April 18, 2021


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Nayms Brings Blue Chips and Disruption to Crypto Insurance

6 min read

The cryptocurrency sector is cursed by its dangerous image. British regulators recently warned potential investors they “should be prepared to lose all of their money.” But one obvious thing that might soothe the fear – insurance – is conspicuously scarce.

Currently, the market is not supplying nearly enough coverage to meet the demand. Even the biggest brokers in the world are having to tell clients they cannot get insurance for more than $10 million of crypto risk. 

“Commercial insurers are still very cautious when it comes to providing insurance capacity for companies working with digital assets,” says Sarah Downey, co-head of the digital asset team at insurance brokerage giant Marsh & McLennan. “The commercial market’s supply is not keeping up.”

With crypto now worth more than $1 trillion, there is a huge untapped opportunity for insurance business, and a new online insurance marketplace called Nayms is hoping to find a niche. 

See also: Insurance Giant Aon Is Testing the Waters of DeFi

It is proposing to facilitate insurance that pays out crypto, which would be a world first, according to Downey. This March it launched a pilot. Another giant brokerage, Aon, used the Nayms platform to place the world’s first-ever tokenized insurance contract underwritten by a regulated insurer. The test was with Teller Finance, a decentralized lending protocol.

The current disconnect of market size and insurance availability “doesn’t make sense,” says British entrepreneur Dan Roberts, CEO of Nayms. Many crypto firms struggle to get any insurance against hacks or for personal indemnity. 

What it does

On the Nayms platform, regulated brokers and underwriters can find crypto capital providers to share in the premiums and the liability entailed in covering crypto risk. It is similar to Lloyd’s, the historic London marketplace that since 1688 has brought together investment capital, brokers and clients looking to get risks covered. Nayms is a play on Lloyd’s “Names,” the individuals and corporations who underwrite the risks.

Nayms does three main things, says Joseph Ziolkowski, CEO of Relm, a Bermuda-based pioneer of crypto-denominated insurance that is participating in the pilot. 

First, it connects brokers and underwriters with crypto capital providers. They can “utilize Nayms to source alternative capital … in the form of native crypto assets to match the risk” of their clients.

Second, Nayms trims administrative costs – what Roberts calls “passing bits of paper around” – by tokenizing the insurance contracts on the Ethereum blockchain and wrapping them in smart contracts. 

Finally, it answers to traditional regulators, unlike “pure” decentralized finance (DeFi) approaches that were previously attempted. Submitting to regulatory oversight stimulates confidence in the platform, which helps get established insurers like Relm on board, Roberts says. 

Finally, crypto is starting to get the insurance infrastructure that any emerging industry needs to grow. 

Odd couple

Roberts’ project germinated four years ago, when he met Ted Georgas at a wedding in Yorkshire, in England’s north. 

Roberts co-founded a startup that put ad screens and pollution sensors on bicycles to gather data about cities. Georgas had been an IT consultant for PepsiCo, Saudi Arabia’s air force and several other groups. There was a gulf of experience between the two men but, a few years later, Roberts and Georgas were building a business together. 

Commercial insurers are still very cautious when it comes to providing insurance capacity for companies working with digital assets.

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When crypto firms do get good insurance cover, the returns are clear. “Our insurance coverage helps us on a day-to-day basis to attract customers,” Kech says.      

There’s “a massive lack of knowledge in the broking sector,” Robinson says. He’s unusual in focusing on crypto cover. The scarcity of clued-up brokers naturally deters insurers, he adds.

Another obstacle: The insurance system is denominated in dollars or another fiat currency, introducing exchange rate risk. That’s when two currencies will shift in relative value between the agreement of the contract and the time of the claim, and even again before the actual payout. For insurers, covering crypto is like insuring Turkish lira with U.S. dollars. 

“Insurance regulators perceive crypto to be volatile and illiquid and as such not an acceptable way to meet capital requirements,” says Ziolkowski, from Bermuda. If the capital and payout are all in crypto, that helps drive down costs. 

“That would be ideal and I believe it is the future of crypto insurance,” says Kech, speaking of direct crypto payouts. 

On that score, the decision of the Bermuda Monetary Authority to give Ziolkowski’s Relm the first Innovative Insurer General Business license in December marked a quiet breakthrough for the space. The license means it can now charge crypto premiums, pay out in crypto, hold crypto on its balance sheet and transact insurance contracts on blockchains. It cleared the way for the company’s participation in the Nayms pilot. (More-established insurers are not ready to move to crypto-denominated business.) 

Tokenizing insurance and administering it with smart contracts could bring efficiency gains in the wider insurance industry beyond crypto, according to Peach. The army of suits who work on resolving claims would be made obsolete overnight as algorithms would do it automatically. 

Robinson, a veteran of the industry, says smart contracts could eliminate brokers entirely. Clients could agree to deals directly with insurers, with self-executing code doing the rest.

That all makes for a titanic potential reward for bridging the gap between crypto and insurance.      

Aon’s Peach cracks a smile at the thought. If Roberts could build a program that generated smart contracts for the biggest insurance applications, then his company “would be a unicorn within a week.” 

Cracking open crypto insurance is a captivating prize, with $1 trillion of crypto out there. But the global insurance industry generates more than $6 trillion a year in premiums. If Nayms’ smart-contract-driven crypto marketplace takes off, that’s where it will be heading next.