REMOVING LIFE’S HEADACHES
EZLynx partners to integrate “Quote & Apply” tool for life insurance
By Christopher W. Cook
I debated a long time between two introductions for this article about life insurance. One took a philosophical “tree of life” approach, while the other discussed how people on the Oxygen network’s show Snapped have their extramarital lovers kill their spouses so they can cash in on the life insurance policy. Two different approaches, one tough decision. It made my head hurt.
While a life insurance policy can be as valuable as property and casualty products, it doesn’t come across to agents as a desirable product from a sales perspective, and is sometimes even referred to as a headache.
“I used to co-own a P-C insurance agency that my grandfather started that was then run by me and other family members,” says Mark Chibbaro, CEO of i Bind iQ, a software company based in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. “I stressed out about trying to write more life insurance because it took hours out of my day to do one application. Now, agents can do this and not change what they do in the course of their daily operations.”
In 2018, Chibbaro’s company partnered with BackNine Insurance and Financial Services, a life insurance- focused agency in Thousand Oaks, California, on a venture to make selling life insurance easier.
“There is a great synergy of skill sets and proprietary technology between the two companies,” says Chibbaro. “i Bind iQ has a skill set for insurance know-how, distribution, and vertical markets in the association affinity space and BackNine has great subject matter expertise and was the developer of the software.
“Chris Cooke (i Bind iQ’s president, and brokerage director at BackNine—not to be confused with the writer of this article) and I worked previously on other projects, which is how this whole thing came together,” Chibbaro adds. “Day to day, Chris is the inside person who connects with all the groups and associations we will work with, where I’m the outside guy.
“My team creates the campaign, the marketing, and the connectivity—meaning what kind of technology is going to be required to make things work, and then Chris and his team see that it’s working from an IT development and tech standpoint.”
With 60 years of enterprise insurance distribution and administration experience between Chibbaro and Cooke, the result of the two companies’ partnership is its “Quote & Apply” product, a multi-carrier consumer-facing quoting and e-application platform for life insurance.
Purchasing life insurance online from a consumer standpoint should be a simple task. But while someone can visit a company’s website, do some research and buy a policy, my mama told me, you better shop around. And then a miracle (see what I did there?) occurred.
The BackNine Quote & Apply product provides a user the ability to shop 24/7 and compare and apply for life insurance from a wide portfolio of life insurance companies with or without agent assistance. For agents, the process occurs seamlessly without interruption to any business processes or flows.
“Whether they’re an insurance agent or a customer, they are able to vet all the carriers seamlessly, vet all the products, figure out what’s right for their or their client’s budget, their life stage or their personal situation and apply,” says Chibbaro. “That previously did not exist. Well, it existed at individual carrier websites, where somebody can go and purchase their product. We’re the first life insurance multi-carrier, client-facing quote and apply tool, all the way through to the application.”
What would this process look like for the everyday consumer?
“So ‘Tom Smith’ clicks on the product link on the agency’s website but doesn’t know anything about life insurance,” Chibbaro explains. “Our process takes him through a tutorial about what term life insurance is and what whole life is. Interestingly, most consumers do know the difference, but they can always go at their leisure without the pressure of a salesperson.
“Tom decides he wants term life insurance. Then all the carriers that we have on our platform load up based upon a sliding bar. For example, he chooses $100,000 worth of term life insurance. He might then decide that he wants to be within a certain budget range, and then the carriers in that range pop up in the order of price.
“But then there will be some other qualifiers, like not wanting to take a blood test, or not wanting to go through advanced underwriting,” he continues. “So if you’re a little weirded out by somebody taking your blood or coming to your house in the days of COVID-19, there’s an option. The system guides the person through the decision process.”
For an agent, after a quote is presented, they can do one of two
things. “With a few more clicks, the agent can send the e-app to the insured and get it into underwriting,” says Chibbaro, “or if they choose not to do it that way they could hit the refer button—we call it White Glove—which comes to us on our end to fill in the application.
“Oftentimes, when people pick underwritten products, they might be asked additional medical questions. Most P-C agents don’t want to deal with that. For a split of the commission, it’ll be thrown back to i Bind iQ to take from there. With White Glove, the application is completed after a brief conversation with the insured.”
White Glove also comes in handy if an agency does not have in-house life insurance expertise.
While the Quote & Apply product has been in the hands of several hundred agencies over the past seven years, it has seen accelerated success over the past two years thanks to its enterprise distribution with companies like EZLynx.
“The partnership with EZLynx was a strategic thought process we had in mind a few years ago,” says Chibbaro. “EZLynx’s quoting software helps an agent search a number of carriers and products for auto/home and business insurance on the P-C side. Our tool does the exact same thing on the life insurance side. That’s what makes it a beautiful marriage.
“We are in the early stages of the relationship and have seen a significant adoption rate by their users. Agents and brokers have been quick to realize this new tool increases their agency’s value and helps them level the playing field and compete with direct writers.”
“We were in the middle of building our EZLynx Connect® integration platform last year when BackNine reached out to us about a partnership, so the timing was fortuitous,” says Derek Armentrout, marketplace product manager at EZLynx. “We were looking for some options in the life insurance space, and BackNine was a good fit in both technology and culture. They could provide us with access to over 50 carriers out of the gate with a single interface.”
The Quote & Apply platform integrates with EZLynx 4, but on its upgraded EZLynx 5 platform, quotes for life insurance are automatically presented with the prefilled information based on existing attributes from the P-C application.
“A customer interested in home and auto quotes is in a buying mood—they already have insurance on their mind,” says Armentrout. “A cross-sell opportunity at this point is so much more powerful than a randomly scheduled email blast. So right at the bottom of the quote results in EZLynx, we show a prompt to get a life quote.
“We also knew that a specific quote would generate more interest than a generic link, so we retrieve a ‘teaser rate’ from BackNine for a sample product based on the applicant’s age, gender, and a few other parameters we already collected as part of their home or auto quote. A prompt like ‘you may be eligible for a 10-year term policy with $500,000 in coverage for as low as $17.20 per month’ is much more tempting than ‘interested in life insurance?’
“If the customer is interested, the agent can follow the link to BackNine’s Quote & Apply to refine the quote, see all the available products, and start the application. All the data we’ve already collected about the applicant is automatically passed along, so the application process is quick and easy.
“Now that we have traction with the integration, we’ve expanded it to Client Center, our customer-facing tool that insureds can use for self-service. An insured can get a quote on their own, and their agent can follow up on the lead and complete the application. And we’ll continue to expand the integration points going forward.”
Both sides agree that the partnership has been successful.
“Comparative life insurance quotes, all within EZLynx, are a great complement to our personal lines rater for home and auto,” says Armentrout. “It makes our product more sticky; agents can service even more of their customers’ needs without having to leave EZLynx. It’s a win for all parties concerned because consumers have access to a useful product and our agents can earn commissions without a lot of extra effort.”
“Culturally, EZLynx is an extra-ordinary company; they’ll do anything to try to help the independent agent,” says Chibbaro. “A day doesn’t go by where we’re not back and forth on try-ing to make the product smoother and easier from a technology standpoint. They are extraordinarily committed to this project.
“To that end, even with the most seamless of all technology, both sides realize that it’s essential to educate agents on what this is,” he adds. “There’s a lot of support on both the EZLynx side and the i Bind iQ side, and we want agents to understand that they can pick up the phone and call for even what they might perceive as the most minute thing.”
What does the future hold in store for the product?
“We’ve gotten a lot of demand from the distribution channels out there to add non-life insurance products to the platform,” says Chibbaro. “We’re looking toward the quasi-health side of things like accident insurance.”
Selling life insurance doesn’t have to be a headache, and adding the coverage to your clients’ insurance package can be a benefit to help you compete for business.
“An agent selling life insurance is now not only competing with a direct writer, but they’re increasing retention,” says Chibbaro. “The more policies you have under one roof, the better off you’re going to be. Clients will be less likely to leave you as their trusted advisor.
“We give the independent agent a way to compete with direct writers by putting the tools in their hands to help them sell life insurance without all the headaches,” he concludes.
AN UPDATE FROM EZLYNX
As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses across the country, EZLynx saw a big impact on both its working environment and its priorities with products.
“Like most companies, we quickly transitioned to working from home in March,” says Derek Armentrout, marketplace product manager at EZLynx. “We already worked in virtual environments, so we had it a lot easier than companies who weren’t as prepared for that kind of shift.
“On the product side, we quickly pivoted to some new priorities to address our agencies’ immediate needs,” he explains. “These fell into two categories: how to help agencies effectively service their customers remotely, and how to bring in more revenue to get through the economic downturn. On the remote-servicing side, we quickly released a new version of Client Center, our self-service portal for insureds. In June, we released some tools to help insureds defer payments and pay online.
“On the revenue side, we’ve expanded our cross-selling integrations to give agents more tools to earn extra commission,” Armentrout adds.
While focusing on the needs of its agencies, EZLynx has also worked on upgrading its products.
“Our big focus lately has been EZLynx 5, our powerful new tech-nology platform for rating and the management system,” says Armentrout. “This simplifies the quoting process with predictive form completion and other tools to save users time. This is currently being rolled out to customers in batches.
“We’re also expanding our work-flow automation tools in Automation Center, with new features added in April plus more coming each quarter this year.”
These upgrades also include product integrations and new partnerships.
“For the past year, we’ve been laying the groundwork for our Connect platform, and now we’re populating it with new integrations,” says Armentrout. “Some of the recent ones include consumer-friendly proposals with Neoteric Agent, integrated online payments with Clearent, simple meeting scheduling with Calendly, and a few add-on products like ADT home security. Look for future integrations with VoIP and communication providers, new sales and CRM systems, and a lot more cross-sell opportunities.”