Le Faouder is AOC’s founder and CEO. The company has its headquarters in Paris and Hong Kong with additional offices in Bangkok, Shanghai and Medellin.
Le Faouder discusses how he started AOC and provides insight on its evolution form a scrappy start-up to a firm recognized for insurtech innovation. He also talks about the brokerage’s plans for further expansion including through partnerships, M&A, incorporation of new technology, affiliate programs and future growth capital. The questions and answers have been edited and condensed to fit an article format.
How did you start AOC?
AOC Insurance Broker was founded in Thailand in 2012, after I spent a year studying the international private medical insurance market. To my surprise, a lot, if not most of the professionals in the international medical insurance sector were in Hong Kong or else worked in China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. At the time there was only one comparable firm, a UK brokerage, and there wasn’t anyone yet providing digital offerings. AOC Insurance Broker was born from this observation, that there was a gap in the market, and from a desire to offer policies and services with a real customer benefit. I don’t feel I was predestined to create an “insurtech” with a multilingual staff and a global reach. I have to mention that when I started the company too, my English was not very good at all. At the time I was also in Asia taking a year-long sabbatical and was focused on improving my golf and taking a break from previous business ventures. Still, I have always been an entrepreneur. I am also Breton, and I am part of the Breton diaspora, a community I have relied on for advice, especially for avoiding mistakes. Romain Camillo, my partner, and now the director of our Hong Kong subsidiary, joined me in starting the business, which we created almost literally from scratch, without outside capital. We built the technology and business brick by brick. We built our SaaS platform around our CRM, tested our business case in Asia, and began acquiring customers. Later, I returned to France to modify the statutes of a family company of which I was the main shareholder to make it a SAS (a limited liability company by shares) with this subsidiary in Hong Kong. As a result of this change to the company structure, we found ourselves fortuitously included as part the French tech ecosystem and were recognized by Finance Innovation in June 2017 as a top 50 insurtech innovator and were also recognized at the end of 2017 as the company with the most promise by Innovator Edge in Chicago. Since then, the ecosystem has pushed us to keep improving. Earlier this year, we launched a business to consumer mobile app and we added digitized calls for tenders and comparison features for corporate and international organizations in B2B2C and integrated prevention and health prediction with our partner Medicus. Outside of our comparison, we reward customers for their loyalty with an AOC The Family reward program. We also continue to look for a technological edge, and are adding an enhanced robo-advisory offering for our platform and app.
What pain points do you solve for travelers, employers?
It's not just about travelers, as travel insurance is just one of our benefits. The company is really about how to secure the best protection for those who are leaving their country of origin for an expatriation, business, retirement, for leisure, or other reason. There are over 300 million expatriates globally a number that grows by more than 60 million every year. Those expatriates and the companies that employ them face a complex set of rules that vary by country. This fact necessitated that we were truly independent, so we could help our customers get the right coverage. We have B2C, B2B and B2B2C offerings and have an API that integrates with Medicus, our technology partner for prevention and health prediction. Our B2B contacts are essentially the people in charge of "compensation and employee benefits". Our mixed model compares health plans, digital prevention, m-health and IOT up to prediction with genetic markers (delivered by our exclusive partner Medicus) to reward our customers via a loyalty program. Thanks to our expertise and our collaboration with all of the over 30 providers available in the IPMI (International Private Medical Insurance) market, we can deliver solutions for countries usually excluded by traditional insurers because of compliance aspects or specific benefits (i.e. coverage for ransom or terrorism, etc.) ...
How do you make it easier for people to get insurance for travel?
Our first job is to provide clients with a transparent and exhaustive comparison of benefits that include clear explanations and which is followed by our own recommendation to help them make the best choice. After that, we assist the client during online enrollment so the whole process is very easy for them. Finally, we support clients with their specific needs, like translated certificate of insurance, benefit questions, or help with claims. We have a strong personal relationship with our customers, an experience most insurers are unable to provide.
What advice do you have for other insurtech entrepreneurs?
Don’t focus too much on technique and communication, you risk neglecting content. It is very important to always ensure that you have a high level of expertise and provide a service that is of top quality.
Take care with compliance as well so your hard work is not wasted. To illustrate, our desire is to be the first reference for expatriate health insurance. We are looking to increase market share through organic growth but also by accompanying organic growth with external acquisitions and an affiliate program through our platform for brokers. We are leading this market with our prevention/prediction-based model and our reward program while bringing a universal customer experience. Conditions are very good for a company like ours as we can attract new clients, like technology start-ups, who need help managing the medical insurance needs of a mobile, international staff. They are agile and we are too, we speak the same language. Through our culture and technology, we aim to foster a spirit of collaboration and benevolence. You have to give to receive; we know this because we share our experience and contacts with the ecosystem. And you have to be opportunistic, follow your path and dig your own furrow while looking around. We did not know two years ago that we were "innovative" and it is by chance that we found ourselves in the French tech ecosystem and labelled by Finance Innovation as a top 50 insurtech and later honed by Innovator Edge. We were already focused on prevention model but initially when we talked to insurers, they thought we were crazy, because at the time it was not a question of paying but rather of reducing benefits and or exclusions. It was too early but the idea never left us and we continued in that direction until the market proved us right.
How important are partnerships to your growth?
Very important. We cannot do everything on our own, so we need partners. But it's not easy to select good ones. Selecting the wrong one will waste precious time or will lead to mistakes that are hard or even impossible to correct. We plan to continue our growth and envision obtaining non-dilutive funds this year and then conducting an important fund raising in the 4th quarter of 2019. Our business is already profitable and we look to support its further development with intelligence and pragmatism.