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Fintech Friday: Urban Jungle 26 October 2018

Urban Jungle aims to make it easier for young renters to buy and manage insurance. Jimmy Williams, CEO of the company, tells Boris Plantier more.

Several years ago, when Jimmy Williams was renting a house with friends, he experienced just how difficult it was to get affordable insurance. “We were all young professionals who had started to build up bits of furniture and accessories that we cared about and were key in making our rental feel like home,” he explains. “But we found that insurers saw people living in shared accommodation as a big risk, even though we were actually pretty sensible, and we were looking after our place and things very well. We really struggled to get good cover, and we didn’t know why - it was ridiculous! It struck me at the time as unfair, and I felt like the odds were stacked against me.”

It was this experience that inspired Williams to create Urban Jungle. But first, he wanted to understand the industry better. “Before Urban Jungle, I worked as a consultant, where I did quite a bit of work with various companies in insurance. I already had my suspicions about how insurance companies worked based on my own personal experiences, and so wasn’t that surprised to see the problems they were having. Insurers and brokers were, and still are, relying on legacy technology and that’s one of the reasons that a lot of customers are still having such negative experiences. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to jump in with a clean technology stack and make a real difference.”

Recognizing that customers expect slick, intuitive, and instant service - like Netflix or Deliveroo, Williams realized that the technology behind the insurance industry needed to change. “Tech is already revolutionizing how so many sectors work, and that makes experiences with traditional insurers even more clunky. Instead, insurers are using technology which hasn’t been updated in years, and it feels like a dotcom version of what our grandparents had,” he explains. “We’ve been really careful in our hiring, so that we have team members with backgrounds in insurance, e-commerce, media, and tech. It means that we can draw on knowledge from loads of different areas, and we’re not just approaching insurance from a traditional perspective.”

Williams has also been very careful to speak to young people and cater to their wants, needs, and expectations. “With the rise of generation rent, the risks that renters are facing are changing and evolving, as a lot of people are getting married and starting families before buying,” he says. “We’re also working with insurers to help them improve products and increase eligibility among renters. We’re keeping our fingers on the pulse to make sure that our products are better suited to our customers and genuinely work better for less.

“Essentially, we’re making insurance better by using tech to speed everything up and cut out a lot of the questions that don’t need to be asked.”

Williams believes that this is just the start for his company. “At the moment we’re growing at an incredible rate, it’s hard to imagine what the company might be up to in a month’s time, let alone a year,” he concludes. “We’ve been really pleased by our growth, and our customer base is doubling every three months. We’ve already got a lot of exciting new ventures in the pipeline, and that’s just for the next few weeks, but I suspect we’ll have added a load more products for renters, and also be moving into new segments. We want to be there for every step of our customers’ insurance journey, starting from their first rental. This basically means that nothing’s ruled out, so watch this space!”

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