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NEWMemberSpotlight-Feature (9)

Zywave: driving digital distribution

InsTech’s Henry Gale speaks to Jason Liu, CEO of Zywave about trends in digital distribution, generative AI, partnerships and connectivity.

Member Spotlight: Zywave

Could you introduce Zywave?

Zywave is an insurance software company that focuses on the front office – how insurers and brokers acquire new customers, deliver quotes and service their customers and clients. Zywave provides cloud-based, proprietary datasets, customer acquisition and marketing automation tools, and client service solutions for insurance. Zywave has around 15,000 brokers and 1,000 insurers worldwide as clients. The company has doubled in size in the last two years, with now more than 1,000 employees.

What is your role at Zywave?

I joined Zywave more than five years ago, having run other large-scale software companies around the world. In my view, the insurance industry is about five years behind other industries in adopting sales and marketing best practices. As CEO of Zywave, I am focused on applying my experience in other industries to help our broker and insurer clients acquire new customers and manage their distribution.

What does ‘digital distribution’ mean to you?

Too often, the distribution strategies of insurers, MGAs and brokers are solely focused on closing deals and setting up renewals. Digital distribution involves more than that. It is about creating a digital relationship with customers or distribution partners that adds value. That requires more than just a portal for providing quotes and sharing policy information. Companies should consider how they can support their customers digitally at all stages of the purchase experience. One example is providing automated tools and advice to help customers mitigate risks.

Where has the insurance industry made the most progress towards digital distribution?

Europe, and particularly the UK, is generally ahead of the US in achieving digital distribution for personal lines insurance. Customer acquisition is commonly done through digital aggregators. Quotes are provided and policies are bound online.

Although it is still early days for digital distribution in the US, digital quoting has become more prevalent recently. Zywave has seen a 15% increase in its quote volume in the US this year. Although the trend in personal lines insurance in the US is towards more online quoting, the customer experience remains disjointed. Customers compare quotes manually and insurers end up phoning them to close the business.

Across the board, there is still a lot of progress to be made in serving customers digitally after policies have been bound.

Digital distribution for commercial insurance is more nascent. Europe is also ahead in providing quotes online for small commercial insurance, but the difference with the US is not as dramatic. For larger companies, insurance distribution remains a highly manual process.

What digital distribution trends are you expecting in the future?

People are accustomed to online customer experiences in other sectors, such as banking and travel. It is only a matter of time before personal lines insurance follows suit. In the UK, many personal lines digital aggregators are expanding to small commercial insurance.

For more complex lines of business, there are now pockets of automation in distribution workflows. For example, the process for MGAs and wholesale brokers placing business with insurers is starting to be automated. Zywave has created a marketplace for wholesale brokers and MGAs to connect with insurers.

How is Zywave helping insurers, MGAs and brokers adopt digital distribution?

One example is the prospecting database Zywave operates in the US, with information about nearly 5 million employers. The information in the database includes contact information, insurance information – such as renewal dates, the organisation’s broker and its commission – and risk information – such as Department of Transportation violations, Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations and distance from a fire hydrant. Brokers can use this database to target customers, while insurers can use it to target brokers.

Zywave’s data offerings also include loss history information. Brokers can use this to upsell to their clients: for example, by highlighting that similar companies have experienced large losses recently, so the client should increase their coverage. Loss history information is also useful for prospecting (because companies with recent large losses are more likely to change insurer) and underwriting.

The next area is quoting, issuing and binding policies. For commercial, E&S, benefits and personal lines insurance, Zywave’s clients quote around $100 billion USD in premium annually through the platform. Zywave’s tool ClarionDoor provides brokers and digital aggregators with comparative rates from different insurers. ClarionDoor also helps insurers and MGAs roll out new products or make pricing changes.

Zywave also provides a client portal to insurers and brokers. This includes educational resources to help clients in areas such as conducting sexual harassment training, managing compliance, improving cybersecurity or mitigating other risks. Insurers and brokers are increasingly offering this service to their clients.

How else does Zywave help insurers manage their distribution relationships with brokers?

As well as using the prospecting database to target brokers, insurers can also benefit from the content management system Zywave provides to brokers. Insurers can supply content about their own products into the system, so that all the brokers using Zywave’s content library have access to up-to-date product information. Previously, to find this information, brokers would have needed to communicate with their account manager or download content from a portal, which they rarely did. With Zywave’s content management system, insurers can provide their product information in the systems that brokers are already using every day, resulting in direct, targeted communication between insurers and brokers.

What is ‘open architecture’ and how does it relate to Zywave?

When I started working in the insurance industry, I was shocked at the proprietary mindset of vendors. Outside of insurance, technology companies commonly open their platforms to integrate effectively with others; this practice is known as ‘open architecture’. In contrast, historically, large companies providing insurance systems were almost holding their customers hostage by making integrations difficult.

When I joined Zywave, I was determined to change that, so that data would flow more freely between the different systems that organisations use. Now most of what Zywave develops is API-based and can be integrated with other applications, including all policy administration systems and CRMs. We are now starting to see other insurance systems providers doing this too.

It is only a matter of time before all systems are fully integrated and employees never need to rekey information between systems. Already, more brokers and insurers are taking this into their own hands by building data lakes that extract information from several applications.

How is Zywave using generative AI in its products?

Zywave started integrating AI into its platform early on and has been updating it with recent developments in generative AI. Already two of our live products involve OpenAI’s ChatGPT. In each case, there is a human in the loop.

For example, Zywave provides content to help brokers send marketing emails. This content is related to different industries, regulations, safety and other areas. It has all been reviewed and approved by Zywave’s team of market analysts and attorneys. Now ChatGPT is embedded in Zywave’s marketing automation systems, so that brokers do not need to type emails themselves, but they are generated automatically using this content, along with the customer profiles that are already in the system. The company reviews the generated content and adapts it to their own voice before sending it out. This increases the quantity of personalised marketing emails brokers can send out.

Another part of Zywave’s business provides human resources (HR) advice as a service. Brokers or insurers can offer this service to their clients as a value-add. This advice is provided in an online chat with our HR professionals, including attorneys. We have trained ChatGPT on previous conversations from the online chat and it now automatically suggests a response to each incoming message, which our HR professionals review before sending out.

What clients and partners does Zywave work with?

Zywave has 15,000 broker customers, including all of the top 100 brokers in the US. Zywave’s 1,000 insurer customers include 35 of the top 50 insurers. Zywave also works with two thirds of the managing agents in the London Market, with 30% of all transactions in the London Market going through Zywave’s systems.

One of Zywave’s recent partnerships is with Salesforce. One trend we see is that traditional agency management systems will be increasingly marginalised, with more brokers now using Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics as their primary customer relationship management system. Zywave is helping brokers do this by connecting its applications with Salesforce and Dynamics, enabling data to flow seamlessly through the broker’s tech stack.

Why has Zywave joined InsTech as a corporate member?

InsTech provides a powerful platform for Zywave to communicate our brand’s vision to a relevant audience, while also connecting us with industry professionals we can learn from, ultimately helping us create even more relevant and valuable products for our customers. It has been a great partnership so far.

What sort of companies would you like to connect with and how can they get in touch with you?

Zywave would like to connect with insurers, MGAs and brokers that are interested in digital distribution. To learn more about Zywave, please contact Fay Reinhold-Shor, Regional Manager, at 07802 886353 or [email protected].

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