COO on “tremendous” opportunity in pet insurance space

COO on “tremendous” opportunity in pet insurance space | Insurance Business New Zealand

Prospects are good despite challenging economic outlook

Insurance News

Terry Gangcuangco

Michelle Le Long (pictured), chief operating officer at PD Insurance in New Zealand, believes the opportunity in the Kiwi pet insurance market is tremendous. Here she talks about the prospects and trends that the digital insurer is seeing when it comes to pet ownership and cover.

“Pets really are seen now as a treasured family member,” Le Long told Insurance Business. “So, we’re seeing a lot more acceptability – you can take them into the hardware stores, cafés, some restaurants… They really can go anywhere with you nowadays. It’s not just having a dog for companionship and for a walk around the block; people are actually getting out and really having a lot of fun with them.”

Growth in insurance uptake

According to the COO, the rise of the fur baby during the pandemic and the increased interest in purebred dogs in recent years have elevated the level of awareness of pet insurance in New Zealand. Also driving uptake is the cost of veterinary treatments.

“It’s that emotional bond,” Le Long said. “[Imagine being] at the vet and having to debate whether you could financially afford to have your dog treated or not… As pet parents, I think we realise that we need to be able to have the means or some form of insurance to care for them.

“Nobody wants to be faced with that difficult conversation at the vet’s to say what price you put on the value of Fluffy or Bruno when they need some treatments.”

According to a recent PD Insurance poll, 12% of customers had previously euthanised a pet due to not being able to afford treatments. This was prior to the respondents having pet insurance. Interestingly, the same survey found that more than 48% of PD Insurance customers didn’t have private health insurance for the humans in their household.

Le Long, whose “nimble” camp recently bagged the Reader’s Digest Quality Service silver award for pet insurance, noted that coverage can cost from as little as $1 a day depending on a few factors.

“Our insurance is affordable,” she said. “We have three simple plans; three very simple excesses. So, there’s a plan that suits all budgets. It all depends on whether you just want a little bit of accident cover, or accident and illness cover. And then if you want to go up a tier, you want the dental cover as well. So, it’s a bit like human healthcare.”

Opportunities and outlook

In Le Long’s view, the above-mentioned growth is only set to continue.

“From our calculations, at least two in three dog and cat owners don’t have insurance – a huge opportunity to increase their awareness and understanding of the value of pet insurance,” she said.

“There’s also plenty of opportunity with deep diving into claims data to finetune products and services to better suit existing and potential customers. We have several data-insights initiatives happening at PD, so we’re constantly learning and strategically applying those learnings to our operations.”

The COO added that working closely with vets, breeders, and other pet care specialists also helps in promoting pet cover.

“Although it’s a challenging economic environment, the market opportunity for pet insurance providers is tremendous,” Le Long said. “As for PD, we’re confident that if we keep doing what we’re doing, on a path of continuous improvement, we’ll be successful.

“The opportunity for us is that pet parents are becoming more empowered… I think pet ownership is certainly continuing, so we’re thrilled about that.”

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