Darren Wood is the founder and chief product officer of Recoop Disaster Insurance, a first-of-its-kind, multi-peril disaster insurance product. Darren is an insurance industry veteran, with more than 25 years of experience. He previously served as president for a division of Holmes Murphy, a top 25 insurance broker, where he was responsible for the delivery of value-added solutions to insurance clients.
He also held senior project management and operational leadership roles with Marsh Consumer (now Mercer), focusing on the delivery of employee benefit and affinity solutions to consumers through Fortune 1,000 clients. Darren received his degree in Accounting from Simpson College, earned his Project Management Professional (PMP) designation, and is a veteran of the United States Army.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Darren Wood: I’m Darren Wood, founder and chief product officer of Recoop Disaster Insurance, which launched in late 2021. Recoop is the first and only multi-peril disaster insurance product that pays a lump-sum cash benefit (up to $25,000) after a natural disaster. Most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies leave expensive gaps in coverage, which is why Recoop was created — to pick up where insurance stops, so consumers can bounce back faster after a disaster.
I was inspired to create Recoop because of my experience as an insurance professional following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. What struck us most was how that storm was responsible for $70 billion in damages and left tens of thousands of people homeless – and ultimately bankrupt. This story of loss and uncertainty struck a chord with me and I knew there was an opportunity to bring more financial stability to people’s lives despite the unpredictable nature of severe weather.
2021 and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned?
Darren Wood: The last two years have most definitely thrown curveballs at us, but like many of our customers, we focus on resiliency. I think the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the last few years have been around adaptability.
The speed of business is much faster than it was 20 years ago, but there are so many companies that still want to operate in the same old status quo ways. Instead, businesses need to be agile and shift their long- and short-term goals to match their customers lives and needs.
We live in a tech-forward, instant gratification society so why are we still waiting 30-plus days to pay out insurance claims? Understanding that consumers’ lives are busy, and they need help with tasks – such as filing and receiving their homeowner’s policy claim after a disaster – illuminates how you can create solutions that fit their lives and guide your business forward.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2023? What advice would you share?
Darren Wood: I touched on it in my previous response, but businesses should focus on meeting their customers where they are. The pandemic’s disruptions on the economy are going to be felt for a while, whether that be inflation, employment, etc.; therefore, you have to be in tune with the real needs that consumers have. These can evolve or ebb and flow over time so you can’t assume your business model, target customer, marketing strategy from 2021 will still be the correct direction in 2023 and beyond.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Darren Wood: Our story is a little different because we launched during the pandemic. One thing that we noticed while in the development phases before we rolled out Recoop is that the pandemic – along with our society’s increased reliability on technology – is entirely reshaping how insurance looks.
The days of meeting your agent in person continue to diminish, and few people want to wait on a claims adjuster to come out to assess your damaged property. Consumers want easy-to-use solutions that still help them feel taken care of. We’re seeing a shift in a self-model model becoming more popular in the insurance industry, which not only gives consumers more agency over their coverage, but it also speeds up processes like paying claims out so they can move on with their lives quickly.
For example, our customers typically receive their lump-sum cash benefit within 48 hours of filing a claim. Traditionally, that process could take around 30 days.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2023?
Darren Wood: While Recoop launched in late 2021 – after the height of the pandemic – I wish I would’ve received more guidance about the importance of self-service platforms. Consumers are now so accustomed to being able to purchase products, manage finances and more all from their fingertips.
To help make Recoop easier to use and more desirable to consumers, we partnered with Insurity this year to automate routine tasks and provide self-service capabilities for policyholders. Now, our customers can quickly get a quote, purchase a policy and pay online in a self-service fashion. It also provides them a mobile-ready, direct-to-consumer portal for additional self-servicing needs, such as uploading home pictures, making easy online payments and viewing and downloading policy documents.
This empowers policyholders to have a more responsive, intuitive experience, and enables us to deliver on our commitment to help people rebuild and get back to life faster following a disaster.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2023?
Darren Wood: My expectation for 2023 and beyond is that self-service models will become increasingly more popular. Our technology skills as a whole have significantly increased because of the pandemic, using platforms like Zoom for work calls and online shopping for grocery delivery. Consumers are looking for easy, on-the-go solutions that fit into their everyday lives. That’s why self-service models seamlessly fit into the busy lives of consumers and will be substantially more relevant in the years to come.
Not only that, but employee benefits are also evolving to be more tech-forward. Gone are the days of catered lunches and ping pong in the office as “benefits”. With the large hybrid and remote workforce, companies are offering a wider array of benefits – such as disaster insurance. Not only does this protect the employee’s financial wellbeing after Mother Nature strikes, but it also provides resources to keep employers up and running. By making this readily available as a self-service model, employees can receive their benefit post-disaster at the touch of their fingertips.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Darren Wood: While developing Recoop, I would spend anywhere between 15-18 hours a day in front of a PC. Then, my time shifted toward in-person meetings as we pulled together our plans for structure, distribution and partners ahead of the launch. Now, I spend about 80% of my time in front of screens.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Darren Wood: When we first started the hiring process by adding our core members, I felt it was important to add personnel with skills that complemented each other instead of overlapping. We all have work experiences that we’ve seen work and others that failed.
Instead of relying on my experiences and stories, our team actively participants in open lines of communication so we can effectively work together. Encouraging the team to draw on and share those experiences during our growth has absolutely benefited our efforts.
Our team is in on the ground floor of a product that can really make a difference in people’s lives. So, bringing together those experiences and lessons learned materially benefits our clients and customers.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Darren Wood: Resiliency is top of mind for every business owner right now. My number one takeaway is always to be open to adapting on the fly. This could be because of changing regulations or consumer habits due to the current state of the economy. Your long- and short-term goals for your business are not static; they can change. When they do, you’re able to uncover unique solutions to truly ingrain your product, service, etc. into the lives of consumers.
In 2023, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Darren Wood: I’m most interested in learning how to better maximize various social media platforms (without breaking the bank) to complement our standard distribution channels. I designed Recoop to pay claims and help families during what is likely to be one of the most difficult times of their lives, so I want to educate people about their true exposures, how to mitigate risks and then point them to risk management solutions. Not just Recoop, but other single-peril disaster policies such as flood, earthquake, and other similar insurance products they may be unaware of.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Darren Wood: One of the most important things you can do as a leader at your company is to listen to your employees. Often times, you see folks in the C-suite that have egos and they think they always know what’s best. That’s not true. Your employees are your most valuable asset and making them feel heard goes a long way in terms of retention – and recruitment. For example, take the time to truly understanding what they look for in a work environment. Do they want to work from home? In office? A hybrid environment?
Nail down what benefits are most important to them. Your employee benefits shouldn’t stay the same year over year. Can these benefits be flexible and change over time? By spending time with your employees and getting to know what’s most important to them, you’re able to emerge as a top employer.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Darren Wood: The business superpower I’d choose that would be the most realistic would be to create a silence bubble for three to four hours a day where people could focus and work without distraction. Too much of people’s time is wrapped up in calls and meetings, not allowing them the distraction-free time to be productive.
If you want to get a little more “sci-fi-ish” it would be the ability to flip a switch and have right or left brain dominate people get flipped for a bit of time periodically. That way they could view things through a different lens and perspectives.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Darren Wood: At the end of the day, my goal is to always help people – and I think education is an essential component to assisting others.
Next year, I want to educate the masses and let them know they aren’t as covered as they think they are when it comes to a natural disaster. Many homeowners and renters are unaware of the disasters they’re exposed to, how to mitigate them and the risk management solutions available to help them avoid financial ruin in the wake of severe weather and other natural disasters.
Many take the risk and hope their current, traditional insurance is enough but most times it isn’t. Based on homeowners’ insurance data, we expect about 50% of claims made through Recoop will be because policyholders’ insurance offers no coverage for the natural disaster they experienced, which presents huge unforeseen expenses to overcome.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Darren Wood for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Darren Wood or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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