Insurance payments platform Ascend raised $30 million in Series A equity funding, bringing its total funding raised to $39 million along with a $250 million lending commitment to finance insurance premium loans through its platform.
The funding was facilitated by Hudson Structured Capital Management Ltd. — doing its reinsurance business as HSCM Bermuda — an investment adviser that specializes in reinsurance, InsurTech and transportation investments.
Ascend Co-CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Wynn said this capital raise came at the right time as the insurance industry has changed a lot in the past few years due to disrupters such as digitization, COVID-19 and the hardening market.
“Those changes helped prime the market for a product like Ascend, and now we’re at a point of rapid growth,” he said. “In order to scale our team and our product, we felt it was necessary to bring in the additional financing.”
The Series A funding was led by Index Ventures with participation from new investors such as Distributed Ventures and its anchor limited partner NFP, a global property/casualty insurance brokerage, HSCM Bermuda, XYZ Ventures, and a series of strategic angel investors. Also participating were existing investors First Round Capital, Susa Ventures, and FirstMark Capital.
Ascend’s payment APIs (application programming interface) and no code products automate insurance payments end-to-end, whether it’s through an online point of sale with buy now, pay later financing or the distribution of commissions and carrier payables. With these products, the company aims to make the process of buying commercial insurance more efficient.
“Traditional premium financing companies allow for payment plans and the cultivation of relationships. However, they can be difficult to work with and cause more friction than they alleviate when it comes to workflow,” Wynn said. “Ascend’s no-code and API products eliminate the need for independent agents and brokerages, online sellers, and distributors of commercial insurance to build their own payment offerings.”
Wynn said the lending capacity will be used to streamline both commercial and personal lines of insurance loans, helping to ease the friction with modern financing infrastructure and the increasing demand for high-quality customer experiences. The additional equity capital will be used to hire dozens of new team members on the product and marketing side out of Ascend’s New York, Columbus and California offices.
Ascend said in a company press release that half of its employees are from groups typically underrepresented in tech, and the team it is building will be critical to its growth.
“For many tech companies, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) is an afterthought or a box to check,” Wynn said. “But not for Ascend. And ultimately, we will be a stronger, more successful company because of this strategic choice we made in the beginning.”
Although the insurance industry has undergone many recent changes, Wynn said at its core, some things will likely remain the same.
“Insurance is a very old and established industry, and I think at its core, that’s not going to change,” he said. “I think insurance as a risk-sharing mechanism will still be the core offering.”
However, he added that particularly with advancements in technology, he believes customers are engaging with insurance differently than in the past.
“It won’t just be this invisible thing behind the scenes or some piece of paper that we have somewhere that covers us,” he said. “If something goes wrong, we’re going to know what our coverages are and understand them more easily than in the past. That information is going to be a lot more accessible.”
As customers are interacting with their insurance providers more than in the past beyond simple policy purchase and renewal, Ascend is aiming to make that process as efficient and technologically driven as possible, he said.
“The experience that insurance companies offer will be a much more modernized, digitally native customer experience,” he said. “That’s what we do at Ascend.”