LEAGUE launches new insurance products with RBC as incumbents fight to partner with the startup

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Since launching a year ago, LEAGUE hasn’t pulled any punches in its quest to dominate the health insurance space. Under founder Mike Serbinis’ watch, the last nine months have been a period of aggressive growth for the company, which allows small businesses to offer more customized benefits plans for their employees through its platform. In June, LEAGUE raised a significant $25 million Series A round, and in August welcomed former Sun Life Financial executive Lori Casselman to its team as chief health officer.

Today, LEAGUE announced the launch of a new suite of insurance products to its health benefits portfolio, which includes comprehensive coverage for unexpected emergencies, including life, accidental death and dismemberment, and disability coverage. RBC Insurance is LEAGUE’s first partner to underwrite its expanded offerings.

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“In the nine months that we’ve been selling our benefits platform, the bulk of sales has been in spending accounts or health and wellness services,” Serbinis told BetaKit. “And over that time, we’ve had an overwhelming demand from customers who say ‘this is such an amazing experience, the paper and all these forms and frustration with existing health insurance is so out of date and difficult, so why can’t you provide health insurance?’”

Serbinis said that unlike other financial services verticals, which are already seeing disruption on their shores, the heavy regulation of the health insurance space has been a major barrier to entry for smaller startups with few resources. For this reason, health insurance companies haven’t had the incentives to embrace digital processes and partner with startups.

“Until now, these companies haven’t really seen a lot of competition from an upstart but I think that’s changed forever.”
– Mike Serbinis, LEAGUE

“We straddle FinTech and healthtech, and when it comes to people’s lives, it’s way more complicated and regulated,” Serbinis said. “It not only has financial regulation, but also privacy protection, security, and at the end of the day, people’s lives are at stake. As a result, until now, these companies haven’t really seen a lot of competition from an upstart but I think that’s changed forever. They’re going to see us continue to accelerate and there will no doubt be other players entering the market.”

Serbinis believes the sea change for the slow-moving health insurance industry — which he said is more about minimizing use than encouraging people to be healthy — began in part thanks to LEAGUE’s highly-publicized funding round back in June. Since then, Serbinis said that the company has been “inundated with insurance carriers, brokers, and consultants that want to jump ship and work here and partner with us. They’re on these big, immovable ships whereas we’re absolutely fast, nimble, and we’re a group of people that have built consumer experiences for hundreds of millions of people around the world around the world,” he said. “It’s been a little overwhelming and I suspect when we make this announcement, that volume level will only go up. We’re being watched very closely.”

When it came to finding a partner to underwrite its new suite of products, LEAGUE went through a competitive process talking to about 16 to 18 carriers, wanting a partner that shared its vision, could be flexible in integrating into the LEAGUE platform, and comfortable with moving fast. “What we found was that some of them were looking for just another channel or broker to sell an existing product through, which was not interesting for us,” said Serbinis. “Some were dealing with timelines that included many months and years, which also wouldn’t work for us. And some of them weren’t getting our vision, because ultimately this is about the end consumer. RBC had all three qualities.”

Serbinis also said that many health insurance startups popping up right now, such as Zenefits, are more focused on disrupting the brokers by offering health plans through an app, but haven’t built an end-to-end solution for employees. While Serbinis wouldn’t touch on future plans for the company, he did reveal that LEAGUE is now seeing triple-digit growth month-over-month, and is well on its way to surpass a billion dollars in premiums and contracts by 2018.

“I have a million percent conviction that this is the future; we’re moving to a model that’s about you as the consumer, and it’s personalized, digital, and it’s easier, faster, cheaper, and better,” said Serbinis. “People get this is the way it has to be, and if you imagine a future that’s not digital, not personalized, not consumer-centric, and not about keeping people healthy, you’re smoking.”

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor.