How to Make Insurance More Accessible to the Smallest Businesses

Coterie Insurance’s Ray Lynch and Bold Penguin’s Karnina Szymanski on Making Insurance Work for the Smallest of Businesses


Using technology to help connect insurers with small business owners looking for coverage is at the core of what Bold Penguin does, and it’s also the mission of Coterie Insurance -- one of the newest additions to Bold Penguin’s commercial insurance Exchange. 

Coterie Insurance develops APIs that allow commercial insurance technology to be integrated into the online platforms that small businesses already use, enabling access to coverage to be made available when and where it’s most convenient for business owners.

Amber Wuollet, Bold Penguin’s Director of Marketing, recently sat down to talk about the new partnership with Ray Lynch, Coterie’s VP of Growth, and Karnina Szymanski, the President of Insurance at Bold Penguin. 

Amber: Ray, what is Coterie Insurance’s role in the insurance industry?

Ray: What Coterie Insurance is trying to do is provide a simpler solution to help place really small commercial business. I’m talking about the really small end of small commercial as a whole. That’s where there’s still a lot of friction in the market without much return, and it’s where data can be leveraged to provide a much more straight-through underwriting process. With that smaller size, you have the option to underwrite a little bit differently, because the exposures are not nearly as large on that end. We want to make that risk transfer a very efficient process that allows an agent, broker, or one of our partners that has great touchpoints to small business customers to quote and bind as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible. That’s really what the core of Coterie’s mission is. Because, ultimately, the small business owners are getting served better because they’re not being forced to go through a lengthy process with complicated applications and questions. They’re able to get their insurance where they want to get it, when they need it, and as quickly as possible. 

Amber: We’re certainly aligned around that goal. Small businesses don’t have it easy in any course of their operations, but insurance can be particularly tough for them.

Ray: They just don’t have the time. To dedicate a week to finding insurance -- I can’t imagine that as a great use of a small business owner’s time. 

Amber: So why is the digital insurance shopping experience so beneficial for small businesses and insurance agencies?

Ray: I might start to sound like a broken record here when I talk about efficiency, but that’s the key. I think with the amount of data and information on businesses becoming more and more readily available today, we don’t need to be asking an agent to identify things like construction type, roof type, or some of these other property-related questions, for instance. There are great databases and records kept on all these buildings that will help us or services that will leverage satellites to get that information. So, we can pull in all that information, which then allows the agent to go and do what they do best, which is, one, build a relationship with that person and, two, provide advice. So, it becomes less about collecting a bunch of information on a business just to get quotes. The quoting process becomes very straightforward, which provides customers with the assurance and comfort that they’re getting what they need, and allows our agents to move from that price-keeper model to a more consultant-type, value-added model. I’ll go to Kayak to buy a plane ticket from New York to Cincinnati, but if I’m going on a safari, I’m going to want someone who can help me understand who the better vendors are and how to get the best experience. It’s the same principle.

Karnina: I’d piggyback on everything Ray just said because that efficiency that occurs for the agent passes down to the small business owner in so many ways. As Ray mentioned, the idea of spending that week to get an answer and then an actual bound policy -- the customer feels that very intimately. They’re just trying to run their business and earn their living, not wait for a week to find out if they have the proper coverage to cover the assets that mean so much to them. So, I think that efficiency pays off for the agent directly, but in a lot of ways, it indirectly trickles down, making that digital transformation better for every player that’s part of that workflow, but especially the small business owner. Thinking about some of the data Ray was talking about, I remember being on both the agency side and the underwriting side, and the accuracy of that information is sometimes limited even just to dialogue the agent is running back and forth trying to get from the customer -- a small business owner -- who just wants to run their business, and doesn’t necessarily want to have to figure out when their roof was built or when the upgrades were done to the plumbing of a space they’re renting. So, thanks to the improved accuracy, the data that we’re collecting on the small business owner leads to better profitability for the agent because they have to be really efficient in making the smallest of small business coverage as quick, easy, and low-touch as possible. And then there are also fewer surprises in pricing for the customer when you have accurate information and not just what the customer can gather or guesstimate for the agent. 

Amber: I love that focus on the small business and agency experience together -- being two sides of the same coin. 

Ray: Exactly. Agencies are small businesses -- at least the predominant ones we interact with are. And they don’t have the time or staff to be running down information for every single customer that walks in their door.

Amber: Absolutely. So, Ray, why Bold Penguin as an integration partner?

Ray:  The mission we’ve been working towards here at Coterie Insurance is that we want to make sure our product is available wherever our agents and small business owners want to transact insurance. Being built on APIs allows us to do that, and Bold Penguin was a clear no-brainer for us in terms of the amazing work you guys have done in the industry over the last couple of years to build that community of agents that are looking for a better, more efficient way to solve the challenge of small commercial. Those are the agencies that we want to work with. Those are the agencies that Coterie’s positioning and Coterie’s value proposition resonates with even more because they’re already looking for efficiency and change, and to move away from their old processes into something better. 

Amber: Karnina, how will Coterie Insurance be integrated into the Bold Penguin Exchange?

Karnina: We started our relationship by integrating Coterie’s business-owners package, general liability, and professional liability product lines onto our Agent Terminal, and that makes Coterie one of the broadest product suites Bold Penguin has to date on the terminal. So, we’re very excited to be able to help agents completely fill out their customers’ insurance needs. We see this as an opportunity for agents who are already working with Coterie to get access to a one-stop-shop environment, but we also see it as a way we can help expand the Coterie family to get more agencies to sign up for them and gain additional market access through our Terminal. 

Ray: The best partnerships are mutually beneficial partnerships, so we both get to grow our distribution together, which is always a great thing. 

Karnina: Absolutely. Our synergy is very clear. With the sophistication of Bold Penguin’s APIs and our ability to integrate really quickly and really have a very powerful product offering for the agents -- I think that we’re going to be able to continue extending Coterie’s offerings on the rest of Bold Penguin’s platforms and continue growing together. 

Amber: On that note, what does the future look like for the Bold Penguin-Coterie Insurance partnership?

Karnina: The Bold Penguin ecosystem is very broad. We have the independent agent terminal that we’re starting off with, and we have partnerships with large brokerages and carriers with platforms in the Bold Penguin ecosystem. But we also have partnerships with some non-insurance strategic players that are distributors from fintech to payroll services to retail operations who are seeking insurance. With the sophistication of Coterie’s APIs, I see this as a way to continue to embed Coterie’s products elsewhere in our ecosystem and make that integration available to more of the Bold Penguin universe. 

Ray: I would definitely agree. We have an opportunity to deepen this relationship much further. The Agent Terminal integration is a great place to start, and now that we’ve got these integrations complete, it’s more about figuring out how we bring awareness of Bold Penguin and what we can offer together to all the agents that we’re working with and trying to sign up. It’s about building on some of these mutually beneficial strategic-type partnerships that we’re either currently working with or have a desire to work with, and working together to provide that turnkey solution that they’re looking for.

Bold Penguin and Coterie officially announced their new partnership on July 19th, 2021, and Coterie’s BOP, GL, and PL products are already available to agents using Bold Penguin Terminal, with more integrations to come. 

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