A site for financial insight attracts 17 million visitors a year
There is a start-up atmosphere in the hip-looking lounge with comfortable armchairs, billiard table and coffee bar. For many years, Dutch broadcaster TROS used to occupy this building in Hilversum, before Independer moved in it a few years ago. “Before moving in we thoroughly refurbished the building and today it already houses about three hundred collaborators,” explains Coen de Ruiter while showing us around.
The comparison site was created in 1999, from the observation that the customer was anything but central to the financial sector. “Customers were overwhelmed with a wide variety of products and insurances, even though their profile indicated that they had no need for it”, says Coen de Ruiter.
“Moreover, there was no transparency at all in the market. When you wanted to take out a car insurance, you had to call three agents and hope you would get a satisfying answer within a week.”
According to the founders of Independer this had to change. They were inspired by what was happening in the UK, where the breakthrough of the internet had already made the market much more transparent. In 2019 Independer has grown into the most important comparison and advice platform in the Netherlands for banking and insurance products. And, if you are looking for an energy provider or if you want to take out a mortgage, Independer can help you too.
“Our site is visited 17 million times a year and about 6 million comparisons are made. In our digital age few customers are willing to pay money for a rate and quality comparison. That is why Independer is not only a comparator, it also acts as an intermediary for taking out an insurance policy or a mortgage,” says Coen de Ruiter.” On the one hand, we make the market transparent, and on the other hand we offer our visitors the possibility to immediately acquire the product that best suits them. For this we receive a small fee from the provider. That is our business model. The independence of our advice is essential. That is our own life insurance policy.”
“Our greatest asset is that we offer consumers simple choices for complex issues.”
Coen de Ruiter, CEO Independer
Whoever visits Independer for a price comparison will be presented with the options that best suit their needs. For the enthusiast, the total market offer can be seen with one click. “Our greatest asset is that we offer consumers simple and clear choices for complex issues. That is the essence of our business,” says De Ruiter.
“Take for example a death risk insurance: the conditions vary according to the profile of the applicant. For all our product comparisons we have compiled several essential questions that are necessary for a conclusive opinion. Simultaneously we have developed artificial intelligence that enables us to offer much more than just a price comparison. We do not offer the lowest price, we rather give advice on the best value for money in accordance with your profile. That is precisely how we make the difference with competitors who are only looking for the lowest prices. You also get that advice in real-time. You can take out a car insurance policy in ten minutes. “
De twee belangrijkste markten van Independer zijn vandaag de auto- en de zorgverzekeringen. “Samen goed voor zowat 80 procent van onze inkomsten”, geeft De Ruiter aan. “De laatste jaren focussen we ook op de hypotheekmarkt. Een huis is vaak de grootste uitgave in een mensenleven. Je wilt dus perfect weten welk hypotheekcontract je afsluit. Tot voor kort verwezen we klanten door naar hypotheekadviseurs in hun buurt, op basis van onze kwaliteitsvergelijking van adviseurs. Nu kan je ook via ons een hypotheek afsluiten, met of zonder advies (execution only, voor mensen met verstand van financiële producten).”
Today, the two most important markets of Independer are the car and the health insurance markets. “Together they represent about 80 percent of our revenue,” says Coen de Ruiter. “In recent years we have also focused on the mortgage market. Buying a house is often the largest expense in a lifetime, so you want to know perfectly which mortgage contract you are taking out. Until recently we directed customers to mortgage advisors in their area based on our quality comparison of advisors. Now you can also take out a mortgage directly on our website, both without advice (execution only, for people who understand financial products) as with advice. We are now fully engaged in the development of an algorithm that generates, in an automated way, an advice that is of a higher quality than the average on the market. In time, we see a lot of potential in it, because the advice that we deliver will not only be better, it will also be a lot cheaper than the current market rates.”
A young company
It stands out when we interrupt the interview halfway for the photo session: Independer is a young company. And the atmosphere among the employees is very amicable.
“Involved people, that is where it all starts”, says the director when we enter a meeting room after the photo session. “We employ about three hundred people. The average age is 31 years. All these people know that this is a company with an empowerment mission: we want to give customers the confidence that they themselves can take difficult and important financial decisions. In addition, we strive to make our customers happy.”
Clients can contact Independer via the site, but they can also call or use the app through the specially created department Blije Klant (Happy Customer). “Half of our staff are on the phone, because we notice that people sometimes find personal contact very important “, explains Coen de Ruiter.
A springboard to Belgium
It should not be surprising that Independer has a solid IT department. “Our IT department employs some 60 people and is very international. You will find specialists from all over the world.”
Data and scale are essential in the business model of Independer. For Coen de Ruiter they are the greatest added value of the collaboration with De Persgroep. “On the one hand we have short lines of communication so that we can work well with the media parties in this company’s portfolio in order to reach new customers, on the other hand, their customer data are also very valuable to us. Thanks to the acquisition by De Persgroep, a move to the Belgian market will also become a realistic option in the long term.