Meet the community - James Russell

by Celina Bledowska, on 1 March 2020

An interview with James Russell. James is the CEO and founder of Brisk, but has formerly run a small business and has the desire to modernise the way in which small businesses are protected.

A fit-bit for business

Having worked at Aviva for 10 years as Head of Claims and then Programme Director, James Russell understands the needs of SMEs. Established in 2018 Brisk is an innovative AI tool that is targeted at small businesses and start-ups, those that don’t necessarily have the same resources as big companies.

James realised that offering the combined assets of technology and data, would make the business owner more aware of the risks and opportunities that could affect their companies.

When were you founded?

We were part of an incubation project, in a start-up accelerator at Founders Factory. We only registered as a company in 2018.

What is Brisk?

To put it simply, Brisk is a “AI powered risk management screening for SMEs, bringing in data from numerous sources covering everything from compliance to reputation; security to financial information.” By providing a tailored tool SMEs will have greater access to tailored products, and not have to be satisfied with the one size fits all approach offered by the larger brokers and industry giants.

Any business signed up to Brisk is getting a risk management tool. James explained that:

all you’ll have to enter is your company name, the app will harvest the rest of your information, including checking for data breaches, pulling in credit information, analysing social media reviews and building a 360 view of your business. We look at six areas of your business, financials, your staff, your operations, your compliance, your security and your reputation. We’ll also monitor the health of your website and look out for any potential security breaches.”

Actions will be suggested through the app.

The AI takes all of the data and then predicts what risks a client is likely to have and what type of insurance policy should be put in place. “The AI piece is looking at big data sets and performs an analysis – a bit like a glorified propensity model.

What led you to establish Brisk?

“During my time at Aviva I saw that a lot of resource and attention gets given to big business and they also have the capacity to seize risk management opportunities. Small business owners don’t have the same access to the same resources. We wanted to use the increasing availability of data and technology to help the busy business owner to become more aware of the risks and opportunities, stay safe, and be more resilient. We felt this would be a powerful service”

“We believed people buy insurance because it’s essential, then the policy just sits in a filing cabinet somewhere and people don’t really think about it.” James saw a gap in the market. Brisk also insures SME’s against cyber-attack, which in turn helps small firms improve their credit worthiness. During Brisk’s research phase one business said that having this type of protection was almost like, “having a kite mark, a quality accreditation.” This improves a smaller company’s chances of securing a loan or getting a better quote on their insurance.

What inspired you to start Brisk

“I felt that there was a real opportunity to provide a product that would protect people and assets.” As James explained, “we are working with core insurers and, all of them are interested in the concept of Brisk.”

The app is helping the large insurers understand that some smaller companies might be a better risk than they thought, this leads to discounts and incentives for the company.”

Another benefit of the Brisk app means that companies will be asked fewer questions and won’t be burdened by filling out lots of forms. Insurance actuaries were nervous with this until they understood that by using AI and data together the app will help them record more accurate and current details about the client, therefore offering a more competitive deal.

Do you have competitors?

The Brisk app is a new way of doing things. James believes that, “most of our competitors are still asking the consumer to visit their website and click to buy the product they want. Of course, this model assumes that the customer is knowledgeable about the insurance market and not all are.” By recognising that many businesses still want the assurance of a broker, “our technology is available to the broker to help them service their clients more efficiently.”

Currently the app is a web-based application, but it can be viewed on a smartphone and it is responsive.

Where would you like Brisk to be in five years?

As for future plans, in a recent article in Insurance Post James explains Brisk has sought Financial Conduct Authority regulatory approval because the company has ambitions to offer insurance to those utilising Brisk technology.

“If we were purely a data provider we would not need to get regulated but the ultimate goal is to offer insurance products direct to businesses, and as an introducer we need to be authorized,” James explained. Brisk is currently working with four insurers and they’re all interested in the concept.

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