Chief Strategy Officer at Gainbridge
Group 1001’s Chief Strategy Officer, Justin Wee, brings a unique perspective to his role in the overall direction of Gainbridge, its products, and how they are positioned in the market. Justin leads the business development for the insurtech businesses at Gainbridge and distribution strategy for the general life and annuity businesses of Group 1001.
Justin is driven by Gainbridge’s commitment to using technology to provide access to financial services for all Americans, and his financial technology background helps him to move the organization toward that goal. He has provided financial technology leadership for companies in Silicon Valley including Marqeta, LendingClub, and Prosper.
Justin started his career in finance at Goldman Sachs, with 14 years on the Derivatives and Structured Products desk. He earned his B.A. degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and his B.S. degree in Business Administration from the university’s Haas School of Business.
Keep reading to get some insights and learn more about Justin.
Q: Justin, we’ve heard the term “insurtech,” but can you explain exactly what that means to our business?
A: Insurtech means leveraging modern technology to streamline the manual components across the various stages of distribution: enrollment, underwriting, policy issuance, and ongoing administration. This entails rethinking the manual processes to deliver policies using a faster and more efficient approach and bringing down the costs of issuance over time so that we can issue smaller policies to reach more consumers. It means meeting consumers where they are today by expanding how we service the channels through which they make investment decisions. This could be by offering the products directly to them with no commission through our platform1, or by going through their trusted investment platform where we can offer the same solutions through the user experience they’re used to (i.e., their online broker or investment advisor). What insurtech doesn’t mean is removing the human-centered approach we take in building trust with the consumer through education, transparency, and service that has defined our platform so far. The goal of technology is to augment our efforts to build an improved and more direct connection with customers, not replace the personal touch. You’ll see this as we evolve the platform and how we talk about our products.
Q: What type of strategy direction do you provide? Is it mostly around our markets, our customers, or our product development?
A: About 70% of my time is spent on the Gainbridge business, defining our go-to-market strategy by working closely with our technology and product teams. Much of this is identifying which products make sense to bring to market and the client segments for which the products will likely resonate. We start with a hypothesis on what can work in the market, but this is just a starting point. We need to harness data from our customers and business clients to refine our products and how we explain and deliver them to the market as we learn more. The other 30% is helping with the broader Life and Annuity businesses as we combine teams to achieve economies of scale, keep us coordinated, and align goals and priorities across the business. This starts with our CEO’s vision for Group 1001 and cascades down to every stakeholder and every team member to ensure we all know what success looks like and we’re not distracted from the objectives to achieve it.
Q: Being relatively new to Gainbridge, can you describe how we are different from other financial services companies and what it was about us that made you decide to join our team?
A: We swing well above our weight when it comes to the size of our business relative to the number of employees. I believe this is a testament to being deliberate regarding businesses we want to get into but also disciplined towards which businesses we do not. This creates clear business objectives and less distraction, which leads to operating leverage and ultimately funds innovation. This is one of the clear differentiators I see at Group 1001. There is a clear commitment from the top to expand our approach to distribution as is evidenced by our investment in growing the team and enhancing our technology infrastructure (e.g., custom service platforms such as Onyx, the Gainbridge platform, etc.).
Q: How do you see the financial services industry changing in the next decade—particularly around retirement products?
A: I think we’re already seeing those early changes. If you look at Millennials and Gen Z, you’re increasingly seeing a desire for greater control in their financial lives and the tools to exercise that control. This is why we’ve seen the boom in recent years across fintech businesses and the proliferation of investing apps to manage personal finances. Additionally, there is an appreciation that it’s becoming harder to achieve financial milestones (paying for college, buying a home, saving for retirement) than in past decades. This, combined with less confidence that Social Security will provide a safety net, means there will be greater focus on what else is available to help these individuals achieve their goals. Group 1001 and Gainbridge are well positioned to help fill this void.
Q: How would you describe the type of markets or customers who would be drawn to our products?
A: On the direct-to-consumer side, I expect it to be the individual who demands transparency and greater control over how their money is working for them. Our hope is that as we evolve our platform you won’t have to be a financial guru or tech whiz to understand our products and how to purchase one through Gainbridge.io. We also have high hopes for our B2B business. The fintech industry is going through a difficult transition with rising interest rates that has made the cost of capital that much more expensive. These businesses will need to be laser focused on their strategy to diversify their revenue streams and achieve profitability. I think we can provide a service (“insurance-as-a-service”) that not only provides financial solutions for their customers (e.g., safety of principal, compelling returns, tax deferral), but also provides a new source of revenue. These companies can include robo advisors, online brokerage and savings platforms, and even modern HR benefits administrators.
Q: How do you see our strategy and our partnerships/sponsorships connecting?
A: They are very complementary. Group 1001 has made big and meaningful2 investments in various areas that personally appeal to consumers’ desire to see the playing field leveled for all people. This includes STEM education and greater representation of women in sports. Our partnerships and sponsorships allow us to connect to these very salient values. I think that connection can subconsciously make people feel more comfortable being open about the anxiety that can come with managing personal finances, which in turn makes them more open to learning about new ways to invest their money. You’ll see the connection between how our businesses leverage our sponsorships become more evident as we launch new products in 2023.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your work day?
A: We’re still a lean company so there are often some natural challenges that come when you’re moving vigorously with purpose to build new products and launch new technologies, while scaling a team amidst a merger of cultures. I think there is a lot of context shifting that has to happen to keep all the balls in the air and that can be both considerable and exciting at the same time. One minute you’re trying to recruit a new head of marketing and the next minute you’re negotiating a new sales agreement with a prospective client. It is energizing to never feel like the work is done.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work day?
A: I think the reward comes when I step back and see the progress that has been made since joining last April. We had a vision of what the Life and Annuity business and Gainbridge could look like, and we’ve been pretty aggressive about building the infrastructure (in every sense of the word, from technology to project management) and the team to support that vision. When I do take a breather, I can appreciate that what we’re building is making tomorrow incrementally easier than today because you can trust in the team and the process even more.