If consumers today could come to a common consensus about insurance, it would most likely be that it’s confusing. Too often, people get caught up in the jargon and nitty-gritty details when dealing with insurance. When that happens, they may lose out in a couple of ways, whether it’s paying too much, securing the wrong policy, or simply giving up before getting a policy.
Life insurance is no exception. However, getting it wrong may lead to serious consequences when the unthinkable happens. While an uninsured auto accident leads to heavy expenses paid out of pocket, passing away without a life insurance policy may leave your family with serious financial problems without support – on top of struggling with the loss of a family member.
When planning ahead with life insurance, it’s important to get it right. Luckily, companies are rising to the occasion and streamlining the process for consumers. One such company is Ladder – an insurtech company focused on making it easy for consumers considering term life insurance.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask, Jamie Hale, the CEO and Co-founder of Ladder, all about the life insurance industry, Ladder’s solution, and the technology behind innovation. Read on to learn more!
In this Q&A:
The Inspiration Behind Ladder
Q: What was the initial inspiration behind starting Ladder?
A: There are really two parts to the story. I know first-hand how life insurance can change lives because my father passed away when I was 11. The basic policy he had in place ensured my mother, brother and I were able to stay in our community, and I was able to go to college and graduate school. It gave us financial stability when we were going through our hardest emotional season. That is an important part of my dad’s legacy. It showed me that life insurance is a meaningful part of family financial planning.
Prior to founding Ladder, I worked in private equity investment management. Friends would ask me for financial advice. The friends I spoke with wanted to get life insurance, but were bogged down in the process. I realized there was an opportunity to disrupt the traditional process and make things faster, easier, and more transparent. Even if you have the best intentions and know you need it, life insurance falls off your radar. Ladder is here to change that.
Q: Are there any unique challenges to establishing a user-focused company such as Ladder within the life insurance industry?
A: We are obsessed with creating the best possible experience for our customers — designing something simple and delightful that gives them instant decisions, great prices, and instant peace of mind. But we also have to make sure that people know this better solution exists, and that it’s not just a cosmetic makeover of the existing system.
When we started Ladder, we built our tech stack from the ground up – we didn’t just put a pretty UI over legacy infrastructure. Our product is designed to make things as fast and simple for customers as possible, while offering fully underwritten policies (to qualified applicants) in the blink of an eye. It’s on us to show customers that there’s a better way.
Q: Which startup challenges were the most difficult, and how did you overcome them?
A: What keeps us hustling is the ever-evolving needs of the customer. Today’s customers have high expectations, and they are demanding more from the industry every day. As Jeff Bezos says, ”customers’ expectations are never static – they go up.” As a leading insurtech company, we always want to meet our customers where they are—online and off-hours—with what they want—products that are instant, flexible, and affordable.
Modern consumers’ desire for a better life insurance product, one that is customized for them and gets them the most competitive price, means that we are always innovating and iterating to improve upon the Ladder product. We have learned to be nimble. In fact, we ship software improvements over 10 times a day. That is over 3k software updates a year.
Ladder and Today’s Life Insurance Industry
Q: In your opinion, how is the life insurance industry “broken?” What significant challenges do average consumers face when trying to get insured?
A: The traditional life insurance process has been the same for decades. When we ask people why life insurance falls off their radar, they tell us that the current process is frustrating. It is brain-taxing and takes forever with lots of meetings, paperwork, and up-selling. People don’t have the patience. They want something easy to understand and quick to do. They want a solid product they can trust — without overpaying for something they don’t need.
We are always thinking about how to make the term life insurance experience better for people, from start to finish. We have focused on human-centered design to make our user experience simple and uncluttered. We want people to feel a weight has been lifted off their shoulders the minute they get to our site, and not feel overwhelmed. We offer customers instant decisions. The traditional process takes 6-8 weeks.
Q: How is Ladder innovating to fix the current problems in this “broken” industry?
A: We are focused on eliminating barriers and creating more entry points for people who need life insurance, so that it is easier for them to get it done. There are several ways we have tackled this in the past year. Our Ladder APIs allows us to seamlessly partner with like-minded companies who want to help customers manage their financial futures. Using our APIs, they can streamline the life insurance process so that their customers can have a delightful experience and calculate, apply for, and manage their life insurance.
We also launched Ladder for Advisors. Ladder for Advisors makes it easy for financial advisors to share Ladder with their clients. Financial advisors are uniquely positioned to see how life insurance supports their customers’ financial plans, With Ladder, clients can get coverage in place quickly and adjust it as needed, depending on how other elements of their larger financial plan change over time.
With each of these innovations, we’re creating new access points for consumers to ensure life insurance is accessible to them — where they want it when they want it— so that more people can get the coverage they need and deserve.
Q: What key advantages do Ladder policyholders have over policyholders of other providers?
A: At Ladder, we want to make things easy and efficient for our customers. We offer “laddering” so that our customers are empowered to adjust their life insurance as their needs change, and save money in the process.
Basically, once you have your policy in place, if you need to apply for more coverage, you can. If you want to reduce your coverage, you can do that at any time—with just a few clicks on your account page. No paperwork, meetings, phone calls, or penalty fees.
We’re giving people the ability to manage their term life insurance in a way that works for them, for their schedules and changing financial needs. It’s dynamic life insurance.
Q: Why do you focus solely on facilitating term life insurance? What advantages do term life policies have over other policies?
A: Term life insurance is awesome because it has a transparent value proposition. You pay for life insurance and only life insurance. You can cancel anytime.
Other types of life insurance tend to be much more expensive and can have an investment component too. Our customers are savvy— they prefer to invest their money on their own and solve their life insurance needs with an inexpensive, pure term product.
Q: Could you see Ladder expanding into new life insurance verticals aside from term life insurance?
A: Right now, we are entirely focused on term. We listen carefully to our customers and any expansion will be driven by their needs.
Ladder combines innovative technology and insurance expertise to streamline consumer access to term life insurance. Through an online application, Ladder offers consumers fast policy decisions and tailored pricing options. To learn more, check out our full Ladder Life Insurance Review.
About Jamie Hale
Jamie Hale has over a decade of financial services, private equity investment, and entrepreneurial experience. In 2015, he co-founded Ladder and continues as CEO today.