Plymouth Rock Assurance, founded in 1982, is an insurance provider that had historically focused on providing auto insurance for the Northeastern USA. However, the last two years have seen its Home Insurance Group growing extraordinarily, all thanks to a decision by the company to embrace homeowner’s insurance as a growth strategy. “Our values are helping customers solve their problems.” Bill Martin, who leads the Home Insurance Group at the company, says, “We go a little further than most companies are willing to in order to do a better job.”
Martin was brought on to turn home insurance at Plymouth Rock into a self-sustaining business in 2016. “Coming into the home insurance business, we already had established relationships through our auto insurance connections, so we had an embedded advantage. Our independent agents and our distribution partners were already committed and enthusiastic marketers of our products,” he explains, “but it also provided us with an opportunity to do something more dramatic and sophisticated than what was being done.”
The goal at Plymouth Rock was to streamline the customer experience. Traditionally, acquiring home insurance is a complex process with dozens of lengthy questionnaires full of “gotcha” questions that either hike up the price or justify denying the customer. “We did something similar to what a startup does,” Martin says. “We wiped the slate clean.” This allowed the company to establish a clear goal. “We wanted to start with something very simple: what was the absolute ideal way for a customer to buy and maintain their home insurance policy?” Martin continues, “Everything we do is built around that specific experience.” Internally, the quest for innovation saw the Home Insurance Group completely remodel its product manager role, following a technology industry model. Historically, product managers in the insurance industry focus primarily on product pricing. Plymouth Rock gave product managers direct oversight for a variety of employees, from data scientists to technology IT professionals, user design experts to business process engineers. The resulting tool is called @Home.
While the average competitor takes 20-30 minutes to quote a home insurance policy and find coverage, @Home by Plymouth Rock Assurance can do it in under five minutes. The quote itself takes less than 30 seconds. “The only way we can do that is by doing our homework first,” says Martin.
“We try to answer all the questions about the people and the houses that need insurance before they even ask us for a quote. We pre-rate all the homes in our territory and figure out what it costs to insure them for a basic coverage package.” Everything delivered at Plymouth Rock works alongside the advent of technology. It is a learning process, with customer experience at the forefront. “What happens in the background might be very complicated, but for you sitting on the other end of the chatbot, or our website, or the phone, it looks like three small steps,” Martin says. With Plymouth Rock’s new tech platform, customers can submit photographic evidence for simple claims with the potential for instant payments. While this isn’t possible for every customer and every case, data and analytics help the company define when loss scenarios can be streamlined like this. Customers can also take pictures of their home and submit them through an app developed by Plymouth Rock when initially seeking a home insurance policy. This removes the need for inspections and allows policies to be in force more quickly. Plymouth Rock also focuses on the importance of partial loss claims such as ruined carpets or fire-damaged kitchens. “Most home insurance companies practically expect you to be a general contractor, able to know how much it’ll cost to rebuild your home two years from now,” Martin says. “Yet the majority of claims you make aren’t total loss claims.”
The approach taken by Plymouth Rock has had such great success that it has started bleeding into other business lines of the company. Plymouth Rock’s home business has exceeded internal expectations in terms of both growth trajectory and business profitability. While the insurance industry grew around 3% last year, the Home Insurance Group grew 57%. Rapid growth is not the main challenge; competitors can grow rapidly by under-pricing the product. What sets Plymouth Rock apart from the many fast-growing insuretechs is how it keeps growth in line with profitability. Aside from a competitive market, the company has had to face detractors who operate traditionally and criticise new methodologies. “There’s a lot of mischaracterisation in what we’re doing,” Martin says, “but you make yourself vulnerable to that whenever you disrupt a market.”
This rapid growth has had its challenges. Being at the forefront of innovation means presenting unknown processes to partners that might have to change their workflow to accommodate new systems. Meanwhile, finding in-house talent to perform at the level needed is an obstacle faced across the industry. But it’s worth it. Plymouth Rock’s quick processes allow agents to spend more time talking to customers about types of coverage instead of price, ultimately selling more and more often. “While it takes a little bravery to do something that’s dramatically different, with us, we’re less brave than we are strategic.” Martin explains, “We use a lot of data, advanced modelling, and process technology behind the scenes. It would be difficult for other companies to replicate and deliver the results we’re delivering.”
According to Martin, the industry is on the cusp of major change. “Five years from now, there will be a shakeout of people who have good technology but don’t have a sustainable profit margin, leaving only companies that are ‘doing it’ rather than talking about it.” Martin concludes, “I think that will set us as a market leader. Internally, it will be a rollercoaster of making mistakes and learning from those. Externally, for the customer, it will be a lot more enjoyable to buy home insurance.”