Electronic Chat with Andrew Jernigan, CEO, and Allen Koski, President and Chief Innovation Officer, Insured Nomads
Laura Mazzuca Toops | April 05, 2021
The COVID pandemic has unalterably changed the way people work, and enabled remote work from virtually anywhere in the world. Many countries are launching “digital nomad visas” in the hopes of replacing tourists with remote workers.
Insured Nomads is the first insurtech focused on remote workers, digital nomads, expats, and travelers around the world. The company offers a full portfolio of insurance solutions for the globally mobile -- including international health, life and disability, and travel insurance. Serving clients around the world, with numerous customer service points, Insured Nomads operates with strategic partners around the globe, with registered regulated entities in London, Hamburg, and Birmingham, Ala.
Andrew, your resume has a global footprint, from project management at a clinic to Ghana, to Alabama for consulting on global benefits. Did you determine the need for Insured Nomads from your own nomadic experience?
Andrew: I have lived cross culturally since I was in my 20s and worked in crisis response, travel, and brokering international plans. From my experience, this niche of the insurance industry is in need of change, of awakening and enlivening. I’m also married to a global health/travel medical physician (company co-founder and global medical director Dr. Juliana Jernigan), so we view the needs differently than the static medical policy requirement. Her experience with leading providers around the world for wellbeing, along with what’s known as duty of care, are key factors that we’re passionate about.
Please share when and how you started the business.
Andrew: In the spring of 2019, well before COVID and a global pandemic, Allen and I said we have to build a better rocket ship. Allen’s experience is in building and delivering outstanding insurance products, going back to his time with Travelers and CIGNA. We started the company in the fall of 2019, and went live in December 2019 with travel plans. Service has been one of the main ways we’ve stayed ahead of the COVID curve, and we’ve brought in new ways to redefine what insurance would look like during the pandemic.
Allen: A lot of the products on the market today are not tech enabled. In my previous life in insurance, we tried to drive policyholders to call an alarm center -- that’s typical insurance. But with our cell phones having more computing powers than NASA had in the first moon landing, it makes sense to empower people. Digital nomads typically don’t have a benefits staff to call, so we empower them through technology to find the right provider, use the payment card to get a claim paid, or hit a panic button online if they need it.
What specific tech tools does Insured Nomad use to service its clients?
Andrew: Our policy ID card is connected to the Mastercard network in a fintech deployment that’s unique in this space. Insured Nomads members have access to a curated bundle of benefits called Juvo, which includes a virtual bodyguard with crisis evacuation services, cyber security protection, mental health/wellbeing counseling, telemedicine/virtual health, airport lounge entry, global intelligence with intercultural development on cities and countries, and more.
The global provider network for both hospitals and security response has been crucial for us to build into the technology. Our technology is backed by the best-in-class providers because no matter how good the tech is, it’s only as good as the providers. We’ve also made it easy to use.
What is the geographical distribution of Insured Nomad’s customers?
Allen: We have a wide geographic swath out there, so the only area we avoid are the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) countries like North Korea and Syria. We’re seeing a lot of growth in areas like Estonia, Portugal, and Costa Rica. In a post-COVID world, everybody is chomping at the bit to travel somewhere, and we see an opportunity to serve them, too. Globally there’s also a large cadre of foreign nationals that come to the U.S. for short-term work or travel, who we also want to support.
Tell us a little about how your affiliate partnerships work with travel agents and others.
Allen: We work with travel agencies and other affiliate groups, typically by setting up a link to their intranet site where they can direct their members. We provide the insurance coverage as a benefit to their members. One of the great things about working with travel agencies is that they’ll provide feedback, which helps us build our product better. The co-working, relocation and employer services industries are key partnerships in this new type of offering.
How have you selected which brokers and underwriters to work with?
Andrew: Creating a customized schedule of benefits and finding underwriters for this new portfolio of products has been highest priority for us, letting us deploy tech as we desire. Our travel coverage is underwritten through Hanover Specialty with a U.S. policy administration claims, which allows us to deploy our technology interfaces, and VYV Groupe in France for our international health insurance products through our European MGA, Insured Nomads Underwriting GmbH.
Allen: Most global insurance brokers work not with individuals, but on group products for large multinational companies. Since we’ve been talking to the broker community, they now realize there’s a big opportunity for this digital nomad environment. We’ve been using thought leadership to educate the broker community on what they’ve missed. Lots of U.S. brokers didn’t know about digital nomad visa, for instance, so they can reach out to their client base and educate them about it, too. We’ve been getting more traction with the small to midsized broker community in focusing from group to individual and travel needs and preparing for black swan events. As a participant with WBN (Worldwide Broker Network), we serve the leading brokerage firms along with other select relationships.
Where do you expect to see the biggest business growth in the next few years?
Andrew: The remote work environment, the shift of the workforce over the past 10 years, is now in the spotlight, with everyone knowing you can take the office with you. We see that as an area where insurance must evolve in deploying tech. These workers aren’t going to be running down the hall to HR to ask questions; they’ll be expecting it on their cellphones and at their fingertips. COVID has been one of those things that has escalated the need for this technology. Just as restaurants responded to the shutdown by offering online ordering and pickup, insurance has to similarly shift to adapt to the new normal. Technology should make things easier, not more complex, for the user. There are simple things tech can do to make insurance a frictionless rather than a fearful process while still protecting data.
Allen: I hope in five years we’re a brand name in the digital nomad and remote work community. We’re well on the way to earning that trust and we have the right people, tech, and vision to support that. We’ve already done a lot to educate insurance and affiliate groups about digital nomads, but there’s more out there that can be focused. We are the category sponsor for the 2021 virtual Running Remote conference, the largest of its kind, which reaches 15,000 people a year. Just like the expats who went off to live in Paris after the 1919 flu pandemic, we’re expecting to see a huge uptick in travel. We’re also seeing governments becoming more flexible and tracking people who work in those different locations -- people who want to work on their own terms, with more consultancy and more remote workers operating as individual proprieties, which will play into our programs.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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