The Future of Insurance Podcast – Jamie Hale

Co-Founder & CEO of Ladder Life

Season 2, Episode 15, February 8, 2022

Guest Bio

Jamie Hale is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ladder, the award-winning digital life insurance company helping more people get covered in an instant, easy, and affordable way. Rooted in personal experience, Jamie’s deep belief that life insurance is a fundamentally good product for families and communities inspired him to build Ladder and close the $16T coverage gap. Prior to co-founding Ladder, Jamie was Partner at Aldenwood Capital and at Oak Hill Investment Management. He also worked at NextCard, pioneering instant credit and the first ‘internet enabled’ Visa card. Jamie is a graduate of Bowdoin College and Harvard Business School.

Highlights from the Show

  • Jamie Hale is the co-founder and CEO of Ladder Life
  • They saw a great product that was sold in a complicated, long way at a high cost, and find ways to do that better
  • The product took about 6 weeks to buy, and was fixed even though your needs aren’t
  • The length of contracts and profitability of them has worked against a drive to innovate in Life like short-contracts and thin margins have demanded in P&C
  • Ladder grew 4.5x in 2021, and raised their Series D round
  • Ladder has been an attractive addition to P&C agents’ portfolios because it’s easier to sell than other Life products yet pays the typically higher commissions you see in Life
  • That goes to the point on distribution, where you can be multichannel rather than saying agents are evil or bad – different customers need different levels of help and want to transact differently, so being open to agents makes a lot of sense
  • A lot of what’s broken in Life has nothing to do with the agent, but internal to the carrier and underwriting
  • Life underwriting changed dramatically in the 1980s around health data, and hasn’t want to let go of that, while Ladder looked to keep it but getting the data in an easier way for customers that also leads to a faster process
  • Jamie has found that reinsurers, while traditional, also want to drive innovation – they just need to see that it’s able to be mapped back to what they’re familiar with and can see validity in
  • To help with this, Ladder has announced their own carrier to help show the reinsurers the validity of what they’re doing since they’re willing to take their own balance sheet risk
  • We haven’t seen as many startup carriers in Life as P&C because, again, of the profitability and timescales involved that work against the need for new carriers
  • To start your own carrier de novo is hard because of seasoning requirements, just like in P&C
  • Despite both being Insurance, Life and P&C are really two different markets, and that’s a big part of why innovation and InsurTech activity has been so different – though the prize is as big or bigger in Life
  • Where will changes come in Life
    • There are so many challenges and interesting things to solve and a huge TAM, so there’s lots of innovation to be had
    • Jamie thinks the next gen of Life startups will have a harder time, though, because the first gen, like Ladder, already carved out the largest chunk of improvement (like going from 6 weeks to 5 minutes for underwriting)
    • Does that mean this isn’t the start of a big bang of innovation and investment in Life, but perhaps one where the velocity looks different from P&C
    • Rather than the Life insurance products, the innovation may be in asset management, but it’s a very tough space given the amount of regulation there
    • And if you lose a sale today, it’s hard to win it back tomorrow because the long contract product is in place blocking you
  • Ladder has ended up with an average customer age that’s 15 years younger than incumbents, and has a lower lapse rate than anyone in the industry, as well as higher face amounts because of the lower rates they’re able to achieve for the same risk
  • How things will change in Life, it has been so human-centric and now there’s a drive to more data-centric approaches
  • The industry has been able to ignore customer experience and delight because it was needed, but that’s no longer the case as people have more options, so NPS is more important, and many don’t even know their NPS (Ladder’s is 86)
  • Distribution, similarly, has been fragmented, with carriers only working one way, and now there’s a move to be where the customer is and wants to do business
  • For future entrepreneurs, think about what the customer’s real challenge is, and how you can solve it as efficiently and with data from day one

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