Equipsme may be a small team now, but they are disrupting the private medical insurance market in a very big way. We caught up with Gavin Shay, Distribution Director and Co-Founder, to find out more about how the team is bringing a fresh approach to a traditional industry, in order to meet the needs of the modern workplace.
Gavin tells us all about how a market research project planted the seed to grow the business and how Equipsme cover has helped the early diagnosis of diabetes, which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. We also discuss the biggest health challenges facing employees today and the future of the insurance market.
Can you tell me a little bit about Equipsme and what you do?
Of course! Equipsme is a new entrant into the health insurance space, we are the first new health insurance provider to enter the market since 2004.
We provide health insurance to businesses of all shapes and sizes, from the self employed business owner with no employees, all the way up to SMEs and large corporates. We're a market disruptor and we're doing something different to the traditional private medical insurance market. Our mission is to bring health insurance to more employees and more businesses than ever before.
Great! Could you elaborate on what makes Equipsme different - why are you a disruptor in the market?
I think it's worthwhile to go back to where and how Equipsme all started to answer that question. Equipsme started as a project within AXA Health. We were set a challenge by the CEO at the time, to see what we could do differently for the SME market.
We put real business owners in a room and we asked them: What did you want to purchase over and above the NHS? What would you like to offer your employees? And how much would you be prepared to pay per employee per year.
Then, we worked backwards and we challenged ourselves around the product structure, the price points. So for instance, over 60% of businesses said that they would be prepared to pay around £350 per employee per year as a contrast to over £1,000 on traditional private medical insurance. Our most popular plan is conveniently £29 a month, which is £348 a year. So in terms of what makes us different - everything we've done has been built around customer feedback and addresses exactly what people are looking for.
The problem with health insurance has always been cost and complexity and what we've done is blend the best of what is needed from practical, day to day health insurance at a more affordable and accessible price point.
The story here is so interesting - the fact that you've gone backwards and built your solution around the real-world preferences and needs. Were there any other interesting insights from the conversations you had in the research phase of the project?
I think that's a really good point, actually. So we spent 10 months researching the market within AXA Health. We did focus groups up and down the UK, Birmingham, London, Bristol, etc. We asked them exactly what business owners were looking for. It's quite interesting to understand what people are looking for and what they're prepared to pay for.
When you talk to a business owner of a typical SME, they want to hit a particular price point and a particular coverage. So, the things that we do cover are all based on what a business owner is looking for, and also about the pinch points in the NHS. We provide physiotherapy, access to GPs, diagnostic tests, scans, consultants and hospital treatment - all places where the NHS has got a limited capacity.
From an insight perspective, what became clear was that traditional plans are really complicated. People don't understand them and when they don't see a return they can’t see the value. However, everything we've done helps address the basic health needs for their employees and helps them back to work quicker.
That’s great. Equipsme is also blending the familiar, core cover and partners with companies like Thriva who bring your offering into the modern age...
That’s right. Through our research and conversations with business owners, we quickly realised that giving employees some form of health check would be really useful. So we offer a health check - that employees receive in the post – from £17 pppm, offering value from day 1.
On our top plan at £37 ppm, we include vitamin D, diabetes and cholesterol tests through Thriva. This is a home test kit with everything you need to take a blood sample and pop it in the post. Three or four days later you receive a personalised report. We also do this ongoing, so employees can get a personalised health check every 12 months.
We wanted to provide not just health insurance, but something practical to get people thinking - there's an awful lot of people that have got diabetes that don't even know it.
Thank you. I notice that you support many businesses through your partnership with the Amazon accelerator. Do you have any other customer cases studies that you'd like to highlight?
I'd say 95% of our businesses are new to healthcare. We wanted to make health insurance more accessible to more businesses of different shapes and sizes. These 95% of businesses are covering nearly everybody in the workforce. We have a boatyard on the coast that provides the £29 product for everybody as well as Engineering firms, IT & Tech, Design Studios, PR agencies and even a detective agency!
We also support businesses like Smart Pension who provide the £29 product to every staff member so it's quite a large group. They made a conscious decision that they wanted to look after their employees which will resonate with your corporate customers. They are very complimentary about what we do and it’s worked really well for them. They are a growing business and adding more people all the time.
We've also got smaller but equally valued customers. In one case, a husband and wife SME team had to use our GP service as a second opinion one weekend because they were concerned about their son’s health. It transpired that their son was actually Type 1 diabetic and no one knew, even their local NHS GP missed it.
The Equipsme GP recommended they go straight to A&E and within a couple of hours, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, this diagnosis prevented him going into a diabetic coma. It's a really interesting case study as it shows how our product can complement and support the NHS which is obviously stretched right now.
So, in light of the pandemic, have you had a change in the direction of Equipsme or seen a spike in interest in any particular product lines?
It's a great question. I mean, we are always thinking about how we can improve the product. We've recently included gym discounts via AXA’s online Active Plus platform so employees can get discounts on supplements, buy further health products and get discounts on wearable tech etc.
In terms of changes in response to the pandemic, we've increased the physiotherapy limit from 3 sessions to 5 on our starter plan (£7 pppm). We are also looking at potentially expanding the number of counselling sessions in our Stress Support package from 5 to 8. We know that stress support, especially in the pandemic has been used and we've had some great feedback. At £1.50 pppm it is a highly valued and affordable product proposition.
That’s going to be really impactful. What excites you about the future of Equipsme and the business insurance space?
I think we've had a lot of excitement this year! I think for us, it's just trying to widen the distribution side of things and working with partners like Ben. We can cater for businesses of different shapes and sizes from SME, Mid-sized and larger corporates. Everyone likes the flexibility of things, like the starter plan which allows employees to upgrade and add their family separately.
We're constantly looking to improve the product, tweak and change the employee experience and have a list of things that we want to try and implement for 2021. We're exploring everything from extras for employees to purchase separately and improving the GP booking service so employees can pick their own time slot.
We're in a very interesting time. Not everybody can afford traditional health insurance but there's been a spike in people’s interest in health insurance recently. We’re now seeing people going to their bosses, and saying, “Hey, I really want health insurance”. The traditional approach can be around £800 to £1,000 per employee, which is obviously extremely expensive but now there's a different approach available to businesses.
That’s brilliant, is there anything else you’d like to add?
We're very excited to be working with Ben and to be supporting your customers - with us, your customers are in safe hands. We've won some awards in 2020. We were highly commended for Best Group Health Insurance recently - just pipped to the main prize by BUPA but they've been doing this since 1947! We’re really proud of what we have achieved so far and I’m sure Ben customers will love what’s available to them through your platform.
A big thank you to Gavin for sharing so much valuable information about Equipsme and the journey so far. We are really looking forward to kicking off our partnership with the team on 15 December.
If you would like to find out how Equipsme can support your business, check out their website here.