Posted on 05 Oct 11
This week we’re featuring our storefront, BOLT Insurance LLC, a firm that provides an online national sales and service insurance center for agencies and brokers looking for a cost-effective, results-oriented, profitable solution to handling the insurance accounts of small business owners. Based in Farmington, Connecticut, BOLT – the Business Owners Liability Team – was founded in 2009, has 35 insurance specialists working for the organization, and is licensed in all 50 states. BOLT focuses exclusively on small business insurance and has a staff with over 150 years of combined experience in this market.
We spoke with Tom Hammond, Executive Vice President of Operations, about BOLT, its success, and how its high-touch, hi-tech platform and service are helping agencies and brokers turn a profit in the small business market. Prior to BOLT, Tom was with The Hartford Property and Casualty Company for over 23 years. His experience includes the development and direction of Direct Response Marketing, Operational Management, and P&C strategy.
“We conducted a tremendous amount of research before forming BOLT,” said Tom, “looking at which markets may be underserved and underinsured. What we saw was many agencies focusing their efforts on large businesses due to the size of commissions, with typical small business owners not receiving the service and attention they needed or wanted. We also saw that there were many challenges that agencies faced when serving the small business market. These factors, along with our ability to utilize a platform that offers real-time, on-line multiple comparison quotes to small business consumers and access to leading carriers with an appetite for this market and a complete product portfolio, provided us with the opportunity to tap into a niche with tremendous growth potential.”
Some of the challenges that agencies struggle with in serving the small commercial market include: a costly and lengthy sales process; customer support that’s typically managed by either in-house small business center resources or a single-carrier service approach; little or no relationship building and account selling because of limited human and financial resources; and sporadic if any customer retention efforts. “Agents are not making enough money in the small commercial arena, and it can be a real headache for them both in getting the accounts and then having to service them,” said Tom. “They want to focus on their larger accounts. But many who’ve tried to move their business into carrier service centers found them to be ineffective. They don’t have access to a multiple quoting platform to get the best deal for their clients in a timely fashion. So we developed a program with different options where agents can move their small commercial business to us and we’ll handle it all. We are one of the first national, multi-carrier service centers in the country. We can take the small business insurance market and leverage it for the agency.”
BOLT’s agency programs include these options:
- BOLT manages your small business accounts, including quoting new business referrals, selling new accounts and developing new business leads, cross selling, servicing existing policies, and managing renewals. You share in the commissions.
- BOLT will acquire your small business book and continue to pay you for small business referrals after the purchase of your book. The money you receive can be used to reinvest in larger, profitable accounts, hire additional producers, reduce debt, or buy out partners.
- BOLT purchases your small business segment and you become an agent with BOLT, earning more net commissions and eliminating the headaches that come with servicing and maintaining the business.
In building BOLT from the ground up, Tom explained that there were several core values that went into forming the company, including writing business with top carriers, employing strong underwriting discipline, focusing on a high-volume, profitable model, and having an unparalleled commitment to customers with live, licensed insurance agents answering the phone. The key was to offer a solution that includes people, processes, and technology advances.
“With BOLT, we can provide small businesses with three to six online quotes from leading carriers across the country within two minutes,” said Tom. “When a small business owner calls our 800 number, he/she gets a licensed, experienced insurance specialist within 20 seconds or less. We obtain a basic profile of the business, validate the information provided, take them through to the final underwriting needed, and can issue the policy in less than an hour. This is unheard of in the industry.”
This is all possible through BOLT’s parent company, SeaPass, which provides the technology used with all carrier partners and throughout the buying process. “There is one single input that delivers several quotes based on that information,” explained Tom. “This is great for the consumer and for the agents for whom we’re managing and servicing accounts. Typically, agents have to go into each carrier’s website and input the information for each quote they want to provide to their clients or prospects. This tedious work is eliminated with us. We’ve taken all the hassle out of the input and made sure the information is integrated as it’s transported through the quoting and issuance process. We’ve also spent time during our research to develop a more business-oriented approach in obtaining the information needed during the interview process with the prospect, instead of using insurance terminology with which the business owner is unfamiliar. For example, an insurance carrier asks questions about liability limits and deductibles, etc. We have turned those questions into business and risk needs. So people can actually go through an interview without knowing a lot about insurance to get a very accurate quote.”
BOLT can provide all lines of coverages for the small business owner, including General Liability, Property, Auto, Umbrella, Workers Compensation, E&O, D&O, EPLI, MPL – basically BOLT has access to any commercial lines coverage. “For standard lines, such as the BOP, GL, Workers Comp, Umbrella, and Commercial Auto, all the quoting can be done quickly,” said Tom. “The next level of quick access is for E&O and D&O coverage, as we’ve worked on automation integration with carriers such as Ace & Chubb where we can do everything in less than a 24-hour turnaround. We have dedicated people at these companies with whom we work to facilitate the entire process.”
BOLT also has agreements with E&S brokers so that if a customer on the phone needs a surplus lines quote fairly quickly, that can be done as the automation and processes have been built into the system. “These take a little bit more time, but we’re still more responsive than what is typically done,” said Tom. “What’s more, there are specialty coverages needs that are unique and difficult to obtain. We have access to those markets and try to get back to the customer within a one business-day window.”
BOLT takes care of all the servicing, taking a proactive approach by talking with customers two to three times a year, in addition to conducting a check-up review at least once a year. “We’re talking to customers to make sure we still understand where the business is, to see if there have been any changes, and if there are any additional coverages needed,” explained Tom. The SeaPass software, in addition to providing call center integration with the ability to measure, track, and report on lead conversion and performance for new business, also allows for sophisticated cross-selling and up-selling capabilities.
“We also offer many different payment plans, including accepting all forms of credit cards, checks, or electronic checks. We’ve tried to establish not only the markets and the portfolio of coverages but also the payment options at the same time so that everything is transparent, easy, and seamless.”
BOLT works closely with its carrier partners to help handle, manage, and facilitate claims. “We’ll conference in the carrier’s claims center to make sure they’re aware of the claim and are taking the necessary steps,” said Tom. “We’ll follow up with the carrier within a week to make sure the claim is on track and help shepherd it through the carrier system to its final resolution.”
In the two years that BOLT has been operating, they have a retention rate in the mid 90s. Additionally, the company won the 2011 Vanguards in Insurance Practices and Technology Best Practice Award for its work with American Express Open and its joint branding program InsuranceEdge, which offers BOLT’s services to the cardholder’s small business owners.
If you would like more information about how you can leverage your small business insurance accounts, call Brian Lawlor, Senior Vice President - Agent and Broker Services at 860-777-2671, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.