Kevin Kerridge has been with
Hiscox Insurance for nearly two
decades and helped establish the insurer’s direct-to-consumer offering
in the UK in the late 1990s. In 2009,
Kerridge was asked to come to the
U.S. and scout the opportunity to
offer its commercial lines products
directly to small businesses.
“I was amazed at what I saw,”
says Kerridge, who is head of small
business for the U.S. operation,
Hiscox Small Business. “America
is ahead of Europe in so many different things, but for some reason with small business insurance
it was literally five years behind the UK. In the UK, if you are a
small business and have an insurance need you don’t go to an
agent, you go on the web or phone one of the insurers direct.
Within three months of arriving in the U.S. and recruiting
a team, Kerridge was ready to replicate Hiscox’s UK model and
launched the direct business at the end of 2010. But Kerridge
points out, that’s just where the story started.
At that time, Bolt Insurance was one of the first agencies to
launch an online service in the small business space, making
Bolt and Hiscox competitors.
“We would watch each other quite closely because we were the
only two games in town in terms of online territory,” says Kerridge.
Bolt also offers a technology platform to assist in the distribution of policies. So, while Bolt and Hiscox were competing, they
also were plugging into different types of distribution opportunities. Kerridge realized his company wasn’t as good at this
technology component as Bolt was.
“[Bolt] was very nimble in terms of taking what we built in-
ternally and plugging it into their system so our direct products
could access their distribution,” he says. “It took the investment
we made in direct and was the start of plugging into different
opportunities. We are now starting to leverage that direct plat-
form into our agent distribution. Agents can access small direct
products on the back of the platform we built back in 2010.”
While many insurers once considered commercial lines too
complicated to offer online, Kerridge points out Hiscox has a
Golden Rule about writing direct.
“In the direct space, do not think like an insurance compa-
ny,” he says. “You have to think like a retail brand. Apart from
underwriters, we tend to not recruit people from the insurance
industry when it comes to technology and marketing. To be
successful in this space you have to think like a marketing and
technology business that happens to be in insurance.”
Hiscox publishes customer ratings on its home page. Ker-
ridge points out consumers expect that from Amazon and other
retailers, but don’t ordinarily see from an insurance carrier.
In addition, when Hiscox opened its U.S. business in 2010,
underwriters were told to not take the 100-question application
typically used in the broker channel and stick it on the web as is.
“We had to get it down to 25 questions or less,” says Ker-
ridge. “Also, we had to challenge any questions that were too
complex. I’m an ex-underwriter and I would have a hard time
explaining some of these terms. We don’t want to ask questions
around things like a retroactive date because customers have no
idea what it means and we would lose them before we started.
We had to find a way to build something that would give them
all the coverage they want. The message was to simplify the
The Bolt solution took the Hiscox online service and en-
abled integration with the Hiscox website so when a consumer
goes to boltinsurance.com, the business consumer would enter
their data and the Bolt system would return price and terms
and bind the policy through the Hiscox direct line.
“It was an opportunity to get our online products and
services out,” says Kerridge. “They did a nice job of integrating
the technology without a lot of input from us. The Bolt platform
enables us to sell more of our product through the Bolt distri-
bution channel. The level of success for us has been measured
through sales, which have been pretty healthy.”
Hiscox offers its product in 40 states and Kerridge reports
the insurer will soon be in all states.
“It opens our eyes into what is possible in terms of taking
our investment in this direct online platform and integrate that
with distribution partners,” he says. “What’s coming down the
pike that excites me is a major shift toward portal-type solutions
in the business insurance space. It’s immature at the moment,
but in the next five years I believe portal technology will transform the way agents place their business and access business.
For us, because we have strong focus on technology, we’re well-placed for that.” ITA
Competitors No More
With a little help from its old rivals, Hiscox expands its distribution options
for small business products.