October 30, 2018 by Brooke Smith
Danish Yusuf didn’t take a typical path into the insurance field.
He was an IBM software developer before moving into consulting, where he worked with some of the largest P&C insurers in North America and Western Europe. It was during this time that he noticed that much of the industry’s focus was on personal lines business—there was almost none on small and mid-size commercial.
“When I peeled apart the financials, the small and mid-size were most profitable from the loss-ratio standpoint, but horrible on the expense ratio side, given how manual [the process] was,” he recalls.
This led him and his business partner to create Zensurance, an online brokerage focusing on small and mid-size commercial clients. Yusuf began selling policies in the traditional way, getting on the phone and really getting into the “nitty gritty” of client businesses. He still has those clients today.
“They were our guinea pigs,” he says. “We learned from them and they’re still with us, but they buy and manage their policies online now.”
Yusuf’s continued success has not gone unnoticed by the industry: Travelers recently acquired a majority stake in Zensurance. Although the company is known for its user-friendly online presence, Yusuf says that it’s what goes on behind the scenes that really makes Zensurance stand out.
“Only 5% of our effort is what you see on the website; 95% is everything that happens in the background,” he says.
That includes spending about 100 hours on a given industry, drilling down to understand its unique risks.
“When someone goes to our site and the application is completed, I’d argue our application of underwriting rules is better than the standard broker, because we really look at what drives risk,” he says.