Teodora Gouneva was enjoying one of the more satisfying chapters of a 25-year finance career when she began hearing voices again.
She tells us that although for most of her work trajectory she had been able to ignore them, on this occasion the contentment that she had so carefully guarded began to give way.
The year was 2013, and the role offered to Gouneva was to serve as CFO of PayPal’s Braintree Venmo operations, the enterprise resulting from PayPal’s recent acquisition of Braintree.Read More
“For me, it wasn’t an immediate or obvious ‘yes,’” recalls Gouneva, who already occupied a senior finance role overseeing a big slice of the company’s business after having adroitly climbed PayPal’s finance career ladder for the previous 9 years.
“I loved my current job, and there were still things on my road map that I wanted to improve and fix,” continues Gouneva, who notes that it was at this point that the voices once more surfaced—this time, not to be ignored.
“Prior to that job offer, I would very often have people tell me ‘You should take more risks!,’ but I don’t think that I had ever really considered doing so before,” says Gouneva, who credits her divisional CFO tour of duty with adding some extra operational heft to her resume in light of Braintree having acquired Venmo only a year earlier.
Comments Gouneva: “These were two completely different businesses in one, and we made a strategic decision to run those businesses separately.”
Still, in the months and years that followed, the organizations sought to achieve a better strategic alignment, a feat largely reliant on changing the behaviors of the different sales teams.
“We had to paint a picture for them of what the ultimate goal was and what was important and why,” remarks Gouneva, who credits changes in PayPal’s sales compensation programs with helping to bring the new picture into focus.
While Gouneva leaves little doubt that she’s happy that she ultimately listened to “the voices,” she tells us there’s no escaping the fact that risks will always be risks.
She asks: “Do I leave the certainty that comes from knowing exactly what the role is, or do I embrace something new that is not very clear and could ultimately be good or bad?” –Jack Sweeney
“Take more risks early in your career. Explore different areas to find out what you really love to do and what you are really good at. Excel at all work projects that you take on because that is how you build your brand and get selected for the most high-profile assignments.” –Teodora Gouneva, CFO, NEXT Insurance
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CFOTL: Tell us about NEXT Insurance … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Gouneva: NEXT Insurance aims to help entrepreneurs thrive by providing one-stop-shopping insurance for small businesses. We are the only company that provides “full stack” insurance, which means that we own the customer from acquisition through underwriting, through servicing, through claims. Think about the whole life cycle. If a customer experiences a claim, we own the full experience.
We provide instant, affordable, tailored insurance. What this means is that if a potential customer wants to buy insurance, they can go online for only a few minutes—from beginning to end—and answer a few questions and get a quote. They can purchase immediately online. This is a very seamless way to provide an immediate digital experience.Read More
When you think about small business insurance, for example, it helps to think about personal insurance—which is usually very simple. You probably need home insurance and car insurance. For the most part, these are pretty standard. When you’re a small business, it’s a lot more complex. You are not sure what type of insurance you need for your business, what levels of coverage—and the complexity goes on and on and on. When you’re not a sophisticated insurance buyer, you need advice, which is why, historically, a lot of small businesses go to an agent to get an explanation of what they need.
What NEXT has simplified is a solution for people who prefer a pure digital experience. If you tell us what you do, we can actually recommend very tailored insurance for you and your business. This takes away the complexity and mystery of insurance so that you actually know exactly what you need, particularly for your own business. This is why we call it “tailored.”
What makes us very different is that we have superior underwriting. It uses a lot of artificial intelligence and machine learning methodology to price each customer based on their own specific risk. We know exactly where to price companies, we know which businesses are attractive to us, and we know which types we are not able to underwrite. This is a very sophisticated approach. Additionally, we rely on automation technology to improve not just our cost efficiency but also the customer experience. A lot of people prefer to just log in and get certain information rather than be on a long call and wait for somebody to respond to their needs. We definitely are automating this.
One other thing that’s unique for us is that we distribute pretty much to where the customer is. If they are looking online and want an immediate digital call, NEXT Insurance is there. For the customer who still prefers the agent touch, we also work through external agents. We’re embedded in a lot of small business platforms. If you are a small business or want to set one up and you go to a general website or a specific one such as for payroll, you’ll find that NEXT Insurance is integrated with them. We’re integrated with Intuit and Amazon, for instance. We are always there for small businesses that need to onboard insurance in a digital, real-time way.
NEXT Insurance | www.nextinsurance.com | Palo Alto, CA