The whole point of small business online delivery platform Insureon’s acquisition of Willis’ Insurance Noodle is growth, says Ted Devine, CEO of Insureon.
Insureon, which operates as an agency and a wholesale specialty business with a focus on agent technology, has been growing at a rate of 36 percent per year in the small commercial space. Devine says Insurance Noodle, which operates as a web-based insurance portal, will provide a platform for Insureon to access the same customer base and captive agency channel while also improving operational efficiency for both parties.
How will they do that?
“Our plan for [Insurance] Noodle is two words: invest heavily,” says Devine. “For Noodle to reach its full potential it needs a firm totally focused on small commercial and the power to invest in technology so it can really grow.”
Formed in 2001 and acquired by Willis in 2007, Insurance Noodle gave small agents access to markets and carriers through its online quoting system. In 2011, Insurance Noodle joined with SeaPass Hub and SeaPass Insurance Portal to launch Insurance Noodle 2.0, which allowed its 10,000+ agents to submit, quote and bind business online and greatly increased its submission volume.
But Devine says Insurance Noodle has not been able to reach its full potential on the product and technology side because it didn’t have its own technology capabilities. He says after the acquisition, Insureon and Insurance Noodle will help agents from when they start a quote to when they bind.
Devine says Insureon’s investment will also include launching into several new insurance segments that Insurance Noodle isn’t currently in, such as contractors, a customized restaurant program and specialized professional consultant coverage . Over the course of 2014, Devine expects they will launch Insurance Noodle into about 15 specific markets “to give agents more specialized products than what they have today,” he says.
Devine says they are currently in talks with agent partners now and he expects this acquisition will double or triple the size of the firm in the next few years.
“For current clients and new agents [the acquisition] means better technology, better clients and better service. We are going to be creating programs to help them grow,” he says. “We will also create a program for select agents and give them leads in their area for being a Noodle customer as a way to help them grow their business.”
The two companies will still be separate entities and do business independently, but Devine says they will build synergies from the shared technology and product development. Devine says the goal is to reach over $100 million in premium this year and over $125 million next year.
Carrier-wise, Insurance Noodle didn’t have any relationships that Insureon hadn’t already established, but since the acquisition was announced, Devine says other carriers have shown interest in pursuing relationships, which they are also evaluating.
Devine says the biggest area they will improve is how well they listen to agents partners. Currently, the Noodle team is out talking to agents and getting real -time feedback to evaluate how well the company performed on an individual transaction.
Since both companies are already established in Chicago, the teams are familiar with each other, which Devine says is helping to ease the transition. Ralph Blust, president and CEO of Insurance Noodle, will remain president and oversee the wholesale operations for the companies. The Insurance Noodle team has also begun to move into Insureon’s offices.
“With an acquisition like this you are worried about the culture fit and transitioning people into the firm, as well as efficiencies and redundancies. But the good thing is the two companies are a lot alike and very-customer focused,” he says.