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The HI Profile: Sammy Rubin, yulife

Protection 2.0?

Protection start-up yulife hopes to appeal to a new generation of consumers when it launches its technology-driven proposition later this year. Emily Perryman spoke to the company’s founder and chief executive Sammy Rubin (pictured) to find out more.

Gaming isn’t something that immediately springs to mind when thinking about protection, but new start-up yulife thinks its growing popularity could help it to extend insurance to a currently underserved section of the market: millennials.

yulife is a new life insurance brand which is due to launch later this year under the helm of Sammy Rubin, the former founding chief executive of PruProtect (now VitalityLife). The serial entrepreneur has a background in technology and says yulife represents the merging of his two passions: tech and wellness.

yulife describes itself as an “insurtech” start-up. It’s a commonly-used buzzword, but at yulife there is a lot going on to back up the assertion.

The process of signing up customers, for example, is being made as simple as possible through a mobile-first interface. The goal is to get customers on board within six minutes.

yulife is also creating a wellbeing digital “currency” called yucoin, which customers earn in return for achieving certain wellbeing targets. Walking one mile or completing five minutes of mindfulness is worth one yucoin.

These coins can then be exchanged for a vast range of rewards: Avios air miles, Amazon vouchers for mindfulness, and discounts for companies such as ASOS, Eve Sleep and Urban Massage. Rubin says yulife will add lots more partners over time.

Incentivising healthy behaviour

The start-up is taking tech even further by applying gaming to its proposition.

“The UK is one of the largest users of games in the world, so we decided to apply game mechanics to life insurance to drive behavioural change,” Rubin explains. “The member can take part in various challenges, such as taking a brisk 30 minute walk each day, and as they progress through the levels they’ll unlock more yucoins and rewards.

“We’re creating a new risk model which correlates to the level you’ve reached in the game. It sounds like a crazy mash, but we’re really enthusiastic about its potential.”

Rubin says it is human nature to act better if they are incentivised to do so.

“Lots of people are motivated by gaming – they want to get to a higher level. We’ve got advisers on our board from the biggest games in the world. By applying gamification to life insurance we can look at how members’ risk profile changes based on the level they reach. We’re building an algorithm over time – ‘the algorithm of you’, the life you’re leading.”

yulife is a natural step from Rubin’s time at VitalityLife, which also uses incentives to encourage people to lead healthier lives.

“VitalityLife has had tremendous growth and it continues to innovate,” says Rubin. “I love that integration of wellness. I think there is a natural relationship between insurance and wellbeing, and it’s a win-win for the consumer and the life insurance company.”

Unlike VitalityLife, which enables people to reduce their premiums by taking part in healthy activities, the amount people pay to yulife will remain constant. However, Rubin says yulife may look at enabling people to boost their yucoin earning potential or amount of insurance cover instead.

“The life insurance actuarial model hasn’t changed for 250 years,” he argues. “We want to create a new type of underwriting which is around lifestyle, so it’s not like you take out a policy at age 30 and it stays the same for life. We’re keen to create a new model based on machine learning. There will be certain guarantees, but over the years we’ll create a continuous lifestyle underwriting model. I believe this is more logical than just looking back once.”

Targeting millennials

Sceptics might argue yulife will only appeal to people who are already fit and healthy, but Rubin hopes to attract a wide range of customers.

“We want to make it accessible for everyone – to inspire you to live your best life,” he says. “Just going on a 10 minute walk can earn you a yucoin – that’s something that’s reachable for everyone.”

The CEO admits, however, that yulife’s main target market is millennials.

“There has been a disconnect between millennials and financial services companies in general,” he says. “Our aim is to rebuild that connection and show how life insurance can be the bedrock of a secure financial future. We feel our approach will attract a new audience that wouldn’t normally be engaged with insurance.”

The millennial focus runs throughout the company, which is currently based out of a co-working space in Camden, north London. Half of the employees it has hired come from outside the insurance industry and include data scientists, app builders and machine learning specialists.

“We’ve built a team whose mission is to build a new type of life insurance company,” says Rubin. “We’ve managed to attract young people who would normally be disconnected.”

The job of the data scientists is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help to create personal pathways for members to ensure they stay engaged.

“We want to inspire people to live their best lives financially, mentally and physically,” Rubin says. “We may see through our data that a member is focusing solely on their physical health, and we could suggest they balance that with mindfulness. It’s about creating a balance and giving members tools to construct a wellness regime themselves.”

Back to basics

Gaming, AI and rewards are all well-and-good, but what about the actual insurance? Rubin says yulife is going back to basics by providing simple term assurance, but it is planning to offer it in a different way.

“At yulife our plan is to enrol people as members. We’re using a subscription model, whereby people pay a fee in the same way as they would for Netflix, and we’re taking that and applying it to life insurance. Membership starts from £7.99 a month, and with that members can have access to yucoin, rewards and insurance. By using a subscription/SaaS (software as a service) model we can present insurance in a way the current generation can relate to.”

Insurer AIG Life has been chosen to provide claims management and underwriting for the yulife proposition. Rubin says the decision stemmed from a close working relationship with Richard Verdin, who was previously at Aviva now works at RGAx, the innovation accelerator of reinsurer RGA.

“RGAx is helping us with the product-build and vision of the business,” says Rubin. “RGAx also worked with us to find a company who can provide the licence for us to operate. We spoke to several providers, met AIG Life’s Adam Winslow and immediately hit it off. We felt it was a win-win.”

Business audience

yulife will be available to individual and small business customers, but will be sold direct as oppose to through advisers. Rubin says he has a lot of respect for advisers, but claims there is a need for a new type of direct player.

“One of our target markets is businesses, and that will be our primary focus during our initial launch,” he adds. “It is hard to attract and retain talent today and with the focus on reducing sick days and increasing productivity, businesses are looking for simple ways to unleash the potential of their staff.”

Companies will be able to buy a subscription for their employees, who can immediately start earning yucoin and rewards. yulife is also planning lifestyle days and other offers for companies.

“yulife is all about engagement,” says Rubin. “We see ourselves as a ‘lifestyle insurer’ which is about empowering people and helping them to enhance their daily lifestyle. So far the reaction from companies is very positive.”

yulife’s desire to improve people’s wellbeing extends to its branding. Its motto is “love your people” and its logo is a giraffe because, as Rubin explains, it has the largest heart of any land animal.

“We want to bring love to the world,” he says. “Another unknown fact is that every giraffe is unique. yulife is about each person being their best you, in your own way.”

Although the proposition won’t be available via advisers, the launch is sure to be watched closely by all in the protection industry, as insurers and intermediaries consider how best to meet the needs of today’s young tech-savvy generation.


Biography: Sammy Rubin

Sammy Rubin is currently the founder and CEO of a new tech-driven insurance company called yulife that provides life insurance, wellbeing and rewards in one app. He originally built Policy Portfolio plc, the first market maker in traded endowments in the UK and led the flotation of the company on the full London Stock Exchange. He then went on to become the founding CEO of PruProtect, now known as VitalityLife which was the first life insurance company in the UK to reward healthy living. Rubin holds a degree in computer science from Imperial College London.