With an ultimate goal of onboarding 97 brokers handling $120 billion of premium on its platform, a new entrant in the world of broker analytics offers carriers a clearer window into relationships with national and regional distribution partners.
Executive SummaryRiskMatch is gaining traction in the world of broker analytics—offering carriers a new window into relationships with national and regional distribution partners, according to Founder and CEO Kabir Syed. Syed, who previously created MarketConnect, and Chief Marketing Officer Adam Kagan take Carrier Management on a tour through RiskMatch dashboards, which capture opportunities by intermediary, by product, by industry and even reasons for losing business. In the process, they explain what’s in it for carriers seeking growth in the middle market on single-carrier placements not available from global brokerage relationships.
Kabir Syed, the founder and CEO of RiskMatch, is the innovator behind the new system designed to ease the placement process for both carrier and broker users and to provide valuable business intelligence to both sides. Syed, who previously created Marsh’s MarketConnect system, explains that his latest creation—like MarketConnect and Aon’s GRIP platform—allows carriers to define their business appetites and to access reports about where they’re winning and losing business.
But what those prior systems don’t provide are insights into $120 billion of business that falls within their appetites but is placed by brokers other than Marsh, Aon and Willis.
“The portfolios of the big three are very multitiered,” Syed adds, explaining that the large global brokers buy huge amounts of limits for their clients with multiple carriers on every policy structure. For excess carriers, that means pricing is going to be based on the primary rating.
Unlike their global counterparts, the nationals and regionals of the broker world are placing the less complex single-carrier programs where carrier pricing strategies matter most. “They’re going for the meat and potatoes of the mainland—the hog farms or the manufacturing facilities, which are much safer than the large corporates or international conglomerates,” Syed says.
Complex placements are very few for the No. 4-100 ranked brokers that Syed has in his sights as potential users of his system on the intermediary side.
“It’s the middle market,” says Adam Kagan, chief marketing officer of RiskMatch. “Everyone is focused on growth in the middle-market space.”
But the reality for carriers trying to decide between going after one $1 million client from a global broker or 10 $100,000 clients is that it is just easier to take the former route. Carriers have to work hard to find the 10 smaller accounts, he says. “What we’re trying to do is make that easier, he says.
Another reality: “Regional and national brokers are growing at a faster clip in the United States,” which means carriers in that space are growing faster as well, Kagan says.
For carrier users of RiskMatch of all sizes, Syed stresses the ability of the system to identify the right pipeline opportunities and to put them in front of the right people. A key feature of the system is a set of unique dashboards providing custom views of the same pool of information for every user. Users range from the CEO down to members of the business development team on the carrier side—and product manager and department heads in between. Similarly, for brokers, custom views are available for everyone from the CEOs down to account managers, individual brokers, team members and producers.
Syed reports that the head of a marketing division of one carrier told him that the carrier’s 400 underwriters receive over 120,000 submissions. “Half the ones that come to me are not my appetite. I just don’t write it. Or they come to me and it’s my appetite but it’s sitting in a different department.
“I want the opportunity that I can really write and when I can write it,” the carrier executive said.
“That’s exactly what we do,” Syed reports. “We identify real opportunities. We know what you write.”
In Syed’s world, opportunities to write business are called matches. When he initially spoke to Carrier Management in March, it was a week after RiskMatch got a patent on the match algorithm that is at the heart of the system: “U.S. patent no. 8,666,788: ‘Systems and methods for facilitating an insurance marketplace for negotiations among brokers and insurance carriers.”
Explaining the patented process, Syed says, “We take the entire history of what you’ve written and put that together with what you [the carrier] say you write.” The algorithm says “this is a real opportunity [and] it’s coming up in 30, 60, 90 or 120 days,” according to Syed, who notes that by setting a specific time period of interest, the underwriter can view matches coming up in the next month, quarter or half and decide—within the system—whether to request a submission from the broker.
As the carrier offers quotes or declines to entertain submissions, the system incorporates the new information, fine-tuning the algorithm to capture more or less opportunities in the future.
“We give a history and metrics that reveal how this broker relates to you,” Syed adds, noting that the broker may, for example, place another product with the carrier for the client targeted by the match, or the broker may place similar business for other clients with the carrier but not that particular client.
Syed gave more specifics of exactly how “matches”—entirely new ones or cross-sell opportunities—are determined using the analogies of Expedia.com and Match.com.
To get a match on the online travel booking system or the online dating platform, the customer tells the system what he/she is looking to accomplish. “I’m looking to go from here to Boston. Or I’m looking to date somebody who is tall, blonde and from Norway.”
A different way of generating a list of potential matches would be to go and see everybody you have dated before or every place you’ve gone in the past because you may go back.
“What we have done is we have taken the combination of both,” he says, noting that broker data is the fuel that drives the second part of the engine of the algorithm.
Using data coming in from multiple brokers, “I have reverse-engineered that one piece,” Syed says, explaining that RiskMatch, for example, may capture all the exposure and limit information on pizza shops the carrier has written in the past to conclude definitely that yes, the carrier does write pizza shops, or no, it has declined to provide quotes for fiber optics manufacturing.
Kagan notes: “What you’ll always find is that carriers promote one size [underwriting] box, but there are always exceptions. So what we’re doing is saying [to the carrier] that “we value your input in letting us know what your box is, [but] we’re also overlaying that with what you’re really writing. On top of that, the third component we’re adding is what you’ve quoted but maybe don’t want.”
“If you’ve engaged and offered a proposal, you obviously would write it,” although perhaps not at the terms and conditions that ultimately won the business, Kagan notes, explaining the third part.
Syed notes that the algorithm also captures “near matches” for the carrier’s consideration. A carrier interested in pizza shops, for example, might also be willing offer a quote on a deli, he notes.
How Am I Doing?
In addition to flagging a piece of “matched” business at the time of renewal for the underwriter to request a submission (along with details about the broker contact), the system automatically provides more valuable information—gathered from follow-up broker actions—allowing the carriers to gauge their success in winning and retaining business.
You may want to write pizza shops, but brokers may ultimately be binding them with your competitor. Why are you losing business you quoted? Or why, in other cases, are brokers declining to send submissions?
On the broker side of the system, when a broker account manager views a RiskMatch dashboard listing submission requests from carriers, that account manager can click a circle next to the name of the carrier that says “approve” (generating a popup prompt to send the submission to the carrier ASAP) or alternate circle that is marked “decline.” Declining automatically brings a popup menu before the broker that says “you must provide a reason.”
The broker then selects from 10 choices including “client relationship with incumbent,” “deficient coverage breadth,” “proposal deadline missed” and “carrier financial rating.”
Similarly, when the submission process is complete and an account is bound with one of the carriers, the broker automatically receives an email asking why that carrier won the business. “What are the two things you liked about this carrier?”
“We know the other ones that were in the bidding,” Syed adds. “Why did they lose?”
“In the carrier database, it always seems to be price. And it’s not possible that it’s always price,” Syed says, noting that competitor underpricing is a popular explanation that individual underwriters provide to managers and executives, and that executives give to other stakeholders to explain why they’re not winning new business (or losing renewals).
The RiskMatch system gathers all the information on declined business (by broker and carrier) and lost business (on renewals) and provides potentially eye-opening business intelligence for carrier CEOs. Among the available screens on the CEO dashboards is one titled “Intermediary Comparison,” listing all of the carrier’s broker partners together with performance ratios—hit ratios, lost business ratios, declination ratios. Three numbers are shown for each ratio type—low- and high-end ratios achieved by competitors and the carrier’s ratio in between the two endpoints.
If that’s not enough information to tell carriers where they stand, the ratio trios are enclosed in green bubbles for performance metrics that are in the top 25 percent of competitors and in red for carriers that have bottom 25 percent performance with particular brokers.
Another cut of similar information, on screens titled “Intermediaries with High Declination Rates,” allows carriers to simultaneously link the intermediaries with reasons for top declinations and with the product offerings they are declining. The interactive presentation, which is unique to RiskMatch, goes beyond anything a carrier can get in a spreadsheet analysis, Syed notes. A carrier executive clicking on any one of 10 declination reasons listed in the first column will see broker names and products highlighted in the next two columns and indications of the amounts of associated premium declined.
Alternatively, selecting a single broker name from a center column signals the system to highlight corresponding reasons and products in columns on either side.
“You may think you’re seeing everything from a particular regional broker because your market guy said you are, but the reality is you’re not,” Kagan says. “It may be a resource issue. It may be a relationship issue. It may be a product issue.” With broker executives able to get similar analytics from the same information (through broker screens and printed reports), RiskMatch puts the carrier and broker on the same page so that they can figure out ways to fix and improve their relationships.
“Right now, it’s all based off of ad-hoc information—feedback that you drum up right before you have a meeting,” such as the annual CIAB gathering, Kagan says. “Here, we’re able to show, ‘You know what, you’re people aren’t responsive. Or they’re declining a lot of things,” he says.
“You say you want to grow with me, but actions speak louder than words,” he imagines a broker executive saying, armed with similar metrics on declinations and lost business—based on the same transaction information—extracted from reports displayed on his side of the RiskMatch system.
“At the end of the day, we want the underwriter to understand how to potentially grow their business if they want to,” Kagan says, referring to RiskMatch information on business both won and lost. Providing more transparency on the overall relationship will make the underwriter smarter, he says.
Designed With Broker Needs in Mind
“A lot of what we’re [doing involves] trying to make the brokers smarter—giving them a broader view of the marketplace,” Kagan says as the two men run through a demonstration starting with screen displays and reports available from the broker side of the system.
Broker account managers are now able to view an expanded universe of potential carriers available and interested in a particular type of opportunity. That means an individual broker, Joe Smith in Waukesha, Wis., can now “offer his clients more of an industry view,” Kagan suggests, noting that before Joe might only be able to say, “I work with these four carriers and they’re always good for me.”
Clients may insist on knowing whether they’re getting a good deal, and brokers can even deliver printed reports to clients with insights on why they might have declined to tap other willing carriers, based on metrics and compilations of information from their responses and colleagues housed in the RiskMatch system.
That ability to bring more value to clients is one factor that entices brokers to use the system and to provide answers to questions that help carriers grow smarter in the process. But beyond that, Syed explains that RiskMatch was designed primarily with brokers in mind—to simplify their jobs with dashboards that organize workflows, keep track of policy and exposure documents (which they can upload to the platform), remind them of upcoming renewal dates, and other features.
(See also, related article, “Who Is Kabir Syed and Why Did He Launch RiskMatch?“)
“We asked, ‘What can we do to make the broker’s life easy?'” deciding to build a system that Syed describes as “completely dummy proof—because if I can’t find things easily, I’m not going to use anything.”
“That has to be the key. Adoption has to be very high,” he says.
Kagan, who previously worked at Marsh and at wholesaler Crump, says the idea of developing a system that met broker needs was a major attraction for him personally in joining Syed in the new venture.
“Throughout my career, and even when I was at Crump, I kept hearing the carriers saying, ‘I want to grow more with the national and regionals. We’ve got a lot of business with the global brokers; they’re pretty well organized. They have systems. [But] I don’t even know where to start with the national and regional brokers.'”
“You look at some of the national brokers and one has 140 offices, another has 200.”
By creating something for the brokers—to make it easier for the brokers to manage their individual portfolios—Syed is also building a more accessible bridge for the carriers, Kagan believes. “What we really spent a lot of time with was making sure this is utilized within the brokers because the key to any platform is adoption,” he says, echoing Syed’s view.
Black Boxes Now Ready to Open
Understanding the value of broker acceptance, many of the dozen carriers that demoed and liked the system in 2013 told Syed and Kagan to come back to them with contracts only after they had brokers signed up. And the two innovators themselves decided that they wouldn’t approach carriers to actually sign onto the system until brokers placing $5 billion in premiums had been boarded, they told Carrier Management in March.
“At this point, it’s just pretty pictures,” Syed said back then.
But by the time of a follow-up July interview, the $5 billion threshold had already been met with five brokers online, and RiskMatch was in negotiations with more, expecting to push the total platform premiums to nearly $10 billion within the next 45-60 days.
The firm is ready to meet with carriers again, with the promise of unlocking previously hidden information about the business placed by these brokers, Syed says. “Unless the broker says to you ‘this is what is coming up,’ you have no idea. You know they have a lot of premium; you don’t know when it is coming up. You don’t know what kind of risk it is. That’s all a black box currently for carriers.”
And some carriers actually don’t even realize the size of the premiums commanded by the national and regional brokers, Kagan says. Even showing them the most basic information in RiskMatch, captured on initial carrier screens headed “Opportunities by Intermediary,” “Opportunities by Product” or “Opportunities by Industry,” will generate “oh wow moments,” he says.
“They know one or two guys at the brokerage firms. Maybe they see them at a couple of meetings or a golf outing. But they didn’t realize their relationships with these brokers could be so much broader,” he says.
There are even features allowing CEOs, product managers and department heads to follow the individual performance of various underwriters, informing decisions about resource allocation for market opportunities.
What’s the cost of all this?
Syed and Kagan explain that upfront costs are negligible for brokers and carriers but that RiskMatch receives a small percentage of additional commission paid to RiskMatch brokers.
Kagan gives an example assuming that hypothetical insurer Hartville and hypothetical broker Smith & Smythe both decide to use the platform. “If Hartville binds a new piece of business with Smith & Smythe, then Hartville would pay an additional 50 basis points on top of the normal commission. Basically Hartville is rewarding Smith & Smythe for allowing them utilization of the data and all of the analytics.”
“If Hartville doesn’t ever write a piece of business with Smith & Smythe, they would never pay the broker a penny” for RiskMatch usage. But any time Smith & Smythe uses the system and binds business with Hartville, “Smith & Smythe gets paid and RiskMatch gets paid,” Kagan confirms.
“They get a chunk of additional commission. We get a small percentage,” Syed says. But if Hartville is not a RiskMatch client, then even if it binds business with a RiskMatch broker, “we get paid nothing.”
As for upfront carrier expenses, there is a small integration fee to cover our costs, Syed says, noting that there are no per-office or per-seat fees. “You can have 10,000 people on it; you can have two people. It doesn’t matter. We have made it robust so that an additional person doesn’t cost us more,” he says.