Bringing insurance into the online world.
Of all the products that can be perused on the Web, insurance has proven to be one of the hardest to pin down. Different regulations, prices, and carriers have made comparison shopping difficult, even for agents familiar with the nuances of insurance policies. Carpentersville-based Financial Keyosk believes that the profusion of choices doesn’t have to cause so much confusion, and their “Agency in a Box” program helps agents to get wired with ease. Charles B. Hofvander, senior systems project manager, talks about development, the Web, and aiming after shooting.
Why was the decision made to create a new distribution method for insurance products?
Normally, an insurance company sells through agents and they constitute the distribution method. John Dawson, the company founder, had an idea that there should be a new way to go out and sell. So he built a new method, and Zurich was intrigued enough to fund it. John’s idea was to facilitate the sale of insurance using a Web-based system that allows an agent to capture information and process it.
Why is this system better than what’s being used by agents now?
What we’ve tried to do is create a network of agents, and represent lots of different carriers, so you, as a customer, would get multiple quotes. Usually with an agent you have one carrier in one market, so they’re not offering their customers a lot of choice. Part of our business plan is to increase the amount of choice, for customers and agents alike.
How is your system different than other online insurance quote sites?
Our competitors tend to focus on one kind of customer, like small business owners or consumers. We now have more than 30 partners offering products in areas like workers compensation, umbrella policies, professional liability, and personal insurance.
We provide access to all different kinds of insurance products, and as far as we know, no one else has done that.
How has being a small start-up company determined your strategy?
The philosophy of our president is: fire, fire, aim. We take a quick shot at something, see where the shot goes, and then focus on what works. We’ve had a couple of missteps in terms of what our technology was trying to solve, we’ve missed the target once or twice. But it works very well for us. This is not a standard development process where we sit down and laboriously go through a development and testing cycle. We figure out what we need, take a lot of shots and get better from there.
What kinds of challenges do you find in targeting the insurance industry specifically?
One of the issues with the insurance industry is that carriers and agents all say they want common standards, and because insurance is so heavily regulated, it makes sense. But each individual insurance company has so many unique things going on, it’s hard to have standards in place. Because we’re crossing multiple carriers, we’re having to deal with that problem, and I think it makes what we’re trying to do even more valuable.
What kinds of projects are in development now as you fire, fire, aim?
Right at this moment, we’re working on putting in an automated correspondence system, which will create letters based on who the customer is and what they need. We’re also going to be extending our ability to capture images, and we’ll be putting in contact management capabilities. We’ve got a project list of 75 items right now, so it’s a little overwhelming, but in a good way.
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