How SA’s Virtual Actuary is disrupting a long-stagnant market

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Adi Kaimowitz knows a thing or two about the actuarial space, having run a recruitment business in the sector and worked with actuaries for years.

What we saw concerned him. Actuaries working for the likes of the “big four” were consumed by meeting their targets, and not making as much money as they could. Many were being forced out of the sector.

The internet, however, offered an opportunity to change all this. So last year Kaimowitz launched Virtual Actuary, which works with professionals in sectors such as life insurance, general insurance, banking, pensions and employee benefits, investments and healthcare.

The startup offers a full turnkey actuarial consulting service, mainly servicing insurers, reinsurers and financial services providers. The Virtual Actuary platform allows customers to easily find a reviewed and qualified actuary, and helps the actuaries themselves work more flexible hours and make more money.

“When I started working with actuaries in the industry, I knew that I had stumbled on a group of people who were special. Very professional and dedicated people who were in 99 per cent of the cases throughout their lives above average exceptional achievers,” Kaimowitz told Disrupt Africa.

“I definitely gained a respect for the work ethic and level of integrity I experienced and realised that I needed to work extra hard and be extra smart to nurture those relationships so that, frankly, they would want to have me around and engage with them on work matters.”

Over the course of building these relationships, Kaimowitz came to understand the people he was working with, as well as the companies that dominated the market. What he saw was a mismatch.

“We came up with Virtual Actuary as being a good mix between experience, team effort and technology-enabled processes which give us more efficiency in working together so we could position ourselves as an equal in capability to the more established big consultancies, but be able to offer the clients a price point which we felt could not be matched in the market because of our lean approach and what we call “trim the wastage” policy,” he saod.

The approach means the startup is able to offer customers access to the same quality actuaries as other consultancies, but at a much lower cost as Virtual Actuary does not have physical offices. Meanwhile, actuaries make more than traditional salaried employees chasing a bonus, as they pay only a percentage of any fee to the startup.

“Technology is enabling us to consult in a more efficient way,” Kaimowitz said. “I think anyone trying to copy the model would be able to do so until they need to scale up. They will soon realise their plan has a major flaw. Because we started off knowing most of the actuaries first, our consultancy is the best solution of what to do with such a nurtured network.”

The self-funded startup has already secured clients in South Africa, Europe and the United States (US), and is also in the process of setting up partnerships in the Middle East and Asia.

“We have some very ambitious expansion plans. It’s actually our main focus,” said Kaimowitz.

“We are not following any rules and rather just guided by the actuaries themselves and what they want to do. I am trying to act as much in a support function as possible. It’s my main role.”

The immediate plan is to take on more actuaries, with many more having already reached out to Virtual Actuary.

“This will be very satisfying as we know the appeal of our business model is very high, not only from a lifestyle perspective but also from an earnings perspective. We want them to enjoy the work they are doing and feel they are part of a business which is doing amazing things,” Kaimowitz said.

“Some of the software we are using is, in my opinion and the opinion of our actuaries using it, much, much more efficient, as the machine learning aspect allows them to cut down on time. We have partnered with one software provider whos artificial intelligence bot is next level. We are way ahead of the curve.”

What does Kaimowitz hope to be able to say with confidence in a few years, once the business is more established?

“I’d like to look back in five years and say confidently that our actuaries each built a three-storey house instead of the company building a massive 20-storey office park,” he said.

“Our business appeals to those who see us as the future of consulting.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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