The CPO who allows insurers to get smart about underwriting

For the most part, insurers gain scale by aggregating similar risk profiles and delivering the same product, making the case that insurance was and still is, a commodity. Those that claim insurance isn’t a commodity typically support their argument by getting into the nitty-gritty clauses in an insurance policy, which after all, is legally binding. The only problem is that the average customer is not intelligent enough to neither identify nor appreciate these differences.


The latter is especially true in the space of online small business. On the one hand, online shoppers are not confident they are selecting the right coverage and on the other, insurers are not confident they are getting the right customer. And while ‘right’ is a subjective term due in part to carriers’ varying appetite and underwriting rules, one statement holds true and that is: all insurance shoppers are presumed ineligible until proven eligible for coverage.


This is the exact space that data and analytics services provider DataCubes operates in. The ~one-year-old startup offers a platform that turns unstructured data, such as health inspections and violations, into structured data to allow insurers to upgrade their commercial underwriting strategy to fit the digital age and form a set of standards around underwriting digital shoppers profitably. Keyword: profitably.



For now, DataCubes is focused on enabling carriers and intermediaries to align their underwriting strategy to the digital age, while looking to introduce image recognition capabilities to its platform. In the long term, the company will look to play a part in shaping new insurance products that meet the demands of the new generation of insurance buyers.


I caught up with DataCubes Chief Product Officer Harish Neelamana, who always had the entrepreneurial bug in him, and who has recently left a career with Zurich to pursue what he calls a “hard-to-miss opportunity.”


What trends is DataCubes responding to?

Technology and generational shifts are driving new insurance products (e.g. usage based, contextual) and distribution models (e.g. direct, digital). However, carriers need a significantly upgrade their strategy to play in the game. DataCubes is focused on helping commercial insurers supercharge their underwriting in the name of presenting real-time quotes.


How did DataCubes come into fruition?

DataCubes largely started with 3 engineers debating the role of “Big Data” and data science and whether it solves any real business problem. The discussion quickly turned into a new venture – product discussion. Since two of us have a heavy insurance background, it was inevitable that we started focusing on insurance-centric challenges.


What is DataCubes role in helping small business insurers?

To be profitable in the SMB segment, carriers need to underwrite more efficiently without losing technical quality. Straight through processing is one avenue for increased efficiencies. However, lacking sufficient data at the time of quote prevents carriers from enabling straight-through processing across the SMB portfolio. We are changing that with our Risk-360 model which uses data science to provide a holistic view of risk, starting with just the business name and address.


A personal challenge?

Staying focused on the near-term product roadmap. Insurtech is an exciting place – there’s always a constant push from investors and customers to morph into something or other that fits their vision of “what’s next”. As the guy responsible for the Product, it is my responsibility to think about adjacencies that make sense for us to tackle without completely losing our way!


What would you most like to see changed in the industry?

In commercial P&C, we need to work harder on changing the customer experience. While there are multiple stakeholder in the ecosystem: agents, carriers, regulators etc., I feel that as an industry, we have done very little to change how customer’s experience the insurance product.


Let’s get personal…

Your first job

I was the Site Engineer for a large construction company.


First thing you do in the morning:

I am an early riser. I try hard to catch-up on some reading over coffee.


Favorite mantra?

One can’t cross the sea by standing still.