Kevin Lea (pictured) got the entrepreneurial bug early on, starting his own landscaping company by the age of 22 and building a book of almost $700,000 in commissions in just three years while he was a senior account executive at Rogers Insurance. Now, Lea has launched Fuse Insurance, which is the first Western Canadian-based online commercial brokerage, with his software engineer business partner. The buzzword for this latest venture is ‘instant.’
“We’re building out an online platform for instant quote, instant bind, instant policy changes, including instant certificates and instant pink cards for commercial insurance for Alberta and BC,” said Lea.
A digital platform for commercial insurance makes sense, added the Fuse president. Business owners already spend a lot of time online managing their businesses, whether it’s through banking apps or tracking conversions on their websites.
“Business owners want to have that integrated tech platform,” he said.
Read on for more insights into Lea’s conversation with Insurance Business about his fledging brokerage.
Commercial underwriting is a lot more complicated than personal lines underwriting is, so you have to sort of be realistic in scope that the idea to immediately underwrite all commercial insurance online is literally impossible. You can’t do that, but you have to pick and choose your battles of what industries you want to focus on.
We’re finding more and more as we talk to commercial clients and business owners that they’re a little less worried about instant quotes and they’re more worried about instant customer service. If you’re a contractor and you show up at the jobsite at 7am and the general contractor you work for says, ‘you need to produce a certificate of insurance before you can start work,’ and your broker doesn’t get out of bed till 9am, well you’re kind of [stranded]. Maybe the broker takes hours to process it, or do this and that, and you’re stuck, whereas if you could do it yourself online then it’s a lot more beneficial to you as a client.
You’ll also be offering commercial cannabis insurance?
That one from a quoting standpoint is not going to be instant quoting. That’s just not going to happen because the insurance companies that provide cannabis coverage right now, or at least provide a full slate of cannabis coverages, are all for the most part MGAs and wholesalers so they all underwrite everything manually and they can’t really give us the underwriting authority to do instant quotes on their product because it’s a violation of their contracts with Lloyd’s and their other suppliers, so they couldn’t give it to us even if they wanted to.
From the underwriting standpoint, it’s more complex, but from a client service standpoint, document management, certificates – those types of things – that’s still something that falls within the realm of the platform.
What response have you received from other commercial brokers?
They’re pretty excited about it, to be honest. A lot of brokers acknowledge that the online base is a fairly clear path forward for the industry. It’s something that already exists in the UK, it already exists in Asia and Latin America, it sort of exists a little bit in the US, and then it almost doesn’t exist in Canada. There are a few other providers in Canada that do it, but really commercial insurance broking is a pretty archaic and paper-heavy process, and there’s no reason for it to be. The clients don’t want to deal with the paper, the insurance companies are trying to be more digital, with mixed success, and [for] the brokers, it’s just a pain to deal with everything in such manual methods.
Think about it – you’ve been able to trade stocks online for 25 years and that’s a far more complex process involving a bunch of global systems all integrated together than it is to put together a small commercial liability policy for a contractor.
What role does the broker have in this digital platform?
Fuse Insurance is a brokerage, so we are a broker [and] we’re still there. Those commercial risks are more complex, so there’s definitely situations we find where our clients need to have their insurance underwritten by multiple insurance carriers, just because of the nature of what the risk profile looks like, so having the broker there to coordinate that makes things easier, but also having a centralized platform through that broker still makes the client service side easier and it makes it easier for the insurance companies who are sending them automated data.