AmTrust exec: Small commercial insurance is late to the party

Aim is to expand distribution options

AmTrust exec: Small commercial insurance is late to the party


By Mark Hollmer

Digitization in personal insurance has made great strides. But commercial insurance – particularly on the small business side – has a long way to go, according to Prateek Sangal (pictured), AmTrust Financial’s vice president of digital distribution strategy.

“When we think about consumer products and insurance like personal auto and home – something that you and I have to buy on our own or talk to an agent about – there has been a lot of technology that’s been used,” Sangal said, during a break from the recent Insuretech Connect 2022 conference in Las Vegas. “When you make a similar comparison to small businesses or the insurance that they need to see, there hasn’t been a whole lot of advancement for small business owners.”

AmTrust is one of the nation’s largest writers of workers’ compensation insurance, and Sangal, about a year into his job, is charged with enhancing and cultivating the insurer’s digital channels.

“My responsibility at AmTrust is to stand up all the tools and digital capabilities that the market is requiring for us in order to make it extremely efficient for our agents and brokers to transact small commercial policies,” Sangal said.

His longer-term goal, he said, is to help AmTrust become the number one small business carrier in the United States.

Progress so far

AmTrust made some great digital strides before Sangal’s arrival. About three years ago, he said, the insurer started building out its API capabilities and it now has more than 40 integrations in the market, Sangal said.

“We are the market leader when it comes to physically providing workflow [products and services] to our brokers and agents,” he claimed.

In the months ahead, Sangal will work to evolve digital distribution efforts in the embedded insurance space and also seek more strategic partnerships, through traditional agents and brokers, insurtechs and other startups seeking to disrupt the digital distribution space. Affiliation partnerships are also on the agenda, he said.

In addition, Sangal wants to add additional product lines for the digital channel, starting with cyber cover available via API connection.

“We have developed a cyber product offering, which is extremely compelling to small business customers,” Sangal said, adding that more digital products are expected over the next six to 12 months.

The goal, he added, will be to keep up with the unique opportunities and demands in the digital space.

“The biggest thing we have to keep pace with is that no digital partnership is generic. Each of them are unique,” Sangal explained.

A necessary thing

Sangal is not a technologist per se, but he said that the digital revolution gave him a compelling reason to focus on digital tools.

“I’m not a technologist by profession,” Sangal said. “I’m more of a product and underwriter [executive] who understands digital in the technology space … and the tools that need to get built.”

Technology is a crucial thing for insurance these days, he observed.

“Technology is extremely necessary, especially when you start thinking about the market segment that is targeting small businesses,” Sangal said. “What happens with small businesses are that they are [marketed] usually low, average premium policies.”

Sangal said his goal is to remove as much of the “non-value transactional nature” agents must go through in getting an underwriting decision from a carrier for small business and other clients. He wants the process to become “fully automatable” with fewer keystrokes.

“The more we can do that, that’s going to help our agents and brokers grow their agencies because this frees them up to really function in that advisory role,” he said.

More, please

Technology provides enormous potential and opportunity to improve both work and life, Sangal said, noting it has already displayed “true value” in terms of potential realized. Still, the insurance industry hardly uses enough of it, he said.

“Depending on the process, the use of technology could be as low as 10% to 20%, to as high as 80% to 90%, in what we want to be shooting for across the board,” Sangal said.

He acknowledged that there some in the industry may be hesitant to pursue automation to the utmost.

“Humans like to think that they have added value to the process, which might not necessarily be true all the time,” he said. “As technology and digital [products and services] are becoming more prolific, folks are getting over that hurdle.”

Sangal agreed it was important for carriers seeking to digitize to mingle with startups at events such as ITC.

“Technology truly is leading to change in a lot of the ways that we do business,” he said. “Any and all carriers who manufacture insurance products should have a presence at conferences like this … to keep them abreast of where the market is headed and what they’re going to need to develop to stay relevant.”

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