Stark Group is a start-up incubator and InsurTech lab that aims at disrupting the insurance industry. Since 2014, it has been mandated by numerous insurance companies, banks, and financial advisory firms to work with them and create better value perception for greater willingness to pay.
In a talk with Mr. Matthias de Ferrieres – CEO / Founder at the Stark Group, we discussed the current industry scenario and how Stark Group is empowering the change.
What were the initial challenges you faced?
After 15 years in Asia working with AXA, I decided it was time to move forward and try to launch my ideas and concepts. I have been lucky enough to have AXA partnering with me since day 1. They have been my first client, offering me the opportunity to test and learn digital innovation. I cannot say I had to deal with challenges at the very beginning.
Which was that point that triggered the growth of Stark Group?
In early 2016, DBS Bank contacted me and asked me to partner with them to develop their motor comparator. They gave me 3 months to design, develop and deploy. They contacted me in March and we were live in early September 2016. Till today, I am still running their Motor insurance aggregator. This mega-contract transformed Stark Group and made it a credible player in the digital insurance space. In 2017, another great milestone was reached as I have been contracted to develop 6 life insurance products for a major insurer in Thailand. Stark Group became an 11 staff insurance-focused startup.
How have Stark Group graphs changed since the foundation? Can you share a few statistics?
Stark Group changed in 2019 into an incubator. We keep our clients and maintain their platform, yet we invest in ideas and concepts and do not hesitate to design our platform. Since 2015, Star Group has generated more than $1.5M worth of dividends. Yet since 2019, profitability and revenue generation is not the main objective. Stark Group aims at being an innovator and ideator thus its KPIs are very different.
What is the reason behind Stark Group’s long-standing success?
The founder Matthias de Ferrieres believes in two main principles to make a company a success. Of course besides some lucks and trusts from its clients and partners. The first is the knowledge, experience, and expertise in the field you are in. Matthias and his team have been in the insurance industry for 20 years. He has a competitive advantage compared to any insurtech entering the market and knowing the digital world only.
The second is the business model. Stark Group invests only in the profitable business model. Rather than looking at the potentials, the future revenue, the growth, it looks at the hardcore finance: Gross and Net margin, cash flow generation. Most VCs or PE bet on someone, a team, a concept. Stark Group design something that will make little money maybe but money for sure.
What are the products/services Stark Group focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
We developed Life insurance products, insurance aggregators, Medical Third Party Administrators, Insurance credit card builders, Distribution Agency platforms, KYC, FNA, Financial Planning, and insurance app. More recently we work on the Home insurance concept and insurance embedded in the smartwatch.
How do you decide to take Stark Group a step further in terms of your products/services?
We are open to any opportunities as long as they are profitable in the short run and not profitable on the promise.
Is there any new addition to the list of products/services? Anything exciting you would like to share?
We are trying to develop t.me a smartwatch with no data subscription, unlimited data once you have bought it. We believe there is an opportunity here. Yet the regulation is complex and we are trying to crack it still today.
What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?
- 2000: first investment and set up of French wine trading company in Sydney
- 2001: Join AXA Singapore as an Intern in Actuary
- 2002: Create a publishing company in Singapore (Busted in 2003)
- 2003: invest in Avenue Group, a company that suggests investment in Wine and Land.
- 2014: Leave AXA and creates Stark Group
- 2015: Create your-insurer (the tech platform is sold in August 2017)
- 2018: Invest in Insurance-republic and start to incubate some project
- 2019: Create My-insurer Pte Ltd
- 2020: Create Wellnex
According to you, how has the Insurance sector changed over the years?
It is a complex question. The digital revolution changed consumer purchasing behavior and the industry had to evolve and accept that digital was part of the customer journey. Yet the industry remains very conservative with little innovation and no real space for disruption. I don’t think we should expect to be truly disrupted anytime soon.
It’s a rat race out there. How do you cope with that?
I let the rat race. I don’t think I like other rats and mainly consider myself as a rat. I don’t want to compete with others; I believe the best innovator that can put his innovation in place and market it will win.
Matthias de Ferrieres – A Leader with a 360-Degree Innovative Vision
- In Asia-Pacific since 2000, Matthias de Ferrieres, spent 15 years within AXA. Regional CMO, he leaves the firm in 2014 to create, lead and sell to traditional insurers 3 start-ups that delivered disruptive, customer-centric yet easy-to-operate digital insurance-based solutions.
- In 2017, he launched My-insurer http://my-insurer.net/, a CRM platform dedicated to Financial Advisors. In 2019, he deployed Wellnex (www.wellnex-singapore.com) an health tech that provides access to affordable Healthcare and Fitness Services to all Singaporean. He combines both solutions in early 2020 and makes the first and unique comprehensive ecosystem dedicated to Financial Advisors that help boost their sales, protect their business, collect smart and compliance data, and reduce significantly their operational cost.
- In January 2021, his platform has nearly 15% of the Singapore financial advisory force. My-insurer becomes the first Insurtech in Singapore to get the Data Trustmark Certification delivered by IMDA, the media authority, and the governing body of Singapore.
- Economist with a legal background (Chicago University, Sydney University), he has over 20 years of insurance experience in Asia. He is also an actuary by training and currently a Ph.D. scholar in insurance economics.