In one year, insurance firm doubles its payroll, to now more than 200 people, and grows revenue 300%, to $20 million. How? By embracing technology and sticking to an underserved niche.
Shopping for and purchasing Medicare Advantage and Supplement insurance can be confusing. That’s why Clearwater-based Ensurem set out to simplify the process. The startup insurance broker and insuretech firm was founded in 2016 with a goal to bring transparency and choice to the senior insurance market.
“We just felt seniors weren’t given the ability to really shop and see what’s available in their areas,” says founder and CEO Dave Rich, 65.
It’s a disruption long overdue in the industry says Rich, a 40-year insurance veteran who’s held executive positions with major insurers like Great American Financial Resources and Manhattan National Life Insurance Co. But the company first had to prove seniors would actually go online to purchase insurance.
Ensurem reached seniors through efforts like social media and paid search. It manages almost a dozen different domains – like buymedsuppnow.com – that help the company target customers by things like geographic location or gender. The company doesn't administer or underwrite policies, but it makes money through a combination of its licensed insurance specialists writing policies sold through insurance companies; third-party administrative services it provides for insurance companies; and digital marketing it provides for insurance companies. “We have very sophisticated algorithms so we can manage our spend by domain,” says Rich. “We manage all that so we can optimize our reach to customers.”
Those efforts have paid off. Ensurem had $19.68 million in revenues in 2019, up 314% from $4.75 million in 2018. Rich won’t disclose at this point the company’s revenues for 2020, but he says the company “more than doubled our sales and resulting revenue. We had a very good year last year.”
‘We have virtually no voluntary turnover. We invest in our employees and we have career paths and a great environment.’ Dave Rich, Ensurem
Ensurem has benefitted from that fact that seniors have become increasingly comfortable going online. According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, only 14% of adults 65 and older used the Internet in 2000. By 2019, that number had jumped to 73%.
Seniors have also learned that comparison shopping can help secure them the best plans and rates when offerings for Medicare Advantage and Supplement insurance change or their premiums rise due to age or other factors. With Ensurem, customers can compare options and purchase plans online easily and quickly, often without speaking to an agent.
Managing the company’s explosive growth comes with challenges. One is maintaining the company’s corporate culture as staff numbers keep growing. It’s a culture built on a framework of servant leadership, and Rich says it’s been a big part of Ensurem’s success.
“We have virtually no voluntary turnover,” says Rich. “We invest in our employees and we have career paths and a great environment. And they stay. That is very effective from just purely an expense standpoint, but it’s also just the right thing to do.”
Ensurem currently has 210 employees — with more than 100 added in 2020. And the payroll could grow to 250 or 275 this year. Space has also become an issue, which has pushed the company to make some changes.
For one, it’s building out a space in Largo where it will move its operations from its current Clearwater headquarters. The first level is already functioning as a full-service contact center. The second level will house the operational staff, and Ensurem is hoping for mid-summer occupancy. It’s also converting 10,000 square feet of retail space off U.S. Highway 19 in Port Richey, Pasco County, to serve as a satellite contact center. Rich estimates the company has invested more than $1 million in leasehold improvements for both spaces
“We wanted to accommodate the employees who were driving from [Pasco County],” says Rich. “And of course the rents were attractive up there.”
Rich actually wants to slow the company’s growth a bit in 2021, to ensure it’s on solid footing for the future. “We’re going to fix some of the things that we let go in order to build critical mass, which we had to do from a revenue standpoint,” he says. “So we are kind of taking a step back and doing some of the things we would have liked to have done early on.”
That includes efforts like cleaning up the company’s back-office functions and building up its cyber agent, Agent E, by feeding it more information. “Through machine learning and AI, we can train this cyber agent to become more effective in helping seniors make decisions,” says Rich. “It’s really not built out the way we want it to be, so that’s one major step we have.”
Ensurem also wants to continue its product development work. It’s got a new option for final expense insurance coming out in the first quarter of 2021 and would like to continue to expand product offerings so seniors have more choices. “The industry is selling the same products it was selling years ago,” says Rich. “There hasn’t been a lot of change in the product itself. So that’s what we want to do; we want to make the products better consumer products.”