Former COO at Facile.it
Leo was one of the first few employees at Facile.it, the largest insurance price comparison site in Italy which competes with Gruppo MutuiOnline. He was Head of Operations reporting directly to the CEO and was responsible for running everything apart from marketing spend at Facile. Leo also launched mortgaging broking at Facile to compete directly with Mutuionline. Leo then joined Linear Assicurazioni, the insurance company of UnipolSai Group, as COO where he was a customer of both Facile and Segugio. Read moreView Profile Page
Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.
Leo, could you give us a short introduction to your background in the price comparison space?
From 2009 to 2015 I worked at the main price comparison website in Italy facile.it basically from the startup to the second exit phase. From day one, I was head of operations, managing everything related to the machine in terms of operational structures, customer service, back office, customer-facing activities and the IT part which supports operations.
Could you share some context about the market dynamics back in 2009? I assume Facile was the major player in the insurance price comparison, at that point?
Everyone thinks it was the only one but there were at least two other players. One is 6sicuro.it and the other is CercAssicurazioni, now known as Segugio, Facile's main competitor. CercAssicurazioni started before Facile but it was super small and Facile grew up very quickly. Back in 2009, Italy was not that digital whereas the UK already had confused.com, for example. There was a landscape to fill which is what Facile did in the end. We started with online advertising, then moved to more traditional advertising because car insurance is mandatory in Italy. This means every year, car owners need to either renew with their own company or search for a new one, so making a price comparison website a great idea.
What was the story with Segugio and MutuiOnline?
MutuiOnline simply changed the brand from CercAssicurazioni to Segugio. It was very small and they did not invest heavily.
So they were not entirely focused on insurance because they were doing mortgages?
They were super focused on mortgages and loans and are still number one in Italy. Facile is number two for mortgages and loans, whereas for insurance they are number one.
Can we walk through the journey of an Italian customer who is looking for car insurance? They go to the facile.it website, click to get a quote, you send a lead, how does it work from there?
It is very simple, you complete a form with your personal details, the car particulars and your previous insurance. The price comparison website uses that data to output quotes from 10 to 20 insurance companies in under 30 seconds. They compare them through a landing page which is ordered by price. What follows is vital because supplying a quote is very easy. Once you see the landing page with all the prices, you can simply click on ‘buy’. You will then either be redirected to an insurance company's website where you can pay by credit card, PayPal or whichever payment system they accept and the insurance policy will be created.
You can also choose the support option, by clicking ‘call me back’, where someone will call you to explain how the insurance policy works and all the ancillaries. This support person can also accept payment by phone. You can, therefore, push conversion from the landing page in two different ways, either online conversion so the UX is as easy as possible or to push them through customer care.
What percentage was on the phone versus purely online?
I have been out of the market for more than three years so I do not know the current exact percentages, but in my time, it was probably 60% web and 40% phone.
What is the penetration of price comparison for motor?
In the UK, 65% to 70% of insurance policies pass through Confused or a similar price comparison website, whereas in Italy only 10% do.
Why is the penetration of price comparison so low in Italy?
10 years ago, it was 3% and today it is probably 13%, so it is growing, but not as fast as the UK because Italy is not a super connected country. We have the technology but do not like using it. This is partly cultural but we also have many people who are not exactly digital.
Yes exactly, older people, and most people prefer to talk with a physical person. They wonder if they had a claim, what would happen? The answer is you simply send an e-mail, but that is difficult to explain to a 60-year-old. They have their insurer and know where he lives and where his office is. This is the same in banking where MutuiOnline sells 80% of their mortgages in person.