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Friday 6 December 2019
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Shyfting gears

Entrepreneurs take car insurance to the future

Matthew Moses and Andrew Laquis discuss how clients can check car insurance online quote on their phones using Shyft.tt. - Ayanna Kinsale
Matthew Moses and Andrew Laquis discuss how clients can check car insurance online quote on their phones using Shyft.tt. - Ayanna Kinsale

For years insurance has been described as a necessary evil, because few people want to spend money on something that may never happen, but two entrepreneurs insist that there can be no price for peace of mind and are changing the way clients get their service to increase the ease of doing business.

Enter the world of Shyft.tt, a website aimed at providing a catalogue of car insurance companies and their prices for potential clients, essentially reducing the time needed for car insurance shopping from a day of visiting offices, to a few minutes from the comfort of your home or office.

Shyft.tt is the brainchild of insurance agents Matthew Moses and Andrew Laquis who saw the need to improve the quality of service and ease of access to information for prospective clients. The business partners were Start-up Entrepreneur finalists in the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce's Champions of Business awards recently.

Their venture began in 2016 with Moses' return to TT from England where he worked with the Lloyds of London insurance company and saw first-hand the need to extend the digital revolution to the insurance world.

Business Day spoke with Moses and Laquis at the Henry Pierre Street, Woodbrook office of Shyft Investments Ltd where they spoke about their success, the challenges they overcame and plans.

Online insurance services innovators Andrew Laquis, left, and Matthew Moses at Shyft's offices, Henry-Pierre Street, Woodbrook. - Ayanna Kinsale

"People sometimes take all day going from office to office trying to get quotes and information on what insurance plan is right for them and their families. People don't have this kind of time to take off from work. I realised that there was a need for some major improvements," Moses said. It was under these circumstances that Shyft.tt was developed.

After speaking with his friend and colleague, Laquis, the two set out to improve the process of buying car insurance.

Despite being launched in 2017, the site has already seen over one million visits in the past year and features an extensive cross-section of local insurance agencies with varying prices to fit the budget of any client.

Like most fintechs entering an established industry, the two friends admit there were some challenges in convincing insurance companies to pay for the service of being listed on the website, with some outright rejecting the idea, while others suggested that the friends wait "about ten more years" before launching the site.

While the scepticism was expected, Moses said it was only a matter of time before these companies saw the value of the service they were offering.

"A traditional broker would have to serve people that can reach them. They would have to be there physically, we have had people across the country, it doesn't matter where you are, this allows companies to utilise a wide range of customers from all over the country.

"All insurers as traditional as they are were open to change, or at the very least they were open to thinking about change. There are a lot of good insurers here in Trinidad and they were open to development, which separates us from the rest of the Caribbean.

Andrew Laquis, standing, and Matthew Moses examine online car insurance quotes on their website Shyft.tt at their Woodbrook office. - Ayanna Kinsale

"Trinidad is a very fast-growing marketplace and insurance is no different. It was very encouraging to see the insurers thinking ahead," Moses said.

Beginning with six insurance companies on Shyft.tt the number quickly expanded to 12, each offering a listing of prices from basic insurance coverage to more extensive policies depending on what the client is searching for.

While there were some concerns over the removal of the human element from the insurance process, Laquis said potential clients can call their office and speak to customer service representatives who can explain the process.

He also said every step helps clients understands exactly what they're looking for based on the specifications of their vehicle and while in the past clients would be unsure of what they were paying for, they were now better informed to make their insurance decisions, saving both time and money.

"We like to say that we put the keys back in the drivers’ hands, so they are now in control of the insurance process as opposed to being going to one person and being told what to buy. They are now in charge of who they want their insurer to be and make an informed decision from that information," Laquis said.

While Shyft.tt offers only car insurance for now, Moses and Laquis said they were interested in offering a wider variety of insurance for users as they offered some insight into their 2020 plans.

"Right now, the site is built for car insurance. We want to launch home insurance and life insurance further down the line. We are focused on personal lines of insurance, these are things that can be done in a very streamlined process, through a very simple dataset of questions and giving quotes right away.

Business partners Matthew Moses, centre, and Andrew Laquis in discussion while staff process online requests for car insurance quotes at Shyft's offices in Woodbrook. - Ayanna Kinsale

"By nature, we won't be handling business insurance or cash in transit anytime soon, but we want to go for the simplest first."

The ease of Shyft.tt's access and simplicity has been it's selling point and even as the company seeks to expand and explore newer services to offer, both Moses and Laquis have not forgotten the clients they served.

"We think of our market as the average person. The man or woman who may not have a business relationship with big insurers or brokerages. The person who has limited amount of time. That's the market we serve.

"The mother with two children who can't afford to run around from office to office, these are the people we serve," Laquis said.

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