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Commercial Lines Distribution Platforms: Way Beyond Comparative Raters

New SMA Blog by Mark Breading, Partner, Strategy Meets Action

Commercial lines insurers have many options for distribution partners. The world of intermediaries is continuing to expand with many new platforms to connect distributors to carriers. We are frequently being asked by insurers how many distribution platform partners an insurer should have and how to identify the ones that best align to their strategies. Often, the questions are framed as comparative raters, especially since the concept of comparative rating migrated from personal lines over into commercial. Most of the intermediary platforms provide rate-quote-bind capabilities along with the capability to compare rates and coverages across multiple carriers. But many of the platforms provide a richer set of capabilities to improve the entire process for the benefit of agencies, brokers, MGAs, carriers, and others in the ecosystem.

What companies am I talking about? In total, we count around 30 companies that focus on simple or moderate commercial lines risk, ranging from small commercial to mid/market and specialty lines. Prominent names include CoverHound, CoverWallet, Bold Penguin, Tarmika, Talage and many others, plus incumbents like IVANS, Bolt, and Appulate. (The world of placement and trading platforms for very complex risk is a whole different animal, but there are also a number of new players in that space.)

SMA’s recent research report, Commercial Lines Distribution Platforms: Rapidly Evolving Options for Carriers provides insights into the growing stable of distribution platforms with significant capabilities for commercial lines. A companion report profiling each of the individual companies identified in this report is scheduled for release in May.

Let me now answer two of the most common questions we have been getting from insurers working on distribution strategies:

Question #1. How many distribution platform partners should we connect to?

Answer #1. It depends, but the answer is probably not just one.

Question #2. How should we select the best partners?

Answer #2. This should be based on a number of factors, including the lines covered, robustness of specific functional capabilities, platforms your agents are already connected to, and the business model, among other factors.

Of course, there are many other considerations related to distribution strategies. Should we pursue a digital brand and/or direct strategy to move into new markets? Or even to compete in markets where we already have a presence? What enhanced tech capabilities should we be providing to our distributor community to attract more submissions that match our appetite? What are the best approaches to managing channel conflict? What are the best options and solutions to enable a true omni-channel environment?

The list could go on, but the main point is that distribution strategies in commercial lines are in play. Many companies are updating or rethinking their strategies to reach preferred segments and drive more profitable business.

For more information on commercial lines distribution strategies, see our recent research report, Commercial Lines Distribution Platforms: Rapidly Evolving Options for Carriers. Also, watch for our upcoming report profiling the distribution platforms in the market (in May) and a new series of reports on the distribution landscape (scheduled for release this summer).

About The Author

Mark Breading, a Partner at Strategy Meets Action, is known for his insights on the future of the insurance industry and innovative uses of technology. Mark consults with insurers and technology companies on forward thinking strategies for success in the digital age. His inventive methods and his ability to incorporate InsurTech and emerging tech into business strategies are unparalleled. Mark also leads SMA’s research program, has overseen the publication of over one hundred research reports, and directed custom research projects for insurer and tech clients. His thought leadership in the areas of InsurTech, emerging technologies, customer experience, and digital strategies has earned him rankings as a “Top Global Influencers in InsurTech” by InsurTech News and Onalytica and a place in the 10 finalists for the “Top Global IoT in Insurance Influencer Award.”

Before joining SMA in 2009, Mark spent 25 years with IBM, where he co-developed IBM’s Account Based Marketing program and led the global project office to implement ABM across all industry verticals worldwide. Mark has held both technical and business roles in sales, consulting, marketing, and business strategy and has advised insurers around the world for almost 30 years.

He is a frequent speaker at industry events; an InsurTech mentor with the Global Insurance Accelerator; and a frequent contributor of articles to Insurance Thought Leadership, Insurance Networking News, LOMA Resource, and many other industry publications.

About SMA

Exclusively serving the insurance industry, Strategy Meets Action (SMA) is an advisory services firm offering retainers, research, consulting, events, and innovation offerings to both insurance companies and solution providers. Learn more about SMA at

SOURCE: Strategy Meets Action (SMA)