Ecosystem Q&A: Zywave’s Rob Stavrou and AdvantageGo’s Ian Summers
As part of a series of ongoing interviews with AdvantageGo’s Ecosystem partners, David Benyon spoke with Rob Stavrou, Zywave’s group Vice President for Carrier Sales, and Ian Summers, AdvantageGo’s Global Business Leader, about how and why their Ecosystem partnership came about.
Rob, what brought your two organisations together?
Rob Stavrou: “We have so many joint clients, it’s beneficial to work on those integrations, to go to the client with a joined-up and best-of-breed solution, rather than individual products.”
“Ian and I used to work together. When I joined ClarionDoor, around the time that Ian was starting at AdvantageGo, I knew we’d work well together, because we share a common goal of making things work better for the client. That’s how the conversation began.
“We were selling our rating solutions successfully in the US, and expanding into London. Meanwhile, I know AdvantageGo has been successful in London and looking to expand in the US, so this seemed a good fit for both firms, as well as creating a better solution for clients and the market as a whole, working beyond each of our individual products.”
Rob, please provide some introduction to your role at Zywave and ClarionDoor.
Rob Stavrou: “Zywave has been in the broker market for nearly 30 years, with around 15,000 broker clients. What they’ve been trying to do in the past few years is grow their influence within the carrier market. To that end, Zywave has made a series of key acquisitions: including software, such as ClarionDoor; Advisen, for loss data and content that can be distributed between the carriers and brokers.
“Which is where my role comes in. I’ve always been focused on the carrier market, after more than two decades in the London market at several software houses working with large carriers. I came over to the US four years ago, first in New Jersey and now based at company HQ in Wisconsin, to spearhead the drive into the carrier market and help grow that business.
“We’re strong on carriers and MGAs at ClarionDoor. We’ve created a successful MGA hub at ClarionDoor, where the distribution connects carriers and MGAs together, and that fits very well into the AdvantageGo Ecosystem, because AdGo has such a strong Underwriting workbench for the carrier market, but that should ideally also involve distribution to the MGAs.”
That’s what we’re doing with workbench, to create a much better way of people being able to see and understand their risks more quickly and more efficiently, to make better business decisions, which should flow through the carrier to MGA distribution layer.”
Ian, so is this a win-win for all parties: an alliance through which AdGo, Zywave, and shared clients among the carriers and MGAs all stand to gain?
Ian Summers: “Our focus is on delivering the best we can for our clients – in certain areas. That involves a realistic choice when you start out to be most effective: between doing everything from A to Z; or to focus on a limited number of areas in which you want to be the number one provider. It’s clear that we’ve chosen the second option, limiting the number of areas we want to focus on.
“That involves building on our existing Exact, Exact Max and Navigator propositions, for a defined client base, while our main focus for expansion is going to be on building the Underwriting workbench. There are lots of add-ons to Underwriting workbench that we could begin to build outwards in different directions, but why would we want to do that if it distracts us?
“The real value is connecting the Underwriting workbench with things like Zywave and ClarionDoor, through the Ecosystem, and ClarionDoor has more than established itself in the US as a best-of-breed market leader. This way, we’re working with the best-of-breed partners without having to develop everything for ourselves. If we can work collaboratively – and as Rob said, we know each other and we’ve worked well together in the past – then we can come together for the benefit of the client.
“There are three main strands to this. Firstly, it allows us to focus on building a market leading platform. Secondly, it allows us to provide our client with a more sticky solution, so they can come to us and we can introduce our partners, collectively providing more of an end-to-end solution. And thirdly, it’s not just sticky for us, it’s providing the customer with a more enhanced solution. When you add all of those strands together and I think the Ecosystem represents a ‘win, win, win’ proposition; it’s a win for us, it’s a win for our partners needs; and it’s a win for our clients.”
Rob, do you see things the same way from your side?
Rob Stavrou: “I’d like to add that I think the culture between our two organisations will benefit the client. We share AdGo’s pragmatic approach to rolling out the Underwriting workbench. At ClarionDoor, the key thing is speed of market and getting benefit to clients quickly. We see other huge rating projects that take several years to deliver benefits. Our approach is API led, which I know is the same at AdGo, to distribute products to the market quickly.
“To echo some of Ian’s points, we are highly focused and have no plans to try and duplicate what AdGo is doing. At ClarionDoor, we’ve got proximately 100 clients in the US; we are niche rating experts, and that’s what we want to continue to be. I would also echo the point about the US, where we share joint clients with AdvantageGo in London. What we’re doing now through the Ecosystem is joining these dots together, and by working together, we’re going to make things much easier for the client.”
We also know that there are hundreds more carriers out there that we don’t yet work with. By connecting through the AdGo Ecosystem, we provide a broader solution, and we know that Underwriting workbench represents a really hot topic in the industry, with a lot of people looking at solutions, stuck with legacy software, and trying to get the maximum use from it, without replacing everything, but through integrating systems, maximising what they’ve got and turn it into something they can use more efficiently. By working with AdGo on these opportunities, we expect to get to get new clients.”
And lastly, what stage have we reached in terms of rollout?
Rob Stavrou: “We have taken the first steps to prove it works. We have created a demo environment, completed the base-level integration between the two companies, and proven that the APIs communicate well with each other, which we knew they would. We are now actively demonstrating the solution to joint clients and looking forward to successfully rolling out to the broader market.”