Is the helicopter approach the key to better pet parents?

Is the helicopter approach the key to better pet parents?

Jan 15, 2015

In the wake of a new study by the University of California (published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science) examining the personality traits of pet owners, bosses at Aquarium Software says while the results are interesting, the use of software in the pet insurance market is leading to similar insights and could ultimately help cut premiums for policyholders.

The study found that the approach of so called ‘helicopter parents’ (defined as those who meddle too much in their children’s lives) can be an advantage when caring for pets, who are more in need of lifelong care.

“This latest study is fascinating, but was a survey of just 1,000 pet owners, which in the US is a drop in the ocean,” said Mark Colonnese, VP Sales and Marketing. “With the growth in the use of comprehensive pet insurance software, we can drill down into the data provided to reveal much more useful insights and based on a significantly larger sample of people.”

Colonnese cites the study into pet names undertaken by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), who were able to draw on a database of over 500,000 pet owners to reveal the top names of 2014; while finding out popular pet names is not quite the same as directly indicating personality traits, this is just one example of the way technology and data combined can be used to ensure premiums are tailored to both the pet and the owner concerned.

“A survey drawn from half a million real pet policyholders is going to have a lot of credence, and it is interesting to note the areas the findings point to,” added Mark. “Those who scored high on ‘anxious attachment’ tended to be younger people who chose a cat as favourite pet. This sits nicely with ‘Bella’ coming out as top name for cats in the VPI study.”

Such studies and research have the power to spot trends in data, not just in terms of names, but in respect of those people more likely to take better care of their pets is essential when insurers are looking to offer competitive insurance quotes and conversely identifying animals at risk, or whose owners may need additional advice and support.

Intuitive technology can reveal how long and how often a policyholder has been a customer, how many pets they have owned, the type of pet/s and past medical history. Such information could be of use to vets in identifying illness trends that may be able to be treated more effectively if nipped in the bud; with diabetes caused by obesity being a good example. This saves the industry money and the animals concerned unnecessary suffering. But it also provides essential insight into the owner too.

“If you have a policyholder with an exotic pet and you know they have a long history of caring for such animals, that makes a big difference,” explained Mark. “Such a person may justify a reduced premium, whereas a novice may need additional advice. Getting this right benefits everyone in the long term and like in-vehicle telematics is rewarding safer car drivers with lower premiums, it makes sense for everyone to cut down on fraud and cruelty by rewarding those who care for their pets. It’s not cold blooded calculation – just common sense.”

Less than 1% of American pets have insurance cover (Huffington Post) when compared to the estimated 25% of pets that are insured in the UK and 48% in Sweden, giving the US market massive, untapped potential.