Agency Focuses on ‘Next Generation’ of Insurance Buyers

The summer has come to a close and it’s time for a new school year. This fall, some 2 million new college freshmen across the country are arriving at university campuses to begin their collegiate life.

Paying for college is often the second-largest investment for most families, but there are many risks. What if a son or daughter falls ill late in semester and needs to withdraw without getting any tuition refund? What if a child loses valuables in her school or accidentally causes damage?

Here comes the insurance industry to the rescue.

Bill Suneson is co-founder and president of Next Generation Insurance Group, a Boston and Phoenix-based specialty agency with a focus on the collegiate and young adult market. Products range from tuition insurance and renters protection to emergency medical evacuation insurance and an alternative to school-sponsored health insurance.

Helping Families Protect Their Investment

He said it’s a huge market that keeps growing. One of the company’s key affinity marketing partnerships is with Sallie Mae, a public company that manages and services $238 billion in education loans and administers $37 billion in 529 college savings plans. Sallie Mae is a minority investor in Next Generation Insurance. Working with Sallie Mae, Next Generation Insurance helped create Sallie Mae Insurance Services that offers insurance programs to colleges and universities, as well as to students and young adults.

“Sallie Mae has been helping families invest in college for over 40 years and safe-guarding that investment was a natural extension to their business strategy,” Suneson told Insurance Journal. “We’re filing Sallie Mae Insurance Services as a d/b/a of Next Generation Insurance Group and the business will provide insurance products to the 23 million Sallie Mae and UPromise customers.”

Next Generation Insurance and Sallie Mae will collectively be introducing Sallie Mae Insurance branded products to colleges and universities across the country as students return to campuses.

Suneson and his business partner, John Fees, started the agency in October 2008 with the goal of helping families protect their investment in college. “We are both veteran collegiate and affinity marketers and decided to focus the business on markets we understand,” he said. He has been a licensed insurance agent for 17 years. Before launching Next Generation Insurance, he worked at JPMorgan Chase where he marketed student loans through affinity groups. Previously, he worked on national affinity auto and home insurance programs as a broker.

In U.S., 19 Million College Students

The agency has 20 employees and is looking to grow. “The college and young adult market is growing substantially and attending college is evergreen,” Suneson said. In the U.S., there are currently 19 million college students, including both full-time and non-traditional/part-time students. Some 2 million freshmen enter college every year and the number continues to increase. In 2012, there will be more students in college than ever before in history.

Next Generation Insurance has a number of competitors, but most have been product specific and lack comprehensive solutions for young adults, Suneson said. “I can tell you our new policy and premium numbers have grown over 100-percent year to year and we expect even greater growth again in 2012. We reach customers through strategic partnerships, colleges and universities and direct channels.”

He said he’s seeing a growing interest from insurers and other financial institutions to offer his tuition protection products as enhancements to their core products like home insurance or student loans. The agency works with a number of insurers including Assurant, Markel Corp. and Fairmont Specialty.

The agency’s tuition insurance product ranges from $239 to $599 with up to $50,000 of annual tuition protection. The renters’ product costs about $150. Its student protection plan provides emergency medical evacuation insurance, identity theft protection, computer repair and warranty protection. It also offers an alternative to school-sponsored health insurance for full- and part-time and non-traditional students.