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Since late 2017, Chubb has been working on “digitizing the agent experience” for traditional agents with the Chubb Marketplace. But Chubb’s small business digital distribution strategy also includes working with digital brokers like CoverHound, Bunker and Insureon to capture small businesses wanting to buy online.

Here, Jim Williamson, Chubb’s division president, North America Small Commercial, Underwriting, talks about those partnerships with Wells Media’s Andrew Simpson. See related articles “Move Over InsurTechs: Chubb’s Digital Marketplace Is Live and Serving 1,000 Agents a Day” for an overview of the Marketplace, and “Inside Chubb’s Agency-Centric Digital Marketplace and Its Digital Strategy” for a detailed account of development of Chubb’s digital strategy.

Q: How does Marketplace tie into Chubb’s overall digital strategy, at least as it relates to distribution and direct online purchasing by small businesses? I believe you have relationships with Bunker and CoverHound and others.

Williamson: I would say it maybe just a little differently. I think you’re spot on one of the most important issues in the industry right now. But Bunker and CoverHound, those are insurance intermediaries. So, I don’t think that necessarily is direct because I still think…small business owners value an independent intermediary to represent them in their transaction. But a lot of customers want that representation and that intermediary to operate digitally. And so Chubb wants to be available to serve the small business owners however they want to buy, whether that’s with a digital intermediary or with a traditional independent agent. And we are building capabilities digitally to make that happen and to enable that. And you’re seeing that in those relationships you mentioned and then, of course, as you’ve seen in Marketplace. The priority for us is to bring digital technology and innovation to the insurance process, irrespective of how the end consumer chooses to buy.

Q: Do you see more agencies evolving to the CoverHound and Bunker model and some of sophisticated technology that they have, thus making that part of their capabilities as well?

Williamson: I think that’s happening, and what’s more is we’re investing to help our agents to do just that. [We] do have the capability for our agents to develop their own digital experience for small business owners that can be automatically connected to our capability so that the small business owner can go on to one of our distributors’ websites, quote and issue a policy without human intervention, if that’s how they choose to buy. So, we’re excited to invest along with our agents so that they can participate in this digital revolution as well. The real critical piece is to make insurance broadly available in an efficient, economical and high-value-added way with great user experience, no matter how the buyer chooses to engage.

Q: InsurTechs talk about the idea that the insurance product has to change as the world becomes all digital, that the insurance product today doesn’t fit the digital world. Do you agree?

Williamson: I definitely think there will be demand for new types of insurance products as the economy evolves. And I think all of this digital technology enables us to deliver a different product or similar coverages differently. And what I mean by that is, you think about the past, the reason why these big package products got created was because it was more efficient to deliver one big product that met a wide variety of needs than it was to split that into multiple different products that could meet very specific needs.

So, in a digital way, you can sell a product for $100 and do it profitably, if you do it digitally. It will allow us to disaggregate coverages to meet unique risk needs digitally that, in the past, it would have just been cost prohibitive. We’re really only in the beginning phase, I think, of that as evolution, and a lot more is coming. Chubb is absolutely exploring those opportunities and, where it makes sense, executing against them.

Q: What about the area of on-demand coverage, short-term policies? Are those in the Chubb picture?

Williamson: We’re absolutely doing that. We understand the gig economy very well. And there’s definitely a subset of customers who might need a policy for a month because they’re executing a contract with a client. That’s absolutely. For example, being aligned with what Bunker is doing.

And I think there will be more innovation to come on exactly how we construct the product to meet the unique needs of the client. Some of those needs are new because the economy is changing. Some of those needs may have always existed, but the technology didn’t exist to efficiently deliver the product to the client. So, they just went uninsured. We’re really looking across that spectrum to develop the insurance product of the future to meet the needs of our customers.

Q: Tim Attia, CEO and founder of Slice, talks about the digital enterprise having to be separate from the traditional insurer. He does not believe that today an insurer can operate both within the same company structure. It doesn’t sound like Chubb buys into that and that you are perfectly capable of operating a digital enterprise like Marketplace and the other things you are doing right in the same building and with the same people as your other traditional insurance operations. Is that right?

Williamson: I’m not going to respond to those specific comments, but what I will tell you unequivocally is really where you ended. Chubb is able and has demonstrated our ability to deliver on our existing business and also to deliver a tremendous amount of innovation around product, around digital technologies, around user experience both in the U.S. and around the world. And we have absolutely no problem doing both.

Topics Agencies InsurTech Tech Chubb