Tag Archives: shefi ben hutta

A Word With Shefi: Inoma at WeSavvy

This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with Hesus Inoma at WeSavvy.

Describe WeSavvy in 50 words or fewer:

WeSavvy is a digital insurance platform that gives customers cash back on their insurance premiums when they walk, run or cycle. WeSavvy’s mission is to give back customers control over their insurance premiums.

Why WeSavvy?

We believe the current insurance model is broken. We need to shift the current model from one of indemnification (payout in the event of a claim) to one of loss prevention and control. This can only be achieved by changing the current industry model from one that penalizes to one that rewards the customers for positive behaviors. If we take the healthcare industry in the U.S. as an example, between 2010 and 2015 premiums have increased by more than 26%, leaving customers completely powerless and at the mercy of year-on-year increases. WeSavvy showcases a better way to transform the healthcare insurance industry, by giving the customer full control of healthcare expenses.

How did you decide to pursue the idea of WeSavvy?

I’m passionate about the digitalization of insurance, yet WeSavvy is personal to me. Back in 2012, I was overweight, and my 2013 New Year’s resolution was to lose weight. I unleashed the power of my community to support me through my journey, and I successfully lost weight throughout 2013 and became very healthy. However, my health insurance premiums went up in 2014, and there was no way for me to effectively communicate my personal journey to my insurer. That’s when I decided, in late 2014, to quit my job and build WeSavvy, a platform that grants the insurer the ability to personalize quotes and empower policyholders to gain back control over insurance premiums.

What’s in a name?

I wanted a name that reflects our core beliefs that “We” as a community [friends, family, network] can leverage technology and be “Savvy” tackling the obstacles placed in front of us in relation to insurance.

Describe your typical client:

In everything we do at WeSavvy, we keep the policyholder [our end customer] in mind. Our current business model is B2B2C [business to business to consumer], where we leverage current networks present within the insurance industry to reach the policyholder. Our clients are insurers and agents looking to meet the expectations of the next generation of customers, whether millennials or digital natives.

What does competition look like?

We’re often compared to Vitality. The difference between WeSavvy and Vitality is the tangibility of our rewards mechanism. We want to ensure customers receive tangible rewards, which increases their disposable income. Vitality’s main focus is the insurer, and [Vitality has] partnered exclusively with one insurer in every new market it has entered. What happens to the other insurers and agents? Our focus is to service the market as a whole and all participants of that market. Our technology will be available to every insurer or agency that would like to better serve its customers. We will leave our user experience for another day!

You took part in the Deloitte Digital Disruptor; what did you learn? 

The biggest lesson I’ve learned was that the industry wants to embrace innovation, but, at times, the internal infrastructure and culture is not there to move at a pace of a start-up. Insurers that create the internal infrastructure and culture to move at the required pace will be the ones that reap the biggest rewards.

You’re currently taking part in the Global Insurance Accelerator; lesson learned?

We’ve perceive the main insurance hubs as being London and New York, and it turns out that Des Moines is a hidden gem for our market. The concentration of insurance companies in Des Moines is mind-blowing. Des Moines is truly “Kicking ass, taking names and selling insurance” [to quote the city’s slogan]. I’d advise any insurance company that is thinking of setting up an innovation lab or is looking to work with start-ups to reach out to Brian Hemesath and see what he has created here. The conditions for a start-up to succeed are truly embedded in this 100-day program.

Where do you see WeSavvy in five years?

WeSavvy will be the catalyst in transforming how the insurance industry is perceived. Insurance is an awesome product, but it has failed to communicate its true value to the customer. Insurance is one of the best mechanisms of risk transfer, and it forms the bedrock of every developed society. I see WeSavvy growing from strength to strength, year on year, and moving into other insurance products, which have failed to engage and resonate with the customers. We have no exit strategy, for the simple reason that, if I exited from WeSavvy, my next venture would still be in insurance; and I love what WeSavvy as a company stands for: personal and social empowerment. You never know, we might IPO one day!

Best life lesson:

“Your Health is your wealth” is one of my best lessons as it taught me [after my mother passed away for cancer] that if there’s anything we could do to extend our time with our loved ones in this life, we should do it!

To see more of the “A Word With Shefi” series, visit her thought leader profile. To subscribe to her free newsletter, “Insurance Entertainment,” click here.

A Word With Shefi: Micro Insurance

This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with David Dror at Micro Insurance Academy.

To see more of the “A Word With Shefi” series, visit her thought leader profile. To subscribe to her free newsletter, Insurance Entertainment, click here.

Describe what you do in 50 words or less:

I lead a team that brings the poor in rural informal contexts into the fold of insurance. We address this challenge by acting as change agents. We do not sell a product; instead, we take communities from having no risk-management solution to adopting a mutual-aid insurance model that enables them to establish both the demand for and supply of insurance, specific to their context.

And when you are not working, what do you like to do?

I like to read, write, walk, socialize and rest.

How did you become engaged in microinsurance?

I have been involved with social insurance since the 1970s, mostly at the macro level; in India, I work with grassroots communities. My experience in India teaches me one overriding lesson, that top-down interventions, without full funding, offer very little opportunity to affect social change, and “localism” that taps into invisible resources offers some unexplored opportunities to reach results.

What is the main challenge the Micro Insurance Academy sets out to address?

The social challenge we address is the uninsured exposure to risks that condemns the poor in the “informal sector” to poverty, ill health and uncertainty. Insurance is broadly recognized as an indispensable tool to improve access to healthcare, agricultural production (thus food security and livelihoods) and to mitigate climate-change-related crises. However, the challenge to roll out solutions in the informal sector has proved difficult largely because the multifaceted aspects of poverty are often anchored in families and extended families, and not the individual as in the formal sector. Dealing with those social units requires innovation in business models and social engagements. This is what MIA focuses on.

In a recent paper termed The Demand for (Micro) Health Insurance in the Informal Sector, you write about the importance of group consensus in driving individuals’ buy-in to microinsurance. Do you see insurers account for this lifestyle in their selling proposition?

Our solution, which is to assist the community to establish its own insurance schemes that leverage existing relationships of trust and obligation, is based on developing associations for the purpose of efficient sharing that enable the community to be consumers, creators, collaborators, suppliers and distributors of insurance. This is P2P “sharing economy.” Success means that each member becomes both co-owner and customer, with a role in business decisions of the supply chain, organization and development. Traditional selling is simply not effective in this setting, and mobilizing entire communities, not merely community leaders, is the novel paradigm.

What does success look like five years from now for Micro Insurance Academy?

Many insurers work with us to adopt risk-management solutions to be demand-driven and needs-based. Success in business results would mean outreach to millions of uninsured people, and success in business process adaptation would mean that we mobilize resource pools from resources that are today invisible and inaccessible.

Is the talent gap within insurance an issue in India as it is in North America?

Our model relies on a three-pronged approach (capacity building, governance and insurance), each of which leverages local function, purpose and culture. Developing capacity is a challenge mainly because such capacity must be available at the community level, not just in a few remote back offices. Better local capacity is the backbone that supports good governance.

Best life lesson:

“The greatness of humanity is not in being human but in being humane” – Mahatma Gandhi.

A Word With Shefi: At Telematic

This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with Marti Ryan and Tom Yates at Telematic.

To see more of the “A Word With Shefi” series, visit her thought leader profile. To subscribe to her free newsletter, Insurance Entertainment, click here.

Describe Telematic in 50 words or less:

Telematic is a SaaS platform that creates personalized pricing models based on driving behavior, mobile phone usage and lifestyle behaviors. It offers insurance companies a way to more accurately price risk, yet more importantly it’s a new marketing channel for a more personalized insurance experience.

Why Telematic?

[Marti] Because usage-based insurance (UBI) makes sense; it’s where insurance is moving; and it’s a good problem for us to solve as a team. Tom was working for a top carrier and saw how difficult it was to execute a dongle-based telematics program and realized that mobile would most likely replace the dongle/hardware solution, so he went home and built it for a year.

[Tom] Marti has over 10 years of market research experience making cities sticky for the next generation. Together, we can make insurance sticky.

Describe your typical client:

We are in the B2B space targeting small to mid-sized, forward-thinking carriers that are looking to explore UBI and are willing to do something different and stand out.

Biggest challenge:

Convincing insurance companies that telematics is a play toward a one-to-one relationship with their customers, rather than an extra tool to price risk. The space is crowded with several companies focused on actuarial, B2C and fleets, but then again that’s an indication of the role this technology has in the currently evolving insurance value chain. Our solution brings in a different approach to the space, one that creates a new marketing channel using 17 years of combined insurance experience to leverage mobile in an engaging way for the next generation.

Who has been supportive of your cause?

Co-Manager at Wisconsin Investment Partners Bob Wood has been a champion, Brian Worden CEO of TeamSoft, Liz Eversol from SOLOMO Technology, Tera Johnson of the UW-Extension Small Business Development Center programming in Madison and, of course, our families.

Why did you decide to take part in the Global Insurance Accelerator?

[Marti] The timing of our start-up lent itself well to an accelerator program that took place in the spring. I’m new to the accelerator scene but understand the huge value it can offer when the right circumstances align to the right program. We had applied to a Madison-based program, and in doing so we broadened our application to the Midwest market. GIA proved to be the perfect fit for us given its insurance focus and our goals; we’ve made connections and built relationships within the GIA network that will help us get Telematic to where it needs to be.

If not for Telematic, what would you be doing?

[Marti] Most likely doing three to four other things; working with the B-Corp group to help B-Corps tell their story via B The Change Media and continuing to provide business planing and consulting for the food industry, including a non-profit, kitchen incubator (FEED Kitchens) and a local restaurant kitchen buildout to allow scaling a meal preparation and delivery business using organic, local and gluten-free ingredients.

[Tom] Working as a software engineer for another SaaS startup.

Best life lesson:

Never give up and keep asking the right questions to the right people.

What are you most excited about with respect to Telematic?

The opportunities that are in front of us are outstanding. We’re certain we’ve got a shot at being a partner for our target market, and, because we’re in the GIA, we’re well positioned to support Midwest-based carriers.

A Word With Shefi: Isaac Re

This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with Gokul Sudarsana and Rohit Rajan, the founders of NYC-based startup Isaac Re, to discuss the often forgotten space of reinsurance. 

To see more of the “A Word With Shefi” series, visit her thought leader profile. To subscribe to her free newsletter, Insurance Entertainment, click here.

Icebreaker: Two truths and a lie:

  • One of us once ate a scorpion
  • One of us went to kindergarten at a South Korean army base
  • One of us played in a celebrity basketball tournament

(See answers at the bottom of the post)

Describe Isaac Re in 50 words or less:

Isaac Re is a software marketplace where you can invest in bonds that are backed by insurance risks. As an investor, these bonds will provide you with attractive returns and substantial diversification opportunities for your portfolio. Simultaneously, this allows our insurance partners to make better decisions with their capital and gives them the ability to write new business, closing the coverage gap across America.

Why Isaac Re?

A core inefficiency in the insurance industry is the high cost of capital, especially in a hard market when capital is scarce. This, in turn, increases prices. By spreading risk across the larger capital market, we smooth out the insurance risk capital cycle, helping insurance companies raise capital cheaply and, in turn, make insurance more affordable to close the coverage gap.

How did the idea develop?

While I (Gokul) was working in the industry, one of the most powerful insights I gained was that the insurance capital market is inefficient. Rohit and I grew up together; his background is in engineering, and I’m an actuary. As we started talking about this problem, it became clear to us that bringing together our complementary skills and building a software-oriented insurance capital marketplace would be a huge opportunity for us.

What’s in a name?

Isaac Re is a tribute to Isaac Newton. Insurance is a prime example of a big data-driven industry. Valuing risk is built on a wide range of data sources that push and pull prices toward equilibrium, much like gravity.

Biggest challenge:

Insurance is a slow-moving industry. A solution like ours fundamentally re-optimizes the insurance capital landscape. This requires the buy-in, commitment and shared vision of industry executives and thought leaders.

What does competition look like?

Right now, these transactions are highly bespoke, over-the-counter arrangements that involve large deal teams to execute. We are the first company to use software to automate the refinancing value chain.

Why Global Insurance Accelerator?

The GIA is a unique opportunity to go through an insurance-focused accelerator, which helps us quickly connect to industry stakeholders. It is a launching pad to energize the industry and build long-lasting partnerships.

What’s on your to-do list?

We are announcing partnerships with the insurance and investment communities, and our pilot transaction will be completed shortly after.

If not for Isaac Re, what would you be doing?

Hard question. The more we develop the vision and realize the impact it can have, the more we can’t imagine spending our time on anything else.

Where do you see Isaac Re in five years?

We see a tremendous growth opportunity after we prove out the pilot. We have big plans for leveraging our infrastructure down the road. Today, we connect insurers with institutional investors. Tomorrow, we can connect a previously underinsured policyholder directly with an individual investor.

Best life lesson:

Lead by example.


Icebreaker answers: 

  • One of us once ate a scorpion – Truth
  • One of us went to kindergarten at a South Korean army base – Truth
  • One of us played in a celebrity basketball tournament – Lie

Rohit ate a scorpion, and Gokul went to kindergarten in SK. (For what it’s worth, Rohit once played pickup basketball with Don Cheadle.)

A Word With Shefi: Ashili at Smart Drivinc

This is part of a series of interviews by Shefi Ben Hutta with insurance practitioners who bring an interesting perspective to their work and to the industry as a whole. Here, she speaks with Shashaanka Ashili, founder of Smart Drivinc.

To see more of the “A Word With Shefi” series, visit her thought leader profile. To subscribe to her free newsletter, Insurance Entertainment, click here.

Describe Smart Drivinc in 50 words or less:

We are focused on developing crash-prevention technologies in affordable ways. Our solution for distracted driving is affordable, configurable, tamper-resistant and backed by intelligent evolutionary algorithms.

How did the idea develop?

In 2014, my wife’s car was rear-ended by a distracted driver. A non-fatal, four-car pileup resulted in a total loss of the car. Finding another car, with infants in the family, was a painful process. The unfortunate part is that the accident could have been prevented, had the driver been a bit more careful. That is the focus of Smart Drivinc – crash prevention.

What’s in a name?

Our solution is supported by smart technologies that make driving safer…hence Smart Drivinc.

Describe your typical client:

Our B2B clients are companies with employees on the road: sales workers, insurance adjusters, etc., for whom we reduce risk by preventing accidents. Our B2C clients are parents of novice drivers, for whom we provide peace of mind.

What does competition look like?

The space is crowded with all kinds of solutions, however, we are the only company that solved this problem in an affordable fashion and created a win-win ecosystem for end users and insurance carriers.

What’s on your to-do list?

The top of my to-do list includes forming collaborations with insurance companies. Our solution not only reduces accidents but also brings new customers to the table.

What are you most excited about with respect to Smart Drivinc?

At the end of the day, what matters and excites us most is providing peace of mind to parents and making our roads safer.

Why are you part of the Global Insurance Accelerator?

GIA occupies a niche, a space that has not been visible before. Combining insurance and technology in the Heartland is a brilliant strategy. For the past three weeks, we’ve met with the best in the industry and were offered unconditional support for our venture. I learned a lot from each individual meeting. GIA has created a mentor pool that is like a library where you can find answers to everything. The best part is they’re one call or one email away from us.

One takeaway:

Make no assumptions, stop “talking” and start “asking.”

Who else has been supportive of your cause?

CEO of MinMor Industries, Joe Morris, is one of our strong supporters. Thank you, Joe!

Biggest challenge:

By profession, I am a bio-optical systems guy, no relation to the insurance or the transportation industries. Developing contacts and traversing these sectors was my biggest challenge. Being selected to GIA solved this problem for us.

Where do you see Smart Drivinc in five years?

Our motto is “Crash Prevention,” and we have several products lined up to address this, with the goal of launching a product once a year. For instance, we are developing a suite of products to personalize one’s interaction with his/her car, starting with the actual purchase of the car, down to maintenance, insurance and even the sale of the car.

Best life lesson:

Believe in yourself; you will have some discouraging encounters.