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InsurTech Ohio Spotlight with Adam Zuckerberg

Adam Zuckerberg is the Vice President - Worksite Solutions at Western & Southern Financial Group, serving families and businesses just like yours with our diverse range of life insurance, annuities and investments. Adam was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.

Adam, you didn't come from life insurance and instead have a background in the investment area. How does that influence the way you look at the industry?

“I have over 25 years of financial services experience. As you mentioned, most of that is on the investment side. For example, in Boston, I worked at various asset management companies as an equity and options trader and then worked at Fidelity in 401k sales. I tend to look at life insurance in the eyes of a customer more so than a lot of others in the industry who have been working in life insurance for decades. I have three kids ranging from nine to 16-years-old, so I certainly understand the need for it and how it should be both simple and efficient to purchase.

Worksite benefits programs provide a convenient market to reach a diverse audience. There's an enormous gap out there with life insurance coverage; the majority of people simply don't have enough. Western & Southern wants to make it easy for consumers to purchase the protection they need in order to close that gap.”

Tell us a little bit more about Western & Southern and some of the company origins.

“Western & Southern is a Fortune 500 company; it has been around for over 130 years. There are over 3,300 associates within several different business subsidiaries. There is also an investment management arm, a real estate development company and mutual fund company. It has a very diverse family of companies with over $100 billion in assets owned and managed. It is a highly rated company with a strong balance sheet. Western & Southern also sponsors one of the largest tennis tournaments in the world, the Western & Southern Open. It's played in Cincinnati every August and is one of my favorite events that the company is involved in.”

What has impacted the growing need in the life insurance space?

“When COVID hit, the need for life insurance immediately went to the front of people's minds. If someone had children or was recently married and didn't have enough life insurance, it was thought about and discussed in most households. Life insurance went from a benefit that was possibly included in the suite of worksite benefits to one of the most in demand benefits out there. The struggle for carriers was how to make it available to customers in the most efficient way.”

How have you seen partnerships and acquisitions in this space drive innovation?

“About three and a half years ago, Western & Southern purchased Gerber Life. That was one of our largest acquisitions. It provided industry-leading, direct-to-consumer products and capabilities. The Gerber name and logo is known by most people in the country, and it allows us to use that amazing brand with our new worksite products. It was a great addition to our family of companies. More recently, we partnered with an insurtech company out of New York called Afficiency. This resonated with a lot of our prospects and clients, as we combined the strength and stability of a 130-year-old insurance company, the brand power of Gerber Life and the tech savviness of Afficiency. Through that partnership, we created two voluntary life insurance products that are innovative and differentiated in the industry. The most recent acquisition for Western & Southern was the purchase of Fabric Technologies, which accelerated our digital expansion. Fabric has placed billions of dollars in life insurance protection through its fully digital platform and mobile app.

On top of these acquisitions, we have a Strategic Venture Capital team that not only looks for investment opportunities in high-potential startups but also opportunities with companies that fit in with our overall strategy. One specific focus is to look at current businesses that can help grow our worksite products and capabilities. All of these deals help advance our vision, which is creating scalable, customer-friendly digital solutions to help families.”

Are we seeing a lot of new entrants into space, and where do you see gaps that still need filled in this market?

“Before COVID, most companies had a three-to-five year plan to make all of their products fully digital. Once COVID hit, it became an immediate need. We're not seeing products that match our fully digital capabilities in the voluntary life offerings.

We went about trying to create innovative and differentiated products. We have a head start, but we know that other entrants are coming in trying to create similar type products. There are still plenty of gaps in the market. Our goal is to create a fully-bundled, best-in-class suite of solutions for employers and their employees. A lot of brokers and companies are limiting the number of carriers they use, trying to make it as simple as possible to alleviate any administrative burden.

We will continue to look at additional fully digital, innovative products to add to our offerings. Many employers would like to offer voluntary benefits such as critical illness, accident, short term disability and even pet insurance and student debt help. Our goal is to be a one-stop shop of first-class solutions. We know that employers want to modernize their benefit packages and help their employees. That's the goal, and we're trying to do it the smart way by adding one in-demand, differentiated product at a time.”

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