Startup Agency Gabi CEO: ‘We Don’t Want to Eliminate Agents’

By Hanno Fichtner | March 20, 2018

Editor’s Note: On Feb. 21, Insurance Journal reported on online personal lines insurance startup Gabi’s latest fundraising. (Personal Insurance Site Gabi Raises $9.5 Million; Now Selling in 6 States). In its description of Gabi’s business model, Insurance Journal wrote that Gabi “promises consumers savings by ‘continually comparison shopping’ for buyers and by eliminating agents and brokers.”

Insurance Journal’s phrase “eliminating agents and brokers” was based on Gabi’s own language describing its reliance on technology that automatically scours insurers for deals “instead of relying on insurance agents who may be driven by commission or only compare a few quotes” and its comment that it is “going after the $75 billion worth of commissions that are paid every year in property, casualty and life insurance.”

Gabi’s CEO and employees took exception to Insurance Journal’s reporting that they are trying to “eliminate agents and brokers.” The following is a reply from Gabi CEO and co-founder Hanno Fichtner on why the company thinks Insurance Journal was wrong in its reporting and affirming that Gabi is not out to eliminate agents and brokers and is even weighing letting agents use its technology.

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Recently Insurance Journal published an article which, in my view, gravely mischaracterizes what Gabi is about. I strongly disagree with the Insurance Journal’s statement that Gabi seeks to “eliminate agents and brokers.”

This is not the case. We do not want to “eliminate” anyone, especially not agents and brokers – we are a personal lines agency ourselves.

Our mission is to not simply price compare auto insurance quotes, but to finally provide an online experience that accommodates more complex insurance needs. We believe to have found an innovative approach to running an independent agency that will serve customers, carriers and ultimately agents better.

What do we mean by this?

1) We don’t like that 2 out of 3 customers feel that shopping for car insurance is too time consuming – that’s why we are working hard to get all the data about the assets and coverage requirements of the customer from existing data sources instead of letting customers fill out long quote forms over and over again. We have reduced the quoting process from 20+ minutes down to 2 minutes.

2) We think it is not fair to quote only the companies that pay a certain level of commission or bonus. A customer should get a comprehensive quote review including quotes from companies that are not paying commission to the agent. This will earn trust and will let such agencies win in the long run. This is why we are working relentlessly to include as many carriers as possible in our quote comparison.

3) We believe agents should spend more time consulting customers around their coverage needs instead of spending hours entering data and quoting. That’s why we are in the process of automating the quoting process for multi-line bundles. Customers will be able to submit their car and home coverage and will receive a bundled offer right away. With the help of technology the agents working for Gabi have more time available for what is truly important – advising the customer.

Some people are oftentimes (incorrectly) equating independent agents as “brick and mortar” shops and anything that happens online as its enemy. This is not the reality of how personal insurance is transacted in 2018 anymore. Many independent agencies have websites with quoting options, do online and social media marketing or buy leads from a variety of sources. In fact in 2014 only 9% of insurance agents said that they used offline advertising to get leads.

Even though it is hard to compete with the technology resources and marketing budgets of direct-to-consumer carriers, we at Gabi firmly believe in the core principles of independent agencies (a) independently comparing different insurance options and (b) providing high quality advice. This is why we are proud to be an independent agency, would welcome more agents to follow our approach and are considering to open up the Gabi platform to outside agents who want to make use of our technology.

About Hanno Fichtner

Hanno Fichtner is founder and CEO of insurance startup Gabi.