PolicyMe co-founder Laura McKay on risk-taking and learning to adapt as an entrepreneur

As someone who’s built a career in risk management, PolicyMe co-founder Laura McKay is often tempted to play it safe and hedge her bets, but as she points out, that’s not always possible when you’re starting a company.

“Entrepreneurship can be very glamourized in the media. One of the biggest challenges is not having that safety or security around the end result.”

Leveraging her background in actuarial science and management consulting, McKay co-founded the Toronto-based digital life insurance company with the goal of making insurance simpler and more affordable for everyone who needs it.

PolicyMe’s digital platform allows people to get insured in as little as 20 minutes, a stark contrast to the industry standard of six to 10 weeks. The insurtech startup is also able to offer term life insurance policies 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than the market by cutting out unnecessary steps in the application process and using non-commissioned advisors.

Getting comfortable with taking risks has been an important part of her entrepreneurship journey.

“A lot of this job is about taking big swings, hoping for the best and making sure that you’re not making a bunch of small incremental changes that aren’t going to move the needle.”

McKay adds that she’s developed thicker skin over the years, having made it through enough major business decisions successfully to have the confidence that things will eventually work out.

A current challenge for McKay is adapting her role as the company grows. She recalls starting PolicyMe with a tiny team of four and having a hand in everything from customer service and data entry to HR. As PolicyMe expanded to 15 employees, McKay was able to pull back a little, but was still very intimately involved with everything that happened at the company.

“How much you have to adapt along the journey is one of the biggest challenges for sure. You really have to watch your role change almost every six to 12 months and just be ready for it and anticipate it.”

Now that PolicyMe has over 40 staff McKay has had to learn to let go more and to shift her focus on whether she has the right people and processes in place.

One area where McKay didn’t expect to adapt but is grateful she did, was in the company’s policies around remote work. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, PolicyMe was very much an in-person work environment. But when public health restrictions forced her team to work from home, McKay noticed that output didn’t go down and results were great.

Today, McKay works almost exclusively from her Mississauga home and experiences the benefits of the company’s work-from-anywhere approach first-hand. Working remotely has given her more time to spend with her 20-month-old daughter, Maisie, and the flexibility to better manage daycare drop-offs and pick-ups with her husband.

“There are just so many benefits to remote work. We've found that when we apply our philosophy of 'on your own terms' to not just life insurance but also to our work environments, people are generally just happier. Our work-from-anywhere policy allows people to live outside of the city and access more affordable housing, take longer vacations, and spend time with the things and people they love most. Remote work is certainly a core value of how we work now at PolicyMe.”

PolicyMe is a digital life insurance solution built to make financial protection for families honest, uncomplicated and affordable. To get a free quote and apply for term life insurance online in 20 minutes or less, visit PolicyMe.

Allison Venditti

Career Coach, HR Expert, salary negotiation whisperer, pay transparency and equity advocate. Founder of My Parental Leave and Moms at Work, Canada's largest organization committed to helping women earn more money, land better jobs and build community. Allison was named The Globe and Mail Report on Business Top 50 Changemakers 2022, is a regular speaker and media expert with over 100 interviews in 2021.

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