Compare.com CEO talks threats to agents and brokers

Compare.com CEO talks threats to agents and brokers | Insurance Business

Compare.com CEO talks threats to agents and brokers
Insurance Business America spoke with Andrew Rose, CEO of insurance price comparison site Compare.com to gauge his views on whether companies like his pose a threat to the independent distribution channel.

Compare.com works with more than 30 insurance carriers to provide comparison shopping for auto insurance customers.

IBA: Can you provide an update on how things are looking for comparenow.com at the start of 2015?
Andrew Rose:
It’s an extraordinarily exciting time in our business. We have nearly three dozen carriers on board, we have eight of the top 20 carriers participating with us, and that’s the key thing you need before you have any other element of the conversation. You’ve got to have the carriers returning prices to the consumer to do that. So that’s very, very encouraging for us that we are having carriers contact us now, rather than us having to go out and pitch our wares… and we returned millions of rates last year and we are going to easily have our best month ever in January. Our best month before that was December. So our trajectory is outstanding...And, more than anything else, we’re delivering value to consumers.


IBA: Do you think a comparison site such as compare.com is a threat to agents and brokers?
AR:
It can be. If you sit on your hands, as an agent… and you do nothing in your business to reflect the changing shopping behaviours of consumers, I think your agency, your brokerage, is at risk. Just as any good business person, they need to understand how they fit into the shopping behaviour of consumers….We are not an advocate or a foe of agents. We are an advocate for the consumer, and if the consumer wants an agent as part of that process, we’re happy to involve them. So are we a threat? It depends on how you behave.
 
[Some people] say, ‘Insurance agents are going to go the way of travel agents.’ I think that’s flat out wrong. I think it’s a very poor analogy. I think realtors are a better example for how insurance agents are going to have to adapt. When I bought my house a couple of years ago… we made the decision on the house we were going to buy without involving a realtor. But then, we got ready to make that purchase decision …and that’s when we got a realtor. And I equate that to how a lot of consumers are going to be for insurance. They’re going to have picked out pretty much everything they want there, but then they want that last little bit of help – hold my hand, make sure that I’m doing this right, offer me consultation. And as long as the agent can do that and add value, they’re going to remain part of the eco-system for the foreseeable future.
 
IBA: Do you see insurance comparison websites in the US market expanding into commercial lines?
AR:
Yes, but…it’s going to be much slower. It will be for the simpler commercial lines, just as an auto is very simple and easy to do – year, make, model and who are the drivers… But when you talk about…’hey, I need to insure my building, and I need to insure this for workers’ comp, I need to do this’…all of a sudden, the needs are far more than a simple transaction. So I think that is going to be the impediment to complex commercial moving into a comparison-style environment.
 

IBA: In a climate of comparison sites, what do you think agents and brokers should be doing in order to reinforce their value to clients?
AR:
First of all, they’ve got to remain part of the consideration set. So there’s a premise there that you can’t add value to clients you don’t have, and Geico and Progressive are out there advertising like behemoths… So the first thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to make sure that your carriers are participating in avenues that generate new business for you as an agent, and that’s where comparison sites can help, as long as they are open to having agents involved.…Our site allows for it…The next step is to make sure that, when those customers call you, they receive value as part of that process. If you make it a transactional experience … they’re going to go, ‘Why did I bother doing that?’…[Adding value] is how they’re going to reinforce and stay part of the equation, but they have to be part of the consideration set to ever have that opportunity.