Simon Birch admits he used to hate insurance. Instead of walking away, he’s spent his life fighting for a better deal for people who work for him and customers who buy insurance. We ask the tough questions to which Singaporeans want answers.
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Shop smarter pay less Budget Direct Insurance CEO Simon Birch
This is just not the case with budget insurance. We don’t keep costs down by offering a pared back service or a minimalist customer experience. We work smarter and harder. You save money because we don’t pay any agent fees, because we make use of the latest technology, and because we invest in our customer service and claims people – all of whom are based right here in Singapore.
The whole process is smarter and quicker.
2. You have a proven track record in the insurance industry, both here and in the UK. What is one thing you would say to Singaporeans looking to get the best deal on their insurance?
This. Don’t pay over the odds for something that is actually very simple. As an intelligent consumer ask these questions before you buy:
- If I buy insurance from any company here, do they offer a better price if I buy direct?
- Or will I pay the same higher price no matter whether I go through their agent or buy direct from them?
- Does the company offer me the option to buy easily and quickly online?
- Does the company offer ways to customise my insurance to keep costs down?
- If I need to claim, are claims settled quickly?
- Will I get to talk to one person throughout the process, or will I get passed around from department to department? You can find out how a company handles claims by asking around or checking consumer forums in Singapore.
3. What is the one experience that has brought you to where you are today?
I spent my early work life in a traditional insurance company. I hated it. I saw how customers were suffering from processes that were slow, inflexible and expensive. I also didn’t believe that customers should be paying for a company’s fancy offices or expensive outings – all the conferences, golf games and luxury dinners.
Then there’s the problem with buying insurance from an agent. Agents can’t offer you the best choice because they are incentivised to sell particular products. Products that may not be the best fit for your lifestyle or bank balance.
I am a customer myself; I want to pay the best price for a good product. That’s fair. I’ve spent my time working hard to create a better experience for those who work in insurance, and for those who buy from us. I’ve invested in figuring out how to make insurance fair for our customers without compromising on service.
4. inc.com has a great take on what highly successful companies have in common; one of them is setting intelligent goals. What is your goal for Budget Direct Insurance in Singapore?
We are a genuinely entrepreneurial, customer-focused insurance business in Singapore. Insurance companies tend to be owned by huge businesses with a lot of buildings, staff and overheads.
How does this affect the customer? Big companies can become very inflexible. This is particularly true in the area of new technology. Large companies rely on tech that dates back to the 1980s, so they store data on lots of machines. If they add a website, it has to be cobbled onto an old system. This can get very expensive; you have to pay for the all the infrastructure, lots of IT staff to figure out why one bit of the system won’t talk to another part and so on.
It all makes everything slower, and the slower something is, the more costs can increase. All this inflexibility, all the overheads and time, these costs gets passed on in the price of insurance.
5. So what are you offering customers that is better?
Remember the launch of the iPhone? It wasn’t a little bit different to other handphones; it was night and day better. That’s what we are doing throughout the company. Night and day better – from the way we design our offices, to the people we recruit, to how we use technology, to the speed you can get a quote or have your claim settled.
Like the iPhone, our customers will benefit from insurance that is smarter, more flexible and designed with them in mind.
6. Tell us about the way new technology helps you work smarter?
Singapore is very well regulated and ahead of the curve when it comes to new technology. We’ve been able to benefit from this. Our customers won’t be paying for us to create and maintain an expensive physical data centre. Data is stored in the cloud. Safe, protected by cutting edge firewall technology, respecting Monetary Authority of Singapore guidelines.
Because of this all our systems are integrated and have been built to make it easy for the customer. We’re able to be flexible and streamlined. We don’t need to pay for lots of technicians standing by to sort out glitches or crashes. Plus we are flexible to be able to change as technology advances, to the benefit of people who work for us and insure with us.
7. Something else that makes companies great, especially for customers, is a healthy team culture. It seems like that is a passion of yours. Why is building a great team important for you, and your customers?
A lot of people who work in a more traditional top-down environment want something better. I want to enjoy coming to work, and that’s what I want for our people. We have built our business on the foundation that we are good to each other and look out for each other.
My personal experience – and lots of research show – that it’s amazing how much, and what people can get done in a healthy team environment. Where we aren’t fighting each other and without all that political manoeuvring. Instead, we are empowered to do the best we can. We succeed together, and if something goes wrong, we figure out a way to fix it together.
We invest in training, so we have confidence when dealing with customers at any stage of the process. The claims team are not stuck in a dark, back office somewhere. They are on the phones, motivated, talking to customers and getting claims resolved, quickly and efficiently. People are motivated to try new things, to find ways to do something better. We offer clear career progression; our people can go as far as they want to.
All of this pays off for the customer because we work fast, we look out for everyone, and we do the best we can every day. Respect and trust play a huge part in making our business work to everyone’s benefit.
Look out for the second part of this meaningful conversation with Simon Birch. We’ll ask how Budget Direct Insurance was founded and how insurance customers will get a better deal. We’ll also talk about the other companies Simon respects.