When he made a career switch from IT to insurance, Danish Yusuf joked that he had to pick up golf – a sports skill that is seemingly a requirement among insurance professionals.
Although he admits that his golf skills need more polish, Yusuf’s game plan for the insurance industry is anything but amateur. The co-founder and CEO of Zensurance uses his background in software architecture and development to come up with an online insurance purchasing solution that is convenient and efficient for clients to use.
This self-proclaimed technologist also has high hopes for the future. Yusuf spends what spare time he has reading about the latest start-ups and the industries they are trying to shape. He also enjoys mentoring young entrepreneurs; Yusuf admits that he learns more from the passion and energy of his students than they learn from how he began his own company.
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Join Insurance Business Canada as we find out more about this Young Guns 2017 recipient in this interview.
Can you describe the circumstances that led to the creation of Zensurance?
I spent a lot of time working with large insurance companies who were trying to figure out their digital strategy. We kept bumping into a few major challenges
a) Skepticism on the return on investment. The typical approach of large companies is to invest in a massive technology upgrade, spend hundreds of millions, and then embark on the new strategy. If you try to evaluate a new strategy with a $400 million investment requirement, it is very hard to justify. At the same time, it is hard for large companies to release only small bits of functionality at a time, and grow into a “perfect” offering.
b) Slow movement. Large companies take time to change, and insurance companies were no different. Everything from head-count and budget challenges to culture resulted in a lack of movement.
Given those two constant challenges, I felt that I could have much more impact on the industry from the inside. I wouldn’t be stuck with the traditional legacy technology challenges or governance structures. With that in mind, I decided to start a technology company focused on helping the insurance industry respond to the needs of the digitally savvy customer.
As a former associate principal with McKinsey & Company under the company’s digital financial services practice, what are your thoughts on emerging fintech and insurtech innovations? Is there a specific upcoming technology that has your interest?
I am most excited by the opportunity to leverage non-traditional data sources to underwrite commercial risks. The standard approach is to ask the client 50 questions, hope that they are accurately answered, and then come up with a price. With so much data available through different sources, there is an opportunity to create a “telematics” product for business owners, whereby we constantly track their business operations and optimize their premium based on usage metrics. We could also make sure there are no gaps in coverage since we could match the insuring agreements with the business activities.
You were previously associated with digital giants Samsung and IBM – how would you describe those experiences? Has your job experience with both companies helped you in your current career in insurance?
Samsung, IBM, and McKinsey were all tremendous foundations for all my efforts today. Each experience provided me a unique window into different facets of the business world, and also helped me build a network of innovators that support Zensurance today.
Samsung’s growth into a global powerhouse mirrored that of its home nation. Over the last 30 years, Korea rapidly moved up the innovation value chain and beat many of its Japanese and global peers by out-executing and out-innovating them. IBM went through a similar transformation in the early 90s. McKinsey helped countless industry, companies and infant countries embark on similar efforts. All these learnings are directly relevant to how we are thinking about transforming the commercial insurance industry.
How would you convince young professionals to pursue a career in insurance?
Growing up, I never imagined I would one day become an insurance broker. The industry has been unfairly painted with a legacy brush. Almost every person and every business needs insurance. Our products help re-build lives and support small business owners in their time of need. We offer such a crucial product. However, the industry is going through a massive shift. We need the energy that comes with young professionals to help drive the industry forward. Whoever joins over the next five years could play a tremendous role in transforming the industry.
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