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A differentiator

Help your personal lines clients keep track of their possessions and important information

By Nancy Doucette

Ryan Headley makes a point of discussing personal property with his high net-worth clients, in particular how to manage and mitigate losses. "I advise them to document what they have and keep that information off site because if their house burns or is damaged extensively by some other catastrophe, the information is gone," he explains.

Several years ago, while researching home inventory software to recommend to clients, Headley decided he could improve on what was available in the marketplace, so he set out to find a developer.

Headley says the Stratton Agency (, based in San Carlos, California, where he is a partner and chief technical officer, writes a lot of technology business. So it made sense for him to begin his search for a developer by talking with some of the agency's clients. It wasn't long before he'd reconnected with Doug Willbanks, an acquaintance from high school.

In the interim, Willbanks had been developing software for financial services companies including Wells Fargo and Visa.

Willbanks agreed to build the product. Stratton Agency President James Marek, Headley and Willbanks formed a separate corporation: ReadyLife, Inc., and adopted the tagline: "Life happens, are you ready?"

"Once we started developing ReadyLife, we could see this product could be so much more than we initially envisioned," Headley says.

What started out as home inventory software quickly grew into what Headley calls a personal resource management system, consisting of seven modules. "It's a secure online tool that helps clients manage their most valuable and personal information. It's accessible any time, anywhere, making it vitally important in case of an emergency or a 'nice-to-have' everyday reference guide," he says.

Nuts and bolts

The seven modules include: (1) Home Inventory, (2) Property Information, (3) Vehicle Information, (4) Insurance Information, (5) Family Management, (6) Disaster Preparedness, and (7) Ready Wallet.

The Home Inventory module allows clients to record information about their valuables in a room-by-room format. Headley says this helps settle claims faster and with greater accuracy because the client is able to provide a complete listing of possessions, including make, model, serial number, and purchase price. Receipts, appraisals and photos can also be included. Tabs that are unique to each module appear across the bottom of all the module screens to guide clients through the process. A notes section is available in each module.

The Property Information module enables clients to keep track of maintenance schedules, service warranties, and property upgrades, including photos, receipts and work orders at the primary residence as well as second homes or seasonal residences. Headley notes this module provides home owners with "on demand" access to maintenance and upgrade information which may be needed when selling the home. He encourages his clients to be as detailed as possible, especially regarding remodeling projects. "One style window may be about four times more expensive than another. Knowing what style window is in a home would be important if the home were damaged extensively."

As with the other modules, the Vehicle Information module consolidates photos, service reports, upgrades, and repair records. Headley points out that having ready access to these records is helpful when selling a vehicle or tracking repairs following an accident.

The Insurance Information module provides a centralized location for all the client's policies--property/casualty, life, health, disability—so in the event of an emergency, the client can readily locate carrier, policy number, effective dates and coverage details. "If something were to happen to me, my wife could log in to ReadyLife and locate my life insurance information," Headley explains. "That's a difficult time in people's lives. ReadyLife provides them with an easier way to locate important documents."

Headley says the Family Management module allows clients to collect family medical records, as well as images of birth certificates, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, wills or marriage licenses in one place for quick access. Details from this module can be printed out for babysitters or caretakers, he suggests. When Headley recently signed up his son for tee ball, he needed to provide a copy of the child's birth certificate. "I didn't have to do any hunting around," he reports. "I was able to locate it quickly using ReadyLife."

Disaster preparedness is as important to families as it is for businesses, Headley says. The Disaster Preparedness module enables clients to discuss with family members who emergency contacts are, establish safe meeting locations following an emergency, and provide utility shut-off directions and then enter this information into this module. "Natural, chemical, and man-made hazards are more prevalent than we'd like to think," he notes. "A person's home, workplace or school may be damaged; roads could be closed. Once the family loads the information into ReadyLife, it helps family members know where to go, whom to call, and how to respond in any given situation.

"If the client has a newer smartphone that has Web capabilities, they can view information stored in ReadyLife," Headley says. "Eventually, we'll have a true Web app but for now, we're concentrating on the Web services side of things."

The final module, Ready Wallet, gives clients a secure online location for what is typically in a person's wallet: credit or debit cards. Clients can store credit card numbers, security codes, and phone numbers to report lost or stolen cards. They also can include bank information: routing and account numbers and contact information to get replacement cards or checks following a theft or loss that renders the house uninhabitable.

Headley says he wished he had Ready Wallet several years ago when he was pick-pocketed while traveling in another part of the country. "With my smartphone I could have pulled up the ReadyLife Web site and logged in. The 800 numbers for my credit card companies and the credit card numbers are part of my Ready Wallet record. I could cancel every credit card on the spot. Talk about risk management!"

Simple and secure

"We're trying to help clients be proactive about documenting and keeping track of their personal belongings and information. And by providing clients with ReadyLife, we're giving them an easy-to-use solution. We had two basic criteria when we started developing this product: Number one was security; number two was ease of use. We wanted it to be so simple, there would be no need for training or a user manual. It is that simple," Headley states.

As for security, Headley says, "The ReadyLife platform uses the Windows Azure cloud computing platform. All client data is encrypted using VeriSign SSL certificate encryption. Triple-redundancy back-ups ensure client data is available when needed," he explains. "Doug (Willbanks) says that four or five years ago, this level of security would have been prohibitively expensive. But technology has improved, encryption standards are in place, and prices are more reasonable."

Headley says being able to offer a tool like ReadyLife is a real differentiator when he's visiting prospects. "I use ReadyLife to demonstrate how the Stratton Agency is different from the prospect's current broker. We may both represent the same carrier but I am providing this value-added service. Next thing I know, I'm walking out with a broker of record letter."

He says offering ReadyLife is a win for all parties concerned. The agency wins because ReadyLife differentiates it from the competition. Clients win because they're getting more for their premium dollars—the agency provides ReadyLife for free. And if there is a claim, the carrier wins because it gets the documentation it needs to adjust the claim faster.

Marketing to other agents

After using ReadyLife at the Stratton Agency, Headley beta tested it with other agents and got good feedback, he says. At press time, agents in Arizona, California, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas had become ReadyNow partners and are currently offering ReadyLife to their clients. One agent, Headley says, offers it only to his VIP clients. However, he's also meeting with financial advisors to discuss ReadyLife in order to establish a "centers of influence" arrangement.

In contrast, another agent does thousands of direct mail pieces a month in which he offers ReadyLife.

Headley says ReadyLife was recently endorsed by the Pacific Interstate Insurance Brokers, an association representing some 140 California agents.

Pricing is based on the amount of data storage space an agency anticipates needing, Headley says. He adds that agencies that become ReadyNow partners display the ReadyNow logo on their agency's home page, alerting clients and prospects that the agency offers this value-added service and making it possible for them to request more information. Agencies can brand their ReadyLife site with their agency name, logo, and colors on the dashboard as well as each of the module screens.

ReadyNow partners receive a partner portal which allows the agency to issue new client sites—which are branded to the agency—to individual customers. Headley says the sites are easy to administer; agencies are in control of assigning secure user IDs and passwords to customers so there is no delay in getting customers up and running on ReadyLife.

Headley concludes by reiterating the importance of ReadyLife as a differentiator for agencies. "The key is to find a service that will provide agencies and their clients a practical tool that benefits all parties involved."

For more information:

ReadyLife, Inc.

Web site:


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