Can a Fintech/Insurtech business really make a new business model work in the world of insurance? These Swedes think so. 

Mention “Sweden” and the normal stereotypes will pop into your mind; addictive pop music, safe cars, great looking people and arrogant-but-amazing footballers (yes Zlatan, shout out to you big man). Re-defining the insurance industry is probably not in that list, but it’s exactly what the founders of Swedish start-up Hedvig have their sights on. Full Reach spoke to CMO Andres Sehr about the company and its vision.

Founded in 2016, Hedvig was founded by Fredrik ForsJohn Ardelius & Lucas Carlsén – part of a new wave of Swedish tech leaders inspired by the earlier successes of now-mainstream brands like Spotify. (Spotify’s former global marketing head, Sophia Bendz is one of the early investors in the business).

Lucas (Carlsen, CEO) had worked for a management consultancy where one of his clients was a large Swedish insurance company. He saw from the inside that there was little incentive for these big companies to innovate and create better user experiences because they profited enormously from the current system. It became clear to the three founders that there was space for disruption, space for create a remarkable insurance service and a brand that people loved and enjoyed using.

Re-thinking the Insurance business model

A mobile-first platform, Hedvig wants to build its insurance product from the bottom up. Rather than applying existing insurance principles to a tech business, the founders have sought to re-think what insurance is for and how it should make money.

Hedvig is creating the future of insurance, which is stuck in the analogue age. Nowadays you can do anything you want from your mobile, but you typically still need to call insurance companies, deal with paperwork and experience long wait times for claims. Hedvig is changing all of this by building an insurance product from the ground up. An insurance that has no conflicts of interest in our business model and is built openly and with the help of our community.

Hedvig claims to bring to Sweden its first app-based, no fixed contract, no conflict-of-interest insurance. Rather than profit from ‘excess’ premiums not paid out, the company charges a set fee on all transactions, from which they aim to later profit as the company scales up and grows its user base. Any gains from the pool of money not paid out is returned to the ‘community’ via donations to charitable causes chosen by their policy holders.

Communities have come together for centuries to pool their resources to offset the risk of future disasters. But traditional insurance companies created a new problem by introducing a conflict of interest where their profits rise when they payout fewer claims. Hedvig has removed this conflict and therefore we can focus on original problem – providing the best possible insurance service to our members.

AI – the ‘millennial friendly’ solution to the Insurance problem

Hedvig is investing heavily in AI to interface with claimants. The hope is that the evolution of the product will increase its sophistication, leaving only the most complex claims in need of human involvement. A user can interact with the app via chat, leave a recording describing the issue and then await the Hedvig response. After a quick fraud check, if the AI believes the claim to be genuine, it will pay out immediately via bank transfer to the claimant. For some consumers, this might be seen as a risk or in impersonal experience. But for millennials, this seems intuitive and a logical way to minimise inefficiency.

 

There aren’t very many insurtech players similar to Hedvig in Europe, yet. There are a handful but they are often owned by traditional insurance companies and they still play by the same old insurance handbook. We definitely focus more on the 18-35 year old segment. It’s who we are and it’s what we know. It’s also a segment that is very willing to try new things and not stuck in their old ways. So having a cutting edge insurance product doesn’t seem foreign to them.

Scaling-up in Sweden: collaboration needed, international growth critical

Based in Stockholm, Hedvig experiences the classic challenges for all new tech businesses – recruiting & retaining a team, and building a culture that sustains fast growth. Added to the traditional barriers to entry in insurance, the need to work with existing players is the only way a company can sensibly scale with reasonable investment (the company raised 2.85 million Euros from European investors in 2018). Sensibly scaling means focusing on the tech and getting help on the compliance and regulation side of insurance where the incumbents excel.

Talent is always one of the biggest challenges when scaling up. There is lots of talent in Stockholm but there is also an intense competition for great people. Another challenge once you have talent is to create a great company culture. One that can grow as the start up grows and can really lay the foundation for a successful global business.

Having strong partners is obviously very important to provide us with the safety and security that our members demand. While Sweden is a smaller market the insurance market is still quite significant and there is a lot of room for us to grow here. That said, Hedvig’s ambition has always been to be an international service and expansion is most definitely on our short-term horizon.

Goldfish Neglect and Kindle Killers – from the CEO’s own mouth.

Life in Swedish insurtech also has its dark side. To see more about the UI of Hedvig, the below talk at ‘Brilliant Minds 2018’ navigates the CEO Lucas Carlsén report a horrific accident to the Hedvig AI platform and get his claim processed in seconds. To our knowledge, no goldfish were hurt in the filming. Like all good stories, it has a happy ending! (Forward to 3:50 into the clip to witness the tragedy)

 

 

The author of this article, Martin Best is the Managing Director of the agency Full Reachand CMO for Social Shopping scale-up WeShop. Martin is a London-based global Fintech expert, and was previously Head of Brand Marketing, EMEA Marketing and Global Marketing Partnerships for Fintech superstar WorldRemit, where he delivered the global campaigns ‘Money in Safe Hands (2016) and A better way to send money (2017). In 2018 Martin supported WorldRemit’s expansion of mobile wallet services in Africa. Martin has an international career spanning several countries including Director of Marketing for Carlsberg Group, and several senior Director positions in Russia, Asia and Scandinavia.