Marshmallow picks up $1.2M seed to provide car insurance to immigrants and expats

Marshmallow, a new ‘insurtech’ startup in the U.K. building a product for immigrants/expats who are poorly served by the car insurance market, has picked up $1.2 million in seed funding. Backing the company, which is set to launch later this year, is Passion Capital, and Investec Bank.

Founded in March 2017 by identical twins Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham, and David Goate — all three of whom previously worked at digital identity company Yoti — Marshmallow is developing insurance products that aim to use better data and technology to provide more fairly priced insurance cover to non-U.K. nationals. To that end, the startup is starting out with car insurance for foreign-born drivers.

“Car insurance typically requires an insurer to understand a person’s driving ability, driving history and current lifestyle before they can offer them an accurate price,” explains Marshmallow’s Oliver Kent-Braham.

“Unfortunately, a lot of insurers don’t attempt to understand foreign drivers living in the U.K., instead they just overcharge them. U.K.-based, foreign drivers can expect to be quoted prices that are 51 percent higher than the market average”.

To fix that, the Marshmallow team — which also includes Tim Holliday, who was previously the Chief Underwriting Officer and MD of Personal Lines at Zurich — has built an underwriting system that aggregates global data rather than U.K.-only data.

“We combine this with a proprietary algorithm that eliminates underwriting bias before computing a more accurate price for foreign drivers living in the U.K.,” says Kent-Braham.

The Marshmallow founder says typical customers are people who have moved to the U.K. to build a life here. The company’s research suggests that after one or two years of living in the U.K., people are ready to settle down and that this often means buying a car and inevitably getting insurance.

“Our customers are ambitious, entrepreneurial, educated people who are striving to build a better life in the U.K. Unfortunately, with the current political climate these individuals don’t always feel welcome in the U.K. and we don’t want financial services to further discourage them to settle here,” he says.

Meanwhile, competitors are cited as large incumbent insurers who still use legacy systems and struggle to use U.K. data, let alone global data. In other words — similar to other fintech narratives — this is being pitched as a battle against antiquated companies and old technology.

“We’ve built everything from the ground up which enables us to access global data, have accurate pricing and a user experience that is transparent and convenient,’ adds Kent-Braham.

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