He is now followed by more than half a million people on social media. Insurance broker Bastian Kunkel guides the uninformed through the jungle of terms and conditions on YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok. In an interview, he reveals what types of insurance are really necessary and whether Germans are overinsured.
Mr. Kunkel, why do so many hate the subject of insurance so much?
Bastian Kunkel: On the one hand, the insurance industry has earned this bad reputation in recent years and decades. Certain market participants have scammed people and made a lot of money doing it. The press spread it. Think of the incentive trips offered by some insurers or the scandal surrounding the Mehmet Göker insurance company.
You mean, for example, the subsidiary of Ergo, Hamburg Mannheimer, which paid its employees prostitutes on a trip. Göker, in turn, bankrupted his company and was tried on various charges.
All issues that have caused the insurance industry to lose much of its image. And the media has seen negative insurance headlines being sold. She will never read in the Bild newspaper that Mrs. Müller can continue to exist financially because she had taken out disability insurance and she paid for it. Although that is the rule. Instead, she only hears about cases where the insurance company refuses to pay. A distorted picture emerges and people think, ‘Yeah, of course, at the end of the day they won’t pay anyway, so why should I sign anything?’ The danger is that you make decisions for or against the insurance based on a certain opinion. Parents often tell their children: ‘Don’t do that, they are all thieves, murderers, vultures’. And the children then adopt this opinion.
Language probably isn’t very helpful either, right?
German insurance is simply very complicated. Absolutely. That’s on top of that. Language plays a crucial role in trust. If you have an insurance contract in front of you but only understand the train station, that doesn’t promote trust. If I don’t understand what’s in there, I’m also not sure about a claim. It should be just the opposite, instead of feeling insecure, you should feel safe. As a general rule, you have 50 or more pages of insurance terms and conditions in front of you. If you don’t have a law degree, it’s going to be hard to understand. Insurance terms and texts need to become much simpler and easier to understand so that people can rebuild that trust.
However, you continue to work as an insurance broker. Why did you want to be that?
I never wanted to be an insurance broker. I think it’s very rare for someone to wake up in the morning and say, ‘That’s it! I want to mediate insurance. For me, it was more of a coincidence that I did my apprenticeship as an insurance and finance clerk after completing my vocational diploma. It seemed like a solid education. After that I studied business administration and law. Only then did I start my business as an insurance broker. Even then, the challenge was to bring people closer to this often hated topic. This challenge drives me to this day.
He’s no longer going around selling insurance door-to-door. What is your strategy today?
The classic way of working, the typical door-to-door knocking, cold calling, that just wasn’t fun. So my thoughts in the spring of 2016 were: How can these people find me? Youtube seemed to me to be the right platform for this. Since then, I have been translating the complicated insurance conditions into understandable German, trying to take the fear out of insurance.
What are the advantages of YouTube, Tiktok and Instagram?
I don’t live up to the negative expectations of the people there. People expect a guy in a suit to talk them into some kind of insurance they don’t want. I will explain first. This is how people understand what insurance they might need. It is about education, but of course also about marketing for our service. If you wish, you can take out disability insurance, private health insurance or old-age insurance through us or have existing contracts checked. Then everything is executed digitally, from the online advice to the contract, which is concluded with a digital signature. In this way, I mainly reach young people, although it is said that they are not interested in finances or insurance. That is not true. One of the most common comments on my TikTok videos is, ‘Why didn’t I learn that in school?’
How many people take out insurance with you afterwards?
That is difficult to measure. But we ask about this before the consultation. So we learned that most people come through Youtube, then Instagram and Tiktok. Youtube is a search engine. People looking for insurance information often automatically end up on my YouTube channel. In many cases, they then click on the link to our practice and make an appointment with one of my consultants.
Why did you still write a classic book?
Writing with the book has always been a wish. As a teenager, he was an absolute bookworm and a late bloomer. My world was books. I never knew what to write about. This has become increasingly clear to me in recent years. But I also didn’t want to write an insurance guide, nobody likes to read it. This can serve as a sleep aid, but it’s not something many people would want to buy. Over the past year, more and more fans and friends have asked me which insurance book I would recommend. I couldn’t think of any except the dry specialized literature of my studies. That was the initial spark for just writing a book myself. My biggest motivation was the idea that a book is something different than a YouTube or Tiktok video. It is something durable that you can collect or give as a gift.
What kind of insurance do 18- or 30-year-olds really need?
Insurance is a very individual subject. General recommendations rarely work. Health insurance is essential for everyone, as is private liability insurance. It protects you when you accidentally hurt someone else. Property damage and especially personal injury can quickly become very expensive. If you depend on your active income from work, you should consider taking out disability insurance. If you can no longer work your last job, you receive a monthly pension from them to maintain the standard of living you have achieved up to that point. Anyone who completes it by the age of 18 pays significantly less and is generally accepted. This is the biggest difficulty with this insurance. If you don’t want to take it out until you’re 30, but maybe you were already sick, many insurers no longer accept you. Term life insurance that pays a certain amount in the event of death can be helpful for families. Low-cost unit-linked private pension insurance should also be considered. Traditional annuity insurance, which only earns guaranteed interest, doesn’t make sense anymore these days.
Are Germans overinsured?
The Germans have insurance that they don’t really need, and they have a lot of it. At the same time, they lack the most important basic insurance. Many have comprehensive insurance for their cars, but do not have comprehensive insurance for their own employees. Many have mobile phone insurance, but have not yet done anything for their own retirement provision. Awareness of what insurance you really need can still be improved.
Apart from choosing the wrong insurance, what are the biggest mistakes when hiring it?
That it doesn’t even come to that because you keep postponing the hiring of insurance. If you are unsure about disability or private health insurance, you should consult an expert. By the way, he or she is also responsible for their statements. I don’t do my taxes myself, I go to a tax advisor. And when I’m sick, I go to the doctor and don’t Google my diagnosis together. Unfortunately, sometimes it is simply not possible to fully understand an insurance contract on its own.
What has been the most bizarre insurance policy you have taken out for a client or client?
Unfortunately, the daily life of many insurance brokers is not that spectacular. There are insurance policies to insure your buttocks or protect you against alien abductions. I once insured a professional tennis player against sports disability.
What insurance do most of your customers want?
For us, it is most often disability insurance, but also old-age provision and private health insurance. These are the most complex insurances. It usually takes several weeks to complete a title with us, because you need to verify your health status and perhaps request documents from the health insurance company. Health problems are the main target. If these are not answered intelligently, the insurer can then say that it will not pay for pre-contractual breach of the duty of information. It is often decided when the insurance is purchased whether or not the insurer will pay later.
Precisely for health reasons, many do not obtain private health or disability insurance. But everyone has something, and in the future Long Covid should also play a role. Will insurers be able to afford this evaluation in the future?
The question is usually whether the complaints have already been documented somewhere. I do not want to judge if it is discrimination if you are rejected for certain diseases. Insurers are private companies that can usually set their own acceptance policies. However, my wish would be that issues such as incapacity for work or medical expenses be reconsidered. Insurers must start earlier and not only when the child has already fallen into the well. From a purely economic point of view, that would probably be cheaper too. The money they pay for services could in many cases also be used for prevention. People would then get a completely different picture of insurance. Psychotherapy or special back training offers can prevent further exhaustion or back illnesses. I like the image of an insurer taking care of its policyholders before something goes wrong, thereby possibly preventing worse things.
Laura Eßlinger spoke with Bastian Kunkel
The interview first appeared in Capital