David Vanek, founder, and CEO at Anorak tells us about digital insurance plans.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
David Vanek: We are lucky to be well and safe in these strange times, although I’m sure my youngest daughter thinks that I’m a better entrepreneur than a school teacher!
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Anorak.
David Vanek: I co-founded Anorak in 2017 with Vincent Durnez after we realized there was a gap in the market for honest, unbiased advice within the life insurance field. We wanted to create a platform that put people’s needs at the heart of finding the right insurance policy – not just pointing them towards the cheapest option. From there, the idea grew into a life insurance companion that gives everyone impartial, regulated, and personalized advice.
How does Anorak innovate?
David Vanek: Anorak is shaking up the insurance industry by utilizing machine learning to select and prioritize the insurance policies that fit each users’ needs. We ask for data specifically tailored to each user and compare these needs against what’s available on the market. We find options that satisfy all the policy requirements and provide the best value for money (as opposed to just providing the cheapest option like a price comparison website).
Regardless of age or financial situation, people are demanding more transparency from their financial providers – which we see as a good thing: we founded Anorak on the principles of trust and transparency. Our aim is to put people back in control by helping to educate users on the options available to them and make the right decisions.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
David Vanek: The pandemic impacted our business in two ways. Firstly, as an entrepreneur building a company, I was used to dealing with uncertainty and risk, however, the pandemic has brought this concept to an insane level of magnitude. Growing a small business while the world is on pause, investors are focused on their existing portfolios so you need to work even harder to stand out. One of the biggest challenges was hiring people you knew you wouldn’t be meeting in real life for months, as that made execution extremely challenging.
However, as an entrepreneur building a company in the life insurance space, we are very fortunate as our sector is highly defensive and demand for the product we sell has massively increased over the last 12 months.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
David Vanek: Yes, we did. As my partner and I have gone through several crises with our previous businesses (2000, 2008, etc.) we knew that we needed to ensure that the company had maximized its cash runway when the first lockdown started in April 2020. However, our priority was to protect the jobs of the entire team.
We decided to keep all employees but asked everyone to reduce their salary by 20% for 8 months. The team has been fantastic during this period, they pulled their weight while earning far less than they were entitled to and we all came out of 2020 as a stronger business. We even hired 10 more people in Q4.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
David Vanek: CRM is at the core of our business. Because the life insurance sector is so dated in terms of technology, we decided to build a full-stack CRM platform to deliver a customer experience that is on par with what you would expect from any digital service, be it Google, Amazon, or Revolut.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
David Vanek: No, we did not have to as our existing backers supported us during the crisis.
Your final thoughts?
David Vanek: As brokers who provide life insurance, income protection, and critical illness insurance, we’ve seen and spoken to many customers who have been left wearied and worried by the events of the past year. We want to help make life insurance and financial advice accessible to everyone. To empower people to make informed decisions and feel confident that if the worst happens, they and their families are looked after.
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