Israeli start-up Robin eyes global future for finance app

When it comes to managing long-term finances - from pensions to insurance and investment - every percent counts.

An illustration of Robin's smartphone app (photo credit: ROBIN/PR)
An illustration of Robin's smartphone app
(photo credit: ROBIN/PR)
Albert Einstein is famously reputed to have described compound interest as the “eighth wonder of the world – he who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”
Indeed, when it comes to managing long-term finances – from pensions to insurance and investment – every percent counts.
With Einstein’s quote in mind, and two decades of experience in the Israeli financial industry, Yossi Yarkoni joined two veteran industry partners in 2016 to found fintech start-up Robin, the developer of a smartphone application and robot that sets out to improve financial decision-making.
Robin CEO and co-founder Yossi Yarkoni (Credit:  Roni Feldman)Robin CEO and co-founder Yossi Yarkoni (Credit: Roni Feldman)
“I learnt during those 20 years in industry that when it comes to managing your personal finances, most people don’t understand anything,” Yarkoni, the chief executive of the Tel Aviv start-up, told The Jerusalem Post.
“For everything you do, you need money – to study, to purchase a new home, renovate your home or save for your children. It all has to do with dealing with money. We created Robin with a clear vision to make pensions, insurance and investment much more accessible to the general public. We wanted to be the Robin Hood of pensions and insurance.”
The Robin application developed by the company, which runs on cloud technology, allows users to manage their pension and insurance policies from their smartphone. Based on machine learning, every financial product owned by the user is evaluated by the app and preferable, alternative policies are automatically suggested if available.
Changes to policies can be executed immediately via the app, which currently boasts approximately 200,000 users.
“Having one app taking care of all your finances is much more reasonable than different apps for car insurance, home insurance, pension, etc. People are working until they are 60 or so, and then have 30 to 40 years with no income. The time to take care of your finances was yesterday, but the best alternative is today,” said Yarkoni, who previously held senior roles at Aon, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Mizrahi.
“We really believe that people should know how much they save, how much they are saving for their retirement, and how they can increase their savings by using alternative investment tools.”
Now seeking to expand its technology to the global financial market, Robin is transforming its business-to-consumer (B2C) approach into a business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) model. The company is offering its “Robin X” platform to financial institutions worldwide, providing their clients with an insurance and pension management system based on Robin’s technology.
The company is initially planning to extend its offering into the United Kingdom, Germany and subsequently the United States through the company’s three institutional shareholders: multinational insurance giant Howden; British multinational bank Barclays; and global start-up accelerator Techstars.
“The technology sits on our cloud, with a separate tenant for each customer so there are no leaks of information. Each one has a different look and feel, and a different algorithm,” said Yarkoni. “We went through severe due diligence with banks and insurance companies, and they find the system secure enough to use it. Meeting the most severe standards of security.”
The platform is entirely customizable, Yarkoni added, making it relevant all over the world. In each location, it is necessary to consider a range of variables, including local legislation, different tax levels and pension-related regulations.
“If we are selling it to a bank, then the bank can decide which insurance companies to work with. The system can be adjusted so recommendations will be for some brokers,” Yarkoni said. “We are offering something for the banks to offer the customer. We are operating the technology for the bank to serve their customers.”
While insurance companies were initially hesitant to work with the start-up, faced with increased competition, Yarkoni believes that the industry is undergoing significant change.
According to Deloitte, nearly one quarter of premium volume today comes from insurance propositions that were not offered five years ago. In five years’ time, the accounting organization predicts, one third of premium volume is expected to come from propositions that are not offered today.
“I believe the more the customer understands, the more product he will purchase,” said Yarkoni. “Instead of ignoring and neglecting this, I believe the insurance industry is going through this change of concept that, in the very near future, you will be able to buy insurance for everything on demand.”
Customers are increasingly demanding a one-stop-shop where they can see all products, he added, rather than needing to visit a dozen different websites.
“We want to be the one where you have all the products. In each place, we will work with the best alternatives. This is why we can be impartial, and I think the customer really appreciates it,” Yarkoni said.