Nigel Lombard, CEO at PeppercornAI: “We’ve already seen the EU lead AI regulation; I’d expect more regions to follow suit.”

It’s one thing to talk about AI, quite another to build a company on its foundations. But that’s what Nigel Lombard did when founding PeppercornAI in 2020, so we were delighted he was willing to share not just some of his hard-won learnings but also his vision for how AI is going to shape the upcoming fintech landscape.

“The race is well and truly on to lead AI innovation,” Nigel told us, “because many leaders are now starting to understand that AI is inevitable and that not adopting the technology is a risk.”

But challenges remain, including the ever-changing world of regulation. And if you’re a startup, how do you get funding when investors remain cautious?

Despite this, Nigel is optimistic about the future for insurtech – the area of PeppercornAI’s focus, which is no surprise as he has spent his career working in insurance and technology, both in-house at Lloyds Banking and as a founder of two insurtech startups.

Find out his predictions, and advice for fellow fintech fans, in the full interview below.

Recommended reading: Fintech 2024 shows green shoots with backing from Alphabet and Uber

Could you please introduce yourself to our audience and share how you ended up working in fintech?

I’m the CEO and Founder of PeppercornAI, an insurtech that’s using AI to change the way people buy and manage their insurance policies. I’ve spent my career working in insurance and technology and previously founded other startups that looked to change the insurance model through different means of technology. Since then, AI has matured as a technology with huge potential. PeppercornAI is very much an evolution of my previous experience and changes the insurance model, using conversational AI specifically.

In what ways is artificial intelligence impacting the fintech sector?

Some of the most promising fintech solutions are using AI and many of them offer B2B and SaaS propositions to traditional financial services providers. Much like they did with internet banking, traditional financial institutions are investing huge amounts of resources into understanding how they can benefit from AI in their day-to-day operations. The race is well and truly on to lead AI innovation because many leaders are now starting to understand that AI is inevitable and that not adopting the technology is a risk. Often, utilising fintech partners for integration is quicker and more cost-effective than developing the technology in-house, especially when we consider the pace at which AI is evolving.

Related reading: The biggest challenges for Fintech in Africa in 2024

What are some of the biggest regulatory challenges affecting the fintech sector?

One of the biggest challenges is how AI regulation will keep up with how quickly the technology is advancing. The recently approved EU AI Act is a good starting point and categorises the technology based on risk, but other regions need to quickly follow suit. We urgently need to create a unified global standard that ensures the technology is being applied for good.  

Which geographical hubs around the world are leading the charge when it comes to fintech innovation?

The UK has always been a leader in fintech innovation, due in large part to the enabling environment for startups and entrepreneurs. In recent years, the Baltics has also become a hub for fintech innovation, for similar reasons. Interestingly, it seems that traditional financial institutions in smaller countries tend to be nimbler when it comes to adopting fintech innovation – there are interesting use cases in Canada and Australia, in terms of how AI is already being adopted in banking, for example.

How does your company differ from its direct competitors in the fintech space?

We offer an end-to-end digital experience for purchasing and managing insurance policies, as opposed to a digital agent that offers customer support. We refer to this as a ‘Conversational First’ approach because it’s a genuine, two-way conversation with no fixed user journey. This means the customer can ask questions, and seek more clarity when needed and ultimately, results in a more informed purchase decision.

On top of this, because of our team’s deep expertise in insurance, our platform has been purposefully designed with the insurance industry in mind. This is key for our customers because it means that our platform delivers benefits that are specific to the insurance industry, such as lower expense ratios and claims loss ratios, for example.

Recommended reading: Top ten breakthrough fintech companies

What are your top three fintech predictions for the upcoming years?

First, we’ve already seen the EU lead AI regulation in recent weeks. I’d expect more regions to follow suit.

Secondly, investors will want to see how technology, particularly AI, has been proven to deliver primary objectives – in insurance, for example, it’s about improving the combined operating ratio.

Finally, we’ll see more collaboration between fintechs and traditional financial services, particularly as the latter struggle to keep up with the pace of technological advancements.

Which fintech sectors do you believe are prime for investment in 2025 and beyond?

Insurtech, naturally. Insurance is a field that has lagged with innovation typically, but on the positive side, it also means the sector is ripe for disruption.

What are some of the biggest challenges the fintech sector is experiencing as a whole?

The market for funding is currently a challenge. Investors are understandably nervous because generalist technology-led startups haven’t been focused on delivering primary objectives and ensuring their offerings are profitable. Access to funding will slowly open back up again, but the key to success will be having teams that understand the specific nuances of the verticals they’re operating in. This is something our team has always prided itself on from day one.

More interviews worth a read

Avatar photo
Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.