A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by RDT's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from RDT is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


23RDT |
Mark Bates, CEO
Our custom-designed offices in West Malling,
Kent, support our agile work practices
RDT creates some of the UK’s most widely used insurance
software. If you’ve ever bought insurance or made a
claim, there’s a good chance their software was involved
somewhere along the line. RDT’s technology is designed to make
insurance cheaper to sell and manage, and easier to buy. We
spoke to the company’s CEO, Mark Bates, about its achievements.
RDT’s reputation for innovation is nearly as old as the company itself. In 1996 we
developed the first website where customers could buy insurance from a panel of
providers. This was six years before the launch of the first price comparison website,
and sadly we were a bit premature – not many people had home computers back
then and our website went nowhere.
Most recently we’ve developed the technology behind TRiCE, a smartphone app with
the potential to compete with the aggregators. The app instantly returns an accurately
priced, properly underwritten quote after asking the customer only five questions.
In 2015 RDT won the Celent Model Insurer Analytics award with our data
orchestration platform. This platform is the first of its kind to be truly “agnostic”,
meaning it provides insurers with data from many sources and software systems. It
generates quotes in a split second, and it’s the software that powers TRiCE.
RDT began 27 years ago as three 20-something friends with one insurer as a
customer. We worked in two cramped rooms above a chip shop in Bromley, in
southeast London. Now we have spacious, custom-designed headquarters in Kings
Hill, West Malling, and offices in Halifax and Adelaide. We have about 110staff
»CEO: Mark Bates
»Established in 1991
»Offices in West Malling,
Kent, Halifax, Yorkshire and
Adelaide, South Australia
»Services: Development of
software for insurers
»No. of employees: 110,
including 7 directors
»Privately owned
Highlighting best practice
24 | RDT
and 20 customers including Direct
Line, Markerstudy and RAA in South
Australia. We’ve been a Microsoft Gold
Certified Partner for 13 years and we
annually reinvest 30 per cent of our
turnover into research and development.
Work style
RDT designs and builds its products
using agile methodology. Software
engineers, testers and a manager
collaborate in teams of six or seven in
two-week sprints to produce tranches
of finished code. We also use DevOps,
a work style that involves automating all
stages of software construction, testing
and deployment, leading to faster,
more dependable development. We
constantly reinvest into the latest tools
and techniques to keep staff motivated
and our products leading edge.
Working like this encourages innovation
and helps developers write accurate,
bug-free code quickly. It also facilitates
the quick launch of products, as
customers can begin generating income
with a “bare bones” version of a system
months sooner than if they waited for
the whole thing to be finished.
Switching to agile required major
investment and a leap of faith. Wehired
consultants to advise us and had new
offices designed to accommodate the
teams. Some of our customers were
nervous about the change and took a
while to be convinced, but four years
later they are all on board and it’s
become a selling point – one of the
first questions prospective customers
ask is: “Are you agile?”
Last year’s buzzword was insurtech,
with insurers being told they should
partner with an insurtech start-up in
order to compete. This worked well
in some cases, but in others it led to
nothing more than showy façades
being stuck on to outdated legacy
systems. RDT is no start-up. We’ve
spent 27 years at the coalface of
insurance technology and for us the
future lies in two areas.
The first one is the cloud; businesses
should soon be hosting all their
software there. We are making all our
offerings web-based and hosted in the
cloud because it’s secure, scalable and
cost effective. It speeds up delivery and
deployment and means that customers
pay only for the functionality they use,
when they use it.
Our breakout area is
very popular and well
were nervous
switching to
agile, but it’s
become a
selling point
25RDT |
The other thing insurers should be
concerned with is data orchestration.
Data is key because the more
information an insurer has, the better
they can assess risk and counteract
fraud. Our data orchestration platform
calls to more third-party data providers
than any competitor system and can
generate 50 million quotes a day. The
first insurer to use it saw their loss ratio
drop by 3.5 per cent and application
fraud fall by 60 per cent. This platform,
when put behind our smartphone
app, gives insurance a new edge:
convenience. Our phone app,
essentially an extension of the data
platform, allows customers to insure
their house, pet, car and gadgets in
under two minutes.
Insurance companies tend to make
decisions slowly and it took us years to
build a solid customer base. There have
been some curious swings in fortune.
In 1999 we were so short of money I
had to remortgage my house to pay
the staff. A year later I was forced to
turn down a major contract because
we didn’t have enough staff to do
I’ve worked hard to ensure that neither
of those situations happens again, but
I’m aware that either of them could.
It is unlikely that we’d struggle to pay
salaries again but staffing remains a
challenge. There’s a shortage of good
IT professionals, and more than 70
per cent of my staff happen to be IT
professionals. Recruitment is a constant
battle for our HR department.
We created a great working
environment to help with recruitment
and retention, which works well.
But while RDT’s staff is culturally
diverse, women techies are rare.
We run apprenticeships and offer
summer internships to sixth formers,
but girls never apply and it seems
that they aren’t being encouraged to
learn to write code. From a business
perspective it restricts my ability to
hire people, but it’s bad for the whole
country – failing to engage half the
future workforce will limit progress.
We’ve started sending recruiters to
local girls’ schools to drum up interest
and hopefully start to make a change.
Culture and communication
RDT’s three founders still work here.
The office is relaxed and informal,
there’s no dress code and I’m the
only person in the whole organisation
with their own office. I’m rarely in it
as I spend about half my time with
the developers. I know everyone here
We have a large, attractive breakout
area with a pool table and other games.
We hold town hall meetings where
team leaders and directors discuss
projects and the status of the business.
There are also daily lunchtime sessions
where people show their latest work.
By keeping up this open approach,
combined with our development
practices, we expect a bright future for
our company.
Data is key for
insurers. Our
platform uses
more third-
party data
than any other
Collaboration is crucial
to the way we work


This article was sponsored by RDT. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister