Our team is good at “doing”. We dream up an idea and in no time, we have it in production.
Marc DeLeonibus is the co-founder and COO of Bold Penguin. With a heavy focus on the agents, Bold Penguin pushes the boundaries of user experience for businesses, an easy tool for agents, and a streamlined process of underwriting for carriers. Founded by a group of entrepreneurs who spent their early days working with Allstate, Nationwide, Progressive, regional carriers and established insurance agencies.
Why did you get into commercial insurance?
I graduated college just in time for the financial crisis of 2008/2009. I took a job in personal finance and I quickly realized selling investment vehicles I didn’t know much about wasn’t for me. However, I did acquire a few great clients that owned businesses and I realized that I enjoyed working with them because they had an asset to protect. Shortly after, a family friend approached me about joining his commercial P&C agency with a great reputation and explained how residual income worked. I was convinced and dove right in.
What inspired you to open your own business?
I become frustrated with how incredibly inefficient the process of buying commercial insurance was—for everyone. Businesses didn’t have time for multiple meetings, phone calls, and hand-filled applications. And all that for multiple agents if you wanted a comparison. I refused to believe that paper applications, back-and-forth email, fax machines (yeah, those still exist), and countless phone calls to underwriters just to get a proposal to a customer was the most efficient way.
Besides inefficiencies, I was tired of seeing businesses covered incorrectly and spending more than they needed to because they just didn’t know the options. The insurance shopping process was too cumbersome and some businesses put it off altogether.
So, I created my own startup—a place where businesses could upload information into an “inventory” and have the top agents in their industry compete for their business.
How we came together is a story all its own. Along this journey I’ve realized that there are a lot of people that talk about ideas, but never act on them. I was better off joining a team than trying to conquer commercial insurance on my own. Ilya Bodner, Pablo Conde, and the others are the reason I joined. Our team is good at “doing”. We dream up an idea and in no time, we have it in production. Some ideas stick and some don’t. But we’re not shy about trying.
The vision for BoldPenguin solves every inefficiency that I found in commercial insurance while I was an agent. Everything from finding a customer at the right time to getting through underwriting faster. BoldPenguin solves it in one, beautiful product.
What has changed and what progress has been made in the last three years?
As with most companies, a lot has changed from my original vision to where we are today. For us, data has been the biggest piece to ensuring a quality experience. Businesses don’t want to talk to every agent—they want to talk to the right agent. Not only are the agents and businesses our focus, but carriers too. We’re now able to match the ideal carrier for the agent to use. This helps complete the transaction and close the loop. This is super exciting to me because we now have a single system that the commercial agent can use for the entire customer life cycle.
The part of our business that I’m most proud of is our verification team. We implemented this team a little over a year ago and it’s been the single best improvement to our process so far. Our fantastic team vets and verifies every business that comes to our platform looking for insurance. Once we verify their intent, we collect a few data points and transfer that risk to a matching agent – a process that gets better and better with machine learning. We have found that speed-to-quote is the biggest factor in a successful close for the agent. The verified transfer coupled with all the data, and the indication of which carrier to use is a lethal weapon in the hand of the agent.
What do you see for the future of commercial insurance?
In my eyes, the future of commercial insurance is driven by data. We can use all the information we have on businesses today—both through internal collection and integrations with third party sources—in an organized and meaningful matter to suggest certain types of actions. This doesn’t just include underwriting. It goes all the way to the agency itself. Yes, technology will replace many of the functions the CSRs perform now in most agencies, but the agent’s role will morph. They’ll be less of a salesperson and more focused on being a trusted advisor who can make recommendations based on the tools that are available.
There’s a lot of noise in commercial insuretech. Who do you see as the leaders?
I love what Insurify is doing right now. They allow customers to take a photo of their license plate and get a car insurance quote. How cool is that? The insurance industry has unnecessarily over-complicated things for decades. I like simple technology that works.
Now that you’ve joined BoldPenguin, what are you enjoying most about your role as COO?
I like that I’m involved in everything we do to some degree. I get to put my fingerprints on every aspect of what BoldPenguin is building. Although it’s not always perfect, it’s so rewarding when it all comes together in unison.
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Bold Penguin on Twitter: @bold_penguin
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.