The satisfaction of ensuring clients have the optimal insurance coverage motivates Michael Gerber and his background in Physics and Mathematics has given him the tools to develop technology to assist in this.
What’s your story?
I’m the founder and CEO of 360F, a Singapore-based company that enables data-driven and scalable financial advisory with intelligent automation and scientific engagement. Our flagship product is an advice autopilot that makes investment and insurance advice robust and self-verifiable, therefore elevating trust for the industry.
I have a background in science, specifically Physics and Mathematics. The majority of my career was in management consultancy, where I discovered the beauty of engaging with people. I mainly focused on the financial services industry, namely wealth management and life insurance, and it gave me deep insight as to what the industry is struggling with, through my research and first-hand conversations with agents, advisors, and relationship managers.
In 2003, I decided to chart my own path as an entrepreneur, taking over a consulting firm through a management buyout. I ramped the company up to about a few hundred people before I sold my shares in 2016.
Later that same year in 2016, I launched 360F, making it my second venture in entrepreneurship. I started 360F because in the past 20 years it seemed that nothing changed in the financial advisory industry. People were distributing financial products and advice in the same way. Yet, increasingly, customers are dissatisfied with the traditional advisory model. On one hand, the stagnation is frustrating, but on the other hand, it gives us hope for change in the future. At 360F, my co-founder and I want to combine our industry knowledge with technology that makes financial advice reliable, transparent and trustworthy.
What excites you most about your industry?
I’m excited to be in an industry that has a critical role in society. Insurance and financial planning are the safety net for us against unforeseen events, and the importance of helping people get the optimal amount of coverage cannot be understated.
Imagine a breadwinner with kids in school. If something happens to him, say critical illness, job loss, even death in the worst case, it’s not just him who suffers but his whole family. He may no longer be able to send his children to school, and that impacts their lives and their ability to contribute to society in the long run. Insurance acts as the buffer for unforeseen and unfortunate events, and I think it’s great to be able to work in this industry and try to improve the way it works.
What is your connection to Asia?
As with everything in life, it’s a story of coincidences and unexpected turns.
Basically, I came to Singapore following the financial crisis in Europe, as I believed that Asia was more dynamic and fast-growing. I then decided to start my own business here, which grew to a few hundred people across the region. My family also fell in love with Asia and said, okay, we don’t want to go back to Europe. So I’m still here, and next year it will be ten years since I moved to Asia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. It’s a beautiful country, stable and secure, and great for business. It has always been, and will continue to be after Covid-19, an important hub in Southeast Asia.
Nowadays with the pandemic situation it’s difficult here, as it is anywhere around the world, to do cross border business, but I’m hopeful that it will go back to normal by the end of next year.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s actually something a doctor told me when my son was born. He said that from that moment onwards, you would see that life is uncertain because you don’t know what happens next. That you have to understand the uncertainty of life and take it with a certain element of coolness, while building a buffer for protection, so that whatever happens, you’re on the safe side.
I wouldn’t say this advice relates completely to my career, but I do think it’s inspired me to look at things rationally and to strive for the best whenever the opportunity arises.
Who inspires you?
I wouldn’t pin it down to a single person, but I’m always inspired by people who fight for something they believe in. Take Albert Einstein, who came up with the theory of relativity and pushed for it against all odds and prevailing pressures. His theory is still relevant and very much important today. Or take the example of inventors – the lightbulb only exists because someone tried hundreds or thousands of times.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
From my experience, what I have learned is that the biggest satisfaction that you can have as an entrepreneur is the gratitude of customers and the deep loyalty of employees. Once you achieve that, it stays forever.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d probably study medicine if I had such an opportunity to go back in time.
The main reason is because I enjoy working with people, and I intrinsically believe in doing something that benefits society. Insurance is important for society of course, but when you think about medicine, there’s a much more direct connection with people.
I’ve also always loved to read and learn – about science, literature, medical studies. I always start reading the Economist from the back page, where statistics and charts are published, followed by the scientific news. Science is an important passion of mine.
How do you unwind?
Although my schedule is quite hectic, I consciously try to squeeze small breaks for myself. For example, I’d go to a coffee shop shop at 7 in the morning and spend an hour just reading through my emails or the newspapers. Or I’ll try and go for a run alone. Just having a little bit of downtime in a day where I detach myself from work helps me to unwind.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I recommend Da Nang, Vietnam. The Intercontinental in Da Nang has fantastic architecture and I had a fantastic weekend getaway there with my family. The environment is beautiful and inspirational, and it’s great fun to swim and snorkel there. It’s really worth it if you have the chance, maybe just once a year for a weekend.
Everyone in business should read this book:
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. He connected all the big and small dots together, from the beginnings of the universe to what we are today, from the macrocosmos to the microcosmos – and made it all understandable for the layman.
In business, we have a tendency to talk about things in much too complex terms. We could all take a leaf from Hawking’s book in distilling complex issues into clear concepts.
Shameless plug for your business:
At 360F, our technology shapes financial advice to be holistic, hyper-personalized, dependable and self evident. Think of us as the Google Maps of the financial services industry.
Our flagship advisory autopilot, 360-FORESIGHT Pro®, embraces three fundamentals – customer’s utility
function, treatment of risk, and use of optimization. No other company offers automated and holistic solutioning tools like us – tools that encompass lifestyle and market risks.
Our 360-ProVestment® module optimizes investment and insurance advice. Built on quantitative finance and behavioral science methods, 360-ProVestment constructs on average 10,000 multi-risk scenarios over the duration that the customer is planning for. These scenarios are highly personalized, based on the customer’s mortality and morbidity risk probabilities, as well as exposure to probable market risks. Some 40m simulations follow, and with a “survival of the fittest” process, we are thus able to create investment and insurance advice that is the best fitting for the customer.
To address trust, which is amplified when a customer engages and understands the basis of the advice and makes the purchase decision with confidence, our 360-HappiU® module is a first-of-its-kind tool to help customers visualise and easily understand the impact of the financial advice being offered, bringing personal context and comparison to the products being suggested.
Our latest addition, 360-NeedsProfiler®, uses actuarial and peer-reviewed social science data to address the protection gap by factoring a customer’s financial needs and corresponding risk and gaps.
360F brings tangible and long-lasting sales impact, helping banks and insurers to pare down the sales cycle and double case sizes.
How can people connect with you?
I’m always happy to connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-gerber-50ba0/
Social Media Links?
To hear how entrepreneurs around the world overcome their challenges, search your favourite podcast platform for ‘CallumConnects‘ to hear a 5-minute daily breakdown.
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built, and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’, and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.