Marc Pell is the CTO of Tempcover, an insuretech company that provides short-term motor insurance.

Founded in 2006 as Temporary Cover Ltd, Tempcover is 100% digital. In 2018 private equity investment company Connection Capital purchased Tempcover, allowing it to fund technological developments such as a revamp of its app that went live this year.

Pell, who has a master’s degree in computer science, has been a driving force behind Tempcover’s tech innovation since 2013. As CTO, he oversees the company’s technological strategy, direction and procedures.

In this Q&A, the 30th in our weekly series, Pell explains what connected cars mean for motor insurance, reveals the benefit of failing fast and shares how a rogue soccer game uninstaller sparked an interest in IT.

Rob Scammell: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?

Marc Pell: My background is in software engineering, historically building systems ranging from event registration to HR performance management systems. I joined Tempcover in 2013 and led the rewriting of the short-term insurance-selling platform. As the business grew to the point of MBO in 2017, we identified the need for the CTO role to own and drive technical strategy and I happily stepped up.

What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?

There’s a shift in the market towards a more flexible motor insurance product that better fits the customer need. Gone are the days of a customer needing to call their existing annual insurer and battle call centre queues to allow a friend or family member to borrow their car. Likewise, offering cover quickly and easily to support test drives or driveaway cover when purchasing a vehicle is a great example of an ever-increasing customer awareness of solutions that satisfy their needs in a quicker and more flexible manner.

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Which emerging technology do you think holds the most promise once it matures?

In our market, the evolution to connected vehicles is likely to shift insurance towards consumption-based pricing. In broader terms, machine learning is likely to drive a greater number of every-day decisions once it reaches the next level of maturity.

How do you separate hype from disruptor?

Hype is talk (usually loud!) whereas disruption has substance backed by adoption to reinforce its legitimacy.

March Pell Tempcover CTO

Marc Pell is the CTO of Tempcover.

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given?

[Technologist] Scott Hanselman often talks about failing fast with reference to learning as quickly as possible. This is key to any business looking to enter a period of high growth and leads nicely into the principles of Lean methodology.

Where did your interest in tech come from?

I caught the IT bug at the age of 12 when I managed to reinstall Windows after the uninstaller for a Sensible World of Soccer demo started deleting the contents of the family computer’s C drive. I recently stumbled across a floppy disk labelled “autoexec.bat, config.sys” that brought the memories flooding back!

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me would include strategic planning of our roadmap for the future, supporting the broader team with technical insight into proposals, as well as keeping in touch with current priorities and IT-related decision making.

What do you do to relax?

Travelling with family and friends is the fairly obvious answer. I recently invested in a Peloton bike which is an addictive way to de-stress day-to-day too.

Who is your tech hero?

I’m not sure I have a hero really but I have an immense amount of respect and admiration for the direction that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft under his leadership.

What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?

Balancing the drive for new products and features to deliver commercial success with the need for environmental and ethically sound solutions.

Read more: CTO Talk: Q&A with Sumo Logic’s Christian Beedgen