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A new attitude

The Network of Vertafore Users—rebranded and revitalized

By Nancy Doucette

There’s a new kid in the agency technology ranks. Well, it’s not exactly new.

The new kid is NetVU™—The Network of Vertafore Users. But in fact, it’s an organization that was 30 years in the making.

At The AMS Users’ Group Conference held last month in Nashville, executives of the user group, which traces its roots back to 1978, unveiled the organization’s new brand identity—new name, new tagline, new logo. But as NetVU CEO Brady Polansky, CPCU, CIC, points out, “This is not just a fresh coat of paint on the walls. We have a new attitude.”

Part of the new attitude, he says, comes with acknowledging that more than $100 billion in business is processed through Vertafore systems—and that the user group now represents more than 15,000 agencies. “That’s influence,” he declares. (Also noteworthy, Polansky says, is that by NetVU’s tally, two-thirds of the 2009 Rough Notes Marketing Agencies of the Month use Vertafore products to run their businesses.)

Polansky says that NetVU is actively leveraging that influence to gain greater efficiencies and create greater opportunities for its members. While the group continues in its original mission to help users through education and networking, it has enhanced its focus on advocacy.

“We’re very focused on tackling those issues that directly affect independent agency profitability—real time, data security, customer privacy and standards,” says Polansky. “We work in conjunction with other groups, such as ACT and AUGIE, and directly with carriers and Vertafore. We’re doing more than communicating concerns; we’re leading with solutions.”

Image assessment

Polansky recalls that shortly after he joined the user group in August 2008, he hired Aartrijk, a firm specializing in brand evaluation and strategy, to determine how the association was projecting itself to its members and industry organizations.

Maureen Wall Bentley, executive vice president of brand strategy for Aartrijk, notes that events such as a change in leadership often spark an interest in an image assessment or brand audit. “It’s easier to get where you’re going if you know where you’re starting from,” she observes.

As part of its Image Assessment, Aartrijk evaluated multiple “touch points,” including the user group’s marketing materials, collateral and Web site—as well its name, logo and tagline. Says Bentley, “Organizations should look at their brand identity as if it were an employee and ask themselves: ‘Is it pulling its weight? Is it doing what it’s supposed to be doing for you?’”

For The AMS Users’ Group, the short answer was “no.”

One of the early recommendations that Aartrijk made to the user group board was that the organization change its name to something that leverages its strengths in the areas of education, advocacy and networking.

Within months of the board receiving this recommendation, Vertafore (formerly AMS Holding Group) renamed AMS Services as Vertafore Agency Markets and launched its “One Vertafore” reorganization and rebranding initiative. (See “Connecting the Dots” in the June 2009 issue of Rough Notes.)

The user group board, under the leadership of then-President Jim Armitage, CPCU, AAI, concluded that the time was right for The AMS Users’ Group to undertake its own rebranding initiative. “With the name ‘AMS Services’ going away, it wouldn’t make sense for us to retain The AMS Users’ Group moniker,” Armitage recalls.

The board created a Brand Identity Task Force with California agent Stephen Moriyama acting as chair. The sole job for the task force was to come up with a new name for the user group.

Once the new name was decided upon, the board needed to create a tagline that better communicates what the association does. The new tagline—“Empowering agency success”—reflects the association’s leadership role in the industry, Armitage points out. The new logo’s stylized “thought bubbles” highlights the organization’s focus on communicating—with one another, with Vertafore and with the industry, he explains.

Carl Schlotman III, CPCU, CIC, took the reins as president of NetVU at the Nashville Conference. “We’re focused on a more cohesive strategic direction,” he states. “It’s an exciting time for us.”

Growth spurt

As a result of the One Vertafore initiative, NetVU became the association for all of Vertafore’s agency-facing products. Whereas in the past the association served the users of Vertafore’s management systems, with the vendor’s reorgan-ization last year, NetVU now serves the users of Vertafore’s content management and workflow systems, its connectivity and rating solutions, its information services, its producer lifecycle management/compliance tool, and its policy administration and billing systems.

“This really opens up our marketplace,” Polansky states. “It adds 50% more unique agencies to our membership base.”

That’s great news, Schlotman says. “NetVU now has a larger pool of talent to pull from,” he says, which ties in well with the association’s goal of broadening its networking opportunities. “We want to get more people involved—whether it’s at the chapter level or the committee level. It ends up helping the industry when more people ‘catch the bug’ and develop a passion for helping each other out,” he states.

“A big piece of my vision as president of NetVU is to create meaningful networking opportunities—the major one being Conference. We’re also exploring how we can bring more vitality to the chapters and increase the educational offerings. I want to make sure the 22- to 30-year-olds who are new to the industry find these offerings beneficial so they can create the changes in their agencies that move those businesses forward.

“We’re going to reach out by way of Facebook or LinkedIn. We want to be responsive in that environment,” Schlotman says.

Armitage is also pleased with the expanded membership base. Among his responsibilities as immediate past president is to chair the Leadership Development Committee. “We used to have a Nominating Committee that met just before Conference,” he explains. “That wasn’t enough. Identifying good people for committees and recruiting volunteers for the board is a year-round endeavor.”

Additionally, he will maintain his involvement with National Conference and NetVU’s other educational offerings. At Conference, he notes, “We offer numerous ‘how to’ labs where agency staff can sit down with Vertafore representatives to resolve technology issues they’re having in their offices.”

Education will continue to be available via Webinars. “We have lots of options,” Armitage points out. “Social networking is beneficial as well. Our eCommunities is where people help people—it’s been offering social networking long before the term went mainstream.”

Schlotman says that current economic times make the networking opportunities available through NetVU even more valuable. “Accessing eCommunities or going to a local chapter meeting where members can connect with fellow agents to get help are increasingly popular these days.”

Carrier visits

Armitage says NetVU will continue to advocate on behalf of its members with carriers—both national and regional. “We’ll be visiting those carriers that need to improve the real time initiatives they have already implemented in order to make the experience better for our members,” he explains.

NetVU has also earmarked several regional carriers that are well represented by its members. “We’re working with a number of regional carriers to get real time accomp-lished,” he says. “Vertafore has agreed to make that a priority.”

What’s in it for me?

NetVU CEO Polansky says the association’s rebranding activities will benefit members and the industry thanks to a sharper focus on the core concepts articulated in the organization’s mission: world-class education, the exchange of ideas, advocacy, and technological innovation in the insurance industry.

He says there will be greater interaction between committees, which will result in more consistent activities across NetVU. Using workflow as an example he says: “If the board identifies commercial lines download as a priority, the Research and Development Committee will be sure that commercial lines download initiatives are included in product releases. The Education Committee will develop and offer classes on commercial lines download.”

Going forward, he says, committees won’t be focused on a particular management system as they have been in the past. “We’re going to be more process-based rather than system-based. We’re going to address a business problem and how to fix it. We’re going to find the solution using the best practices workflow wherever possible. From there we will work with the Vertafore programmers to build that into all their management systems.

“Vertafore is committed to making their products interact better so that they’re more efficient for agents,” Polansky points out.

Big picture, he says, “The industry has made more progress in the last three years in terms of moving in a common direction than it has at any point since agency technology really took off in the 1980s.

“Because NetVU now represents a larger subset of the industry, we are in a position to drive that further,” Polansky concludes.


Maureen Wall Bentley, Executive Vice President of Brand Strategy for Aartrijk.

Aartrijk (say: R-Trike) dates back to 1999 when Peter van Aartrijk founded The van Aartrijk Group, LLC. The firm’s specialty was public relations and editorial support for the insurance industry.

On the firm’s 10th anniversary it rebranded itself as simply Aartrijk. Now a full-service branding firm, Aartrijk offers brand auditing, marketing-communications strategy, design, Web positioning, social media, public relations, media buying, video production and publishing.

When Brady Polansky contacted the firm in late 2008, Aartrijk recommended an Image Assessment, which is a component of the more comprehensive Aartrijk Brand Audit.

“When we’re talking about ‘brand’ we’re talking about everything related to an organization,” explains Maureen Wall Bentley, executive vice president of brand strategy for Aartrijk. “Everything becomes a ‘touch point’—the building that you’re located in, how the phone is answered, whether the Web site properly communicates your purpose, what kind of paper stock your business cards are printed on. Everything counts,” she emphasizes.

“One of the key elements of an Image Assessment,” Bentley continues, “is the brand identity itself—the organization’s name, its tagline, and its logo.”

She says this process gives organizations the opportunity to look internally and answer two fundamental questions: (1) What story are we telling with our touch points? and (2) Is this the story we want to be telling? “The evaluation stage is important and valuable for an organization. It needs to stop and take a look at where it’s headed and where it wants to go,” Bentley explains.

“There shouldn’t be any big surprises as a result of an image assessment or brand audit,” she notes. “On some level, senior management knows if the organization has areas of concern.”

Once an organization is on track with respect to how it is communicating the brand, Bentley says it should schedule an image assessment every five years as a check-up to be sure all of the touch points are still aligned. “The key is to be consistent in implementation,” she says.

For more information:
Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU)

Web site:

Web site:


From left, agent volunteers James T. Armitage, CPCU, AAI, Immediate Past President of NetVU, and NetVU President Carl Schlotman III, CPCU, CIC, appear with Brady Polansky, CPCU, CIC, NetVU CEO.


“We’re very focused on
tackling those issues that
directly affect independent agency profitability—real time, data security, customer privacy and standards.”

—Brady Polansky


NetVU members met ahead of the National Conference to discuss speeches and presentations.





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