EP 188 – Sam White – CEO of Stella Insurance – Every Business Sits in an Emotion


Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 170 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Sam White

Sam White is the multi-award-winning CEO of Freedom Services, an ever-expanding insurance business including Action 365, Pukka Insure and Freedom Brokers in the UK, and Stella Insurance in Australia. Having started her first company in 1999 aged just 24 in her sister’s conservatory, 22 years later she employs over 160 staff with offices in Cheadle, Cheshire, and Sydney, Australia with a turnover of over £14million. Sam cares passionately about diversity, equality, innovation and above all, making business human. Motivated by a desire to change the insurance industry for the better, Sam is a vocal advocate for levelling the playing field for women and championing female leaders within the industry. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur, Sam is a regular business commentator in media and have been seen discussing current business affairs on BBC’s Wake Up to Money and Ian King Live on Sky News. She also hosts her own podcast “Human Business with Sam White” where she candidly discusses successes and failures with fellow business owners.

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The Asia InsurTech Podcast spoke with Sam White, the CEO of Stella Insurance and the Chair of Freedom Services Group, about what products we are missing in the insurance industry and how to design new products with women in mind.

Michael Waitze 0:03
Let’s keep that spirit going. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia InsurTech Podcast. Today we are joined by Sam White, the CEO of Stellar Insurance and the Chair of Freedom Services Group. I don’t know why I’m laughing Sam.

Sam White 0:16
I love that you giggling already? It’s a very good sign for the rest of the conversation. I think absolutely leave it at that.

Michael Waitze 0:23
Let’s just leave it at that. It’s great to have you on the show.

Sam White 0:26
Have a cheaky giggle to start with?

Michael Waitze 0:27
Well, look, I want to do this right. Well, before we jump into it, I want to ask you this. What do you think is the biggest trend in insurance and InsurTech innovation? We always ask everybody that right at the beginning, but what is it and what should it be? Do you think? And then we’ll jump into some other stuff. Go ahead.

Sam White 0:39
Yeah, no, so great question. By the way. Great question. I love that that we’ve started so strong. Let’s let’s try and keep it that way. I think what I see the the biggest trend over the last 12-24 months is been around digitalization, customer experience kind of taking the friction out of the process. And that’s, that’s great. And that absolutely needs to happen. But for me, there are bigger questions that we should be asking ourselves in the insurance industry. What I think that the trend should be is starting to question what are we actually insuring and why and actually what is important today? And what are the risks that people are suffering with today, there are insurance products that don’t even exist and should exist.

Michael Waitze 1:28
So what is that? Right? So if we think about what insurance is, and has been, and then what it should be? What should it be? Or actually, maybe let’s do this first, what has it been? What’s it been insuring? And what should it be insuring?

Sam White 1:39
No, I think that insurance has been transactional, and it’s been insuring things. So you know, and apply it for all the right reasons. And it’s generally been run by some very smart mathematicians, who will look at the thing, the car, the house, and go, we’ve insured lots of cars and lots of houses in the past. And here’s all of this wealth of data and therefore, this is the premium that we should be charging to ensure the car the house jobs are good. And I can carry on with my day job. And actually, for me, there are a number of emerging risks from a societal viewpoint and some risks that have always been present that the insurance industry hasn’t been overall interested in, they absolutly should be paying attention to now and finding the right kind of solutions to support. So I am a bit of a Maverick and possibly a little bit anti establishment or that I’m working on myself to try and stop that. But I don’t have a great deal of faith in governments at the moment. And I think there’s a lot of areas in which insurance could step in to some of the disasters that I see from a political basis.

Michael Waitze 2:54
I want to break this down, right, because I think it has to go in a couple of steps. The first is do we think that the nature of ownership of those assets, whether it’s the car or the house, that that is also changing? And then that the nature of the things that insure them has to change first. And then the second thing is if we’re not insuring assets so the physical assets, the car, the house that we’ve already talked about, what should it be? And can I also say this, so keep that in your mind. I like to talk to people, and I don’t want them to qualify. Does that make sense? Like, I love the fact that I love the fact that you’re a maverick, but you shouldn’t have to apologize to this for people. Sorry.

Sam White 3:25
Yeah, no, that’s true. That is true. I think that’s probably years of institutionalization from the insurance industry. I do feel like I have to apologize on a general basis, even if I just walk into an insurance conference, because I know that my very presence is uncomfortable for certain factions. That’s okay. Okay, right.

Michael Waitze 3:51
So let’s get back to this thing. Like you feel like the ownership of assets, the context of that ownership is changing. And if it is, how does insurance change? And then the second thing is, if we’re not just insuring assets in the context of the government, and the mistrust, or the stuff that you’ve already mentioned, what then does need to be insured?

Sam White 4:05
Yeah, so absolutely. In terms of assets, particularly from a generational viewpoint, you know, you look at Uber, you look at Airbnb, you look at car share, you know, rideshare car shares, people are saying, I don’t have to own stuff I can, I can, I can borrow it for a charge for a period of time. And of course, insurance has to reflect that. And I think there’s some good players that have moved into that space and are now matching products with that change. You know, I’ve seen some really great startups working on, you know, transactional insurance in terms of hourly, weekly, monthly insurance for cars, stuff around the gig economy. So we are solving for some of that stuff. And I think that’s partly because it can still set in the existing model structure, right, you know, if I want to charge by the hour, and except that the person is not going to own the asset, it’s quite easy for the mathematicians to get their heads around that. A ideological shift into ensuring risks that aren’t tangible assets in that way, I think is much harder for them to conceptualize. But they do get it. So as an example, and I don’t, you know, I don’t want to turn this into a self promotion. It’s just the best example I can give in terms. So we’re currently designing products in Stellar Insurance, which is parametric insurance. I love parametric insurance, because they kind of bridge the gap between old world and new world in that you can give them a framework that people can get comfortable with that it’s, you know, it’s a fixed payout. So all you have to do is find the frequency. And you can find the frequency for various potential risks from big data. And so you make people comfortable. So an example of that is we’re designing domestic abuse insurance. So we’re designing it so that it sits in the motor policy. It’s a fixed payout. And it’s to protect our policyholders and get them out of a situation if they’re a victim of that circumstance.

Michael Waitze 6:10
So tell me about this is actually super interesting. Now you and I were joking before we started recording, and this what you’re talking about is not a joke at all right? But before we started recording, I was sharing your story with you about something that happened to me 30 something years ago, and there was this interaction between a male and a female, we don’t have to go through what that was. But the real reaction of that should have been and it was from the guys that were there was dude, you can’t talk like that. You can’t do that thing, right. And the thing I didn’t want to say then, but I will say now is that if you grew up in an environment where that type of behavior was not acceptable, when you saw it, like you saw me, I went like this, because I got a chill when you were talking about this, because when you said that we need insurance to insure new things. I wasn’t thinking about that. And in a way, that’s great, right? Yeah, you made that face like, yeah, of course you want, but it’s a great thing. But how does that work? Right? I’m really curious about how it works. It’s so necessary. Yeah. But how does it work?

Sam White 6:55
I wish it wasn’t necessary. And this is, you know, this is part of the reason that I’m so passionate about Stellar designing products for women. And it’s, it’s not an anti male thing. We insure men, it’s just the insurance products for the last since they were designed were designed by men with male fears and males kind of loss and risk profiles in mind. And what affects a woman is different to what affects men. That’s not to say that men aren’t victims of domestic violence, of course they are, but proportionately it will be of a bigger concern to a woman than a man. Now, you know, for me, you can you can design an insurance product for anything, anything that you can imagine you can create. But because insurance is generally run and populated by a certain type of personality, and that’s great personality, you know, we need those people in the business need the number crunchers we need, but it doesn’t attract creatives. And creatives, what can if you can combine the magic of those two things together, then actually, you’ve got something really special. And this is really simple. We’re not saying we’re going to solve for all of the problems for these women. But what we do know is that most women don’t leave an abusive situation, because whilst being a victim of domestic abuse, they’re often a bit a victim of financial abuse as well. And that, that little bit of money. Uh, you know, as I say, we’re not, we’re not waving a magic wand and solving for all of their problems, what we say is if we can get money to them, and the other part of this, we’re partnering with MasterCard who have created a digital wallet, so you don’t have to have a bank account, you don’t have to have a credit card with them. They can literally get those funds into somebody’s mobile phone or pay a hotel or do whatever, instantaneously, you know, as part of the transaction. And, you know, obviously, there is some great technology out there, again, that can enable some of these things, you have to combine all of those different elements together, the math has to work, the product design has to work, and then you have to be able to deliver it in the right way. And then of course, the final piece that we’re still working on is what’s the right trigger for this? Because of

Michael Waitze 9:16
That’s the parametric part of it, right? In other words, something has to happen. We have to know what happens. Yes, we can have this fixed payout that we understand. Sorry, go ahead. I interrupted you.

Sam White 9:24
Yeah, no, but there are, you know, if women report the incidents to police or refugees,

Michael Waitze 9:30
Take a 911 calls or something like that, yeah,

Sam White 9:32
There are different triggers. And we need to make sure that they’re the right triggers, and that we don’t end up excluding people that are at risk, which is obviously the biggest factor here, but at the same time, protect against fraud. And so you know, but that’s no different than any other insurance policy. It’s no different.

Michael Waitze 9:51
I could take a hammer to my car and just I got into a you know, an accident. What’s the difference,

Sam White 9:55
What’s the difference? You know, it’s the same problem to solve for.

Michael Waitze 9:58
So at the back end, though, Every insurance policy needs to be supported by capacity. Yeah, I’m really curious about this, though, when you first walk as you said, you were a maverick, right? You said, even when you walk into a conference, everyone’s like, Oh, no, they’re Sam kind of thing. You said it. I didn’t, right? Yeah. So I’m just, I’m just saying. But when you first go into right to talk to capacity providers about we need to have insurance that’s more modern, that really pays attention to new problems, they just must look at you and go,

Sam White 10:29
They’re not going to do that. So what I did instead was set up my own captive in Guernsey. So that because this is parametric insurance, I can I can manage this myself, so I can keep my core product. So in order for this to work, it has to be included in every policy, that’s fine. And we obviously will do, I would hope that there’d be other insurers in the future that would get behind this. But I suspect I’ve got to prove the validity of it in the initial instance, before others will join, because that’s the way that the world works.

Michael Waitze 10:57
So how does that work, though? Well, as you say, you set it up in Guernsey, but can you just dig a little bit deeper so that other people can understand what that means you’re providing your own capacity, you’re taking the risk as well?

Sam White 11:07
We’re taking the risk on this policy. And because it’s not like a motor policy with unlimited liability that you have in the UK, it’s like an add on product, it’s no different in structure to, you know, a breakdown product, or it’s a very fixed risk that you’re insuring against. And there is data to support that risk. So we’ve done all the modeling, we know the potential exposure, etc. And we’re going to underwrite it ourselves.

Michael Waitze 11:32
That is so interesting. So what has been the market reaction to this product? If it’s out there?

Sam White 11:36
It’s not out yet. So you know, it’s interesting, because we’ve got sort of three or four other things that we’re now going okay, and what about this? And what about that? What was really interesting is everybody that I’ve mentioned it to, as reacted to how you reacted, which is like, wow, of course, why wouldn’t somebody do that kind of provocation that I want the insurance industry to have from this product is and what else?

Michael Waitze 12:00
Yeah, that’s what I was just gonna ask her didn’t want to be so true, but like, and what else? So tell me because I feel like I’ve learned something enough for today, in a way, but I want more, what else is there that we haven’t thought of already?

Sam White 12:10
That’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s if you if you take a different view of insurance and look at it from just a pure, what do people love? What do people care about? What’s the risks that they feel potentially out there that would cause them the most trauma, people are worried about their children’s mental health at the moment, there’s a massive spike in that. And in the UK, they can’t get them into treatment. The other product that I’m looking at at the moment, very early stages is around that. Is there, is there a way that we can ease the pressure there, but again, it’s you know, the NHS in the UK is absolutely underwater, there are certain things that people have a genuine concern about, but maybe not the financial means to be able to cover for. There were also risks that are uninsurable. But instead of finding a compromise solution, the insurance industry just declines it outright.

Michael Waitze 13:10
So this is what I want to ask you. And I made this note to myself, so I wouldn’t forget. But do you, did you feel you don’t know me at all right? But did you? Do you feel some trepidation when you meet a man in the insurance industry, even a woman to be fair, and say, We are building a domestic violence product to protect women against this because I think it was in the late 1960s, early 1970s, when no fault divorce came around. And it was just much easier for people to get divorced without saying you did this, or I did that. But what happened was in the 70s, that most women would drop into abject poverty, right, which is one of the reasons why they didn’t get divorced back then, because the man who normally worked, right, I mean, again, I’m not saying right or wrong, but that’s just what the situation was, would be like, Sure, you can leave if you want, but what are you going to do for food kind of thing? So people didn’t, right, but now that that’s different, but I’m just saying like, do you? Do you have a fear a little trepidation when you start explaining this product to people that are just gonna be like, That’s insanity? Or do you really get a positive reaction when you explain this?

Sam White 14:05
I always get a positive reaction. And this isn’t, you know, yes, the Stellar is not just a business to me. And it’s not just a business to anybody in the team, we have a genuine sense of purpose. So we’ve been giving $5 from every policy sale to women and girls Emergency Center in Australia for seven or eight months now. And we’ve been able to create quite a significant amount of money that is going to support women and that’s more sort of second stage third stage where we have

Michael Waitze 14:36
Where does this come from? Where does this sorry, I have to ask this but where does this come from for you? You know, I think we talked during the prep call it like nobody’s really good at something unless it means something to them, right? Like you can’t be good at this and listen means something to you. Where does this conference for you?

Sam White 14:49
So the domestic abuse charity was was actually a team decision. And to be fair, my my general manager in Australia had significant personal experience of this and It was deep for her. And my view is that you don’t get a committed team without them really caring about what you’re doing. My personal passion is around designing products that work for women. And obviously, you know, I’ve had my own business since I was 24. I’ve always been fiercely independent, I’ve had to work in a very male dominated environment. And I love men, like I would say, I’ve got more male friends than female friends, but I love them from a position of strength. I love them as an equal, and they treat me as me equal. I am not blind to the fact that a lot of other women who I admire and respect and love do not have that same level of equality. And I, you know, I won’t be happy until I can see that I’ve got a daughter and a son. And for both of them, I want equality.

Michael Waitze 15:54
I was gonna say, isn’t it important to make the point? And it shouldn’t be, but I feel like it is that you don’t have to be anti x to be pro y.

Sam White 16:02
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, it’s funny because we’ve had a bit of negativity from men and women around the fact that Stella’s tagline is unapologetically for women. And, you know, it’s, oh, yeah, we don’t like this. And what I say to them is, look, everything, pretty much everything else that you touch use engage with has been designed by men, for men, that does not mean that you don’t enjoy it, that you don’t think that was a great, I love my motorcar. I’m very glad that a man came up with the idea for the motor car, and I get to use it. But I’m also aware that the seatbelt is not designed for me.

Michael Waitze 16:41
Right? Like I watch my girlfriend and my wife put on a seatbelt. And I’m like, that’s gonna be really painful.

Sam White 16:45
It’s not designed to me, it’s designed for male. So and if I get into a car accident, I’m more likely to be injured because of it. Yeah. And that, you know, that’s okay. Because it was designed by a man for a man, what I’m saying is this has been designed by a group of women, for women, that does not mean that men can’t enjoy it. And the interesting thing is, the male customers that we have, and we do have 30% of our book is male, also rave about the streamlined experience also wants to support, you know, helping women that are vulnerable, because, you know, let’s face it, good men also want equality and also want their wives, their sisters, their friends, to be safe and living in a world where the kind of situation that you talked about doesn’t occur.

Michael Waitze 17:29
Yeah. And I was just thinking about this, too. But I have two sisters, obviously, you have a mother. I mean, that’s obvious. But I have two sisters. And when my sister was going through her divorce, I thought, like, what can I do for her? But I mean, I’m not saying that she was physically abused. I don’t think that that’s the case. But boy, it would have been neat if I could buy some insurance for her right. Now she was fully employed and all that stuff. But like, it would have been great if that product existed, because it doesn’t just exist for me in the same way that like the motorcar is great, but the seatbelt doesn’t work. If you’re a man with a sister or a mother or a grandmother or a daughter, you shouldn’t you should love the fact that there are products that are being developed on apologetically for women. No,

Sam White 18:03
Absolutely. Because, you know, it’s even we’ve just done a partnership with Heart Foundation. And they’re specifically focused on women and some of the stats around how much more risk women are from heart issues, because they haven’t been considered as part of the medical process are a terrifying, terrifying. And what’s even more terrifying is that, like, I was ignorant to this, when I speak to my female friends, they’re completely ignorant to it. It’s not just that it’s happening. It’s that nobody knows about it, because we’re not we’re not having the right conversations at the right time. So you know, I’m a great believer in communication and advocation. But to your point, if you have women in your life that you love, you should love Stellar. That’s, that’s my absolute. If you don’t like Stellar, then maybe you don’t like women, just saying. Yeah, exactly.

Michael Waitze 18:58
And I would suggest to you that that event that I described to you before we started recording, was symptomatic of the way that that particular man treated women at scale. It just wasn’t it wasn’t the first time and frankly, when we saw it later, in other situations, we were just like, yep, expected behavior.

Sam White 19:14
You know what’s awful, and I’ve done it myself. I’m not you know, I’m not laying the blame the door of of men. I’m laying the blame at the door of all of us. It’s funny when they talk about because I’ve had a few conversations recently with people saying, oh, it’s all going too far. And you know, me too. And although I do not disagree that there are some people that will find trouble and offense in any set of circumstances. I have a Mexican friend who has an expression looking for tips on an answer. Yeah, I love that expression. And I am I have been in rooms with people where I’m like, Oh, come on, like Yeah, you know enough. However, there are certain men and it is largely men that we all know are behaviing wildly inappropriate the situation that you described, I have been in that situation. I have also done the call it It took about in terms of the fight response, the fight flight response, they’ve added in form. So fight, flight, freeze and form. And form is when somebody behaves really badly, and you just want to appease the threat. So you laugh it off, or you kind of tolerate it, you do. And I’ve definitely done that. In the past when I’ve been in a situation where I’ve thought this might not go so well if I call out the behavior, I no longer do that, because life’s too short and I am older and wiser and clearly don’t care enough anymore. But we know those guys, we know those guys. And it’s incumbent on all of us to call the behavior because to your point, if he’s doing that publicly, yeah, what on earth is he doing privately exactly, it’s, you know, and we all know that, yeah.

Michael Waitze 20:57
I’m just running through in my head, like all these other situations where insurance products like this should be built for women that protect other situations that are out of their control, right. In other words, we talk a lot about and I’m not making equivalency here. But just from a terminology perspective, we talk a lot about a car accident, these aren’t accidents, right? These are crashes. So I want to be very careful about terminology. Right. So if something bad happens, it’s not an accident in any kind of situation, right? Those two cars crashed. So what happens when other situations happen like this, that aren’t accidents, but they’re uninsured? And that happened to people as opposed to things right, so that stuff should also be able to be insured? Particularly if you can put the math around it? And parametrisize it which I think is super interesting. Yeah.

Sam White 21:36
You know, when the very concept of parametric insurance was explained to me, I was like a kid in a sweet shop, I was like, this is the thing. Because I’m not an actuary by trade, I employ actuaries, I have unfortunately learned quite a bit more than I wished to over the last 10 years. But you know, only at a very high level, understanding how those pieces go together. But some risks are so complex in terms of what they’re trying to solve for, you get lost in the maths, because you’re trying to account for every single circumstance. And what I love about parametrics is that just takes all the heat out of it, there’s an event, there’s a payment, and also from a customer experience viewpoint, because in insurance, right, we get a pretty bad rap generally, you know, when people ask me what industry I’m in, I kind of wince a little bit before I tell them.

Michael Waitze 22:27
Have you always been in insurance?

Sam White 22:28
I mean, pretty much I you know, I did a psychology degree. And then my first job proper job out of uni, was working for a motor claims handling business. And that’s, you know, insurance that I kind of ended up, you know, just completely in that. And honestly, I don’t consider myself an insurance person. I consider myself an entrepreneur, I yeah, this is just where I’ve landed and, you know, developed from.

Michael Waitze 22:54
So do you if you think that there aren’t enough products for women, and that Stella is partially trying to solve this problem. And if part of the problem comes from the fact that there aren’t enough women involved in actually building these products? What can you do? What can Stella do to encourage more people like you to join this so that their perspective of the industry as a whole changes?

Sam White 23:15
Now, I do think that, you know, acorns and all of that, but Stellar is definitely doing that. So I get people approaching me to come and work with us every day because and, you know, I always get teased at the moment because I’m doing loads of PR and media. And so I get a lot of stick of my friends are so you again, in the Times you do this, it is deliberate, it is deliberate. It’s not just an ego massage. But of course, clearly we all enjoy. Yeah, I’m an extrovert. We like being out there. I’m not gonna put him down. But actually, it’s very deliberate. Because I want to say to all those women coming through the ranks that aren’t in insurance or in other industries, insurance can be sexy, insurance can be fun, insurance can change the world, like, come join me. And I think by being such a obvious female brand, I’ve got an entirely female management team at the moment. Again, I am balancing that out. It’s not a deliberate bias, but it’s the exact opposite in reverse as to what’s happened traditionally. People see us they see what we stand for they see, you know, the management team, and they go there like me, I want I’m drawn to that. I want to kind of come into that space. And then the big vision for Stalla is not just motor insurance, of course, now it’s to redesign all financial services products from a female lens. And for that, I need an army. And, you know, that is what I’m building is an army of women who get this.

Michael Waitze 24:48
Can we make the case that right? I’d said earlier that you don’t need to be anti x to be pro y can we make the case that at some level, a lot of senior management of big companies again, 30-40 years ago, were male dominated because those guys all went to school together? Yeah, right. They went, they went to high school called high school together, and they went to university together. And those are the only people that they knew. So when it came to hiring, they’re like, Okay, Bill, I need your help with this. And Bob, I need your help with that. But so why is it bad in reverse for you to say the same thing? You don’t? I mean, like, even if it’s not purposely, like your circle has women in it?

Sam White 25:18
Yeah, I don’t think it is. And, you know, and that’s why the tagline is unapologetically. You know, my team in the UK, the insurance team is at the moment is slightly skewed towards men. And that’s also okay. You know, that’s the nature of people that have picked up in both ways. I mean, I like diversity of thought and diversity of leadership. So I am actively encouraging some some more balance in that area. But I don’t think in the grand scheme of things, bearing in mind what our mission is, and what we’re trying to achieve, that it’s terrible that we’re going to create this whole bunch of, because I’m also creating a bunch of leaders. I’m not creating a bunch of followers. For me, you know, I just fired myself as CEO of the UK business and replace myself with a psychologist, I am constantly looking for the period of time that I need to fire myself again, in any venture or because it won’t get bigger.

Michael Waitze 26:16
Yeah, can’t scale right?

Sam White 26:18
It can’t it can’t scale if I’m the only person at the top.

Michael Waitze 26:21
So you said you studied psychology at university. And then you just said, I replaced myself as the head of the UK business with a psychologist. What What’s the intersection of psychology and running this business that seems so important to you? Like you didn’t just say I hired a woman I hired a guy I hired somebody from Germany. He said, I hired a psychologist, I don’t even know if it’s male or female. Why is that so important to You?

Sam White 26:44
Ironically, the psychologist is a 59 year old man. And yeah, that’s, that’s totally okay too. And you know, I love psychology, I read all of the psychology books, and I did do actually didn’t finish my degree, I did two years, and then I had to leave because of family circumstances. And went, as we know, started my own business. And the rest is history. I’m not my best skill set is not a manager of people, that is absolutely not it. And one of the challenges that I have with myself that I have to battle is that I have a certain pathology, which I know where it came from, because I’ve done all the therapy, and I understand who I am and I shine the torch in all the dark areas, but I’m fiercely independent, that can lead to a lack of reliance on others, yeah, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna get this I’m gonna go there, this light, little kind of not taking me down kind of attitude. And in a start up environment, and particularly when you’ve got some barriers, I am absolutely the right person to be charging through those walls. So you know, as Stellar expands when we go into a new territory, I am your woman, I will bring all the players together, I’ll find the deals, I’ll put it into place. And in the early days, when you got a small team, great, fantastic. As it starts to get bigger, I need to get out of my own way. And the businesses way, because my skill set is not keeping everybody in a team dynamic. I break that team dynamic because I move too quickly go off set stuff. And then the teams left trying to follow me through, the psychologist stops that

Michael Waitze 28:32
interesting, really interesting. I’m thinking about this, right? Because I’m thinking about scales in my own business as well. And today, I did something I wouldn’t say I’m not proud of it. But I just did it out of expediency, right? I went through this whole process about what should get done for this thing that I needed, right? And it was just riddled with errors. And I don’t think you can do anything well, if you do all these individual pieces of it poorly, right? I think that that the Japanese have a saying what it means is that if you collect enough dust, it turns into a mountain and I look at errors this way. Yeah, you know what I mean?

Sam White 29:03
Great saying, by the way, I need some Japanese sayinga in my life.

Michael Waitze 29:07
Japanese idioms are really to the point, really, to the point, but the point was like, I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I was just like, You know what, as opposed to explaining somebody how to fix it, I just went and did it myself. And when I was done, I just said, Look, I fixed it. And then I was like, did I just do the right thing when it comes to scaling, right? Because I feel like there’s a similar dynamic, where I feel like I know how to start this thing. I know how to get it going. I know how to build it. But do I really know how to run it at scale? And that’s why I was just so interested in this replacement with a psychologist.

Sam White 29:34
And you know, you maybe I can only, you know, you don’t know, I think important thing for me is you should be asking yourself the question, and most leaders don’t. So you know, the fact that you’ve just asked yourself the question, it puts you on the 99th percentile where timing is everything right? If I’d have stepped back too soon, then that wouldn’t have worked either. And it won’t be Stellar. In each of the territories. There will be a timing issue and I feel like I’m getting better at judging that, like, you’ve got me, you’ve got the whole, I’m good at getting you toolkit together, and making sure that you’ve got all of the tools in your toolkit to be able to do a job, but then I need to pass the tools over and let them do the job. And the thing about psychology for me is there are very few businesses that have good group dynamics.

Michael Waitze 30:22
That’s, I feel like that’s redundant. But yeah,

Sam White 30:24
But how corporate worlds try and solve that problem is by putting in a hierarchical unicorn CEO, that’s gonna lead this business and make stuff happen. And I don’t I don’t buy it. And you know, I think it leads to some really toxic behaviors. And can he get success? Yeah, of course, I mean, you know, you can be an absolute otter asshole and be wildly successful. All you’ve gotta do is screw everybody that you ever do a deal with, and just take everything you want. And but ultimately, at a certain point that never carries on, those are the businesses that go up to a peak and the private equity house sells them on and they cascade down like they fall off a cliff and never heard of again, so good group dynamics is everything.

Michael Waitze 31:09
Yeah, look, I mean, I worked at Goldman Sachs for a long time. I loved every second of it, you can laugh, but I did. I did enjoy it quite a bit. But one of the things that I learned there was you don’t have to be a dick to be smart. And I learned it because a lot of people there thought that that was the case, or thought that that wasn’t the case, right? You had to be a jerk to be smart. And I was like, you don’t have to be right. And this is kind of what you’re saying is you set up these toxic environments. But I guess the the real bigger question then is how do you build this business that’s not like that.

Sam White 31:34
I am clearly on my journey. In that regard. I would never be arrogant enough to say that we’ve solved it. But I’ve seen wonderful things with using psychology, the psychologists that we’re going to have to use his name Andrew talks about every business sits in an emotion. And that could be fear. It could be anger, it could be joy. It could be you know, grief. The sad thing is that the majority of businesses sit in fear. I would say Goldman Sachs. I don’t know. But I know people that work for that business. And for me, it’s it’s very firmly in fear. And you can drive a result through that. But it for me, it’s not not the way so that the question for me is, how do you get that emotion to be joy, and fun? And, you know, I was chatting to somebody last night at a business dinner, and he said, Why did you set up in Australia? And I said, Well, firstly, because it was fun. It was it was fun. It was a great new experience, love new experiences. And it was a way for me to grow more, and I get to do some good along the way, as well. And you know, that kind of environment provokes other people to feel that way, too. I don’t want somebody coming into a meeting thinking, Oh, it’s another call about, you know, pricing structures in the eastern hemisphere. Like you want people to come in open and excited and curious, but you also want them to trust each other. And professional intimacy is the key to I think, a really high performing team really kind of getting people to pull together for a common goal. And, you know, kick goals.

Michael Waitze 33:19
I feel like that’s a really great way to end. But I don’t want to end yet, actually, because I want to ask you one more thing. Although I love that sentiment, you mentioned earlier that you want to change the sort of scope of financial services for women, does that mean that there’s a point in time where Stella Insurance just becomes like stellar financial services, and that you branch out into other things as well.

Sam White 33:37
I know how many smart, talented, discounted undervalued women there are, across the whole of the financial services sector. And I think the premise of Stellar and the ethos of Stellar, the brand of Stellar, the first thing we’ve got to do is build trust. And we’re starting with motor that’s a you know, that’s a simple way to start and kind of and it’s it’s not particularly well served product. And so we can we can start to really build that up from the ground level up. But once we have that trust, I want women to not be a second thought, why would we go anywhere else? These guys get us, they care about me, my friends, my family, and they’re doing things that support the community and they’re communicating with me in a way that makes sense to me and I enjoy that connection. And then it could be anything.

Michael Waitze 34:34
Okay, that’s where I’m gonna end that’s perfect. I really appreciate it. Sam White CEO of Stella insurance and Chair of Freedom Services Group. That was awesome.

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Episode 258