Napo's principal product manager won two prizes at the UK FinTech Awards and spoke to me about how Napo are shaking things up for pet parents

Amy Wei on disrupting the pet insurance industry

The UK FinTech Awards took place in London on 25 April, and amongst the winners was Amy Wei, principal product manager at Napo Pet Insurance. Amy took home Rising Star of the Year and Innovator of the Year. 

I caught up with Amy following the awards to get her thoughts on her wins, her career to date, and how Napo are using tech to disrupt the pet insurance industry. 

Hi Amy, thanks so much for speaking to me today. Before we kick off, please could you introduce yourself. 

I went to university in Manchester, where I studied English literature and creative writing, so my parents thought I would never become anything! Right out of uni I started interning at Meta; that’s where I met Ludovic Lacay, who would go on to be co-founder of Napo. 

When I left Meta, it was to follow him. He was a product leader that I really admired at Meta; the way he thought, how his teams always smashed their goals. I really admired him and wanted to learn from him, so I followed him and he mentored me into a product manager. 

It’s been a rapid rise then! You’ve only been there a few years, but you’re already a principal product manager. 

I started contracting at Napo as a favour to Ludo. I was contracting as a content writer, but I was interested in solving bigger problems and he gave me increasing opportunity to do that. I’ve been very lucky to work with such a supportive team; everyone is so smart and great at what they do and it’s really empowering. 

Taking home two wins at the FinTech Awards must have been a pretty proud achievement for you. 

I was quite shocked! I was shocked because I knew I was up against actual founders, people who I see as peers to Ludo rather than peers to me. I also knew the previous winners were all super, super accomplished so I wasn’t expecting to win one, let alone both awards. 

Following winning these awards, and with your rapid rise at Napo, where do you see yourself going in the future? 

That I don’t know! I’ve never consciously planned my career, I’ve just followed work that interests me at the time. Switching from content writing to product management, I’d done a little bit of it and I thought, “Yeah, you know, I really enjoy doing this.” 

I’m really enjoying running the insurance side of this business because it’s not just insurance, it’s not just tech, it’s not just helping with finances. People come to us for help when their pets are in the hospital or have passed, so it’s such a high stakes problem. It’s so rewarding to be able to support those people in their moments of crisis better than anyone else can; that really energises me. The pet insurance industry is ripe for disruption; a lot of pet parents are not supported that well in these moments of crisis. 

One thing Napo are doing is launching insurance for XL bullies. What drove the decision making process behind that? 

Oh I would love to talk about that! If you look at Trust Pilot, we’re very, very proud to now have excellent Trust Pilot scores. But our very first one star review back in December 2021 was for an XL bully. We couldn’t offer them cover, no other insurer could offer them cover. Through no fault of their own, this dog had really expensive lifesaving surgery and we weren’t able to help. That broke our hearts. 

Ever since then we’ve been trying to help not just XL bullies, but all the breeds on the excluded breeds lists. A lot of insurers, including ourselves, have lists of excluded breeds that can’t get cover. So we’ve been working on this for a very long time actually. It accelerated after the ban because the number of exempted dogs under this ban is four times higher than the government estimated. It’s not just XL bullies, it’s all of the rescue crossbreeds, the staffy/boxer mixes who get judged as an XL bully, as well as whose owners are really scared of being typed as one, and then seeing their dogs shot. 

There are a huge mass of dogs who are, from an insurance perspective, manageable risk. Their owners have been proven in court to be responsible pet owners, the dogs have been proven to be safe dogs. They’re kept on a muzzle, kept contained, and yet don’t have access to healthcare. So we got the XL bullies covered, but that’s by no means the end. Our aim is to cover all breeds of dog without exception. 

Do you think there may be more of this in the future, with other breeds or even other animals? 

Personally, I think that we’re 1% of the way to where we want to be; there’s lots of other breeds, lots of other types of dogs, all the common exclusions in insurance that I aim to tackle one by one. Everything can be priced; I believe that, and my chief executive officer does as well. Every pet deserves healthcare. 

Have you seen the customer experience has improved since you started insuring these exempted dogs? 

Yes! We’ve had people send us voice messages crying, people saying that they can finally sleep at night. It’s our insurance product that we’re really proud of, the claim experience we’re really proud of. 

The main negative reception we’ve received is people whose dogs are other breeds that we still don’t cover saying, “What about us?” Which is good negative feedback to receive, because that’s exactly where our heads are as well. We talk to them and we say, “I completely agree with you. Our aim is to cover you as well,” and they’re happy. 

Did you receive any negative pushback from people who think you shouldn’t be insuring these animals? 

We did get a couple emails from customers. We sent out a newsletter saying that we’re now covering XL bullies, and we had a couple of emails back saying that it’s a bad look because it looks like we’re marketing off the back of news stories around deaths and vicious attacks. Which was really good feedback about the way that we marketed it, the way that we talked about it. 

Since then we’ve changed the way we talk about it. Before that we were talking about it in circles of rescue groups where it was more like an echo chamber. We were just so focused on insuring the dogs who are super safe, who are really secondary victims to those bad owners. Those dogs who have done absolutely nothing wrong. 

We didn’t think about the media narrative, the media context of it, so we had to change the way we talk about it to emphasise that these are just the exempt dogs that we’re covering and to tell this human story. “Meet Robert and his dog King, he’s such a goofy boy. Meet Frank, a three-legged little boy working with our trainer.” We just realised we had to reframe the narrative of what we were saying in our communications. 

As part of this shift, we spoke a lot more about the fact that Napo is not just an insurance company, we also offer online dog training. Our trainers work with a lot of bullies through the exemption process, really good boys and girls who are just adapting to life muzzled and contained. We have human stories of really sweet boys and girls who are never, ever, ever going to hurt a fly, so we tell that story. 

I replied to both the negative emails, the ones who were criticising. Both of them replied really appreciatively, they said, “Thank you so much for acknowledging my points and taking them forward.” We’ve never had anything combative with customers, it’s all productive. 

What do you think the future holds for Napo? 

We’re still very much on the path of having the best insurance claims experience in the world. We’re doing quite a bit of cutting-edge automation, improving our tracking, and how we support people in urgent situations. We’re also reducing exclusions right now, and aiming to reduce more and more in the future. 

That’s definitely what I have in mind for insurance, but outside of insurance we want to keep helping pet parents with solving all their problems outside of health issues, such as with training. Our online training support is starting to really take off over the past few months, so we’re looking at growing that into the go-to online platform for people to learn to train their puppies and their dogs.

Images: Amy Wei

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Robert Welbourn
Robert Welbourn is an experienced financial writer. He has worked for a number of high street banks and trading platforms. He's also a published author and freelance writer and editor.