Why Tech and FinTech Fail Women and the LGBT+ Community

Steve Wardlaw

By Steve Wardlaw, Chairman, Emerald Life


This is a bit of a punchy title…but one that we felt was justified.

We talk a lot about tech/fintech/insuretech in our sector. It makes any company or business smarter, more valuable and, yes, sexier. 

But often we don’t talk about one of the principle objectives of tech – which is to make the lives of users easier and to help them achieve their goals. We all know the truism that straight, white men are the most over-insured sector of the market.

Why is that? There are various factors – higher spending power, being seen as the provider for a family, etc. And of course, most insurance products are designed by straight, white men so (even unconsciously) suit the needs of ….white, straight men. 

Tech was supposed to make things easier for people to access what they want, with an element of tailoring which enabled personalisation and brought cost benefits. However, it feels like the insurance sector has forgotten that part.

Far from trying to ascertain and meet the needs of minority groups – and here women count as a minority in terms of their take up rate – insurance has not really used tech at all. 

Many insurers now have staff LGBT+ and women’s groups but there is precious little appetite to use tech to reach the underinsured parts of the market. 

For example, when we launched Emerald Life in 2016 members of the LGBT+ community were TWICE AS LIKELY to have no insurance at all. That is a shocking statistic. Yet have to seen the big insurers pivot to reach this underinsured group? I’ll wait… apart from Emerald.

One way to entice any purchase is imagery. Yet insurance still uses very stereotypical imagery. Mostly white, largely heterosexual family groups, with impossibly blond children  getting out of a Volvo with a Labrador. Imagery needs to relate to a customer for that customer to feel included.

The point here is that an image like the one described really nowadays probably represents only twenty per cent of the population, and yet it’s still peddled as the ‘aspirational norm’.

Tech should be about tailoring. I’m a gay man, so an insurance advert on my phone or laptop should relate to me.

You can use tech to improve the relevance of those adverts – geolocate me at the airport and offer me travel insurance that suits me. If I’m at the airport in February, the ad should ask if I’m going to Mardi Gras.

But it isn’t just push notifications. Insurers want to maximise sales (which also gives customer more protection). Have a customer journey, imagery and USPs that change with gender.

Men and women make purchasing decisions differently – men tend to like data, women tend to read reviews, good and bad. That’s just one example. If you want women to buy insurance, stop selling to a man. Tech allows you to do that. 

Lastly, social media has a part to play – insurers should be using that to inform about their brand. If they cannot make it anything other than dry and data driven, don’t be surprised if insurance brands don’t stand out – women and the LGBT+ market often go by word of mouth, because of historic bad experiences, and so a trusted brand can help accelerate what is otherwise a slow burn.

This is just a short piece, but here at Emerald we discuss this a lot. The insurance sector is supposed to be about protection and yet, with the amazing tech tools at hand, nothing much changes.

Insurers need to get with the program, have more diverse stakeholders, really look at their customer base (or lack of it!) and use the tools they already have.