Interview with VouchForMe CEO, Jacob Westerlaken – Part 1
Jacob Westerlaken is an insurance veteran, with twenty years in the industry. Jacob has been with VouchForMe for two years’ and was appointed as CEO in October last year. In the first of our two part interview, Jacob talks about his goals for VouchForMe this year, and gives his thoughts on emerging trends in insurance.
What are your main goals for VouchForMe in 2020?
Jacob: My number one goal is to push our projects forward. Last year, we started pilots in some markets, so I intend to move towards the phase of full launch. Another priority is to onboard new partners, especially in the area of professional association. I expect our new income protection product will drive growth. I’m really looking forward to launching it! I expect it will accelerate our growth, and put us firmly on the insurance map.
How do you plan to scale and expand VFM? How is VFM different compared to other parts of the insurance industry?
Jacob: When the VFM project started, our focus was on individuals. We targeted responsible drivers that were frustrated with high insurance premiums. As we built the company we realised that there was a lot of potential in other areas with high premiums. So we developed our product, creating insurance for affinity groups and professional associations. (Such as taxi drivers.) We also released our new product for income protection. This year we expect these areas to be our main drivers for expansion.
VFM offers solutions for risks that are currently too difficult or expensive to insure, and we do it in an understandable and relatable way, on the basis of trust and relationships. Are we different? We don’t believe statistics should be leading, actual individual behavior should be.
Which countries are you focusing on? How about the US?
Jacob: In 2019, we started operations in Romania and Slovenia. Our main target markets for 2020 will be the Netherlands, Italy and Russia. The European markets will be our focus for the first phase. Many people have asked us about the US, which we plan to move to in the next phase. Having a strong base in Europe with a proven concept is a necessity for that.
Is VouchForMe focused on incremental or disruptive innovation to the insurance industry? Which is more important?
Jacob: I think our income protection shows it can be both at the same time. We are offering solutions that are disruptive, but integrate well with current insurance solutions. Through this approach we believe VFM can be a part of growing the market significantly.
Last week we discussed Insurtech trends for 2020. What are your views on that? What role will VFM play?
Jacob: My view is that the insurance industry has moved too far away from its roots. For too long insurance has relied too much on segmentation, which puts people in boxes rather than supporting them based on their individual behaviour. Customers want to be recognized as individuals rather than a number, especially younger customers, and insurance companies will have to adapt to changing consumer needs. Fortunately, digitalization makes this both possible and effective. Insurance used to be a lot more personal. It was sold by intermediaries who knew their clients and were there to support them. While this is no longer realistic, we’ve managed to come quite close. VFM gives this power to the trusted networks of clients, and uses the digital solutions to ensure that clients pay the premium they deserve for the risks they want to insure.
Don’t miss our blog post next week, where we’ll continue our interview with Jacob. He’ll discuss challenges and opportunities in the future of insurance, some exciting updates to VFM and discuss the income protection product in more detail.