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Figo Pet Insurance Policy Discussion with Founder/CEO Rusty Sproat

From Audio: Interview With Rusty Sproat - Figo Pet Insurance

station description Health Insurance Isn't Just For People Anymore
Pet Insurance Guide Podcast
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Duration: 32:47
Details of Figo policy and innovative technology
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Details of Figo policy and innovative technology
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in today's episode uh interview Rusty Sproat the founder and ceo of a relatively new pet insurance company called Figo. The company launched last year in 2015 and the home office is in the Chicago area. The company has introduced some new concepts to the pet insurance industry and Rusty does a great job explaining it all. So let's go straight to the interview Rusty, what is your background in the insurance industry and why did you decide to focus on pet insurance? So I had bought some uh insurance agencies in Chicago, all state, three separate insurance agencies and I was looking to um learn about insurance from an agency level before I was looking for other opportunities and insurance and after a couple of years I had someone walk in my office and say that they had just bought pet insurance and my head had spun around. So I had always been an entrepreneur at heart. I was Um in real estate and property management for 20 years and on my own company since I was about 24 years old. So I just started googling pet insurance and researching the industry and I was just, hey, I was fascinated about the opportunity and the industry and how it had evolved and I saw an opportunity to do something different to do something more of a lifestyle brand and I saw a massive gap in technology um that I thought could really streamline and assist and add value to the brand. Um and uh That was back in 2012, I think it was February and I had my head, my agency sold by october of that year and I was working out of a little 10 ft by 10 ft room, I really field in Chicago, working on a deck and an investment opportunity to launch a technology based cut insurance company. And back in May of 2012, I came across Nafta which is, I'm sure you're aware of its the national, the north american Health Insurance Association and Um I went to their first ever summit in Canada and it was me and about 30 or 40 people sitting in a room In 2012. And that conference has grown too. It's a huge conference now but after listening to the actuary report in the, on the growth and learning more about pet insurance. You know, one out of every three fortune 500 companies offers pet insurance as a supplemental employee benefit knowing that you know that insurance started in in Sweden in 1924 and then went to the UK in the 19 forties and didn't get to the US until 1982 was last see um you know, we follow a lot of european trends from you know internet to cell phone, texting micro trips on our credit cards. We're always behind europe on uncertain trends and this is one that now with the humanization of pets and that specialty hospitals and the cost of medical care and the millennials and just a whole host of reasons, the industry is still in its infancy and there's not a lot of opportunity to get in on a new, on a new industry. So I thought it was a great, great risk to take. I also bought a book back then which, ironically was your book. I bought it on amazon your pet insurance. Got it was funny because my creative director when he, when he said, oh, this is the book that you bought, you know, four years ago, I'm like, yeah, this is the same guy. So it's quite a coincidence. Yeah, Little did I know when I published that book that uh I put a lot of companies specific information in there and lo and behold within a couple of years, a lot of it was obsolete. Yeah, so I've learned my lesson, I'm rewriting that book basically. Uh and I'm going to publish it without company specific information, but it'll have links to digital forms of that that I can change, you know, when things change and it's going to have a lot more in depth uh information about pet insurance, Just the essential stuff that people need to know. So, yep, you know, in starting a pet insurance company from scratch, you get to start with a clean slate. And I spent some time on your website and I noticed a picture on one of the pages of you and some folks standing around a table talking and in the background is a white board that has a list of a lot of the things that eventually made it into your policies and your pet cloud. And so just if you would give us an overview of your policies and why you decided to do things the way you did. Yeah, absolutely. And there's there's, you know, we really have, we have two products. So you know, Figo is all about making life easier for people in their pets and we deal with our products which are pet insurance and technology. So I'll talk about both of those but from from a policy perspective, you know, I really wanted to do something simple and I wanted it to be transparent and I wanted it to be easy to understand that I wanted I didn't want to sell a policy ever to someone who thought they were covered for something that they weren't. And in looking at the landscape of pet insurance to me and I was in the insurance business, it was very confusing to go from one company to another and try to figure out exactly how do I compare them, you know, because there was such vast differences. So for us it was really important a to lay something out and make it super simple, make it easy to understand. We have probably one of the most dynamic searchable ethic sites in the industry. You can type anything in hip leg dysplasia, MRI you type it in and you'll pull up all the information about our coverage is and the content that we have on it. So, but I also wanted to fix some things that I thought were odd. You know, I didn't understand why some companies would have a deductible that was per incident because to me the deductible should be annual. I didn't understand why someone would have a breed restriction or an age restriction or why company wouldn't pay for your office. Does that if your if your pet was injured? I mean if my I have an 11 year old boston terrier who's completely part of our family, we got him when he was about eight weeks or nine weeks old and if he got injured in an accident and I rushed him to my vest and I had insurance. I think I would be upset to find out that the officers that wasn't covered. So all the other insurance insurance companies that have been out there that had been learning as they go. We really got to benefit from by looking at all of their policies and how everything was structured. So we got to sit down and change the things that we wanted. So just from a policy perspective and I'll just give you a few examples because there's so many, you know, we thought it was really important to have three different plans, not just one plan one coverage, we really thought that people should be able to go in there and easily from their mobile phone change deductibles, change copays, change their plans and find a price that fits their budget. Um We have an unlimited lifetime plan. We have annual deductibles. Um we have 100% reimbursement coverage. So not only can you go in and select unlimited annual benefits, but you can select 100% reimbursement. So that's unusual for the industry. We covered the examination fee, we'll waive a copay and deduct deductible if it's an emergency vet hospital for life saving treatment. No patent insurance company is going to cover preexisting condition. But we thought if that pre existing condition was curable, why would it not be covered? So uh if my dog buster had chronic ear infections for eight months and then they went away and that was two years ago and they've never come back, why would he not be covered? Two years from now if I'm buying health insurance for my pet. So we changed our pre existing conditions to say that if it has shown no clinical signs for 12 months prior to the inception of the policy. If it's curable. Clearly cancer is not curable. But if it's something that was curable then we will cover it. So lots and lots of things like that from a policy perspective knees are huge. A cruciate knee tear. As you know I mean they're very common. There's 34 $5000 depending on the severity and where you go and a lot of pet insurance companies. Figo included has a six month extended waiting period on the knees. So what we do is as soon as you buy a policy from us, if you've missed that on our website and your welcome email, welcome to Figo. It says very important and right there it says there's a six month waiting period on the knees. However, If within 30 days of buying your policy, you take your cut in for an exam and it was that we'll examine the knees and say that they're healthy. Will waive the six month waiting period. You just brought up something about sending emails and making policy owners aware of that provision. You know, I found as you know, communication is huge in any relationship and the more information that you can educate policyholders with about your policies. Uh, I think the more satisfied they're gonna be. Absolutely. And it seems it saves the customer stress because like I said, we don't want to sell a policy to someone and have them think they're covered for something. They're not. I would rather not sell the policy because there's nothing worse than calling any insurance company thinking you're covered and protected and you've been paying something for so long to have someone say, oh, you didn't read the fine print. I'm so sorry. Yeah. You know, one of the most frequent questions I get when people find out that I blog and write about pet insurance is, does that work sort of like human insurance and uh, I'll tell them, yes, it does for the most part, but you just brought up something after owning, uh, an Allstate agency and selling. Um, I presumed different types of insurance when you look at pet insurance, it varied so much from company to company that it was very confusing. But yet, uh, it's been my impression that most auto policies from company to company are very similar. Most life insurance policy from company company or pretty similar. So you don't, it's not quite as confusing, is it? Uh, absolutely not. Unfortunately. A lot of insurance has just become a commodity and I mean ultimately, I think the goal for pet insurance is to have the policy is more similar than dissimilar. I mean, all insurance companies look for that. How can I tweak the policy or make it different from my competitors to make me stand out from everybody in the field. And that's where those minor differences come from. So, you know, the competitors are all out there constantly trying to tweet their policies and make changes to their systems and the things that they're covering to make the policy is better for everybody. So at some point, I think it is becoming more similar than dissimilar. Yeah. And I think companies like yours, the newer companies who start out offering customization of policies and so forth, are forcing some of the older companies because of competition to make changes in their policies, um some of those companies are changing some of the things that they've done for a very long time, which is good, you know I mean there's change is always good. Okay, I'd like to kind of get into your pet cloud just a minute, so I'm going to kind of bring up some uh different things about that and just get you to comment on that. Sure, your inbox and documents, we really wanted to come up with something that aside from insurance was going to make life easier for people and their pets and this is our tech cloud, it's available and android and IOS and it's fully responsive, it's like facebook, so you can use it on your tablet, your desktop or there's a dedicated mobile app and the debt is always the same. So one of the things that we developed was sort of a dropbox for pets. Um and what's great about it is you just, it's very similar to dropbox. You open it up, there's folders, your policy documents are in there, you can you can create new folders, you can um you can email things in and out, you can share things, but we give everybody their own email. Uh so every time you any policyholder who signs up you would be um you know, you could be dr Kenny at my pet cloud dot com. Anyone who emails something to you, especially your veterinarian, um that's going to be in your inbox and you're going to show an alert that there's something in your inbox. So when you leave your bets office, if you don't take a picture of your bill, if it's too big and they're going to email it to you, it's automatically they're going to be in your pack cloud and you can look at it, you can move it to a different folder and market medical records or receipt And you can build a library for all of your pets and all of these custom folders for their entire life. So if you're traveling and your pet gets injured and your 2:00 AM and you're standing in a veterinary hospital in Tulsa Oklahoma or the outer banks in South Carolina. You literally have the entire medical history of your pets in the palm of your hand and you can forward those medical records to that vet who's on staff at the emergency hospital. So it's a really great way to keep everything from adoption records to microchip set up forms to any pictures, videos, anything you want. Okay. What about your pet tags and gps? Yeah. So um the pet tag is just uh it's a Figo branded blue or mint pet tag with a unique number on the back. And what we've done is you uh you get a pet tag when you purchase a policy with figure you get it in the mail and you just go online and you type in the number on the back of the tag in your pack. Cloud and you register that tag with us. Um If anybody finds your pat on the back of the tag, it tells them to go to our website and they can type in the tag ID Number and right from a smartphone, they can send a text uh up to five people in your family. Uh And it's a group text. So I could say, hey this is rusty, I just found buster. Um Please give me a call or text me and if I was on a flight or my kids were in a class, uh My mom was available. One of us is going to get that text and we could immediately contact the person who found busters. So it's just a great way not to put your phone number or your pet's name on the tag. Um and reunite, reunite your pet when he's lost. And when they go online to the smartphone and type in the tag number, we have online social profiles for all of the pets and the pack. Thought. So it's going to pick up a picture, pull up a picture of buster and you get to say something unique. Like my ears are sensitive or I'm scared of Children or don't feed me peanut butter. So you can personalize a message to the person who's actually found your path. Okay, what about your gps? Mhm. So one of the things we wanted to do is we wanted to open up our pet cloud technology and bring in a third party vendors that had cool products. And this was one of our first partnership. So it's a product called Gibby. It's a Pet GPS device, you can buy it on amazon, it's fully integrated with our cloud. So once you set up your pet GPS device and you put it on your pet, you just sign into your GPS device in our pack cloud with your Gibby username and password and it's permanently length. And if you ever open your pet cloud app and click on Gps, you'll see real time. The location of your past, wow, okay, what about shots and reminders? Yeah, this is great too. So um one more thing that we wanted to to try to give them an information perspective to our customers. So um at every vet bill that are on most bills that you receive on the top, we're going to be all the shots that you need, you need, you know, board a tele or uh you know, whatever it may be, there's four or five typical shops. I'll just use border. Tell us an example. So what we do is we've pre filled all of those shots into our pack clouds. So when you click on shots and reminders, you can add annual visits with your vet, you can have custom reminders if your if your dog's on heartworm pills or certain medication. and then below that we've listed all of the standard annualized shots, rabies, board a tele. Um And what we really easily you just put the date in right off your bill of the last time you had that shot Or the next time it to do. And we'll send you a text message and an email and you get to choose one day, three days or 14 days or all before the before that shot or that custom reminder is do what's also interesting is a lot of people, they may not know why their dog needs aboard a teller shot. So when you click on board a tele within the pet cloud, it actually pulls up a description that has been written for us by um one of our advisors who's a veterinarian explaining exactly puppies, dogs, what the shot is, why you need it and what the frequency is. So we're trying to add value to some of the medical mysteries around a lot of these shots of people don't know what they are. Okay. A simple claim fouling. This is one of the things that we that we really wanted to focus on is making the claim experience pretty simple. So typically have had insurance over the years and still, currently today there's some providers that require a form and the facts and a signature from your vet. Um And it can be kind of a tedious process. So we've come up with a super simple way. You can do it from a desktop or your mobile phone, you can take a picture of the bill right from the vet's office, right from the mobile app. You answer a few questions from a drop down then you date amount description of what happened. And you hit submit claim. That claim goes into our pet cloud. Our claims department immediately sees that we reach out if the medical records aren't and we reach out to the veterinary practice, request medical records and then we start processing the claim and we're just now launching its in testing. We're launching hopefully next month electronic payments so the customer can actually receive electronically right into their checking account. So there's no vaccine. There's no forms. There's there's nothing else you have to do except electronically fill out this form and attach the bill. Okay. The near me please. Yes. So there's two new things. So near me is currently in its in its base functionality. So what I'll tell you is that for the past 14 months that we've been in business we've been testing are packed cloud with our existing customers and we're coming up with and I think we'll be releasing it probably in fourth quarter of this year. Um some significant enhancements and improvements to the pet cloud. We're making it free so you don't need to buy a policy from Figo to use it. And we've added a couple of pretty to new features. So the near me right now you can search for pet parks veterinarians, their predefined pet related searches online. And it pulls up locations and directions and some other information. So we're actually blowing out the near me and we're going to be including um some four square reviews, some yelp reviews, um more information. We're gonna let our customers rape a business as pet friendly or not pet friendly. You'll see people's comments on the pet friendliness. Um all sorts of really great information for things that are trending around you. Pep parks trails, pet stores, um dog groomers at resorts, daycare, dog walkers, all sorts of things right at your fingertips. And the next thing that we're actually adding is a feature called connect. So you'll be able to sort of like an instagram style feed. There'll be small snippets of pictures and they're going to be based on location. So you can search through thousands of different pictures of pets. You can search my busters of boston terrier. So if I wanted to go through and just search for boston terriers near me, it would actually show by location just pictures of boston terriers that are near me. I could message the person, I could set a group Playdate at Montrose speech in Chicago and message 10 boston terrier owners that lived around me um a lot of other very interesting socially connecting features about the pack clouds. So with the new near me, which was going to be called Explorer. And the new connect feature and all the other enhancements that we're doing based on our beta testing and user feedback. This next pet cloud is going to be pretty dynamic and you will not need to buy like I said a fiscal policy to use the package and you download the app and it's completely free. Well that's great there. I noticed that you have a portal for veterinarians. Also We do so we have a lot of technology that we developed while we're at the Google Technology Hub 1871 in Chicago that we were there for a year and a half and one of the things that we wanted to do was offer everybody in the industry some technology that touched the pet. So we do employee benefits for some large veterinary specialty hospitals. Um And we've got a really dynamic hospital portal. So um hospitals as an employee benefit will pay for a policy or a portion of the policy and they'll actually manage their policies and their group and they can go online and um they can pay 11 bill uh for all of their all of their employees monthly they can file claims that can upload medical records. Um We've got a really interesting um service for them and we're um currently working on um the launch of another portal for individual veterinarians where they could potentially upload um an estimate for um some work or are bills that are potentially trying to see if they're going to be covered or not. And sort of pre qualify. Um customers don't let them know if they're covered or not. Do you have a shelter portal also? How how does that work? Do you all have a trial policy or anything like that? Yes. Our policy is gonna be cancelled within 30 days money back. As long as there's not been a claim filed within those 30 days. So you can test the policy out and if you don't like it well completely refund your money. Um We do offer discounts and waiting period waivers. Um So we work with shelters and rescues for that. Um What's great about our pack cloud is that as we're willing to pack light out for free. We have a feature for these shelters and rescues where they have the ability to use this pack cloud um sort of an enterprise version and they can put multiple pets in there. And then when when a pets adopted um the customer can download the file go app and they can leave the shelter or rescue with all of their shots already and they know when they're when the reminder dates are for the shots, the medical records, the adoption records, everything is an inbox and docks and all the customer has to do is download the Figo app and walk out of the out of the shelter. So it's really digitizing that process as well. I guess potentially a breeder could use it that way also. Yeah there's no limit to the number of pets that you can put in the cloud. So breeder. Absolutely, absolutely could do that. Okay. Does the pet owner and or the veterinary hospital have available to them from the pet cloud? Whether the deductible for the year has been matter docked. Um Currently it does not show in the pack club. That's one of the things that we're going to try to get into the new version that we're releasing. Um It would just be on a claim by claim basis but we it will be it will be coming out so that they can go in and see what the balances on their annual deductible. Okay. And what's also interesting about about our pack cloud is our pack cloud is completely self service. So if you want we let any of our policyholders go in and make any change once a year right from their pack cloud without having to call Figo. So if you wanted to change your co pay your deductible or your plan you can do that on your own. Uh Well an unlimited number of times you can go in and change other information such as your billing address or your personal information or um so we we try to make it as as as easy as possible. Um One more thing that that I want to mention about the pack cloud is that you know we we've integrated into our technology platform for customer service. Um Texting we have a very high texting engagement with our customers. So um if you texted us from your mobile phone our customer service staff will text you right back. A lot of people are busy. A lot of people don't recognize phone numbers, They don't answer their phones. They have a quick question. They don't want to be on the phone for very long. And it's been it's been a really really great feature for our customers to be able to to text us and quickly get a response. Okay. I I guess this is probably similar to the deductible question. Uh The policy limits uh would would that be available to a veteran hospital? What the policyholders policy limits are for the policy and how much coverage is left for that policy year? Yes. So all the information as far as the coverages are available to packed crowds of the customer. So right now we don't have veterinarians that have access to the customer's individual pack clouds. So the customer could go and open up their pack, click on the insurance tab and see exactly what the coverages are from the insurance tab for that particular policy. Um And again and the balance left on on the payout based on the plan would also be something that we're going to make available later in the year. Um One thing that I recommend that pet owners do when they sign up for a policy is to ask for a medical records review uh so that the company can look at the medical records and let them know on the front end if any conditions the pet has been treated for in the past, our pre existing. Do you all do that? You know, we don't do that right now and we we we would we have license about text in our office would be more than happy to to make that review. Um It's really up to the claim adjudicators and the examiners at the time. So although we'd be more than happy to Let them know what we think would be a pre existing condition and we would probably be 99% correct. Um It's not it's not something that, that were, you know putting out there as a service right now. Most people will know if they're if they're pet has had an illness in the past. Okay. You know, I guess this sort of goes to from from my perspective as a veterinarian and how pet insurance works and how I would like it to work I guess would be you're talking about being able to do pre certification of acclaim. And from my perspective as a veterinarian or especially in an emergency setting the emergency clinic, particularly if it's going to be potentially thousands of dollars. Is this covered or not. Okay. Number one and um how much is available for the coverage, yep. Absolutely. And the deductible and the coverage balance is what we're going to make available, the pre certification we're actually working on. So you can go into the pack cloud and instead of finding a new claim, you could get a pre certification claim and it's the same. Everything is the same. You're just up your uploading the estimate from the veterinarian's office and you're describing the amount and and all the information that a regular claim would request. So that is definitely a feature that we're working on because we see a great value in that for our customers. Okay, why do you think that pet owners who have looked at pet insurance in the past and decided it wasn't worth it or they didn't need it are now beginning to take a second look at it. I think it goes to the fact that that like I mentioned earlier the humanization of pets. Um I cannot tell you. And I'm sure you hear this all the time, how many people that I that I need almost every single day when they say, oh you're in pet insurance all you know, my my sister's dog was, You know, $10,000 or um and we just we just paid a cancer claimed two weeks ago uh for 17,000. So I think that people are beginning to realize that that the advancement in veterinary care and what we're doing for our pets today, there's nothing we can't do for a pet that we're not doing for a human. So when you look at these specialty hospitals, you literally would not know and you click on specialties that it was a veterinary specialty hospital versus a human hospital unless you saw the word vet. And those specialties are anesthesia and pain, pain management, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, radiation, oncology, neurology rehab, you name it, you look at this and you think it's human health care. So what's happening is those because we're doing so much more for our pets today. Those services for anybody humans or or our pets is expensive. So 20 years ago People would go to a vet and they sell 4000 really? Sorry, I can't afford it. And people were euthanizing a lot more pets 20 years ago than they are today. Now people are taking out care credit for high interest rates. They're calling their and their mom their brother, their sister, they're taking out loans, they're asking people to give them money so they can save these pets that are not members of their families. So the humanization of pets plus the advancement and what we can do um from the veterinary perspective, all of these things play together and now people are saying, you know, I I need that insurance, some veterinarians are opposed to pet insurance or at least veterinarians being the ones to market the product. Yet some pet insurance companies rely heavily on veterinarians marketing their product by handing out the company's brochures to their clients. What is your philosophy on marketing your product? Pet insurance saves pets lives. I mean period you avoid tough decisions and you avoid having to to make a decision that might result in in euthanizing your pets. So pet insurance works. Um My communication interaction with the veterinary community is that uh they have some concerns about recommending one pet insurance company because if something goes wrong or if that if that coverage isn't good and that's the one that looks bad. But most of the vets that I've spoken to like pet insurance because it saves pets lives. So what we found is that The veterinary community will will select two or three of the pet insurance companies that they like the best. And when the customer says you know what do you think about that insurance? They'll say, well here's two or three that we like. Um And a lot of veterinarians that we work with have been recommending Figo because they like our coverage and they like our technology
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