Jennifer Fitzgerald and Francois de Lame founded Policygenius before InsurTechs were cool.
Breaking through wasn’t easy. But today, nine years after the online insurance marketplace launched, Policygenius continues to grow its business and expand its reach.
Carrier Management recently interviewed Fitzgerald – the company’s CEO – about her journey.
Carrier Management: How did you get into the InsurTech space, and what did you do before you became a CEO?
Jennifer Fitzgerald: I did not take a direct or “traditional” path to starting or running a company, but the steps I took have really taught me a lot and made me the leader I am today. I grew up in a military family and early in my career, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, later working at World Bank Country Office in Tegucigalpa for a couple years. I have a law degree from Columbia Law School and was a standup comedian. Before starting Policygenius, my co-founder and I were both management consultants at McKinsey & Company, which is when we started initially thinking about insurance.
CM: Can you talk about your company, its mission and some of its backstory?
JF: Policygenius is the one-stop platform where customers can compare and buy insurance policies from top insurance carriers and get unbiased expert advice. During our time at McKinsey, my co-founder, Francois de Lame, and I found ourselves repeatedly asking why it’s such a frustrating process to buy insurance. The more we talked about it, the more confident we were that we could solve this problem, so we stepped out on our own and created Policygenius as the easy solution to comparing and buying insurance. We launched in 2014 and since then, our content, digital tools, and experts have served as a resource for millions of people on their insurance journey.
CM: Was there a “light bulb moment” when you realized a product like Policygenius could be a success?
JF: After seeing so many people struggle with the process of shopping for and buying insurance, I knew there was a big need for the solution Policygenius now provides. In the early days of our company, Francois and I were often the ones taking customers’ calls and walking them through the journey. When we’d hear their stories and see how we helped them, I had a pretty good feeling that we were onto something great. And even now, after our company has been around for several years, it’s still the customer stories we hear that remind me what an impactful service we provide.
CM: What hurdles did you face when launching Policygenius and how did you overcome them?
JF: It’s not easy to get people hyped, or even really interested, in insurance. It’s not a fun topic or an exciting product, it can be pricey, and the space is filled with big brands with vast advertising budgets. Breaking through in this space as a startup was hard, especially before the insurance space became a bit more trendy. We had to get creative to build our brand in a cost-effective but noticeable way. I think one of our initial success stories in doing this was a tongue-in-cheek poetry subway campaign in NYC that wound up getting a lot of attention.
CM: How has Policygenius evolved since launching?
JF: We have added more products over the years, expanding our reach and potential. We started with life and disability insurance, where we’ve built a footprint as a market leader, and have expanded to include property and casualty insurance, too. Last year, we launched Policygenius Pro, which is a turnkey fulfillment platform that helps independent agents and financial advisors accelerate and streamline life insurance sales, which I am incredibly excited about. We are now helping financial teams — advisors, independent agents, community banks, credit unions, and more — get their clients the insurance coverage they need. It’s a really exciting time. And I am looking forward to all that’s in store for us, too.
CM: InsurTech is a crowded space. What sets Policygenius apart?
JF: First, our technology. Policygenius created a sophisticated proprietary technology platform that gives people a seamless way to compare, buy, and switch insurance — and it’s something no other company can provide to consumers. We also invested in content early on and have a robust library that helps make insurance easier to understand so people can feel confident in their financial decisions. Second, our breadth of products — we’ve uniquely scaled across life and P&C insurance. Finally, our go-to-market approach — we’ve uniquely scaled across D2C and B2B2C channels over the years.
CM: What goals or plans are you focusing on now?
JF: We’re continuing to grow our Policygenius Pro business, which is a great avenue for us. We’re also always evaluating if there are any new carriers or products we’d like to add to our platform. And we’re always working to expand our market reach to deliver financial protection to more families.
CM: What advice would you give to aspiring InsurTech leaders?
JF: Always focus on the customer and the problems you’re solving for them. Make sure you’re solving their real problems, and you’re not just building a solution in search of a problem. And make sure that you’ve got an eye on how you can scale that solution going forward.
CM: How do you see the InsurTech sector evolving into the future?
JF: I remember when we started out, InsurTech wasn’t really even a big thing, and it has been a great experience leading that charge and seeing how things have evolved. It’s interesting to think about where it will be next year or a few years from now. The space saw immense growth for a few years and has had some recent challenges, but those who make it to the other side will be stronger. I imagine the focus will continue to shift from rapid growth to being more focused on meaningful opportunities and providing the best possible products and services to their customers.
CM: What question do you wish I would have asked that I didn’t?
JF: It’s not a question, but just some advice I’d like to share. I think it’s important for anyone — whether you’re founding a company or employed by one — to be persistent and resilient. You can’t ever control luck or fate, but you can control how hard you work.