InterviewsInsurTechStar of the Week

There’s no greater example of Paul Williams’s ethos to “do the right thing” than the events of three years ago this month. 

As the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic started to unfold in March 2020, Williams and his team sat down to consider what it would mean to the different customers of InsurTech Ripe Thinking

The Manchester business specialises in niche insurance policies, from cycling to caravan, music and golf – but it was its cover for fitness instructors that stood out as needing attention. 

“We knew gyms were likely to close, fitness instructors wouldn’t be able to go to work so they’d move online, but the policies didn’t provide cover for online training,” chief executive Williams tells TechBlast.

They spent a weekend rewriting their product for personal trainers, had a tech team deploy it on the Sunday and by the Monday morning it was live. Online training cover was provided free of charge and, that evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first lockdown.

“Days later I was getting emails from people saying I’d saved their livelihoods – and that’s what it’s all about,” says Williams. “Nimbleness and pace are a key ingredient for us, and that does give us a competitive advantage, but it also enables us to do some good.” 

InsurTech 50

Ripe Thinking, 11th on our sister publication BusinessCloud’s InsurTech 50 ranking, is built upon the theory of making insurance simpler and more suitable for each customer – enabling people to build tailored products so they get only the cover they need, and don’t pay for what they don’t. 

Ripe Thinking

Extensive work has gone into making the customer journey simpler – avoiding the common frustrations when it comes to insurance – through a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) with the University of Salford. “They wrap themselves around our business and that’s been incredibly useful because some of the stuff we’re trying around machine learning and robotics is really new,” he says. 

One of the methods has been to use biometrics to assess how a customer travels through the website as they attempt to buy a policy. A headset monitors the body’s response, measuring stress levels, perspiration, blink and heart rate to give impartial data that then informs design and other decisions. 

“The data might show small pinch-points of stress or areas of uncertainty, and it might be that a button needs to change colour or a call to action is in the wrong place,” Williams adds. “It’s so scientific but it makes a huge difference.” 


It’s cutting-edge stuff that’s reaping rewards. With a policy for musicians, reengineering the customer journey using biometric data increased the conversion rate by about 16% without changing the price or the product. 

Global expansion Ripe for the taking at InsurTech 50 star

Work is also ongoing into behavioural analytics to assess why ‘customer A’ may go on to purchase a product but ‘customer B’ doesn’t, looking at how age, background and other factors may influence buying behaviour. 

And it all comes back to doing the right thing – offering the customer the right service that makes insurance-buying straightforward. It’s an approach that clearly resonates with Ripe’s 330,000 customers, many of whom come through word of mouth – which Williams has heard first hand, recently overhearing an instructor recommend their Insure4Sport product to a colleague while he was at the gym. 

“A lot of businesses talk about good customer service but they don’t always mean it,” he says. 

Doing right by staff

Within the business, the sentiment continues. Most of the management team are shareholders and all staff have just been offered a £1,000 cost-of-living bonus. There are also plans to help good causes through volunteering, with the 25-strong workforce offered the chance to decide which Ripe will support. 

“People want to work for a company whose values they share and, as we grow bigger and more financially secure, we can start to give a bit back,” he says. “It’s as simple as doing the right thing and getting on with it.”

Keep paddling! ‘Relentless’ CEO’s tips for company culture