ManyPets CFO Luisa Barile on Data-driven Growth and Scaling to Diverse Markets
Most pet owners view their animals as cherished family members whose health is a top priority. And while veterinary care is expensive, pet insurance is not yet a common purchase to help defray those costs. But that’s quickly changing. Already in some countries such as Sweden and the U.K., pet insurance is de rigueur, and by 2030, the global pet insurance market will reach $33 billion in annual revenue, growing nearly 17 percent per year in the next eight years.
ManyPets is a tech-forward company capitalizing on the exploding demand for pet insurance. Since it began selling pet insurance in 2017, the company has quickly won over pet parents in Europe and the U.S. and now insures over half a million pets worldwide. FTV first invested in ManyPets in 2020, seeing great promise in the company’s digital-first model and highly satisfied customers. We’ve continued to support the team in subsequent financing rounds as ManyPets has evolved into a multibillion-dollar company.
We recently sat down with Luisa Barile, CFO of ManyPets, to discuss the fast-growing pet insurance market, the critical role of data in making business decisions and why a happy workforce is the secret ingredient to ManyPets’ success.
Your background includes a stint as CEO of Charles Taylor Insurance Services, and you’re also a certified actuary. How has your varied background influenced how you approach company-building at ManyPets?
I’m not a CFO by training. I spent much of my career in commercial and executive leadership. But I love financial analysis and bring a data-driven mindset to decision making. We actually started out as a company called Bought by Many in 2012, which was a new type of digital broker that brought consumers together to negotiate better deals with insurers. It was a great idea and a powerful platform to understand the unmet needs of customers in the insurance market. That’s how we identified a clear gap in pet insurance, which led us to launch our own set of pet insurance products in 2017. We subsequently launched two other products in the same year – travel insurance for people with severe medical conditions and micro-business insurance – which we closed down later that year.
I joined the company around that time and immediately took a hard look at the numbers. I saw pet insurance was growing the fastest and held the most potential, so I advised leadership to close down the travel and SMB lines and focus solely on scaling up pets. For many founders, that’s one of the hardest types of decisions, because you might have two or three products that you’re excited about and are doing well, and don’t want to jettison any of them. But every business decision is a trade-off, and focusing the team on successfully scaling one product has a lot of benefits. As a business, we are obsessed with data. One of my main learnings is to align the organization on the few metrics that really drive business value and always come back to them to ensure data-driven business decisions.
The pet insurance market is the fastest-growing B2C insurance segment worldwide. What are the market dynamics fueling this growth?
First, we’ve seen a huge shift toward the humanization of our pets in the last decade. People will do whatever they can to ensure their pets live happy, healthy lives. Second, the vet industry has become much more tech-forward, with many clinics now providing MRIs, chemotherapy, hip replacements and other treatments that weren’t commonplace previously. These life-saving procedures are very expensive. Thus, pet owners are turning to insurance to give their pets the best care possible. We see this trend across almost all countries, but pet insurance adoption is growing the fastest in the U.S.
ManyPets first launched in the U.K., where you now have significant market share; and you’re also active in Sweden, a country with high rates of pet insurance; and more recently you’ve expanded to the U.S. How do your go-to-market strategies differ in each country and what lessons can you share with entrepreneurs tackling diverse markets?
We adopted a different go-to-market strategy for each country but made sure that our core offering – affordable, easy-to-use, highly personalized insurance – was a constant.
In Sweden, where pet insurance was actually invented in the 1800s, almost every pet owner buys insurance, so in that market our strategy is to differentiate our offering. In the U.K., pet insurance has been around since the 1940s and about 60 percent of pet owners have it, so our strategy is two-fold: target the 40 percent of people who don’t have insurance and convince existing policy-holders to switch. In the U.S., we have a very different model given 98 percent of American pet owners don’t yet have insurance. In this market, we spend a lot of time educating people about pet insurance through our website and marketing campaigns. We also stress the importance of regular wellness visits for pets – and have introduced a seamless wellness product on top of the insurance offering to cover regular checkups and vaccinations.
One thing that sets ManyPets apart is your technology. You offer easy-to-use web and mobile apps and deploy data analytics on the backend to accurately price policies based on breed, age and other factors. What role does technology play in your growth plans?
Technology is at the center of everything we do. It powers our frontend to provide customers with an easy experience – from shopping for a policy through purchase and then claims. We also push personalized information to each policyholder based on their pet’s age, breed, health history and more. All of this is powered by a backend tech platform that collects and analyzes tons of data. We also analyze data to figure out what our customers want; one thing they kept asking for was video visits, so that’s now part of our offering in the U.K. and Sweden – and will soon be introduced in the U.S. Finally, analyzing data helps us reduce operating costs and accurately price policies – savings that we pass on to customers.
Customers love your product. They give ManyPets high satisfaction scores, which is atypical in the insurance industry. What type of company culture have you created that results in such happy customers, and how do you cultivate and maintain that as a leader?
Steven Mendel, our co-founder and group CEO, has always put a huge focus on company culture, because happy employees make for happy customers. We take care of our people, our customers and our shareholders in that order. By empowering our employees to be their best selves, they go the extra mile to serve our customers; it’s a virtuous cycle. We’re also very committed to embracing diversity in all its forms, and that means welcoming and supporting people from all over the world and from every type of background. Our team is a reflection of the wonderfully varied customers we serve.
And it goes without saying that our company culture is also centered around pets. I’ve met hundreds of our employees’ pets on Zoom, from labradors and toy poodles, to iguanas, bengal cats and cockatoos. They’re all part of the ManyPets family.
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