Alberto Vilar is in the business of protecting dreams. When no one else had time to reach uninsured Hispanics, Vilar decided to make time himself. In 2013, he founded Apoyo Seguro to take up the tall yet imperative order of providing millions of Hispanics the tools to keep their dreams safe.
Vilar first noticed that insurance companies underserved Hispanics in 2006, when he worked for MetLife in Mexico. Through focus groups and conversations with locals, he learned that many Hispanics were never reached through traditional sales channels. If their household income fell below a particular threshold, agents were uninterested. Vilar recognized this as not only a detriment to the Hispanic community, but a lost opportunity for insurers as well.
When he moved to New York in early 2010, Vilar found the same problems persisted for American Hispanics, as did the insurance carriers’ hesitance to address them. “I wanted to do something different,” he says. “I wanted to go out and ask how we could serve the Hispanic community in need of financial services and insurance products.”
Two important pieces of legislation will have a great impact on the uninsured Hispanic market: the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and immigration reform. There are 53 million Hispanic citizens in the United States. The ACA’s effect will vary by state, but in all cases, says Vilar, there will be some out-of-pocket costs for which people will be responsible, and Apoyo Seguro offers plans to supplement them. And because the ACA does not include dental coverage, Apoyo provides plans to satisfy that need for Hispanics as well.
While immigration reform is similarly unfolding, it is certain to create a pathway for undocumented Hispanics living in the United States to gain legal status, creating opportunity for millions of people to purchase life insurance. “Many [Hispanics] come to this country with many dreams,” Vilar told the South Florida Business Journal, “but they forget to protect those dreams.” Apoyo Seguro, Vilar hopes, will provide that safeguard.
When he began researching the Hispanic market in America, Vilar found that language is the first hurdle to reaching the uninsured population. Because 27 million Hispanics prefer consuming media in Spanish, the three national advertisements Apoyo created for TV are communicated in Spanish. In developing the campaign, Vilar used his understanding of the Hispanic pathos. “In the Hispanic community, it’s not about ‘What’s in it for me?’ but ‘What’s in it for my family?’” he says. “They want to be engaged emotionally to make a conscious and informed decision.”
In speaking with Hispanics who had never been approached by agents, Vilar realized they often suffered from a low level of understanding of insurance in general. “Trying to explain insurance over the phone to someone is like trying to teach chemistry class with no visual aids,” Vilar says. The visual his agents need to create draws on imagery that appeals to Hispanics’ interests. For a father, that may mean painting the picture of falling off a ladder and sustaining a broken arm while hanging Christmas lights. A father may be aware of the bind that could put his family in, says Vilar, but may have no idea where to begin preparing for such a scenario. “When you start having these conversations with people, it makes things real for them,” Vilar says. “They can latch onto the concept that if they have an accident, they can continue providing for their families, because accident plans typically pay claims directly to the insured to use as he sees fit.”
By the Numbers
Latinos in the United States that are uninsured, according to the National Council of La Raza. That’s more than 30% of the Latino population
With the pending resolution
of immigration reform, the market of uninsured Latinos in the United States could jump as much as
Number of Hispanics who turn 18 and become independently insurable every month
Potential worth in insurance premiums of the Hispanic population of the United States currently underserved by
Already Vilar has seen that sharing this message with Hispanics is giving them an introduction to the market. He tells a story of a man who responded to one of the Apoyo TV spots. He called from Massachusetts and bought a policy for himself, and at the end of the call, he asked the representative to call his mother. When the agent asked why, the man explained that he and his mother, who lives in Mississippi, had both seen the commercial and were interested, but the man wanted to call first to gauge Apoyo’s legitimacy. Within an hour, the agent sold two policies. “Stories like that mean the messaging is working,” Vilar says. “We’re raising awareness, and Hispanics are responding.”
In the same way that many clients find solutions to help their families at Apoyo Seguro, Vilar says the company has become more than a business to him. It is an outlet through which he can make the same sacrifices his clients and his parents made for their children. “You want to do what’s right for the Hispanic community,” he says. “You want to make sure they’re prospering. I know the sacrifices my parents made to bring my siblings and I from Cuba for a better life. I’m repeating that cycle all over again by reinvesting resources back into the community.”