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Zurich-backed insurtech start-up ‘well received’

Former QBE senior executives Colin Fagen and Blair Nicholls have teamed up to establish a new underwriting agency aimed at bringing personal lines back to brokers.

As reported in a Breaking News bulletin last week, Blue Zebra, which is underwritten by Zurich, 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. Blue Zebra says it will make personal lines efficient for brokers again, and tackle the “advice deficit” in Australia.

Zurich CEO General Insurance Raj Nanra told brokers will welcome the proposition.

“The soundings we’ve already taken indicate this will be the case,” he said. “It will give brokers another string to their bow and they’ll be able to present an end-to-end solution to their clients, in one bundled package.”

Mr Fagen was Group COO of QBE until he left the company 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.

The company has invested heavily in technology, and Mr Fagen says it intends to stay “lean and nimble” so it can compete on price.

“We believe we can write tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with less than 20 people.”

Mr Fagen is Blue Zebra’s MD, while Mr Nicholls is CEO.

Stephen Jeffery has moved from IAG to become Chief Underwriting Officer for personal lines, while Mark Polglase left QBE to take up the equivalent role for SME. Former Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Australia COO Matt Hodson is COO.

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