Order anything on the menu – the AdvantageGo Ecosystem
AdvantageGo and Zywave featured on the Voice of Insurance podcast, to discuss the two firms’ commitment to work together as part of the expanding AdvantageGo Ecosystem.
The AdvantageGo Ecosystem, represented by two of its senior leaders, has featured in a special episode of the Voice of Insurance Podcast.
Ian Summers, global business leader at AdvantageGo, was joined by Jeff Cohen, Zywave’s senior vice president of sales, to explain not just what these two insurance technology companies offer, but what the broader ecosystem offers to clients.
Summers explained the theory behind the AdvantageGo Ecosystem, with more firms joining up to contribute “best of breed components” to a value proposition collectively stronger than the sum of its parts.
“It’s becoming ever more complicated to underwrite business, with lots of components you need to pull together. One of the things I was trying to achieve is to simplify that in a secure and safe environment for our clients,” he said.
The challenge facing underwriters in today’s market, navigating digital transformation and trying to gain an edge through better underwriting decision-making, is akin to assembling a complicated and rather expensive jigsaw puzzle, Summers suggested.
“That’s becoming more and more complex with the variety of specialist insurtechs that are coming out with little niche solutions, which are absolutely brilliant on their own,” he said.
“But if you try and pull them in as a client, suddenly you have to be an integration expert, or you need to be constantly looking to find the right solutions to reach your problems – we try to help solve that problem.”
For Summers, this has meant finding the top service providers in a variety of niches, from particular applications, data sources or consultative products that can advise, feed or inform AdvantageGo’s flagship product, its Underwriting workbench.
These alliances are carefully considered to offer complementary products. And by presenting a wide menu of options, clients can reduce the number of insurtech integration projects and service provider relationships to manage.
“We’ve taken the time and invested in pre-integrating and building those connections,” Summers said. “If customers want, we can make the framework to engage simpler, by having a contract – one throat to choke, if you like – whereby we take the risk of a new startup or clever technology shop, bring that in-house, and front that on behalf of that client.”
Zywave is by no means a new startup. The company has evolved over time. Yet it provides a great example of complementary products and services that add to the ecosystem, as the two companies have no desire to launch products that would compete like for like.
Host Mark Geoghegan asked Cohen, in true journalist style, “if approached at the bar”, how he would sum up what Zywave does.
“We’re helping insurance agents and brokers sell more insurance, and we’re trying to help insurance carriers to write more profitably,” he said.
Zywave is perhaps best known for providing insights for US brokers and agents to use with clients. The technology firm itself grew out of an insurance broker, the Frank Haack & Associates brokerage in Milwaukee in the late 1990s.
By 2020, with a new private equity owner, Clearlake Capital, Zywave began to acquire companies and build revenues, including Advisen, of which Cohen was president at the time. Among the acquisitions has been ClarionDoor, a provider of insurance product distribution software that supports standalone rating processes for multiple lines of business for insurers and MGAs.
This is what led Zywave towards the AdvantageGo Ecosystem.
“In building the ecosystem we’ve been looking at the key gaps in the value chain, and that’s where Zywave came in,” Summers said. “It was very obvious, early on, that there were a couple of areas where Zywave were standout performers.”
Cohen came to similar conclusions from his time at Advisen and now Zywave.
“What we learned at Advisen was ultimately that we couldn’t boil the ocean; we needed to focus on a very few specific things that we could do well, and now, here at Zywave, we focus on perhaps a slightly larger list, but still only a few things that we’re front runners in,” he said.
Summers picked this up, noting the utility of ClarionDoor in particular.
“The area that stood out was the rating in the US the knowledge of the ISO [Insurance Services Office] forms, pre-built into the ClarionDoor solution. With our Underwriting front end, we can call that pricing and rating tool, and get the answers back to the underwriter,” he said.
“Those years of experience mean faster to market for a client to onboard a solution. It’s about bringing that knowledge and experience into the E&S [excess and surplus] market, it’s not the same, but it’s the same sort of data. And then that’s one step more into the UK specialty market,” Summers added.
Zywave also brings to the table a wealth of cyber loss event data.
“On top of the rate quote, bind approach, we come to the table with a tremendous amount of loss event data in certain silos, which has a profound ability to impact an underwriter’s decision-making process, because you’re looking at other comparable awful things have happened,” Cohen said.
Zywave has been working for two decades on a loss event database, researching records in the public domain, such as SEC filings and jury verdicts, he explains.
“This has become a liturgy on all the awful things that happen to companies, low frequency, high severity examples of what could go wrong, and how big that error is. And as it turns out, in the insurance space, human beings are very creative at getting into trouble,” Cohen adds.