Electronic Chat with Jake Tamarkin, Co-founder and CEO, Everyday Life
Laura Mazzuca Toops | September 28, 2020
Jake Tamarkin is co-founder and CEO of Everyday Life, a Boston-based online life insurance “concierge” delivering financial solutions to mass market consumers. Everyday Life was one of the graduating startups in the 2019 Global Insurance Accelerator (GIA) cohort.
Please share a little information about your professional background and how you came to found Everyday Life.
I was changing jobs a few years ago and had to replace my group life coverage with an individual policy. You would think that 20 years in senior strategy and innovation roles at places like EY, MetLife, BNY Mellon and Foresters Financial would have tempered my expectations, but still I was shocked and disappointed by how hard it was for me to get what I felt was the right life insurance for my situation. Looking into it further, I discovered studies with shocking findings, such as that 96% of policyholders have the wrong coverage for their situation. In this era of amazing innovations reshaping our society, how can it be that life insurance is failing us this badly?
People’s coverage needs change over time, often quite predictably, and smart financial planners know that consumers can save a lot of money if their life insurance is designed around this simple truth. However, traditional insurance policies and the agents who sell them -- even the cool new online ones -- are not designed to support that kind of approach. Despite my deep insurance background, it wasn’t until I experienced it as a consumer that my eyes were opened to this problem, and I haven’t looked back since.
It was around this time that I met my co-founder, Dipali Trivedi, who had gone back to MIT after a successful run leading engineering teams with her own software consultancy and at places like Constant Contact and AthenaHealth, but also wanting to do something more ambitious. She had her own painful experience trying to sort out life insurance for her family, so she could relate to our work from a consumer perspective.
We started Everyday Life in 2018 with the basic belief that we can use technology to make excellent financial planning and insurance easily accessible and affordable for everyday people. It’s not easy starting a new venture from scratch, especially one that challenges some of the basic assumptions many in the industry rely upon, but I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to hear from our customers about the difference we are making in their lives.
What makes Everyday Life unique in its products and services?
We use technology to help mass market consumers make smarter decisions about protecting their families with the next generation of advice and solutions uniquely tailored around their needs. Our patent-pending Needs Assessment technology makes it incredibly easy for everyday people to get objective expert advice about their unique situation powered by sophisticated financial analysis way beyond the simplistic calculators and tools out there, and to purchase coverage that is individually tailored to fit their needs, budget and schedule. In short, where our competitors offer a policy, we offer a plan.
It’s the difference between a rectangle and a triangle. That is, a traditional life insurance policy looks like a rectangle when you chart it out, because the coverage stays the same for the life of the policy. However, when it comes to basic family protection, most people’s needs look more like a triangle -- sloping downward over time as kids grow up, net worth builds and retirement approaches -- and you can save a ton of money with a triangle coverage plan instead of the rectangle.
Bottom line, we sell triangles. We are the only ones doing it, and we market it to consumers as Predictive ProtectionTM on our direct-to-consumer distribution platform at https://everydaylifeinsurance.com/.
In addition, we are starting to get approached by life, health, and annuity providers looking for help engaging their audiences in a more modern, customer-centric way and see the value of our next generation needs-based selling approach in helping them do that. We didn’t set out to be B2B service providers, but are excited by the opportunity to expand our influence.
What specific technology do you use to run Everyday Life?
How has the pandemic changed the landscape of life insurance, and how does Everyday Life meet these changing needs?
The pandemic has reawakened consumer interest in life insurance, particularly among younger people, but also highlighted the problems with our industry’s antiquated selling and underwriting approaches. Providers who can come closest to providing an Amazon-like buying and fulfillment experience are seeing massive inflows of new business, while the more traditional players are hurting. This is accelerating industry trends already in motion to remove friction from the buying process, such as fluidless underwriting as one example.
We were well positioned because our platform was always designed to deliver a modern consumer experience: mobile-first, easy to use, and building trust by keeping the consumer in control. So, the main effect for us was the huge increase in traffic we are seeing, which has accelerated our learning process and the development of our consumer product roadmap. It seems to have also increased the number and pace of conversations we are having with carriers looking for help moving their business online.
Who is the typical Everyday Life customer?
On the consumer side, our customers are under 50, mass market, disproportionately female, visiting us on her phone, often late at night. Imagine a 38-year-old single mom making a $50,000 salary who isn’t able to even begin her to-do list until the kids are in bed and everything’s ready for tomorrow.
The carriers we work with tend to be life, health, and annuity-focused, and have recognized that the way they used to do business isn’t going to fly anymore. They want to get online but also appreciate it isn’t as simple as just spinning up a site and a cheeky Twitter handle.
Legal & General Insurance is your current underwriter. Any plans to add more insurers or lines of coverage?
Yes, we’re just getting started! We see a huge opportunity to be the premier financial fitness platform for mass market consumers. That is what we designed our technology around and we are well positioned to grow into that role as we mature.
The first thing people will see is more life insurance products. The Legal & General product is awesome, but we recognize it’s not for everyone, so you will start seeing us offer more life insurance products to better serve a broader set of consumer use cases. We have no interest in being an aggregator, but we do want to be delivering world class service to everyone who knocks on our door.
At the same time, we are expanding into meeting adjacent consumer needs, like savings, retirement, debt management, and income protection. Our work is made easier because we took a holistic approach to financial planning when we first built our Needs Assessment technology.
Plug and Play and the GIA are your primary investors. Are you targeting others, and what are your main goals for the capital raised?
Just to clarify, our current investor pool also includes several syndicates of seasoned insurance and financial services executives. These investors are invaluable, not only because their knowledgeable vote of confidence is incredibly inspiring, they are also tremendous resources for advice and introductions. Of course, Plug and Play and GIA also provide strategic value and we were gratified that GIA chose to follow up their initial investment with participation in our pre-seed round.
We just began raising our next round in order to fund our product roadmap. We are expanding our investor base and are particularly interested in strategic investors who share our vision and have assets that can accelerate our progress.
What future trends do you predict for the life insurance market?
Life insurance is at the very beginning of a massive transformation informed by a greater sense of customer-centricity than we’ve seen before, and you can see initial signs in areas like fluidless underwriting and wearables. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I look at the radical change that has taken place in the mutual fund industry as a harbinger for what we can expect: a fundamental re-think of how we create value, ultimately for the massive benefit of consumers.
One big difference is that insurance requires collaboration: no one company can do this on their own. Distributors need carriers’ products. Carriers need reinsurers’ capital. Reinsurers need distributors’ deal flow. Everyone needs more capabilities and ideas from sources outside the insurance sector. There will be winners and losers, and the sooner insurers embrace these two themes -- customer-centricity and deep collaboration -- the more likely they will win the future.
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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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