Sandro Matter, co-founder of vlot, talks to us about the significant challenges they overcame in building and scaling vlot, the concept of ‘financial wellbeing’, and their collaboration with LEXR on privacy issues.
A few years before the launch of vlot, there was a dense 2-month period in which I was confronted with the following life events: My mother died out of the blue after falling into a coma while on holiday in Bali. Only 8 weeks later, my wife gave birth to our second daughter. And in the exact same week, we moved into a new house. When we signed the mortgage, we asked ourselves: what would happen to our family in the event of disability or death? We received a complex analysis and found ourselves in a lengthy, paper-based process between us, our bank and the insurance company.
It was during this time that I was referred to Daniel, an insurance expert, who advised me and my family perfectly. Through his own broker company, Daniel specialized in (life) risk analysis and coverage advice for both private and corporate clients. In addition, he has always been driven by technology and had many visionary ideas. Our client-consultant relationship became a friendship and we began to discuss business opportunities.
On this breeding ground, vlot was founded in the summer of 2017 with a mission to empower families and individuals to make financially responsible decisions. Using novel data-driven approaches, vlot aims to help households understand their financial situation and support market players in their transition to new forms of advice. Advocating transparency linked to the topic of Financial Wellbeing, vlot today operates at the forefront of hybrid distribution in (life) risk coverage and retirement savings in Switzerland.
We launched our first live application in February 2019 – a B2C proposition under the vlot brand for private customers in the Swiss market. This solution was way ahead of its time and subsequently this led to a shift towards a B2B(2C) business model, offering white label software solutions to B2B customers. Today, the vlot core analytics engine and workflow solution can easily be configured to serve a variety of distribution setups, enabling smooth and efficient operations of entire omni-channel setups.
The main customer segments and uses cases can be summarized as follows:
Most of our customers start a collaboration with vlot by testing out a particular distribution channel configuration through a POC – and nearly all of them, over time, transition step-by-step into a multi-channel collaboration format.
Quite simply: by doing our homework. On the one hand, we are always close to the relevant regulatory developments (e.g. new insurance regulation: nAVO), sometimes with active “shaping” participation in corresponding working groups. On the other hand, if necessary, we bring in external experts as early as possible. A good example is the introduction of the New Swiss Data Protection Act (revDSG) on September 1, 2023 and our collaboration with LEXR in order to get ready for this.
As a software company, we always strive to maintain the highest quality standards when it comes to information security. This also includes a yearly ISO re-certification (especially ISO 27001, but also 9001 and 14001) as well as PenTest (where a specialized company attempts to attack the vlot infrastructure over the course of an entire week).
Tapping into LEXR’s expertise and leveraging their advice was a great experience – as great as it can be when dealing with such an uncharming topic like data privacy.
We kicked it off with an overall assessment, from an external (e.g., Privacy Notice, Data Processing Agreement) but also internal perspective. After the assessment, a clear action plan with specific sub-task ownership and a pragmatic, hands-on approach were the key ingredients for successfully revamping our data privacy setup in view of the revised Data Protection Act.
Alongside our very positive experience of working together with LEXR (not limited to data privacy topics), we engaged in an ongoing collaboration model. We proceeded to so to say “lease” a dedicated Data Protection Advisor and Data Protection Officer with whom we a) handle particular data privacy challenges that emerge from our daily business and b) over time continuously tackle additional “nice-to-have” data privacy topics.
Without being very detailed, and looking at it from a bird’s eye perspective, the following are the “top 5” challenges (random order) that have kept us busy over the last +6 years:
Besides the general business model and executing on it, there are two important things to keep in mind when entering the world of entrepreneurship: (i) it’s all about the team and (ii) always stay on top of your financing. On the one hand, you need to make sure you surround yourself with a team of complementary, smart people that push and challenge each other. On the other hand, you must plan your next fundraising steps well in advance and continuously optimize your cost base – ensuring sufficient runway to reach the relevant next milestones. Additional ingredients are perseverance and determination which allows you to get closer to your goal day after day.
Looking into the future, we at vlot believe that the demands from people towards increased transparency, clarity of needs and personalized (insurance) offers that evolve throughout the client lifecycle will become more and more important. Mainly, we are convinced that the current approach towards finances will be markedly different from the past, as younger generations facing more volatile financial futures are increasingly pushed towards taking greater responsibility for their own Financial Wellbeing. This behavioral change will ultimately trickle down into the market and strongly impact the shape of distribution channels.
A good way to prepare for this future is to transition towards advanced technologies by collaborating with innovative companies shaping the market today. Coupled with proactive guidelines and regulation, as well as the political will to advance the overall situation for data standards and the interoperability between financial services sectors and holistic digital solutions, Switzerland can strongly shape the competitiveness of one of the key pillars of the national economy: Insurance.
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