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King of insurance: Gideon Galloway

Gideon Galloway, CEO of King Price Insurance

King Price Insurance, although still the ‘new kid on the block’ in South Africa’s established insurance industry, has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. Renowned not only for its irreverent positioning in an industry that is not known for seeing the lighter side of life, but also for its unique business model, it is no surprise that the company has won numerous awards. Gideon Galloway, CEO of King Price, founded the company with very little capital and has overseen its growth into a business that is worth US$200 million, in just six short years. Gideon has also successfully entrenched a company culture that places as much value on its human capital.

The CEO Magazine: How does King Price stand out in the market?

Gideon: King Price’s offering is a world first in the insurance market. We decrease car premiums monthly in line with the cars’ depreciating values. We just think it makes sense to pay less every month to insure what is worth less every month. And our clients agree: In our six years, we have saved our clients ZAR100 million (€6.5 million) in decreasing premiums. We are known, and have been awarded, for our innovative approach to every aspect of our business, as well as for the royal service that we deliver.

Our brand also breaks free of the clutter by putting humour up front in our communication with the public and in our personal interactions with our clients. We talk to our clients, and everyone else, as if they are good friends. We are casual, down-to-earth and sometimes a little cheeky. We take what we do very seriously, but ourselves not so much.

What challenges lie ahead?

South Africa has a very competitive and commoditised insurance space, with many players that have been around for decades. King Price has established itself as a serious competitor within a very short space of time and with only a fraction of the marketing spend. But these challenges have also been our strength.

We do things differently because our team is young, dynamic and hungry. We have grown from our original 20 employees to over 750, with more joining our royal family every month. We have expanded our offering from core personal lines policies, to include a wide array of business and specialised insurance products. We have sold in excess of 400,000 policies, which has driven our year-on-year growth of 50 per cent, and this growth is expected to continue for the next seven years.

“We do things differently because our team is young, dynamic and hungry.”

How has the evolution of technology shaped the way you do business?

From day one, we were faster, smarter and more proactive in terms of the technology that underpins our business. We do not rely on legacy systems, we built our own to suit our needs. We launched with the best rating tool in the country, which we developed in-house. And we are changing our process models to be app-based, so that we are where we need to be for the millennial market.

From a back-end viewpoint, the future is about data analytics and AI. Our managers have app-based access to real-time stats that enable us to make instant decisions for the good of our business. King Price has just been recognised for having the best data quality in the industry by the South African Credit and Risk Reporting Association, so it is safe to say we are leading the charge in this space.

Our forward-thinking relationship with technology is opening doors to doing business
with like-minded partners across the world, which is a strategy that underpins our global expansion plans and has already created connections in Europe.

King Price Insurance

What are King Price’s plans for the future?

We launched with an industry first, and we have also been first-to-market with many other products – ZAR1 cover for select, high-value items, cyber insurance tailored for business risks, and an insure-tech solution for sectional title communities, for instance. We are looking to round out our offering by incorporating life cover and other financial services products.

In terms of expansion, we already have a ‘kingdom’ in Namibia and we are proud to report ahead-of-business-plan progress there. Globally, we are intent on introducing our decreasing premiums and other innovations to the European market, first, and then to other continents.

How do you recognise a promising potential business partnership?

Partnerships need to be aligned, with all parties having the same vision and values. Transparency is key. Projections and valuations have to make sense. You must be able to trust your partners implicitly.

In light of this, the theory is that it should be easy to see if proposed partnerships are not going to work. The reality is that instinct also plays a role. Some of the best deals we have made have not ticked all the theoretical boxes. That said, we always have our eyes and ears open for new partnerships and our doors open to new investors.

What are the essential qualities for a newcomer to the King Price team?

A sense of humour, a can-do attitude and the ability to roll with the punches, for sure. We are agile, we move fast and things change quickly. We have values that we live and work by, which are critical to our unique culture and towards which we devote considerable capital and human resources.

Our staff get a free breakfast every morning, and lunches at our in-house restaurant are subsidised. We have our own radio station. Our fun police are mandated to cheer you up if you are having a bad day. We love to dress up and take every opportunity to do so. We do not have any private offices, our managers get unlimited leave, and newbies can accept a quitting bonus of ZAR30,000 if they are not happy here. This, and more, is because we believe that happy staff equals happy clients, and that you can hear a smile over the phone. It is a huge part of delivering the award-winning service we promise.

Have you ever taken a risk in your business career that paid off in a big way?

Starting King Price! I had carved a successful career in the industry but became frustrated with the lack of innovation and the stuck-up way traditional insurers did not even want to communicate with their clients. I wanted to create a unique, culture-based business model that would encourage my team to operate to their full creative potential, not just push products.

I wanted to create a unique, culture-based business model that would encourage my team to operate to their full creative potential, not just push products.

Luckily, a small group of friends and family members believed in my vision and provided enough funding to get through the first three years of building the technology we needed to launch. In this time, I used all my investments and the income from all the other companies I had built over the years. I had to invest every cent I had, and I lost a lot in the process. But that is how you learn. No risk, no reward.

Gideon Galloway, CEO of King Price Insurance

What motivates you?

Big, scary challenges. What others consider impossible. The motivation lies in doing things that not just anyone else can do.

Generally, the insurance industry sees King Price as the underdog and we like that. It makes it easier to fly under the radar while we plan our next big thing. But they are learning not to underestimate us.

What is one message you want to get out to other business leaders?

To futureproof our business, we’ve had to prepare to get millennials on board and keep them here. We dramatically changed our management styles and structures.

We transformed our business environment so that speed, openness and humility thrive, from the top down. Legacy hierarchies and bureaucracy have no place in the companies of the future.

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