Vitality’s boss on how his health insurance business rewards you for getting in shape

Health insurance is not most people's favourite subject. Often it is a 'grudge purchase', with customers stumping up the premiums through gritted teeth. But Neville Koopowitz, the chief executive of insurance company Vitality, has a secret weapon: the company mascot, Stanley the dachshund.

Source: This is MONEY by Ruth Sunderland

Stanley, who is possibly the best-loved canine in corporate Britain after the Andrex puppy, has been the doggy embodiment of the business strategy. This is to incentivise reluctant exercisers with a policy to work out more, eat better and take care of their mental health, in return for a range of benefits and cheaper premiums.

Vitality is owned by Discovery, a leading South African insurance company with 4.4 million customers. It began 28 years ago with what Koopowitz describes as ‘a hunch’. ‘We thought we could encourage people to live healthier lifestyles, that it would be good for us as an insurer because there would be fewer claims and that society would also benefit. We had no evidence at that stage, but we do now.’

His data suggests that members on average increase their exercise levels by 22 per cent after joining ‘Those who engage in the Vitality programme fully have 39 per cent lower mortality risk, if they get to Platinum status,’ he says.

The programme works by linking a smart watch or phone to the Vitality app. Then you can accumulate points for exercise, mindfulness, check-ups and healthy eating. Customers start on bronze status, then work their way up via silver and gold to platinum.

‘The real benefit is for people who are unfit when they start,’ Koopowitz says. ‘If you have a 60-year-old who had never exercised, even a couple of thousand steps a day would make a difference.’

Vitality, says Koopowitz, is the third largest health insurance operator in the UK with 15 per cent of the market, behind Axa and Aviva.

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