Life Insurance

Insurance Expert Q&A: Ladder CEO and Founder Jamie Hale

Insurance Expert Q&A: Ladder CEO and Founder Jamie Hale

ValuePenguin recently had the opportunity to speak with Jamie Hale, the CEO and founder of life insurtech Ladder. As a private equity investment manager turned life insurance startup founder, Hale has always seen value in family financial planning and the protection it provides.
Ladder CEO Jamie Hale
Ladder CEO Jamie Hale Source: Getty Images

Life insurance can play a major role in the legacy of the policyholder. For Jamie Hale, it was personal. He learned firsthand how life insurance could change lives when his father passed away when he was 11. The basic policy his father had in place gave Hale's family financial stability during an emotionally difficult time, ensuring they could stay in their community and he could attend college and graduate school.

Founded in 2015, Ladder offers level term life insurance policies, which simply allow premiums to stay consistent for the established policy term, entirely handled online. Ladder's instant, fully underwritten life insurance policy approval is quick, convenient and allows users to update and change policies — increasing or decreasing coverage as needed.

Sitting down with Hale, we wanted to dive deep into the most pressing questions about Ladder and what he has planned for the future.

We've seen how heavily Ladder has invested in providing a quality customer experience. Talk to us about the online products offered by Ladder and how you differentiate your insurance platform compared to other online life insurers.

When we ask people why life insurance lingers on their to-do lists, they tell us that the current process is frustrating — it is brain-taxing and takes forever. People don't have the patience. They want something easy-to-understand and quick. They want to know they are buying a solid product they can trust  —  without overpaying for something they don't need.

We are relentlessly customer-focused, so we thought about how we could make the term life insurance experience better for them, from start to finish. We have focused on a human-centered design to make our user experience simple and uncluttered. We want people to feel a weight has been lifted off their shoulders the minute they get to our site, and not feel overwhelmed. We offer customers instant decisions. The traditional process generally takes six to eight weeks, if not longer.

Another technology-enabled difference is that our customers are able to adjust their life insurance as their life needs change, quickly and easily, by "laddering." So once you have your policy in place, if you need to apply for more coverage, you can. If you want to reduce or cancel your policy, you can do that, too, in just a few clicks on your account page. No paperwork, meetings, phone calls or penalty fees. We're giving people the ability to manage their term life insurance in a way that works for them — for their schedules and changing financial needs. It's dynamic life insurance.

We noticed that you recently announced the creation of the Ladder for Advisors program. What need did you identify to make a platform like this, and why did you decide to add this service to your company?

Some people work with financial advisors to manage their financial strategy. Financial advisors love Ladder because they understand how people's needs change over time. Ladder for Advisors makes it easy to share Ladder with clients. With Ladder, clients can get coverage in place quickly and adjust it as needed, depending on how other elements of their larger financial plan change over time.

With each of these innovations, we're creating new access points for consumers to ensure life insurance is accessible to them  — where they want it and when they want it.

Along the same lines, tell us about the Ladder APIs and why creating a partnership platform was a goal?

Again, it's all about making life insurance more accessible so people can get it done and rest easy knowing their people will be financially protected. When we developed our API platform (application program interface), we thought about customers and where they might be tackling financial planning and "life management" tasks. We considered how we could make it possible for them to evaluate, apply for and manage life insurance where they already were.

Now, with the Ladder APIs, investment platforms, lending companies, benefits managers, health and wellness innovators, and more can easily integrate with Ladder. Their customers can figure out life insurance and check it off their list with ease.

How was your experience at the InsureTech Connect conference? What were some of the biggest takeaways or trends you noticed during the meeting?

InsureTech is energizing because there is so much happening in the space right now. We at Ladder are champions of all the ways technology makes things better for consumers. The trend and enthusiasm around InsureTech, in general, is much-needed to bring customers the kinds of products they deserve.

We are already seeing that the players that are innovating thoughtfully — being mindful of risk and buttoned up from a compliance standpoint — are bringing change that's sustainable in the long run. You're seeing it in customer adoption, regulatory comfort, expense ratios and loss ratios.

How do you see consumer behavior and thoughts about life insurance evolving in the future?

As more and more millennial and Gen Z customers start to understand the value of life insurance in their financial planning, they will realize that it can be flexible and adjust with them as their life changes. I think this will create even more appreciation for what insurtechs can offer.

One of the great things about Ladder is that we have built a product that has democratized access to life insurance. You can get the same experience, whether you're looking for $100,000 in coverage or many millions in coverage. You can apply for insurance whenever it's convenient for you — whether that's early in the morning or late at night. You're no longer limited by when an agent can meet with you. You can apply for more coverage or instantly decrease your coverage whenever you want. You are in control.

With millennials really changing up how traditional insurance is thought about, what is Ladder doing to reach and educate a younger market specifically?

Millennials are significantly underinsured. One reason for this is that many millennials overestimate the cost of life insurance. According to recent LIMRA data, 44% of millennials overestimate the cost of life insurance by up to five times the actual amount. In our advertising and via educational blog posts and videos, we encourage young professionals to check out their price from Ladder because we think they will be surprised to see how affordable life insurance can be.

When we talk to people about laddering, and how they can layer or reduce their coverage so they're only paying for exactly what they need, when they need it, you can tell the light bulb has gone off. They realize life insurance can be affordable. It doesn't have to break the bank or be at the expense of something else.

What are your thoughts on the dangers of cybersecurity and the protection of policyholder data? Are there initiatives in place or moving forward within Ladder to address such risks?

We take security very seriously at Ladder. Three key concepts in security are confidentiality, availability and integrity.

Confidentiality means preventing data from being disclosed to unauthorized individuals. So encryption and access controls are two tools we use to ensure confidentiality of our users' data. Availability means information must be available to users when they need it. We run across multiple data centers in multiple availability zones, securely, to make sure policyholders can always access their information. Integrity means ensuring the accuracy and completeness of data over time. We take special precautions to make sure our database is well-maintained, always available and pristine.

At Ladder, we know how much life insurance can change a life  —  because it changed mine. That's why we are so passionate about what we do. We're here to change life insurance for the better and we are eager to help even more people get the coverage (and peace of mind) they deserve.