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Pets Plus Us is growing market penetration—and transforming how its parent company incubates innovation

Igniting a larger culture of relentless innovation

In 2011 the CEO of RSA Canada, Rowan Saunders, attended ?What If!’s annual TopDog tour. Saunders was inspired by the ways that companies like Cisco and Google test, separate, and incubate game-changing innovation, and he wanted to see if this was possible in the regulated world of insurance. He tapped ?What If! to help RSA conceive, incubate, and launch a disruptive business in pet insurance and nurture it as an “internal startup.” Pet insurance is a category with only 1 percent household penetration in Canada, relative to about 30 percent in the U.K. (a market RSA was already in). The goal for this project was not only to grow market penetration for the country’s third-largest property and casualty insurer, but also to serve as an internal innovation lab for it, with learnings cascading across the rest of the organization and igniting a larger culture of relentless innovation.

Saunders tapped ?What If! to help RSA conceive, incubate, and launch a disruptive business in pet insurance and nurture it as an ‘internal startup.’

Membership plans provide value beyond insurance, from a 24/7 pet phone hotline, to advice and tools from pet experts, to pet-specific rewards and discounts.

Evolving the traditional insurance policy

?What If! kicked off the project by identifying barriers that have prevented pet insurance from growing in the past, looking to break the rules of the current category when it came to the coverage model, pricing, customer experience, positioning, distribution, and more. We realized that pet ownership brings great joy but also great burdens, and that pet insurance often merely adds to these responsibilities. This led us to the idea of evolving the traditional insurance policy into a membership—one that would bring pet owners into a community, alleviating the burden of pet ownership with knowledge, expertise, and support. So membership plans for Pets Plus Us provide value beyond insurance, from a 24/7 pet phone hotline, to advice and tools from pet experts, to pet-specific rewards and discounts. This offering resonated with both pet owners and veterinarians as invaluable.

Learnings flowing throughout the organization

Armed with this brand positioning and set of key concepts, RSA and ?What If! developed a launch plan, detailing how this internal startup would share assets and resources with the broader RSA Canada business and create ground-level momentum throughout the company. Together we worked to envision the type of business Pets Plus Us would be and the type of leaders it would foster. We helped the team develop an inspiring mission and vision, a set of values and behaviors to lay the groundwork for a unique culture, and an innovation framework to make innovation scalable and repeatable across the business. ?What If! also worked with the leadership team and 20 new staff members at Pets Plus Us, ensuring that this new approach to innovation would continue to sustain and inspire the organization as it grows.

Pets Plus Us launched in March 2013, offering a unique service for millions of pet owners in Canada. Already the project has had impact within RSA Canada, with learnings flowing throughout the organization and a discussion around the possibility of instituting similar initiatives in other parts of its business.

Pets Plus Us launched in March 2013, offering a unique service for millions of pet owners in Canada.

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