CanadianSME sat down with Danish Yusuf, the founder, President, and CEO of Zensurance, earlier this year to understand the impact of digital transformation in diverse industry verticals since the sheer power of digitization has reshaped every aspect of the global economy. We have also talked about the implications for small businesses not having proper insurance and how COVID-19 has drastically changed things and how his company is helping small businesses in managing their insurance cost-effectively and securely.
Danish Yusuf is the Founder, President, and CEO of Zensurance, a Canadian technology company revolutionizing the small business insurance space. He is a former leader in McKinsey & Company’s Digital Insurance practice, supporting insurance clients globally in defining their digital strategy. Before McKinsey, Danish was a software architect and developer at IBM Canada, covering everything from mainframe development to web development. Danish earned a bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering from the University of Toronto and has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Tell us about your company. How is Zensurance leading the digital revolution in the insurance industry and meeting the needs of startups and small- and medium-sized businesses?
Toronto-based Zensurance is Canada’s leading digital business insurance brokerage dedicated to serving small business owners, entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, and independent contractors in multiple industries. We specialize in helping them find the business insurance coverage they need at a price they can afford with the service they deserve.
Established in 2016, Zensurance started digitizing the business insurance application and transaction process in Canada. We have always believed that the micro-business segment has been underserved in the insurance industry. So we’ve made it our mission to create a digital experience that is affordable, transparent, and fast. As a result, small business owners and entrepreneurs can come to our website, fill out an online application, receive the lowest quote available on the market for free, and even complete the transaction online, depending on their needs. And through our technology and network of insurance providers, we’ve been able to offer policy rates of up to 35% less than our competitors.
We have 100 licensed brokers to support our clients and serve as their trusted insurance and risk management advisors. Our system shops our partner network of more than 50 leading Canadian insurance providers to find our customers the customized policies they require based on their unique businesses.
In which aspects of business do you think digitization will have the most impact? What are the best digital resources for businesses to invest in to grow?
Every business is unique, and when digitizing your operations, your first step should be identifying your target customers and how they’re buying your products or services.
For example, my parents are never going to buy auto insurance online. It’s just never going to happen. So, if you are an auto insurance provider catering to an older demographic, adopting e-commerce software may not be the first investment you make. But every business needs a customer relationship management (CRM) system, so it is generally a good investment. What business owners have to think about is how sophisticated a system they need. CRM can help when someone visits your website but doesn’t make a purchase. You can still capture their contact information and follow up later.
A Human Resources Information System (HRIS) is also usually a good investment – it can streamline critical activities like payroll, talent acquisition, and training. The same logic applies to digital payment tools – credit card fees can be high, but when processing and reviewing times are considered, the cost of using paper cheques or cash is often higher.
Let’s not forget about the basics, either. Many SMBs – particularly those micro-businesses of one, two, or three employees (like tradespeople, independent professional service providers and others) may not even have a dedicated website yet. That first step is critical when their prospective customers are increasingly thinking digital-first.
Because SMBs tend to have fewer digital security resources than larger companies, they often become targets of phishing and ransomware attacks. How do you think SMBs can keep themselves safe when going digital, including cost-effective software and insurance they can use?
The reality is that any company conducting business online opens itself up to risk, whether it’s the local office of an international conglomerate or an individual practitioner with an email contact form on their website.
The good news is that cyber insurance policies exist that protect your business if something goes wrong and are a necessary part of your company’s cybersecurity management. Five years ago, these types of policies were scarce, but with the increasing number of attacks targeting all types and sizes of businesses – and SMBs are no exception – there is now a wide range of policies available and at varying prices.
When shopping for cyber insurance, SMBs especially should avoid jumping at the lowest price possible without doing their homework. Investing in a comprehensive insurance policy will almost certainly save them money in the long run. Like home and car insurance, an insurer will ask for proof that you’ve taken every precaution to prevent an avoidable incident.Danish Yusuf – Transforming the Way by Building State-of-the-Art Insurance Solutions Click To Tweet
What do you think of the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP), recently launched by the federal government?
The CDAP is the latest of several government grants available to small businesses, which make up 98.1 percent of all employer businesses in Canada and are rightly considered the backbone of the Canadian economy.
There are two grants available to Canadian SMBs under CDAP: ‘Grow Your Business Online, worth up to $2,400 and enables SMBs to develop and implement e-commerce capabilities; and ‘Boost Your Business Technology’, which is worth up to $15,000 and helps Canadian SMBs adopt new digital technologies.
Eligible ‘Boost Your Business Technology’ applicants can also access zero percent interest loans worth up to $100,000 from the Business Development Bank of Canada and a wage subsidy of up to $7,300 to hire post-secondary students and recent graduates.
I’m delighted the federal government is making that money available to SMBs that can use it. But, at the same time, there are other grants out there, and I believe that any small business applying for them should dedicate the same level of research to the many different grants they could apply to for their digital transformation projects.
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Is there anything else you would like to suggest to startups and small- and medium-sized businesses when it comes to digital adoption?
I think it’s worth mentioning why digital adoption has become so important. Before the pandemic, I would have guessed we were five or so years away from digital services becoming the norm, but COVID-19 pushed the timeline forward on both the business and consumer sides. As consumers, we’re now used to video chats with friends and family and ordering everything from groceries to medication online. So as workers, I think we expect a similar user-friendly experience from our jobs, whether it’s remote work, digital payments, or coordinating with customers and business partners.
And while I’ve emphasized the importance of researching the pros and cons of the software your company is thinking about adopting, it’s equally important to know who would run that software and what the risks could be.
Digital payments, for example, could alienate customers who have an easier time paying by cash or cheque if not explained adequately. Likewise, your company won’t benefit from CRM software if departments like marketing and collections aren’t sharing their customer data. And for any digital tool, the benefits of adoption can quickly turn into risks if you don’t take steps to ensure they are secure and that your customers and your business are protected.