Comulate takes automated direct billing to the next level
“[P]artners who once didn’t believe us are now asking if we
can help them automate other workflows they struggle with.”
CEO and Co-founder
By Lori Widmer
One of the most lauded software solutions making waves within the large insurance broker community today is actually a product that wasn’t going to be built for it. Not at first, anyway.
Jordan Katz, CEO and co-founder of Comulate, and his co-founder and CTO Michael Mattheakis, started out in tech companies. Known among their Silicon Valley co-workers for having strong product and engineering skills, the longtime friends teamed up originally with the idea of building a better revenue management software system for SaaS companies like those they’d worked for.
The duo became disenchanted, however. “While potential customers admitted existing solutions weren’t perfect, it was hard to see how we could deliver something vastly superior,” Katz says. “We wanted to work on something that we could truly 10x. There were products on the market, but nothing that could vastly improve the function. We wanted to work on a problem that we could deliver a 10x solution for.”
Yet something unexpected happened. “We both had close family and friends in the insurance world,” Katz recalls. “And they were asking, ‘Have you ever thought of doing something around revenue software, but for insurance?’”
The idea seemed crazy, Katz says. “We didn’t know about insurance. I maybe knew what a premium was, but very little else. Yet, our craving to solve something real and invent something truly new left us intrigued by the chaotic revenue reconciliation process, among other back-office workflows.”
But the idea grew. Katz says he and Mattheakis started learning by reaching out to large brokers, a few of whom responded. Soon they were launching pilots, and those pilots were converting into customers.
“As outsiders, we were initially a bit skeptical and naive about how big this problem was and how interested folks were to work with us to solve it. We quickly started realizing this was real,” Katz says.
Solving for 10x
In less than two years since its founding, Comulate has emerged as a trusted provider of revenue automation software. The platform today powers the revenue process for respected public and private brokers like Baldwin Risk Partners and IMA, among dozens of other large agencies.
These firms use Comulate to automate their end-to-end direct bill process, automatically reconciling transactions from PDFs and spreadsheets directly to policies in their agency management system. Comulate’s revenue intelligence capabilities also drive revenue by flagging missing and underpaid commissions, an area particularly salient for employee benefits brokers.
Katz attributes the company’s success to their approach “of building a team of top Silicon Valley talent with a laser-customer-driven focus on a huge, overlooked area of deep pain and broken workflows.”
“The biggest thing we face when talking to potential partners is disbelief,” Katz says. “There’s a sense that this can’t possibly work. We’re delivering a quality of software that leaders of the finance back office haven’t seen before.
“What’s incredible is those partners that once didn’t believe us are now asking if we can help them automate other workflows they struggle with. Teams doing it the same way for decades are more energized than ever given they’ve finally met a team that’s able to help them improve the way they work and see that iteration in days.”
Automating the financial transaction side, Katz says, removes a lot of manual processes. Comulate pulls transactions and commissions from carrier statements and automatically reconciles them to existing agency management systems and policy data and posts the transactions to the general ledger.
Katz credits their customers and partners for their rise. “We came up with the idea that brokers needed revenue automation software and defined what that meant as we created Comulate. But that idea only got off the ground because of the incredible partners we had who were willing to be the early adopters.”
One direct example of the close collaboration with partners, says Katz, is Comulate’s revenue intelligence suite. “We realized that by capturing compensation data consistently and accurately,” he says. “Working directly with partners, we learned we could drive tons of newfound insight and help brokers better forecast and understand future revenues, and how they’re getting paid. In addition to that, we help them understand retention and the quality of the business they’re writing.”
What users say
“We also have a goal … to use less of our outsource offshore people … and we actually got that down to zero.”
Chief Information Officer
Heffernan Insurance Brokers
Kate Grasman agrees. Grasman, chief information officer for Heffernan Insurance Brokers, had what she calls “a real business problem that we needed to solve” that prompted their looking for a technology solution. “We had to have help reconciling spreadsheets: we had the wrong information.” What the company wanted, she says, was visibility and money. “We wanted to make sure that we had the ability to accurately forecast, as well as get the revenue that we were owed.”
In selecting Comulate, Grasman says, the goal was to improve employees’ workflow and outcomes. “We wanted to move them more to the analytics versus just manually recording spreadsheets. That was our vision. But we got more than that.”
What did Comulate deliver? According to Grasman, the new solution allows them to reconcile PDFs and match debits and credits to their existing agency management system. Comulate’s solution, she says, allowed employees to access all the information automatically. “It was so easy. I didn’t believe Jordan, the CEO of the company, when he said, ‘Kate, it’s going to take you no time to get this going.’”
Seeing is believing. “Five weeks from contract signing, we were able to deliver Comulate for employee benefits,” Grasman says. “It was as easy as Jordan promised with only two hours of IT setup work.” The Comulate solution was the easiest solution she had implemented, and it took just over a month from signing to implementation.
Not that the Heffernan team rushed. In fact, Grasman says the company decided to implement a pilot in the employee benefits department. “We also took the time—the reason it took us five weeks was because we wanted to take the time to work on the processes.”
In no time at all, Grasman says, the company realized a huge payout. “We actually had 70% improvement in manual reconciliation,” she says. “We also had 883-plus auto-updated policies in our (agency management system) that auto corrected. We’re talking one month of data; this sort of improvement was just unbelievable for our finance team.” Not to mention the 65% reduction in revenue that was attributed to expired policies.
“Before Comulate, we were getting 50% errors and were really struggling with all this manual work.
“And we really wanted to make life better for our finance individuals. We also have a goal in order to use less of our outsource offshore people to help us and we actually got that down to zero.”
Grasman says the experience has been stellar. “Number one, the system worked exactly as expected,” she says. “More important, Comulate exceeded my expectations and my organization’s expectations. And we drove after that first month 90% efficiency, cutting out that manual work.
“Now, we’re imagining a better future. We were laser focused on employee benefits. Now we’re moving the property/casualty; we’re going to start taking that down while at the same time making sure we continue to get the benefits of what we’ve already achieved.”
Those results are right in line with what Katz promises. “Usually, in terms of the impact they’re seeing within the first few months, there will be 80% to 90% less manual work in the revenue process. At that point, folks begin to have time to actually start analyzing if they’re receiving everything they’re owed.”
With Comulate simplifying and improving the revenue management process, bottlenecks will disappear, Katz says. “The impact of Comulate gives people an immediate solution because of how fast the ROI is, but also a long-term solution that gives them the ability to scale revenue without bottlenecks of team size,” he concludes.
Lori Widmer is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor who specializes in insurance and risk management.
BrokerTech Spotlight offers a look at insurtech offerings from startups that have partnered with BrokerTech Ventures (BTV), a convening platform for brokers, carriers and wholesalers, and tech firms, and includes insight from other BTV member owners.