Madison, Wisc.-based American Family Insurance announced Thursday that it is acquiring Columbus, Ohio-based Bold Penguin, an InsurTech that simplifies the process of obtaining small business insurance.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, but American Family said that Bold Penguin will become a subsidiary of the American Family Insurance group, pending regulatory approval and closing.
Bold Penguin is a digital exchange used by insurance agents, brokers and other distributors to match, quote and bind policies from a range of insurers.
“We are not an insurance agency. We are not an insurance company or underwriter. We exist to help insurance agents find, quote and bind the right insurance product from the right carrier,” Bold Penguin Founder and Chief Executive Officer Ilya Bodner explained to Carrier Management in late 2019.
As a subsidiary of American Family, the mission will be the same, according to details of the announcement. “Bold Penguin will maintain its name and business model, operating with a relentless commitment to neutrality and confidentiality with its insurer, broker and agent customers,” American Family stated.
Bold Penguin’s culture of closely working with its partners will remain as it is today, as will its platform of providing options from multiple insurers, which it expects to grow, American Family confirmed, noting that American Family agency owners will also use the platform with a suite of products available specifically to them.
For American Family, the deal helps put more focus on small business customers. For Bold Penguin, the ability to leverage the scale and financial stability of American Family are key drivers, the announcement said.
While American Family said it ranks as the nation’s 13th largest P/C insurance group, with $11.5 billion in direct written premium at the end of 2019, the bulk of its sales are for auto and home insurance, followed by commercial insurance for small and midsize businesses.
“Ultimately, this is about small business customers and their communities,” said Bill Westrate, American Family president and CEO-elect. “We recognize the importance of small businesses and we want to do our part to support them,” he said.
“Bold Penguin reduces the complexity of small business insurance for customers, for us and our industry. It enables insurers to reach more business owners with protection they need to safeguard their livelihoods and pursue their dreams to serve and employ people in their communities,” Westrate added.
Fabian Fondriest, president of American Family Direct, also stressed that “Bold Penguin will have the autonomy and support to fulfill its important roles with small businesses and partners.”
American Family Ventures, American Family’s venture capital firm, was actually one of the early investors in Bold Penguin, which has grown from a small commercial solution to what American Family believes is the largest U.S. commercial insurance exchange.
Bold Penguin itself has been no stranger to acquisitions, the latest being an October 2020 deal for RiskGenius, an InsurTech that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to read and compare insurance policies. Earlier, in January 2020, Bold Penguin acquired xagent, an independent, single-entry, multi-quote platform for the standard and surplus lines business insurance markets
Bodner and Ben Clarke, co-founder and chief data officer, as well as other leaders and employees will remain with Bold Penguin after the deal with American Family is done.
As a subsidiary of a carrier with scale and financial stability, Bold Penguin will be able to accelerate its digital capabilities while remaining independent in how it operates and expands its exchange.
In addition to the two acquisitions last year, Bold Penguin recently announced eight major partnerships and two additional coverage lines while rolling out new functionality, American Family said.
“Helping streamline the insurance experience for small businesses inspires us, and this transaction will super-charge our growth and service to partners even more while fueling visionary, long-term work,” Bodner said in a statement.
The acquisition marks the first 2021 deal in which a P/C carrier has acquired an InsurTech that Carrier Management has reported.
InsurTech tie-ups with one another and deals with brokers have been more visible in recent years.
Late last year, however, Travelers agreed to acquire InsuraMatch, a national digital independent insurance agency, from the Plymouth Rock Group of Companies. (In 2017, Travelers also acquired Simply Business, a U.K. online seller of small business insurance on behalf of a group of carriers.)
High-profile deals involving InsurTechs and established brokers have included the November 2019 deal in which global insurance broker Aon agreed to acquire CoverWallet, a leading digital insurance platform for small and medium-sized businesses, and insurance broker Brown & Brown’s November 2020 acquisition of CoverHound, a digital P/C insurance marketplace, and CyberPolicy, CoverHound’s small business subsidiary, late last year.