Renters and insurance: a jungle to get through
It has often been a struggle for renters to gain home or contents insurance. Generally younger consumers, they are seen as too much of a risk. This has left a gap in the market and one that insurtech Urban Jungle is more than willing to exploit. Patrick Brusnahan writes
Urban Jungle was founded in 2016 by Jimmy Williams and Greg Smyth, who wanted to make insurance more relevant and to better serve “Generation Rent”.
The firm now has more than 15,000 customers.
Its platform was designed from scratch with renters in mind. Urban Jungle worked closely with underwriters to get rid of many legacy home-owner questions renters are asked when starting a policy.
Cover starts at just £5 a month, but the insurtech has bigger plans. It hopes to stay with its customers as they grow and experience new parts of life. Fundamentally, this means Urban Jungle can expand its product offering.
It has raised £3.7m in external funding to date. Products include contents, gadget, and tenants liability policies.
Why does Urban Jungle exist?
Jimmy Williams, now CEO of Urban Jungle, tells Verdict InsurTech: “Like all company stories, it starts with a customer experience. I was so new to London, renting a flat with a friend, and we couldn't afford to rent a smaller place so we had to share. Basically, we couldn't find anyone that would insure us. We were young and trying to do the responsible thing and get insurance, but the industry wasn't really there for us. There's a bit of a fundamental bias knocking around in an industry where as soon as you say ‘shared house’ people turn away.”
He continues: “We stumbled across in our experiences this gap in the market. None of the big insurers were taking young people's home insurance in any way seriously. It's a pretty big market. What’s weird is if you come from other sectors, as you know, is that usually everyone goes ‘right, I'm going to try and capture these customers when they're young’.
The under 35, newly at work, segment is one of the most in demand customer segments across all sectors but in insurance, for some reason, they are being ignored. That was the Genesis of it all.”
“They've done their own research that shows that if you don't have any kind of insurance, you also probably don't have any savings.”
There is a large segment of the population there waiting to be insured. According to Williams, between 60 and 80% of tenants do not have any form of contents insurance.
There is a bigger reason to offer these products. Lacking insurance can lead to greater problems in the future.
“It’s becoming an increasing cause of financial destitution,” Williams explains. “This is why we're talking with me with the Treasury about this recently.
“They've done their own research that shows that if you don't have any kind of insurance, you also probably don't have any savings. So you're either a slightly older renter who's on a lower income, or even just a young one with a moderate income, but you're paying so much in rent that you basically can't save. And if you get a fairly serious claim, so burglary or fire, or something that costs thousands of pounds, you're uninsured and end up taking out a loan that you can't afford, paying a pretty high interest rate. That's the start of a debt spiral, a lot of bankruptcies and general heartache.”
Savings for customers
Urban Jungle can deliver cost-effective policies due to automation. Everything is automated or self-service and this allows savings to be passed onto the customer.
Who is Urban Jungle targeting then?
“There's two segments who look at insurance differently,” Williams describes.
“There’s those who are safety geeks who always have insurance, and always will. And then there's the people who are sort of insurance sceptics who don't have it and haven't thought about getting it.
“Even within the sceptics, there were a couple of different colours, different types of customers, so they're actually quite a big group. They sort of know they should buy it and feel a bit guilty for not getting it. They just have never quite found someone who is suited to them. They’ve always been hit by exclusions and are tired of the insurance experience. Why we benefit from that point of view is because we're a new brand, people like the challenger banks and investment companies and payment firms and all those things. People are used to that now in the UK of being challenger brands, and people who do things differently.”
Williams concludes: “We set ourselves up like that, to be very different. Urban Jungle doesn't sound like insurance company, right?”