Christian Wiens: CEO, Getsafe: Giving a new generation access to insurance

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In October 2021, Getsafe extended its Series B funding round to $93 million, including investment from Swiss Re. The start-up is now a fully licensed insurer in Germany and operates as an MGA in the UK, targeting younger generations with personal lines insurance products.

Robin talks to co-founder and CEO Christian Wiens about how Getsafe has scaled since being founded in 2015, the company's plans for expansion, and innovation trends to watch.

Talking points include:

  • How to sell insurance to first-time customers
  • The benefits of being a full-stack insurer
  • Distribution channels for personal lines insurance
  • Changes in CEO responsibility as start-ups scale
  • Venture capital trends in Europe and the US

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Continuing Professional Development - Learning Objectives

InsTech London is accredited by The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII). By listening to an InsTech London podcast, or reading the accompanying transcript, you can claim up to 0.5 CPD hours towards the CII member CPD scheme.

The Learning Objectives for this podcast are:

  • Describe how a CEO's responsibilities develop as a start-up grows
  • Identify some of the dynamics of the venture capital market
  • Explain how the UK and Europe compare to the US when it comes to innovation

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Giving a new generation access to insurance - Episode 168 highlights

Robin: Christian, you founded Getsafe as a broker in 2015 with Marius Simon. The company then became an MGA, and in 2020 applied to be a full-stack insurer. Did you always intend for Getsafe to go through that route?

Christian: When we raised pre-seed funding as a broker, we already knew we wanted to become a full-stack insurance company. We did not plan the timing, but now Getsafe is fully licensed as an insurer.

Robin: How difficult was it to get a licence from BaFin (Germany's financial regulatory authority)?

Christian: BaFin had some negative experiences with first-generation insurtechs, which likely prolonged the approval process but we were confident Getsafe would be approved eventually.

Getsafe decided to go to market as an MGA in the United Kingdom (UK) while we were getting our licence in Germany so that we could passport it to the European Union (EU). The UK is now no longer in the EU, which was another complexity.

Robin: What customers are Getsafe targeting?

Christian: Getsafe was built with an idea in mind: not primarily engaging in a price war with other insurers for existing customers to switch policies but bringing in new customers to the industry. These consumers have expectations of customer experience from other services and are unlikely to consult advisors or brokers. 

I started Getsafe because as a job starter, I did not buy the insurance I needed and suffered a significant loss.  The problem we want to solve is to make access to insurance easier, especially for young people. Getsafe is creating an infrastructure to build the insurance company of the future for the generations of the future. For example, millennials are more likely to install smart home devices, use digital health features on their phone and share data from sensors.

Robin: Getsafe has just raised $93 million in Series B funding; what will you spend the money on?

Christian: The money will fund Getsafe's expansion in Germany, the UK and other markets and provide regulatory capital. The property and casualty insurer licence Getsafe has received in Germany will not be its last; Getsafe's proposition to customers is to be the one-stop brand for all insurance, so we will sell life and health insurance in future too. To support this expansion further funding rounds will be undertaken.

Robin: Why did Getsafe choose to sell directly to customers?

Christian: The beauty of insurance is building a relationship with a customer that lasts. A growing demographic of customers expect a direct model. The direct model is expensive, but drives innovation as all the data along the customer journey can be in one system. The insurer can retarget them to purchase further policies and track their claims activity.

Robin: In the UK, Getsafe sells contents insurance through aggregators. How is that going?

Christian: Although Getsafe sells directly to customers, aggregators in some markets are important channels that people trust. Aggregators are not the only channel Getsafe sells through in the UK, but it is how we started and has worked well. The goal is to do what has been successful in Germany, advertising on television and social media, and present as a challenger insurer for digital-native customers.

Robin: Will Getsafe become a full-stack insurer in the UK?

Christian: It will be possible to passport the EU insurer licence to the UK, but this is not urgent for us.

Robin: After Germany and the UK, where will Getsafe expand next?

Christian: Getsafe would like to expand all over Europe: the question is in what order. Unlike in the US, regulation is not the constraint to growth in the EU. Although basic insurance needs are the same worldwide, the complexity is customising product offerings for each market, such as how products are bundled, or which distribution channels are used.

Robin: As a founder and CEO, how have you found the changes in responsibility as Getsafe grows?

Christian: Some founders are natural managers and CEOs. I still feel like a founder learning to be a good CEO. The company depends on a CEO's personal development. If CEOs get executive hiring or strategy wrong, the whole company suffers. It is exciting to be a CEO of a high-growth company but also a lot of work. When an organisation doubles in size, it is a different organisation, and CEOs have different challenges.

Robin: What dynamics do you see in the venture capital market?

Christian: Fundraising is a quicker process than five years ago. It is never easy. Less than 1% of start-ups go on to raise the biggest funding rounds. Pre-seed and seed funding is easier, and late-stage funding is easiest because companies have proven their business models. The middle is the challenge.

The European venture capital ecosystem does not function as well as the US ecosystem. There are not as many successful founders in Europe as in Silicon Valley or New York. But we are starting to see more European founders exiting and reinvesting money into the ecosystem.

Robin: Are the UK and Europe losing ground on the US on innovation?

Christian: American investors have seen Amazon, Facebook, Tesla and other companies coming from the US and want to fund the next generation of large companies that define societies and economies. Politics and regulation are important and can create a competitive advantage, which is positive for Europe. The rise of remote fundraising also creates opportunities for founders in Europe, Asia and Africa and weakens the US.

Robin: I hear you are an accomplished guitarist.

Christian: I spent my youth playing classical guitar at competitions, and I still play as a hobby. I love creativity and being influenced by people from different fields, and we need more of that in fintech and insurtech.