Getting those vital cogs working efficiently together

Marcel Smith, Partner, MavenBlue

Interview with Marcel Smith, one of the founders of MavenBlue, an innovative European financial I.T. company offering cloud-based risk and finance solutions for insurance providers.

In the relatively risk-averse world of finance and risk management, getting a foot in the door requires more than just a purpose built IT solution. It takes perseverance, networking skills and a willingness to truly meet those careful, conservative clients half-way.

More insight and more transparency

A college friend and I started working on an idea back in 2015. Between us, we had over 50 years of combined experience in the insurance sector. We were seeing ever-more stringent EU regulatory requirements for insurers, as well as an increasing demand for more transparency and clearer insight into the risks they faced, and their capital adequacy into the future. Most organisations in the sector needed to seriously “up their game”.

“Thinking back to my time working in various departments of large insurance organisations, I remember having to program complex scenarios and let them run overnight – only to discover the next morning, that a minor input detail had been overlooked and with it a full24 hours effectively lost.” This was happening across multiple departments – each concentrating on their own discipline to deliver a piece of the end-puzzle. More often than not, external consultancies were being brought in to help perform these time-consuming and complex analyses. With each department working effectively in silo, using outdated and in-efficient software, the resulting output was often disjointed to say the least. 

There simply had to be a smarter way! A consolidated and efficient IT solution to manage the tens of thousands of complex analyses required by each department feeding into the overall balance sheet. A coordinated solution enabling each department to run scenarios in parallel, employing the same strategic principles, allowing for risk factors and understanding the holistic  impact. Only then, could the organisation gain an accurate insight and be in a position to adequately steer, the future level and composition of both the Solvency II ratio and free capital generation.

Powerful technology to enable consolidation

We joined forces with two friends of ours, IT specialists with a proven track record. Our aim was to build a solid, secure and scale-able solution. We figured that Graphical Processing Units (GPU’s), best known for their use in self-driving cars and the gaming industry, could also be used to efficiently power complex analytical scenarios. MavenBlue was born. A unique blend of technology and IT know-how, combined with a truly in-depth understanding of the business processes, requirements and challenges facing the insurance sector.

Currently, we offer a suite of cloud-based risk and finance solutions. With our purpose-built platform, we give our clients direct access to powerful parallel computing technology, reducing the time for those cumbersome analyses from days and hours, back to mere minutes and seconds. Speeding up complex calculations has massive value in terms of time- and cost saving and enables quality and accurate input from each discipline.

True and valuable business insights are surfaced when the many deterministic scenarios are broken down in a way in which the key underlying factors and trends, impacting on growth and risk, can be identified and clearly presented. MavenBlue’s solutions focus on a transparent graphical representation of these key underlying factors. As the saying goes “a picture paints a thousand words.”

David and Goliath can work together

“So, we had a truly unique product offering. But how should we go about selling it?”We reached out to our personal contact network, accumulated during those combined years working for various insurance organisations.

Initial interest was certainly there. But then came the delays involving these huge organisations and their purchasing processes, internal IT department requirements, not to mention the inter-departmental politics and attitudes towards new ways of working. Believing that your product can prove itself when allowed to test in a live client environment was the key for us!

Our first license fee came following a live pilot where we assisted a client to start using our Balance Sheet Management (BSM) Tool in order to run a complete Own Risk and Solvency Assessment (ORSA) in just two weeks. This was a massive saving on time, money and staff resources. It also gave them new insights into the key drivers underlying the health of their balance sheet. The option to “try before you buy” has proven a great strategy to get some very “risk averse” clients to commit.

Additionally, we offer new clients the option to join either a secure cloud-based environment or place our solutions on a local server at their location. So far, all clients have opted for a cloud-based environment, which has the benefit of allowing automatic updates when EU/ international regulations change, as well as allowing for the periodic upgrades we make to be pushed through in real-time.

MavenBlue strongly believes in adhering to the philosophy of a Client-Input DrivenRoadmap. We work closely with our clients’ in-house specialists to incorporate any specific needs for additional functionality. Extra functionalities in our products, such as the Economic Scenario Generator (ESG) have been developed as result of such co-operation. We offer this development service to the client free of charge, if the additional (non-proprietary) functionality could be beneficial for all clients and included in our regular software upgrades.

As we expand our business internationally and branch out to service other types of financial institutions, it will be increasingly important for us to grow our network. Working closely together with key industry players, we will seek out opportunities to speak at industry-specific congresses and seminars. We hope to gradually educate both individual organisations, as well as the many key consultancy partners, to the existence of our fast and consolidated solutions replacing the fragmented and often out-dated software solutions still in operation. MavenBlue will continue to develop smart solutions using the power of technology, to enable risk and finance professionals to quantify the future and determine the way forward for their organisations.

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