AMERICAN ACADEM Y OF AC TUARIES 2 0 1 7 A C T U A R I A L J O B S E E K E R | 13
Here’s a bit of what’s brewing in 2017:
I spoke with Amanda Turcotte, MAAA, FSA, chief product officer at Ostraa. Ostraa—“ostra” in Spanish means
oyster; so they’re “covering your pearls”—is an MGA
(managing general agent; it sells insurance that is covered
by other companies) targeting the low-income insurance
market of 110 million people. There is a lot of overlap
between that market and the prepaid cell phone market,
which has 84 million people, so one place Ostraa is targeting hard is the phone market.
The company has two employees: Turcotte and the
founder. Ostraa has another actuary who is moonlighting
for them and about 10 consultants who do various tasks.
As the company grows, it plans to build a call center and
hire some data analysts to crunch data.
Ostraa’s idea—which I’m told has been tried and works
well in other countries—is that it can approach phone
carriers and let them give away micro life insurance
policies of $3,000 (for example); in return, the prepaid
cell phone users theoretically won’t move from carrier
to carrier so frequently. So they’re using insurance as a
carrot to reduce churn in other industries.
As an MGA, worksite insurers are considered potential
partners, not competitors. Ostraa doesn’t see a competitor
that is doing exactly what it’s doing, because the commis-sion-based insurance market doesn’t fit well with the
low-income market. There might be some affinity marketers who are competitors, but not at the scale Ostraa is
I exchanged messages with MedBill-IQ’s co-founder,
Peter Yeh. He says that MedBill-IQ’s main goal is to find
a consumer-friendly solution to medical debt, as well as
help people to save money on their medical bills.
“Since our launch [in 2016], we have been working on
getting consumers to download our app and submitting
their medical bills while working with health insurance
brokers to include our services as part of their benefits
“With increasing deductibles and out-of-pocket
maximums, most people’s insurance [doesn’t] even kick
in unless there is a serious event. We try to reduce health
care cost through two ways: 1) looking for billing errors
[that] contribute to the out-of-pocket expenses and 2)
working with providers to see if they’re willing to give a
discount on larger bills.”
Lingke Wang and his business partner launched Ovid
from their dorm room at Stanford business school about
two years ago. The company operates in eight states as a
life settlement broker and has built proprietary technology to simplify many aspects of the life settlement process.
Ovid’s next big step is to become licensed nationwide
and launch the Ovid Life Settlement Exchange—think an
eBay for life insurance. The target launch is early 2017.
Lingke told me, “Ovid helps individuals who are on
the verge of lapsing or surrendering their life insurance
policy through a transaction called a ‘life settlement.’ It’s
an alternative option that allows the policyholder to sell
their policy to an institutional investor. The buyer pays
the policy owner an upfront cash amount, takes over
premium payments, and collects the final death benefit.
For a customer that qualifies, a life settlement can offer
five to eight times more value than just surrendering the
“Today, all transactions are done over the counter
(OTC) via brokers. But through our exchange, large
qualified institutional investors will be able to bid into a
real-time auction. This provides massive benefits to the
Significantly increased transparency. In our exchange,
consumers can clearly see every bid and the status of their
policies. In an OTC process, consumers have no insight
into the negotiations that happen over phone calls or
meetings, and consumers won’t know if a broker is truly
acting in their interest.
Increased price efficiency. The more buyers that bid on
a policy, the better the outcome for the individual. In an
OTC process, brokers only bid out the policy to the few
buyers they have a relationship with. And furthermore, it
is not a live multi-round auction which is price inefficient.
Our exchange aims to have as many qualified buyers as
possible and features an eBay-like auction.”
PolicyGenius launched in July 2014 to resolve the “pain
points” millions of Americans face during their insurance
shopping experience. According to Jennifer Fitzgerald,
CEO and co-founder, PolicyGenius provides “the easiest
path to insurance, through tailored advice and no-pres-
sure purchasing for customers seeking life, health, long-
term disability, renters, and pet insurance anywhere in
PolicyGenius has about 2 million users.