On the Better Benefits show, we’ve heard a lot about the importance of a well-rounded, customized benefits package when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. Especially in today’s competitive labor market, it’s more important than ever for employers to offer attractive benefits that serve real needs and add value to employees’ lives. But one thing we haven’t heard a lot about is how pet wellness and insurance benefits can help employers with this effort. That changed this week with our conversation with Christie Horvath, Founder and CEO of Wagmo.
Wagmo offers a variety of benefits for pet parents, including insurance and wellness benefits. We were fascinated to learn from Christie about how Wagmo is solving a real financial problem for people, while also meeting key emotional needs as well.
From Denver to Wagmo
Like most of our guests, Christie did not plan on working in insurance. She grew up in Colorado, the type of kid who would rather hang out with a dog than a person. After college, she worked exclusively with insurance companies at Blackrock and found that she genuinely and truly loved insurance. Christie went on to Harvard Business School with her dog Denver in tow. In the middle of business school, Denver started having seizures. Soon she found herself neck deep in vet bills, putting everything on her credit card to survive. She came out the other side with a huge appreciation for how all-consuming and expensive it can be to parent a beloved pet.
After graduation, she was searching for a way to marry her two passions, pet ownership and insurance. She realized that there are some big gaps in the pet insurance market, especially given the fact that more and more millenials are getting pets instead of having kids. People weren't finding the coverage they needed to have financial stability and peace of mind throughout their pet’s lives. So, Wagmo was born.
Rethinking pet insurance as a core benefit
You may be surprised to learn that more households today have pets than have children. If you’re an employer, statistically 70-75% of your employees are likely to have pets, and what it means to have a pet is also changing. Christie shared that 45% of pet parents in the U.S. spend the same or more on the healthcare needs of their pets as they do on themselves. In the past people just owned a pet, but now many identify as pet parents, truly making pets part of the family.
So as you think about helping employees manage their household budget and anticipate stressful financial risks, pets are both a pain-point and an opportunity. These shifting demographics are altering the way many people think about pet insurance. While it used to be a “nice to have” benefit, it is increasingly becoming a core benefit as more and more people become pet parents and take on the cost of their pet’s healthcare. By offering pet benefits, employers can meet employees where they are, relieving a major point of financial and emotional stress. And the great news is that pet benefits are an easy win because they are considerably more affordable than other financial or health benefits.
Wagmo is an end-to-end pet wellness solution that 95% of members use.
In the past, pet insurance has been thought of as a “set it and forget it” benefit. You buy it and hope you never use it. Wagmo has built products that are designed to be used frequently, routinely, and consistently. Their flagship product is a wellness plan designed to cover annual checkups. Those checkups typically cost at least $200, which is a significant expense for many people. With Wagmo, you can be reimbursed for this expense right away via Venmo or Paypal. That is an immediate win. Wagmo also offers an emergency plan, which is a more traditional insurance product that covers catastrophic events. They also have a perks program to help pet parents get discounts for great products and services.
Something that makes Wagmo unique in the benefits space is that employees are getting value out of this and using it every year. In fact, 95% of Wagmo members use their plans on an annual basis. That's a utilization rate many other lines of insurance can only dream of.
The impact of the pandemic on Wagmo
The pandemic was a tailwind for the pet industry (pun intended!). Everyone knows somebody who got a pandemic pet. These new pet parents are finding out that there can be big expenses associated with having a pet, and they need a solution to deal with them. As people are navigating this, many people are coming to Wagmo for help with other pet-related concerns, like what food to buy, how to deal with separation anxiety, puppy potty training, and more.
Wagmo has the pleasure of acting as an expert resource for pet parents. All of the customer support associates at Wagmo are pet parents themselves, which is a great way to build empathy into the company naturally. That personal connection is key to creating a great customer experience.
To hear more insights from Christie, including what's next for Wagmo, listen to Episode 32 of Better Benefits now. If you enjoy the episode, don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform.
Christie’s Recommended Resource
On every episode of Better Benefits, we ask our expert guests for a book or resource they’d recommend to others working in the benefits space. This week, Christie told us about a resource that has been instrumental to her success — other people! When it comes to building a company and entering a market, there are many folks who have done it before and have valuable advice to offer. Other people are the best resource out there. Collaboration is so essential, especially as an entrepreneur. So many people are happy to help and excited to share their wisdom; you just need to humble yourself and ask. You never know what you might learn.
If you’d like to connect with Christie and the team at Wagmo you can visit their website at Wagmo.io.
Note, this episode is for informational and educational purposes only. Christie Horvath and Wagmo are not endorsed, affiliated with, nor compensated by Brella Insurance Inc.