111 episodes

Insureblocks is a dedicated weekly podcast on blockchain, smart contracts and distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the insurance industry. Hosted by Walid Al Saqqaf, this podcast will invite expert speakers from incumbents to the most promising start-ups in London, New York, Zurich and around the world. Insureblocks is the best way to not only understand the basics of blockchain but to also hear about proof of concepts, what insurance companies have done, their learnings and the end results. Whether you are new to or an expert on blockchain and would like to understand the impact it will have on the insurance industry, this is the podcast you'll want to tune into.

Insureblocks Walid Al Saqqaf - Blockchain insurance

    • Business

Insureblocks is a dedicated weekly podcast on blockchain, smart contracts and distributed ledger technology (DLT) in the insurance industry. Hosted by Walid Al Saqqaf, this podcast will invite expert speakers from incumbents to the most promising start-ups in London, New York, Zurich and around the world. Insureblocks is the best way to not only understand the basics of blockchain but to also hear about proof of concepts, what insurance companies have done, their learnings and the end results. Whether you are new to or an expert on blockchain and would like to understand the impact it will have on the insurance industry, this is the podcast you'll want to tune into.

    Ep.19 – Insurwave: the insurer’s perspective with MS Amlin and XL Catlin

    Ep.19 – Insurwave: the insurer’s perspective with MS Amlin and XL Catlin

    Insurwave, the new marine insurance blockchain platform launched by EY, Guardtime, Microsoft, Willis Tower Watson, XL Catlin, MS Amlin and ACORD and piloted by Maersk has been a recurring theme here at Insureblocks.

    In a previous episode, Insurwave - a Maersk pilot for marine blockchain insurance, we examined the client’s perspective. In a more recent episode, Insurwave: the complete story with EY, we discussed the process of creating Insurwave. To complete the circle, today we will look at Insurwave from an insurer’s perspective.

    For today’s episode we were lucky enough to have two speakers, Madeline Bailey, Head of Strategic Initiatives at MS Amlin, and Hélène Stanway, Digital Leader at XL Catlin.

    Blockchain in two minutes

    Blockchain is a distributed ledger that allows users to share data in real time in a secure and immutable way. This data can be related to assets, for example the location of a vessel, or it can be a smart contract, a piece of code set to execute when a set of specified parameters is fulfilled.

    Blockchain has the potential to create trust between parties in the insurance industry and improve risk intelligence, lowering costs and benefiting parties across the insurance value chain.


    Why Insurwave?

    In the past four years the marine insurance industry has experienced declining performance and increasing combined operating ratios. It has become necessary, therefore, to take a strategic look at the industry and consider how new technologies can improve efficiency. In building Insurwave, both MS Amlin and XL Catlin were willing to take a leadership position in the insurance industry and commit to a vision of how the industry is going to develop.

    In an industry not known for embracing change, developing Insurwave came with challenges. Working alongside competitors and completely re-inventing the underwriting process is not something insurance companies have done before. However, every participant was keen to grasp an opportunity to cooperate with representatives across the value chain and consider what each needs out of an insurance transaction to re-imagine the underwriting process.

    The low margins plaguing the insurance industry posed an additional challenge. Unlike usual, well defined projects, it is harder to quantify the costs and benefits of investing in innovation. For that reason it was important to have a clear set of goals with Insurwave. One of the main factors Insurwave has been successful is its focus on providing hull and war cover for its pilot with Maersk.


    Insurwave’s effect

    Insurwave allows parties to seamlessly share data between them. By combining blockchain with IoT data, parties have access to real time information. At the moment Insurwave provides over thirty data points per vessel. The aim is to get to fifty. Insurers get more data, get data of different types and get it in real time.

    Up until now, insurers traditionally looked backwards to quantify risk. This means the insurance industry has yet to come up with a definitive answer on how to use all this new data but Insurwave opens up a range of new possibilities.

    • 31 min
    Ep. 102 – Rise of the autonomous economic agents – insights from Fetch.ai

    Ep. 102 – Rise of the autonomous economic agents – insights from Fetch.ai

    Humayun Sheikh is the CEO & co-Founder of Fetch.ai. Fetch.ai is an 18 months old company that develops solutions around multi agent systems that utilises the principles of the technology behind blockchain. In this podcast we discuss Fetch.ai and how autonomous economic agents can transact and settle transactions autonomously in an economic manner to facilitate the exchange of insights and inferences without the sharing of data sets.

    ***Image taken on the 27th of February prior to social distancing***


    What is blockchain?

    For Humayun, blockchain is just a record keeping mechanism that has the unique feature that enables people to interact with it in a decentralised manner without the need for a centralised entity to control it.

    Its other interesting feature is that you can exchange economic value on it which makes it a key differentiator from a centralised database.


    Challenges of today’s suboptimal digital world

    In today’s digital world we use a lot of technology. Unfortunately, it is done in different pockets of different things. The challenge is that as we try to connect them all we are faced with issues of interoperability.

    For example, how does an individual’s train timetable get connected to their personal assistance? How does their calendar become aware of the train timetables and its possible delays? These examples illustrate some of the very inefficient interconnectivity that people have to deal with in their lives.

    Attempts to connect all these services require an exchange of economic value to enable the settlement of these services. Because of these reasons, Humayun believes we are living in a suboptimal world because you can’t build a centralised system from top down which can account for all of these problems. These challenges has led to an increasing move towards software defined systems and autonomous systems.

    Whilst APIs are an attempt at trying to facilitate interconnectivity between disparate systems they still require software to be written to connect them up. Additional code is also required to extract the data and process it in a meaningful manner. Because of these reasons Humayun doesn’t believe we are solving the problem because organisations are still building solutions to connect different things together.

    The other side of the problem is how do you discover those APIs? How can an organisation rapidly identify an API and connect with it without writing any code in a near real time basis?


    What is Fetch.ai and its mission?

    Humayun describes Fetch as a connectivity and intelligent connectivity solution. He defines connectivity as having three components:

    * How do you find something to connect?

    * How do you actually connect? (the technical aspect of making a connection)

    * Once you have connected, how do you connect economically?

    These three components are effectively the different components of Fetch. Fetch is a layered solution that provides a substrate where the economic value exchange, the search and discovery and where the actual physical connectivity can take place.

    These three components are delivered via Fetch’s:

    * Distributed ledger

    * Open economy framework

    * Autonomous economic agents


    Fetch’s distributed ledger technology & smart contract

    With a multitude of existing distributed ledger technology (DLTs) which exist, Humayun explained why Fetch built their own ledger.

    • 49 min
    Ep. 101 – Spunta – Blockchain for Italian interbank reconciliation

    Ep. 101 – Spunta – Blockchain for Italian interbank reconciliation

    Silvia Attanasio, is the Head of Innovation at ABI (Italian Banking Association). Previously to that role she worked for 17 years at ABI Labs, the centre of research and innovation at ABI. Her present mission is to support the innovation amongst the banks within the Italian Banking Association. In this podcast she shares with us the exciting journey ABI has taken in launching a blockchain for Italian interbank reconciliation. We are also very grateful for her to be recording this podcast with us from her home in Milan during the Coronavirus Pandemic.


    What is blockchain?

    From Silvia’s point of view, blockchain is a way to organise a history of events and guarantee the integrity of the data in order to make it easy for a group of people or companies to agree on it.

    However, Silvia also wants to say that blockchain isn’t a cost cutting technology. She agrees that the technology has the potential to bring efficiency gains but from her point of view we have yet reached that point.


    What is Spunta?

    Spunta is the reconciliation of bilateral accounts, a sort of nostro and vostro account. It’s a process aimed to clear the mismatch in a double entry bookkeeping.

    Quick definition: (source: Investopedia)

    * A Nostro account is a reference used by Bank A to refer to "our" account held by Bank B. Nostro, is a shorthand way of talking about "our money that is on deposit at your bank."

    * Vostro is the term used by Bank B, where Bank A's money is on deposit. Vostro is a reference to "yours" and refers to "your money that is on deposit at our bank." A Vostro account is like any other account held by a bank. The account is a record of money owed to or maintained by a third party, typically another bank, but it can be either a company or an individual.

    In Italy the way bilateral accounts are used is where you have a single account, co-owned by two counterparties that have an automatic matching process. After that the operators deal with the suspended movement – operations that need to be confirmed before being registered in the bilateral account. This interbank process, based on bilateral registers, can be quite complex because it is based on a single account that requires the point of view of Bank A and of Bank B to match on the same ledger.

    To complicate matters even further, there is a rule that states that the ownership of that single account has to switch every three years form one bank account to another. When a bank has ownership of the account they see all the information, movements, and balance. But when the ownership switches to the corresponding bank, they can’t see the information anymore and have to request it from the corresponding bank via phone calls, emails and fax. This is a very cumbersome process.

    Opportunities and challenges to updating Spunta

    In 2010 ABI attempted to reform this process. However, it was realised that there wasn’t the will to issue a new banking agreement. The Spunta process is ruled by an interbank agreement dating from 1978. It was only when ABI discovered blockchain technology that the necessary commitment was found by the banks to explore reforming this process for two different reasons:

    * Individuals closely linked with the Spunta process were eager to try new approaches to reform the process

    * Innovation departments within the banks were looking for opportunities to run experiments with new technologies

    The interesting thing was that no one from the Spunta world knew about blockchain and no one from the blockchain world k...

    • 37 min
    Ep. 100 – Learnings from Libra and the Libra Association

    Ep. 100 – Learnings from Libra and the Libra Association

    Dante Disparte, is the Vice Chair and Head of Policy and Communications at the Libra Association. Dante returns to Insureblocks to share his experience of being at Libra and what the insurance industry can learn from that experience.

    It is worth nothing that Dante is the Chairman of the Risk Cooperative, a member of the FEMA National Advisory Council and a Forbes contributor. He has also participated in two podcasts on Insureblocks: Blockchain vs. the insurance trust deficit in April 2018 and A retrospective look on blockchain for 2018 in Feb 2019. We are absolutely delighted to have Dante back on our show in 2020.


    Insureblocks’s 100th episode!

    I’m Walid Al Saqqaf, your host. Since the 19th of March 2018 we’ve produced weekly podcasts on blockchain in the insurance, pharmaceutical, supply chain, banking and many other industries from case studies, PoCs, pilots and production grade roll outs.

    We’ve also covered topics around the convergence economy, how AI, IoT and blockchain converge. We’ve covered the subject of diversity, blockchain for social good, digital identity, tokenisation and much more. Today’s episode is our 100thone! We all can’t believe we’ve just reached this milestone. It feels like just yesterday when we recorded our first episode with Gary Nuttal.

    We want to thank all our speakers and all of you, our listeners, for making this show such a success!


    What is blockchain?

    In last year’s podcast, Dante had defined blockchain in a slightly philosophical way, using words like trust, decentralisation and self-sovereignty. Whilst he believes those ideals very much still matter he now sees a growing wave of enterprise blockchain efforts and investment and adoption that are starting to give the technology a real opportunity, not in its own, but together with other emerging technologies to drive real change in the market.


    What is Libra & the Libra Association

    The Libra Association is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland that was first announced on June 18th 2019.

    The goals of the Libra Association are threefold:

    * Develop a blockchain based payment system that would support low friction high trust payment on a peer to peer basis. Today there are 1.7 billion people who are on the margins of the formal economy. Libra is developing a blockchain based system that can help support pulling more of them into the formal economy

    * Building a payment system that supports competition and innovation.

    * The third objective of the Libra Association is to reach the above objectives in a regulatory compliant manner.

    The fundamental promise of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology is with notion of financial empowerment. The Libra project is a consortium of member organisation who have a common cause, with a wide range of enterprises, public sector actors and stakeholders to effectively address the insidious issue in the global financial system. 1.7 billion people who are unbanked, 1.3 billion who are under banked who to send a cross border payment or remittance costs on average 7% worldwide.

    Roughly a billion people have access to a mobile phone. In a world where the mobile phone can become a payment endpoint,

    • 35 min
    Ep. 99 – Introduction to the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI)

    Ep. 99 – Introduction to the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI)

    Chris Ballinger is the CEO and founder of MOBI – the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative. MOBI is a non-profit smart mobility consortium working with forward thinking companies, governments, and NGOs to make mobility services more efficient, affordable, greener, safer, and less congested by promoting standards and accelerating the adoption of blockchain, distributed ledger, and related technologies in the mobility industry.


    About Chris Ballinger

    Chris started out in monetary economics and worked briefly for the Council of Economic Advisors in the United States. Chris moved into Fintech in the early days of the derivates market. More recently he joined Toyota as the CFO of their financial service organisation, the same year that Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

    Whilst at Toyota he eventually went on to work at the Toyota Research Institute, which is Toyota’s arm in Silicon Valley that does the development of autonomous vehicles and robotics and AI.

    Whilst he was there, Chris developed his thinking on new mobility services and how blockchain and distributed ledger's might be able to improve the new mobility service economy. Two years ago, Chris left the Toyota Research Institute ,and launched along with others MOBI.


    What is blockchain?

    Blockchain is a particular kind of distributed database that is append only where the rules for appending blocks are designed to make sure that the information is agreed on by the participants.

    But more generally, blockchain is common usage, it’s a broad collection of technologies, including cryptography, open databases, payments, perhaps identity, and probably quite a few other things.


    Blockchain’s potential for redefining the automotive industry

    For Chris blockchain and related technologies broadly bring four unique capabilities to the table:

    * Digital twins: bringing digital identities to physical things.

    * Micropayments: Today’s banking system is relatively expensive as is the variety of other trust services related to payments. By reducing the cost of those trust services and enabling peer to peer payment, the size of the payment you can do goes down. Once that goes down you can pay for more things with micropayments, thus enabling things that aren’t monetizable today to become monetizable. That may include the buying and selling of data from a car. Charging for city infrastructure in small increments for congestion pricing, pollution pricing, carbon footprint pricing and all these kinds of things might become possible with lower overhead costs for payments.

    * Trusted shared data. When Chris was the CFO at Toyota, most of the financing was through securitization. Securitization, is the main financing mechanism for vehicles where a collection of auto loans get sold off to third parties. The overhead costs for that process, such as legal fees, accounting fees, reconciliation fees and trust are 1 to 2% of the value of the loan. Being able to have an open database that everybody can look at, share and agree as the single source of truth can potentially reduce the cost for transacting quite a bit.

    * Data privacy and protection – the ability to control user data or third-party app data at its source, instead of it being shipped to a central database where it can be a single point of attack.

    These are the four basic capabilities that blockchain can bring to the mobility industry. They can be combined in various different ways to create a lot of interesting use cases.

    For Chris the single most interesting one is the ability for vehicles to pay as they go for things.

    The combination of blockchain,

    • 57 min
    Ep. 98 – Google joins Hedera Hashgraph’s Governing Council

    Ep. 98 – Google joins Hedera Hashgraph’s Governing Council

    Mance Harmon, CEO of Hedera Hashgraph has returned to Insureblocks to discuss the exciting news of Google joining the Hedera Hashgraph Governing Council. We also discussed the addition of Hedera’s new service entitled, Hedera Consensus Service, which brings interesting opportunities for enterprise blockchain platforms such as Hyperledger and Corda to embrace the opportunity to create verifiable timestamps and ordering of events to a public level trust.


    What is blockchain and what is hashgraph?

    Blockchain as a term refers to two things:

    * A data structure which is a chain of blocks of transactions

    * A consensus algorithm that enables a community of participants, each of which holds a local copy of that chain of blocks to come to an agreement or consensus on which block to put next on the top of that chain in order for everyone to keep a consistent chain of blocks

    Unfortunately such a blockchain is designed to be slow for a number of reasons:

    * Proof of work, the use of a really hard cryptographic puzzle, to reach consensus is time consuming

    * From an architectural standpoint, having a single chain that everyone uses is also limiting

    Hashgraph, similarly is a term that refers to both a data structure and a consensus algorithm. Hashgraph’s data structure is a graph, in a mathematical sense, whose nodes or vertices are linked together with hashes cryptographically.

    Its consensus algorithm makes it possible for those that have a copy of the hashgraph to calculate how the other nodes in the network would vote in order to come to an agreement on the order of transactions.

    Because it’s a graph rather than a chain, all of the transactions are flowing into the network, can be processed simultaneously without the need for proof of work.

    Hashgraph thus removes the two constraining factors of blockchain: no need for proof of work and a graph instead of a single chain. The result is much higher performance and higher level of security due hashgraph using asynchronous Byzantine fault tolerance.



    What is Hedera Hashgraph?



    Google joins Hedera’s Governing Council

    The Council was designed to provide a governing body that the market would trust in doing a good job in terms of shepherding this global network to full maturity and beyond. The Council makes decisions on a wide range of topics such as product roadmap and in control of treasury management.  Council members can serve up to two or three year terms. The Council will ultimately be composed of 39 members to represent the full range of use cases across industries, geographies and through time. The council members are chosen to be the largest and most respected members in their categories and geographies. Today there are 11 members: Swisscom blockchain, Tata communications, Nomura, IBM, Boeing, Google, Magalu, Deutsche Telekom, FIS, DLA Piper, and Swirlds.

    On the 11th of February, Google became the 11th member of the Hedera Governing Council.

    Hedera is a Delaware based LLC, which is a business vehicle with a legal existence separate and distinct from its owners. Council members are members of the LLC in the legal sense.

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

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Good Insights

I am an insurtech leader and entrepreneur and your insights in smart contracts resonated very well with what I do. Keep up the good work.

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Thank You

I am a young, male, about to begin a career in the P&C business as an underwriter, hoping to move into a brokerage role after some years of experience Underwriting.

Please keep up the hard work for young people like myself, to educate themself in Insurance.

lakshan2305 ,


Great podcast with practitioner level insights looking at a broad area from technology, finance, insurance and legal. I had a curly question on regulation and immutable ledgers and episode 5 answered it very nicely. Keep it up Walid.

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