The following article was published in the October 2012 issue of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine, in the “Companies to Watch” section. View the full version PDF here.
In the mid-1990s, Bill Haack and his team at the Wisconsin brokerage Frank F. Haack & Associates faced a perpetual industry problem: numerous firms offering similar products and services to the same customer base, making it increasingly difficult for the brokerage to set itself apart.
To address this issue, Haack and his employees developed software that enabled the brokerage to analyze claims data. The brokerage could then use that data to identify trends and areas where customers could better control costs.
The software helped the company win more business, but it also caught the attention of other brokerages. Before long, Haack was entertaining requests from those businesses for the technology. Recognizing an opportunity, the brokerage spun the software team off to form a separate company, Zywave Inc.
Zywave started with just one product, eight employees and 20 customers. Its portfolio has expanded to include brokerage workflow management, employee benefits management and policyholder portals. It now has 3,200 customers and 450 staff members, 125 located in its Winnipeg branch, focused elsewhere in financial services.
Reasons to Watch
In September, Zywave made its Broker Briefcase software available to Canadian brokerages. Broker Briefcase enables brokerages to send clients (via email or web portal) articles, newsletters and videos about emerging risks, government regulations and other information that affects policyholders. The company says Broker Briefcase is a way for brokerages to strengthen their positions as industry experts and retain clients.
Zywave brought Broker Briefcase to Canada after learning that Canadian brokerages face the same challenges as their counterparts in the US.
“When a producer at a brokerage goes out to meet with a prospect, they talk about their great people, their fantastic service and their expertise,” says John Kuehn, Zywave’s divisional vice-president. “When the next broker goes out to speak with a prospect, they also talk about their great people, fantastic service and expertise. That’s the expectation of what any brokerage firm offers. How are they truly differentiating themselves?”
Broker Briefcase gives brokerages the chance to continuously demonstrate their expertise, validating the customer’s decision to stay with the brokerage, but also consider buying new products.
Alongside the software, Zywave is building its Canadian team. The company now has representatives in Vancouver and Toronto, including regional manager Kevin Richards, charged with building the company’s prospects in Canada.
Zywave spent a year and a half analyzing a number of English-speaking markets before entering Canada. The firm also targeted the UK for business development, because brokerages in that country likewise struggle with differentiation. According to Kuehn, seeing all that work come to fruition with the launch of Broker Briefcase in Canada and the UK was satisfying.
“The industry is forever changing,” Kuehn says, explaining that it’s challenging to stay abreast of the emerging exposures and government regulations that could affect clients. To stay relevant, the company must know what’s happening and factor the information into the software quickly.
Fortunately Zywave offers its products on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model: all updates are made on Zywave’s servers, so customers can access them immediately. This approach streamlines software enhancements and amendments.
What’s more, the company continues to invest in resources to stay on top of the shifting sector. “We’ve brought on additional people with legal backgrounds to research and develop solutions that will be encompassed in Broker Briefcase,” Kuehn says.
While Zywave only offers the P&C edition of Broker Briefcase in Canada now, the company is considering bringing the benefits edition to this country in the future. Zywave also plans to introduce MyWave Elements, the policyholder portal software, to the Canadian market.
Reprinted with permission.