Chief Marketing Officer | Nassau Financial Group
Paul Tyler has built his career in life insurance. He also loves technology. Both of these traits led him to establish and lead the rapidly growing #RetireTech community on the East Coast.
Paul established Nassau Re/Imagine in 2019 to help startups connect with life, annuity and retirement companies seeking to modernize operations, and serve a new generation of untapped customers.
Since they got started, Nassau Re/Imagine has worked with dozens of startups and helped seed relationships that have led to significant market traction. Some of their biggest success stories have included Benekiva, Sureify, and Spyglaz.
Factors Driving Demand:
Paul admits that retirement planning may not be the first market that tech startups think of. But, he also says, “The opportunity is huge.” What’s driving that opportunity?
1. People are living longer.
That’s great news for all of us. But, that also means that we’ll need to support ourselves and our lifestyles for longer. And, because we are living longer, “old age” seems a distant reality for Millennials and members of Gen Z. So, we put off retirement planning, assuming that we’ll get to it “someday” – after we’ve paid off our student loans. However, this delayed start on retirement planning means that many will miss out on the “long tail” benefits of building assets early in life. Tech that instills the benefits of setting aside a portion of your income early, even if it is in relatively small investments, and helps individuals to more accurately anticipate their future financial needs can make all the difference.
2. Retirement planning is getting more complicated.
The SECURE Act provides individuals with more options for investing, saving, and scheduling withdrawal of their investments than ever before. Expanded healthcare programs such as Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplement Insurance also offer consumers more choice. However, deciphering between those ever-expanding options requires more consumer education, and personalized attention. Individual advisors simply can’t keep up, or provide the level of service that they want to their clients by themselves. Technology can help. But, tech tools specifically designed to help advisors deliver a broader set of expertise and options to their clients present the biggest potential value. This requires both technical know-how and industry expertise. Teams that can successfully blend the two will be positioned to create the biggest impact.
3. The world is becoming less and less predictable.
From climate change, to large swings in real-estate markets, having your home serve as your largest personal asset is riskier than ever. But what other options are there? Helping people find and understand financial instruments that will provide security at a time of life when they will need it most can pay off big for tech companies. And, even though tools like annuities have been around since ancient Rome, they are still not well-understood. Tech that makes tools like these attractive, accessible, and easy to understand are potential game-changers.
What you need to know:
1. Relationships are built on trust, and trust is built over time.
Financial advisors, and life insurance companies pride themselves on their dependability. So, while the capabilities offered by new technology is important, making sure that new tech, and the teams behind them can stand the test of time is more important.
Startups in this space need to anticipate and plan for an extended proof of concept and validation period with prospective customers. But Paul says, instead of looking at POCs as a hurdle to get over, on the way to a contract – these trial periods can be incredibly helpful for the startup as well. “POCs provide an opportunity for startups to really understand how the business works and all the pieces that may connect to the problem they're trying to solve. Startups that understand the value of this process going in will have a higher chance of succeeding over the long run.”
2. Seek input from industry insiders.
Too often tech companies focus on the needs of investors, and not on the customers that they will serve. There is a baked-in tension around the timeline needed to establish traction, and to start generating revenue that can make startups push for a yes, instead of absorbing the feedback provided by those who push back, or ask for something slightly different than is being presented. And, this can lead to a lot of frustration on both sides.
The good news? Industry hubs like Hartford offer a community that includes experts in almost every facet of the business who are eager to help – even if what they have to say isn’t always easy for startups to hear. As Paul says, “You need people to validate the problem, people to help you build a team, people to help you find financing, people to help you find your first client and people to help build scale your business as you grow.” “Hartford is a terrific place to start because there's enormous value to being stamped with the approval of a community with widely-recognized levels of expertise. This will give you credibility as you pursue other growth opportunities.”
3. Embrace the challenge.
The challenges in retirement planning are significant. And, that’s probably why most people put off the process, to their detriment. As Paul says, “How do you take assets and make them last a lifetime when you don't know how long a lifetime may last?” Traditionally, the industry has relied on historical data. But, new predictive tools, based on real-time data sets and powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning are emerging at a surprising pace. The competition to make analysis of complex challenges, like lifespan prediction, fast and simple is steep. But the consequences of getting it wrong are even more significant.
So, for startups in this space, Paul says, it’s really best to be prepared to work with established players in the field, instead of trying to replace them. “My biggest piece of advice to startups in this sector is learn to live off the land and don't build your business model the way you think it should be to raise venture capital.”
“You know, consulting may not be as highly valued as software services, but consulting may actually fund your business until you can build what you want to build.” And, the value of consulting means that you establish relationships with those who have been facing that same challenge for the better-part of their careers. This exposure to the field will help provide you with insights on where new technologies and new data sets can be most impactful.
“My biggest piece of advice to startups in this sector is learn to live off the land and don't build your business model the way you think it should be to raise venture capital.”
Additional Insights from Paul: