Small Business Insurtech CoverWallet Expands to Offer Its Tech, Markets Access to Agents

By | December 4, 2018

With 16 agencies already using the platform, another 100 are on a waiting list to jump on board, according to chief executive officer Inaki Berenguer.

During an interview at the company’s New York headquarters early last month, Berenguer demonstrated the ease with which insurance shoppers could understand, buy and manage small business insurance policies—ranging from simple business owners policies to more complicated directors and officers liability covers. He also revealed that demand from agents to have the same simple and efficient way to access quotes from multiple carriers, and ultimately bind policies “in real time” prompted Berenguer’s team to design CoverWallet for Agents, which is being officially launched today.

“Many of them came to us [asking], ‘Can I use this?'” Berenguer said, pointing out that the existing CoverWallet direct-to-customer platform includes a “Partner With Us” link through which interested potential partners could submit ideas about working with CoverWallet. “This was not for other agencies,” Berenguer said, envisioning partner requests from carriers and providers of non-insurance services to small business. “But agents were completing this before we even had the product,” he said, scrolling through emails CoverWallet received with messages like, “We are a new startup insurance brokerage…looking for additional markets and would like to be appointed as one of your producers. Please advise what is the procedure,” or simply, “I am seeking an agency appointment with CoverWallet,” or “I am licensed and I would like to have this.”

We give you a login and password, and then every time that you talk to a customer, you can use our platform to sell faster, simpler, quicker.

Inaki demonstrated the quote process on the original direct-to-customer platform that spawned agents’ interest, taking seconds to get a quote for a full-service restaurant with Queens, N.Y. ZIP code. Accessing the “Advice” section of the CoverWallet website first, he input the industry, number of employees and revenues—about a 20 second process—and instantly saw the average premium paid by similar businesses for a range of small business coverages and indications of popular purchases (100 percent buy general liability, 80 percent buy BOPs instead, etc.) Going on to check off the GL coverage for free quotes prompted some more questions, many with pre-filled answers, generating actual quotes from three carriers just over one minute later. Then, he selecting a carrier and limits, answered a question about how he wanted to pay—in full or in monthly payments from a credit card—and the system returned a policy, certificate of insurance and proof of payment.

For agents, “everything is paper-based,” Berenguer said. “Now, they say, ‘It is unfair that for you it is so simple and for me it’s so complicated. Why don’t you allow me to do this?” After hearing the “Can I use your platform” questions enough times from agents, Berenguer and his team asked themselves, “Why not build it?” and decided to respond to the need.

“Agents are an integral part of small business insurance, and we are making it easy for them to leverage technology without needing to build their own complex integrations or to have direct relationships or appointments with carriers,” said Aman Khaira, vice president of product at CoverWallet, in the statement.

Hally Peck, director of communication at CoverWallet, explained that agents who are onboarded to CoverWallet for Agents will be acting as subproducers of CoverWallet and get access to all the carriers that CoverWallet has on the platform, including the likes of Chubb, Starr, CNA, and AmTrust. “As a result, they will be able to generate quotes and bind policies without needing direct appointments from the carriers. In order to be onboarded, they are required to be licensed in the state(s), sign an agreement with CoverWallet, and have $1 million in E&O coverage,” she said.

CoverWallet CEO Inaki Berenguer in his New York office

CoverWallet itself employs 70 agents, according to Berenguer. “They’re very efficient in how they talk and use tools to sell to customers,” he said, stressing that the direct-to-customer process already in place is not just high-tech but high-touch as well. As a buyer or shopper inputs information, each screen displays the photo and contact information for a personal adviser. “We call our insurance agents insurance advisers because what they are doing is advising customers. They’re not doing the data entry. They are not doing the back office because everything is done digitally for them.”

“Everything in the insurance industry is full of PDFs, real paper documents going back and forth via email. It takes time to download, to upload it to another place, key in the information. [Here], all that is done digitally….We use software and machine learning to replace what humans do and then we put the humans [in the position] to only provide advice instead of doing things that don’t add value.”

Berenguer continued: “In the U.S., there are 40,000 agencies, and half a million agents that unfortunately don’t have access to the same tools that we have. And they don’t have the resources to invest in technology.” Registering with CoverWallet for Agents can change that. “We give you a login and password, and then every time that you talk to a customer, you can use our platform to sell faster, simpler, quicker,” he says, addressing would-be users.

“They can get multiple quotes from one quick application, buy [coverage] online, full end-to-end experience, no cost for them, access to top carriers…Very simple.”

Asked specifically about the “no cost” part, Berenguer said that if an agent sells a policy, CoverWallet keeps a part of a commission amount that is highly competitive with the industry, with the agent keeping the majority.

While CoverWallet employs its own licensed insurance agents serving customers online, more than half of the 170 employees are engineers, data scientists, user experience designers, or digital marketers. “This is related to the DNA of our company,” Berenguer said. “We compliment that with knowledge of insurance, but we say that we are an engineering and a product-driven organization. In essence we’re a technology company. We’re not an insurance company. I think some other competitors are insurance companies that are trying to tech-enable business,” he said, noticing that experience in data, design and technology are some of the things that differentiate CoverWallet from Insureon, CoverHound and other competitors among InsurTechs serving the small business market.

Since launching the direct-to-customer site in 2016, CoverWallet has received more than $30 million in funding from investors including Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, Two Sigma, and Foundation Capital, as well as Zurich Insurance Group and Starr Companies. In June, CoverWallet unveiled what it said was the first API (Application Programming Interface) for commercial insurance, allowing non-insurance small business service providers, such as real estate companies, financial institutions, payroll service providers, lenders, and accounting software providers, to directly and easily integrate insurance services into their websites and apps. In September, CoverWallet also launched a separate initiative called CoverStartups to provide high-growth companies—from Seed and Series A to Series B and beyond—with dedicated resources to help them get the insurance coverage they need in minutes, including D&O insurance, typically required by investors, which might otherwise take weeks to secure.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published by Carrier Management. In the Jan/Feb 2019 edition of Carrier Management’s print magazine, Berenguer talks about the launches, the impetus for creating the CoverWallet startup in the first place, and his career path from Cambridge scientist and academic to tech entrepreneur.

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