Aiming to further broaden the capabilities available to its agents, Liberty Mutual Agency Markets announced in August that it will give its independent agent force access to a multi-carrier commercial lines comparative rater from SeaPass (New York). The decision to facilitate access to the Web-based SeaPass Hub comparative rater, which also can be accessed through some agency management systems, was driven by Liberty Mutual Agency Markets' desire to add another rating tool to its overall portfolio, according to Peggy Scott, assistant VP, Agency Markets, and manager, marketing information management, Liberty Mutual.
Providing a spectrum of rating tools to the independent agent community is an important business goal for the carrier, as not all agencies have the same technology capabilities, nor do they choose to run their businesses the same way, Scott explains, noting that there wasn't a specific business driver behind the selection of the SeaPass tool over other solutions. "We currently run multiple comparative ratings tools. We also run our proprietary Web site [through] our agent portal. We also do real-time quoting where an agency can request a quote through their agency management system," she relates.
"Certainly, focusing on more real-time capabilities and improving the ease of doing business for agencies is the key, but we also recognize that different agencies have different capabilities," Scott continues. "That spectrum [of rate/quote options] is there to make sure that we're providing the broadest array of tools so that agents can engage with us effectively in a manner that works for them."
Agency Markets, a business unit of Boston-based Liberty Mutual Group ($108.5 billion in total assets), offers personal and commercial insurance through independent agents. Seven of the unit's regional companies -- Peerless Insurance (Keene, N.H.), America First Insurance (Richardson, Texas), Colorado Casualty (Centennial, Colo.), Golden Eagle Insurance (San Diego), Indiana Insurance (Waukesha, Wis.), Montgomery Insurance (Charlotte, N.C.) and Ohio Casualty (Fairfield, Ohio) -- are offering agents the ability to obtain real-time quotes and issue policies through SeaPass Hub.
The carrier first entered discussions with SeaPass in early 2007, and a pilot was set up with Peerless Insurance during the fourth quarter of that year, according to Scott. After addressing various technology and IT security considerations, she reports, the carrier expanded the pilot out to the other regional companies this summer.
Scott views SeaPass as a middleman between agents and the carrier. "An agency can choose to bridge their data to SeaPass and then SeaPass passes that data to our quoting tool," she explains. "Then we return the quote back through their product."
Comparative raters have been very popular among agents in personal lines for several years, notes Scott, who says that popularity now is starting to cross over into the small-commercial lines space. While SeaPass represents Liberty Mutual Agency Markets' first true commercial lines comparative rater, it is not the carrier's predominant quoting tool in commercial lines. "Our proprietary commercial lines quoting tool is very robust, and we're able to quote multiple lines of business," Scott details. "The SeaPass tool is limited to four lines of business."
In the future, real-time quoting through agency management systems could become an even bigger priority for Liberty Mutual Agency Markets, Scott acknowledges. "Much of what we're hearing from the agency [side] is that they really want their staff, in particular their CSRs [customer service reps] and producers, to be able to spend their time within their agency management systems so that they are capturing all the data using a single business process," she relates.
Even as comparative raters continue to grow in popularity, real-time quoting through agency management systems ultimately may be the strategic direction of choice for many forward-thinking agents, Scott suggests. "Those agencies at the higher end of the technology scale prefer this methodology -- it gives the most streamlined and efficient workflow," she contends. "I would envision that as the wave of the future, although certainly not all agencies are at that point yet."