Essex graduates launch ethical insurance policy aimed at students and renters

  • Date

    Mon 24 May 21

Chris Frogner and Ben Smyth

Two Essex graduates have set up an insurance company with a difference – providing cover specifically aimed at student’s needs, while at the same time giving back to charity.

Friends Chris Frogner and Ben Smyth met during freshers’ week and both graduated from the University of Essex in 2013. Ben, who had studied History and Politics, went straight into the insurance industry in London, while Chris, who had studied Banking and Finance, went on to do a Masters at Durham before working for Bloomberg and then Barclays Wealth.

The pair had always talked about going into business together, and the opportunity arose when they realised there was a gap in the insurance market for a product which provides protection for a few prized possessions, whether at home or abroad.

 As Chris explained: “The idea actually sprang out of one of Ben’s family’s Sunday dinners.  While Ben had gone into the Insurance industry his brother worked for charities, and he wondered whether it would be possible to combine the two into an ethical insurance proposition, something which would resonate strongly with the younger generation. 

“We realised that even though we were both in the insurance/finance industries, neither of us actually had any form of home insurance cover. Ultimately the offerings on the market simply didn’t resonate with us or cater for our needs. So, we spent the next six months formulating an offering which would appeal directly to people like ourselves - students and renters with an ethical mindset. 

“We are not in any way your standard contents insurance provider – instead we insure the few items customers actually care about - such as phones or devices, bikes or jewellery - and make sure they are fully protected for these items wherever they go. We are also a subscription service, which means customers can cancel anytime, with no hidden costs.
Chris says Arma Karma’s unique charitable giving model, served as the business’ ethical driver.

“Due to how we are set up we are in a position to give 25% of our income to a charity of the customer’s choosing. This is something we are incredibly passionate and proud about, and our first four ‘Karma Partners’ have been fantastic  - Railway Children, Young Minds, Rainforest Trust UK, and Shelter Box. We have set ourselves the goal of reaching £1 million for partner charities over the next three years.  We’ll naturally have to sell quite a few policies over the next couple years to reach this target, but firmly believe it is well within our reach,” said Chris. 

Having quit their corporate jobs to set up Arma Karma, which is based at the University’s Knowledge Gateway, Ben and Chris expanded the team, taking on two interns from the University, one of whom continues to work for them as a product manager. They’re now looking to work with Essex academics on developing new products.

In the meantime, Arma Karma are working towards B-Corp certification, meaning the company operates to the standards it promises its customers, and they have planted over 500 trees to help offset the business’s carbon emissions through climate crisis solution platform, Ecologi.

Find out more about Arma Karma and the charities they’re supporting by visiting