upload of new data sets in real-time, which allows more accurate policies to be written for customers.
5. What are the common problems insurers face with their digital transformation efforts?
GE: The biggest challenge we see is cultural change. Insurers have typically been working with a consistent set of tools for a long time and transformation initiatives often mean users are required to change the processes and technology they’re used to. We help customers embed this change with their users, taking the time to explain the benefits and developing rapid prototypes which demonstrate impact against real, practical use cases.
6. With the tough financial market, why is Ascent a great partner to navigate this time?
GE: Our engagement approach balances in-country consultants, scientists and analysts with skilled nearshore engineering teams, which enables us to delivering enterprisegrade solutions at an accessible price point.
Empathy is one of our core values. We spend time listening to customers and the challenges they are facing. Where cost pressures are significant, then we align our approach to streamline operations to create swing space for investments that drive top-line revenues. We understand that everything requires a business case right now – we enjoy co-defining this with customers and then iteratively progressing a project to hit milestones that build confidence at management and board level.
7. Why should a company work with Ascent?
GE: Firstly, because three of the world’s largest reinsurers trust us to support their modernisation, automation and innovation initiatives. Secondly, our track record: we have enabled thousands of underwriters across the globe to efficiently calculate reinsurance coverages using significantly fewer tools thanks to our domain expertise and Tier 1 system experience. Thirdly, our end-to-end capability, connecting software, data and cloud to address insurance and reinsurance use cases most efficiently and cost-effectively.
And lastly because of the way we work. We pride ourselves on our ability to collaborate with customers, offering flexible contracts with onshore and nearshore options and a significant pre-contract investment in building alignment and trust, focussing on user empathy and clarity.
8. Is there anything you would like to add?
GE: Our technical ambition is to establish ourselves as the UK and EU’s premier AI development and implementation house for insurers. Our unique breadth of in-house expertise, from insurance domain specialist Konrad Pfeffer, to Generative AI expert CTO Murray Foxcroft, makes us ideally well-placed to deliver customer value through AI implementations for enterprise sector players.