There might not be a hotter industry at the moment than insurtech. Every time you turn around it seems a startup has entered the market or an established player — case in point: Tampa’s HCI Group and St. Petersburg’s UPC — has launched an insurtech spinoff.
One of the fastest-growing firms to join the insurtech fray is St. Pete-based Kin Insurance, which currently operates in California, Florida and Louisiana, with big ambitions to expand. Co-founded in 2016 by Sean Harper, who serves as CEO, and Lucas Ward, the firm’s chief technology officer, Kin underwrites and sells residential property insurance direct to consumers.
Chief Insurance Officer Angel Conlin, a veteran of ASI and Nationwide, says Kin can offer low rates thanks to tech innovations that have allowed it to reduce and even eliminate many expenses associated with traditional ways of doing business in the insurance industry.
“We’ve squeezed a lot of costs out of the process, using all of the efficiencies to give customers better rates,” Conlin says. “That was the mission. We have a deeply ingrained commitment to using data science and our technology advantage to make everything easier for the customer.”
‘We felt like until we created our own insurance company, we couldn't be as seamless, fast, efficient and customer-friendly as we wanted it to be.’ Angel Conlin, Kin Insurance
The approach is working. Kin — which has 400 employees spread between St. Pete; Chicago, where its parent company is headquartered; and remote or home offices across the country — “exceeded our annual goal for total managed premium by 7%, increased our premium renewal rate to 97% and tripled the number of customers we serve,” Harper says, adding that the company has seen year-over-year growth of 320%. According to Yahoo Finance, as of November, Kin had generated $91 million in premiums, and Conlin says that number should grow to at least $200 million this year.
A potential obstacle to further growth, however, is marketing and messaging. Conlin, 48, says it can be tough to cut through the noise in an industry dominated by companies that can deploy multimillion-dollar budgets for Super Bowl ads and such.
“We have not invested in big brand marketing,” she says. “We’re direct to consumer, so we try to do grassroots marketing … and we’ve gained a lot of traction because we’ve got a lot of happy customers.”
Conlin says Kin prefers to gauge its marketing success by looking at metrics such as business review site Trustpilot, Google reviews and its Net Promoter Score. The last metric is a customer loyalty score that addresses a coveted data point: how likely a customer is to recommend your product or service to someone else, on a score of 1 to 10.
“Our NPS, the last time I saw, it was 84,” she says, “and the overall industry is in the 40s.” Actually, it’s even lower than that — 35 — when you isolate the NPS for the home and contents insurance subsector.
But what Kin lacks in advertising budget, it makes up for in creativity. Its “Florida, Man” ad campaign embraces the wild, weird Florida Man stories that have become fodder for national news and uses them to highlight the need for insurance in a state that leads the nation in hurricane landfalls, lighting strikes, alligator intrusions and other random dangers.
“My life is a result of living in paradise when paradise is trying to take you down,” says the actor portraying Florida Man in Kin’s latest online video ad, amid scenes of him getting conked in the head by a coconut while drinking a giant pina colada and accidentally assaulting an old man at a nude beach with a hot dog.
“We tried to turn that trope on its head and cast Florida Man as an unsung hero,” Conlin says. “In the future, as we grow, we’ll probably do some more brand efforts like that, but not to the extent that it’s going to be a big expense driver that will impact our premiums. We’re always going to keep premiums low.”
Kin has had a slower launch than traditional insurance firms that can turn to a large group of independent agents to sell its products. The company started out as a tech-driven agency that sold other carriers’ policies before re-emerging in 2019 as a full-fledged insurance company in its own right.
“We felt like until we created our own insurance company, we couldn't be as seamless, fast, efficient and customer-friendly as we wanted it to be,” Conlin says.
With its identity fully established, Kin’s strategy is to grow through acquisition. It recently bought an inactive carrier licensed to operate in 43 states, giving it access to a $110 billion home insurance market. “We will have all of those additional states open to us,” Conlin says.