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VitalityLife boss on dealing with health risks amid a pandemic

VitalityLife boss on dealing with health risks amid a pandemic

As Covid-19 hit the UK earlier this year insurer VitalityLife had to remodel its business somewhat. To take a small-scale example, it began offering movie vouchers instead of cinema tickets.

Seeing that people were exercising less as a result of the effects of lockdown and gym closures, it provided free access to home workouts on the Peloton and offered discounts on selected Garmin and Polar devices.

To do a lot of what it does, interpreting data has been incredibly important to VitalityLife, which is believed to be the first insurer in Europe to reward people for healthy living.

Deepak Jobanputra, managing director at VitalityLife, says when the insurer came into the market about 13 years ago, its model of linking the amount of insurance a policyholder pays to how much exercise they did was a relatively novel concept in the UK.

“The market had been commoditised,” says Mr Jobanputra. “[The fact is] most people do not find it exciting or interesting. It is not necessarily at the top of their priorities. People do not wake up in the morning thinking, ‘I’m going to go out and buy life insurance’.

“When we came into the market, we came into it from a different perspective: making people healthier.”

Despite being a young company compared to its life insurance peers, the wealth of data amassed by the insurer has certainly come in handy during Covid-19.

“Those individuals who were more engaged in their health and wellbeing had a 27 per cent lower risk of complications arising from Covid,” says Mr Jobanputra.

“So that’s one really good example of how we can use data to identify that physical activity, health and wellbeing can reduce your chances of complications from Covid.

“But you can take it a step further [to say], if that is the case, can we reach out to high-risk clients and help them to understand they should be maintaining their physical health and looking after their immunity?

“They won’t necessarily do it, but if you can do that, we may find ourselves impacting people’s lives through the use of data.”

VitalityLife started in 2007, but its story goes back to 1992 when its parent company Discovery launched in South Africa as a small, specialist risk insurer.

In 1997, Discovery Vitality was launched to incentivise members to engage in prevention and wellness promotion activities by awarding points that made them eligible to receive rewards including retail, airline and travel discounts.

Seven years later, in a joint venture, Discovery and Prudential launched PruHealth in the UK. 

They offered a different kind of health cover that not only provided people with cover when they were ill, but also helped them stay healthy by offering incentives and rewards.

Then in 2007 Discovery and Prudential launched PruProtect, offering protection products to the UK market.

The name change from PruProtect to VitalityLife took place in 2014, when Discovery took on full ownership of PruHealth and PruProtect, which were rebranded VitalityHealth and VitalityLife, respectively.