Fetch chases pet insurance opportunities

There's no bones about it

Fetch chases pet insurance opportunities

Insurance News

By Daniel Wood

Phil Wilson-Brown (pictured above), CEO of Fetch Pet Health, calls it “a really massive shift in demographics.”

In September, Wilson-Brown (pictured above) and two other former IAG executives launched their insurance offering off the back of big demographic and cultural changes. Industry stakeholders would likely agree that these changes make pet insurance a market with lots of potential opportunities.

According to an Animal Medicines Australia survey, the country has seen a COVID-19 inspired boom in pet ownership. There are now more pets than people in Australia: nearly 29 million of them. Seventy per cent (70%) of households own pets, one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world.

“They’re just moving in together and getting a dog or a cat!”

The Fetch CEO said the fastest growing segment of pet owners in Australia is under the age of 25.

“What’s happening is people aren’t doing what some of the older generation did and moving in together, maybe getting married, buying a house, having a kid and then getting a dog,” said Wilson-Brown. “They’re just moving in together and getting a dog or a cat!” 


He also said Australia has seen changes in the way people regard pet health.


“We also saw a big shift in the way people were thinking about pet health and with our experience as both pet owners and being pet insurers, our belief was there was a better way to do pet health and pet insurance,” said Wilson-Brown.

What’s in a name?

Before launching Fetch, the insurance executive said he worked in London in roles connected to pet insurance.

“A number of the team have run big pet insurance businesses in the UK,” he said.

Wilson-Brown elaborated on some of the challenges he faced setting up his insurance firm when the idea started coming together about two years ago.

“A ton of work,” he said, went into deciding what to call the business.

“Fetch tested stratospherically better than anything else,” said Wilson-Brown. There was one problem: Macquarie had the rights to the name Fetch Financial Services.

Wilson-Brown said they “very kindly” let us take it on because they weren’t using it. 

However, just months before they launched, a big American pet services company changed its name to Fetch By the Dodo. This was a major headache because the prep work was already done, including all the branding materials.

“We went, ‘Oh damn!’ but then we decided we weren’t going to America so we’ve gone with it and we’re glad we did,” said Wilson-Brown.

Challenges from two directions

The CEO said the other main challenges came from two directions. 

“I think there’s a challenge for insurtechs in Australia and elsewhere in that you’ve got to get your underwriting capacity, your investors and regulatory licences all lined up at the same time,” said Wilson-Brown. “Then, you also need partners, so in our case real-time payments providers.” 

He said these potential partners sometimes appreciate the idea you have but say they don’t deal with companies until they have 30,000 customers.

“Then you’ve got to build the tech and then you’ve got to convince people to come and work for small salaries – albeit with equity packages - as you get going,” said Wilson-Brown. “So I think that confluence of things is a real challenge for insurtechs in the market generally.” 

He said they initially expected to sort out these issues in about six months.

“I think it took us a year and a half to get those things all in place,” said Wilson-Brown. “So that was the biggest hurdle.”

Improving product and growing

Today, he said, their challenges are around improving the product and growing effectively but with a small team.

“But we’re still a small team and we’ve got this really, really big ambition about what we want to go and deliver but resources are pretty limited,” said Wilson-Brown. 

 He said it’s a balancing act.

“You’ve got to grow to be able to actually bring the people on, but you need to bring people on to be able to grow,” said Wilson-Brown.

How is pet insurance uptake looking?

Insurance Business asked if Australia’s demographic and cultural changes are leading to more people taking out pet insurance?  

“In the UK, I would say that pet insurance penetration is running close to the 50% mark, so it’s really common there,” said Wilson-Brown. “Here, it’s probably nearer 15% to 20% but it’s growing really fast because that younger generation is much more inclined to insure than the older generation.” 

In the US, he said, only about 5% of pet owners take out coverage for their animals.

Interestingly, the Animal Medicines Australia survey found that about 17% of dog owners are paying for pet insurance, down from 30% in 2019.

Every dog has its day?

However, the Fetch CEO is confident that the rising cost of looking after pets is making pet insurance increasingly attractive.   

“I think you’ve got this awkward dilemma where, especially those younger owners, want to be able to do more for their pets but there’s an affordability piece around it,” he said.

Another factor that could be working in his firm’s favour: the coverages are about more than just insurance.

“I think good insurance is really important but we are not trying to build Fetch to be a 10% better insurance company, we’re actually trying to build Fetch to help people manage their pet’s health,” said Wilson-Brown. 

How have Australia’s cultural and demographic changes in recent years created insurance opportunities? Please tell us your thoughts below


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