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Ex-QBE chiefs launch agency

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Former QBE senior executives Colin Fagen and Blair Nicholls have teamed up to launch a new underwriting agency they say will bring brokers back into the personal lines market.

Called Blue Zebra, it is being underwritten by Zurich and intends to be “a new breed in insurance” that will help brokers compete with direct players.

Its insurtech platform will use smart technology, Big Data and product bundling in home, motor and landlord insurance. They say the strategy will make personal lines efficient enough for brokers to compete with the direct market and tackle the “advice deficit” in Australia.

Mr Fagen was Group COO of QBE when he left the company suddenly a year ago. He had previously led its Australian and New Zealand operations. Mr Nicholls was chief actuarial officer and head of reinsurance before joining Berkshire Hathaway Insurance as its Australia and New Zealand CEO – a role he left in July 2016.

“We see an opportunity for differentiation in the market and to support intermediaries,” Mr Fagen told “Most insurers have channel conflict, but all of our focus and investment will be in the intermediary market.”

SME products will be introduced shortly after personal lines.

Mr Nicholls says Blue Zebra has invested heavily in technology. “We have built our system from scratch and bought data to ‘pre-populate’ a lot of the answers. We are a long way down the path to the questionless quote.”

The company intends to stay “lean and nimble” so it can compete on price, Mr Fagen says. “We believe we can write tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with less than 20 people.”

Zurich Australia CEO General Insurance Raj Nanra says a significant number of consumers need advice on their personal insurance needs, “but to date choice and competition has been limited”.

The new offering will be piloted with a small number of brokers before a broader rollout, with final launch subject to regulatory and licensing approvals.

More details in our regular bulletin on Monday.