Insurtech Startup Buys MGA in California with Aim of Delivering Product for Agents

By | July 10, 2017

Insurtech startup Bridger has purchased Pleasanton, Calif.-based SCJ Insurance Services in a step toward launching what the firm contends will be “simpler, cheaper, and easier-to-manage automotive insurance.”

Bridger CEO Kimo Winterbottom talked about the acquisition with Insurance Journal in late June and said the plan is for the managing general agency to continue to work with independent agents.

“We’re producing a product for the independent agents,” Winterbottom said. “I think disintermediating the independent agent is foolhardy.”

He wouldn’t divulge the terms of the deal for SCJ.

I think disintermediating the independent agent is foolhardy.

SCJ is a nonstandard auto program manager that also sells homeowners insurance. Winterbottom said Bridger purchased the firm as the best way to test then launch products — similar to what a few large insurtechs have done in purchasing carriers to clear a path for their launch.

“By having the agency, we’ll have an ability to test proof-of-concept for some of the products we’re developing on a tech front,” Winterbottom said. “I just feel like if you’re Lemonade or Metromile, you want to own a carrier, good for you. I feel like an MGA platform is a more capital-efficient approach to delivering technological products to the insurance industry.”

Agents dealing with Bridger will use a mobile native application, which he said will encompass the entire customer experience: from quoting, to binding to claims.

Winterbottom said he expects a full Bridger launch to occur in the next 18 to 24 months.

The focus of Bridger will be nonstandard auto, commercial auto and homeowners.

Melody Johnson, listed on SCJ’s website as the CEO, couldn’t be reached. Johnson’s name was removed from the firm’s dial-by-name directory, and a person who answered the phone in the human resources department said she’s no longer with the company.

Winterbottom said he was replacing her as CEO, and Ken Chow has been named the new chief financial officer. Winterbottom has been involved in private equity and insurance for more than a dozen years. He was CEO of Mount Beacon Holdings, executive chairman of Family Security Holdings LLC and a senior vice president at Lockton Cos.

SCJ has a brief note about the Bridger purchase on its site:

“Under new ownership and management from Bridger, we have taken bold action to leverage the firm’s rich legacy, deep relationships, and vast scale to disrupt the industry.”

Winterbottom was asked if there are plans to make other acquisitions.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Depends on whether I like the product and the opportunity.”

SCJ also holds licenses in Texas and Arizona.

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