Web-based insurance connection hub Insurance Noodle has come a long way since 2000 when it first went live. Since then, the online broker has expanded from just writing workers’ compensation, business owners (BOP) and auto coverage in a few states to now also writing general liability, package policies, inland marine and many others in all states except Hawaii.
In 2007, Insurance Noodle was acquired by Willis, a move that increased its capabilities, gave it access to additional carriers, and enhanced its online application abilities.
Its most recent change though may be its biggest yet.
Insurance Noodle has joined with Seapass Hub and SeaPass Insurance Portal to launch Insurance Noodle 2.0, which allows its member agents to submit, quote and bind business online.
“What we did before worked and it worked well, but it didn’t provide real time quoting,” says Andy Wood, executive vice president of Insurance Noodle in Chicago. “We got the application data and turned around quotes quickly and over the years it became apparent that was fine, but customers were looking for the immediacy of getting quotes.”
Wood says the company attempted to build some interfaces that had these capabilities and work with carriers that were compatible, but it was left with only a small number of carriers with the capability.
“We started to really think through what is out there to provide us opportunity in the marketplace as a whole and can get us real-time bindable quotes,” says Wood.
Through the SeaPass Hub and Insurance Noodle, agents can work with a number of admitted carriers. Insurance Noodle has also partnered with Crump so if an admitted market is unavailable, agents have access to an excess and surplus lines carrier.
Ralph Blust, executive vice president for the Willis Commercial Network, said they selected carriers that complemented each other in terms of geographics and appetite, and they made sure there wasn’t a duplication of products.
At the present time, there are six BOP carriers: Allied, Hanover, The Hartford, CNA, Liberty Agency Underwriters, Zurich and one specialty carrier: ACE, which specializes in financial services and offers directors and officers, employment practices, and monoline umbrella. Insurance Noodle has more carriers coming on board as well.
The portal is capable of dealing with as many carriers as Insurance Noodle and Willis want and they plan to add more as market niches are fulfilled and identified. Crump is also talking with other E&S carriers as well.
“We are essentially trying to create market niches,” says Blust. “We are not a wholesaler or aggregator –we are an access vehicle for small agents. We get them market and carrier access… they are not just completing an app and we are not just providing a link like others do. This is real time quoting.”
Agents can also place business with both admitted and non-admitted markets at one time, if the need arises.
“A roofing contractor for example; if the workers comp and auto can be placed in the admitted market place but the general liability can’t, the agent can fill out the application and receive bindable quotes from both the non-admitted and admitted space,” says Blust. “They don’t need to go to numerous systems and input the same data.”
Insurance Noodle and Willis ran a pilot phase of Insurance Noodle 2.0 with select agencies for two months before launching the program to all of its agents this month. Blust says the company has seen a 161 percent increase in submission volume from the agents who have been using the system when compared to the same time last year.
“We surveyed them on a weekly basis and their satisfaction grew week over week and their submission volume grew on a week by week basis,” he said.
Indications are the portal is continuing to be very popular.
“We almost doubled our daily submission volume in the first six days of the platform and it is still growing,” says Blust.
Although the company expects that other agencies will try to duplicate this system, Blust says that part of the reason Insurance Noodle 2.0 works so well is because of the unique Insurance Noodle platform that is already in place.
“Insurance Noodle has a 10,000 retail agent base,” he says. “It would take significant capital to build up that kind of agent portal.”
He said Insurance Noodle has not had to spend a significant amount of time educating agents on how to use the platform because it has been fairly simple for them to pick up, but it does have online tutorials and webinars that agents can use to learn the process. Blust says many agents have also been able to figure out how to use the platform on their own.
The company would not discuss if SeaPass has an exclusive agreement with them because of non-disclosure agreements, but Blust says the two are “extremely closely linked and committed towards a collaborative environment on working together to fulfill this market niche.”
Blust says Insurance Noodle will continue to utilize the platform for other lines of business, including personal lines, which it plans to expand to by the end of this year and then employee benefits in the first half of next year.
Insurance Noodle also has plans to capitalize on its relationship with Willis and take full advantage of what it can offer to agents through this relationship.
“We have focused all of our energy on how we can make these [small agencies] grow and assist these agents in getting to the next step and be bigger,” says Blust. “What services do they need? What markets do they need? What reach and expertise do they need that they don’t have but that we can deliver? There is a tremendous focus on change and there is nowhere else in industry where this is being offered.”