Q&A: Hubb COO on shifting towards a metaverse infrastructure in insurance

Following the announcement that challenger insurer hubb is preparing for a shift to the metaverse, the company’s COO Edward Halsey spoke to Information Age about how the metaverse can drive value in the insurance sector

Insurtech company hubb recently revealed that it is putting in place new infrastructure, to prepare for a shift to the metaverse. Preparations for this next big digital shift, according to the challenger insurer, entail investment in VR devices and hybrid onboarding infrastructure, with the goal of smoothening staff onboarding and customer service.

In this Q&A, Edward Halsey, COO of hubb, expands on the planned transition, and discusses how metaverse infrastructure can drive value for insurance companies.

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hubb is using Horizon Workrooms to facilitate virtual meetings – what made the company choose this workspace in particular?

We played around with several virtual workspaces before settling – for the time being – on Horizon Workrooms.

Our criteria were mainly centred around immediate value – which, given the potentially unfamiliar nature of VR tech, translated into intuitiveness and general ease of use. Horizon Workrooms offers both.

Having said that, we’re well aware that this (virtual) space is improving all the time, and we’re always keeping an eye on alternative options as they become available.

We’re particularly intrigued by Spatial, for example, due to its more human-like models and its ability to capture facial expressions, which will doubtless become standard features as this sector explodes.

You’ve mentioned the unfamiliarity of VR – how has hubb overcome the complexities (if any) that can come with utilising this kind of technology?

We’ve found that the key to enthusiastically adopting metaverse-related technologies is simply to ensure that those technologies form a consistent backdrop to our day-to-day working lives.

For example, we’ve instituted a new routine in which our team spends an hour together every morning and every afternoon in the VR space.

Rather than planning special events or exercises in Horizon, which we feel would be more of a gimmick than anything, we’ve instead chosen to incorporate a virtual space into our standard routine – which is really the best way for everyone to familiarise themselves with VR at their own pace.

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Would you be able to expand on how these metaverse-related capabilities are impacting the working culture at hubb?

Absolutely. The value of dividing our time between home working and Horizon Workrooms is really coming to the fore in the context of onboarding new team members.

Given that we work remotely, VR spaces are a great way for new starters to work alongside senior people, and if – for example – they have any questions or clarifications, it’s as simple as glancing up and asking the question.

Obviously, this can arguably be achieved already via Teams, Zoom, etc., but the formality and fuss of organising a whole meeting or making constant phone calls about minor issues can be inconvenient – and even intimidating – for people still getting used to a new job.

By embracing the metaverse, in contrast, you get all the advantages of in-person communication and collaboration while still allowing everybody to work from home, with all the comfort and productivity that home working has come to imply in recent years.

Could you please talk us through what the ‘metaverse accelerator’ utilised by hubb entails, and how it is aiding the shift to this new infrastructure?

Like the metaverse itself, we’re still in the very early stages of adoption.
In order to make sure we’re able to grow and adapt as the metaverse does, we’ve entered into some preliminary conversations with a metaverse accelerator to iron out how they can support us in utilising the metaverse – not only in the immediate sense, but in order to keep pace with what we anticipate will be further rapid changes as the metaverse evolves and develops.

Thanks to a Meta referral, we’ve recently been introduced to a second firm who will provide us with further support in this arena.

How do you see the metaverse driving value for the insurance industry as a whole in the coming years?

This is a difficult question to answer, if only because we’re only scratching the surface of what ‘the metaverse’ truly entails.

It’s the equivalent of asking someone in the late 1980s how they feel about the Internet – they might know the term, but they wouldn’t necessarily be able to extrapolate ‘Facebook’ or ‘cat videos’ from a word and a broad understanding that it’s the next big thing.

Having said that, I’m confident in saying that the metaverse will – at the very least – drive value for the insurance industry in the same way that it’ll drive value for swathes of office-based work, in that it will allow us to reap the benefits of in-person team building, productivity, and onboarding among remote workers without sacrificing the advantages of remote work that we’ve all come to recognise in recent years.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.