We had a chat with Heidi McCormack and Steve Wardlaw, founders of Emerald Life
Emerald Life aims to be the most diverse, inclusive insurance provider in the UK. Across its site and clear in advertising you may have seen, is imagery truly representative of today's society, and messaging which underlines Emerald's commitment to making the insurance industry acknowledge and better serve the true diversity of the market. Single mothers, gay dads, excited newlywed same-sex couples, two young boyfriends enjoying their first foreign trip together – their marketing addresses the lack of equality in financial service thinking to date and pushes the industry towards change, particularly in how it prices and structures its insurance policies.
We sat down with the founders to learn more about Emerald Life and what makes them tick.
OOO: Lovely to be chatting with you both, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Firstly, I want to know what was it that made you both leave your former professions to start Emerald Life. Steve, you were a high-profile lawyer, Heidi, an international business chief, what was it that triggered the idea for Emerald Life?
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Heidi: A frustration with the type of products as well as the customer service that accompanies products; they seemed to fail important communities.
Steve: And as a gay man working on various equality projects they certainly didn't talk to me.
Heidi: So, as two friends who have always felt driven to battle discrimination, we wanted to change this, fixing the issues we were frustrated with ourselves; this is reflected in the Emerald business: a truly inclusive insurance provider where anyone should feel represented and welcomed.
Steve: Insurance has typically been marketed to a stereotype: a married white heterosexual couple, who (according to the industry view) own a house, a dog and have two points four children. The products on offer have largely not moved with the times. Some examples – we are aware that some insurers will still unreasonably exclude certain professions for home insurance cover. We are aware of the inequality that exists in some areas of the travel insurance market for people living with HIV and other medical conditions. And many people in minority groups (particularly LGBT) still feel very uncomfortable ringing a call centre and handing over personal information.
OOO: You mentioned travel insurance there. What have you changed there?
Steve: Our travel insurance has a few UK firsts in it, for example 'Consular Assistance.' At no extra cost, our customers have access to a support centre which can provide an array of assistance and in certain cases in-country assistance. This is important cover – the Foreign Office helps travellers at its own discretion and sometimes the local consulates do not have the resources to deal with the emergencies people face. The Consular Assist in our travel policy provides you with that support.
OOO: Can you give an example of how this service might help you?
Heidi: Sure. It could be something like being the victim of crime or being assaulted. Consular Assist would help you find doctors, lawyers, translators, or advise on how to contact and deal with the local authorities. Continuing Steve's point of UK firsts, we also have specific pricing for single parents. Traditional travel insurance is bundled for individuals, couples or families “” but doesn't address single parents and their needs. They shouldn't pay the same premium as a family with two adults.
OOO: Many people have travel insurance with their bank accounts, aren't they protected?
Steve: Insurances that come with bank accounts vary. Some provide broad cover, depending on the level of your bank account, but some not. I recommend people check their level of cover to make sure it fits their travel needs. Sometimes, cancellation cover limits can be quite low, or cover might only be for European travel. If you have paid a large sum for your holiday, but your insurance has a low cover limit, you are going to be out-of- pocket should the holiday be cancelled. It's that simple.
Heidi: That's right. Our cancellation cover starts at £3,000 and can go up to £5,000. It really is important to check what level of cancellation you have with your current provider, particularly for long-haul travel.
Steve: Another area to check when buying insurance is the coverage for lost baggage. Look, this is not the most exciting topic in the world, but if you work out the value of things you take away on a fortnight's holiday abroad, it will probably amount to quite a lot. My husband's “excessive” shoe collection as a case in point. Expensive. Suitcases go missing at airports all the time.
OOO: I noticed in your policy wording that you go out of your way to make sure pets have been thought about?
Steve: As the proud father of two beautiful Schnauzers, we love our pets and have to plan around them all the time, not least where travel is concerned.
Heidi: Steve and I spent lots of time working with our travel underwriter to include cover for owners of cats or dogs. If they are delayed returning from a trip or if a pet falls ill, any extra kennelling or cattery costs incurred are reimbursed as would be vet costs while abroad, subject of course to the usual policy limits.
OOO: So how much does it cost?
Heidi: Cover starts from under £9.50 for a four-day trip to Europe for a single person with no pre-existing medical conditions. Both our levels of travel cover are very competitive and we'd welcome you and your customers to get a quote! Check us out at