Home insurance group Hippo acquired the startup at the end of 2020 and has continued the company as a subsidiary. First Connect president Aviad Pinkovezky (pictured) explained that the platform gives independent agencies a valuable way to expand their reach.
“The relationship that First Connect has with different insurance carriers allows independent agencies to get access to those carriers without necessarily meeting production volume and so on, which in many cases could be difficult to obtain,” Pinkovezky said.
Pinkovezky was previously Hippo’s chief product officer, helping it to develop technology tools and products that bring its policies and services to market. The former LinkedIn executive and ex-Israeli intelligence officer was Hippo’s first employee and helped the company enter and expand in the US homeowners’ market. He became president of First Connect in February 2022.
Now the company has more than 40 carrier partners and thousands of independent insurance agency or agent customers. Pinkovezky is focused on helping both sides of the business grow, but with an asterisk.
“The focus here is not necessarily just [growth], because you want to make sure you have the right kind of carriers that provide … the availability of the insurance product in the best way that is possible, which means they are able to provide support for the scale of agents that we have,” Pinkovezky said. “Quality takes priority over everything else.”
Beyond home insurance, First Connect also provides carriers access to agents in auto, life and commercial insurance – part of its expanded reach after Hippo’s acquisition.
Earlier in July, First Connect added Cowbell Cyber to its platform – an MGA insurtech focused on providing cyber coverage to small- and medium-sized businesses.
“When I joined the leadership team of First Connect, we started to double down on growing the business, taking it further,” Pinkovezky said.
First Connect generates revenue by splitting agent commissions paid with the sale of carrier policies, a standard practice in the industry.
Agents pay zero access fees.
First Connect’s core technology centers around APIs and “quick connections” independent agents can make with different insurance carriers, Pinkovezky explained.
“Instead of going through different carriers, the agents have quick access to all of them from the first time, so they can manage their permissions and admissions and so on, and also track the commission payments,” he said. “They get the commission payment also handled by First Connect.”
API driven integrations with multiple insurtechs and carriers are a primary technology focus for First Connect. The goal is to create a better experience for agents so they can give their customers better service.
In other words, the key ingredients are APIs and the cloud-based access First Connect’s platform provides. Independent agents would not necessarily have the same tech capabilities, Pinkovezky said.
“Usually these are family-owned businesses that don’t have access to those cutting-edge technology resources, he said. “They are, in a way, left outside of the technology play because there is no solution in the market that connects the insurer” to them easily.
The value proposition, he said, comes from leveling the playing field nationally so smaller and medium-sized independent agencies can build their business by connecting to the platform. Carriers, he added, wouldn’t necessarily link with individual independent agencies on their own.
“Carriers won’t integrate with different agencies one by one, because of their size, obviously,” Pinkovezky said. “What we’re doing is providing these agencies [access] that usually [don’t] have the technology and don’t benefit from scale. We provide them with the same kind of experience, productivity and API integration that larger players would have access to.”
To integrate with carriers, First Connect initially focuses on how they provide access to agencies. Based on those processes and preferences, First Connect provides an integration plan bridging from its portal to an API that provides the full suite of quoting and binding options with as few keystrokes as possible, Pinkovezky said.
After the technical integration, First Connect communicates the new addition to its agents and carrier panel. There are also tutorials and webinars co-hosted between the company and new carriers, introducing the new carrier option for agents.
Next, First Connect starts providing agents access to the new carrier based on their level of interest.
At that point, agents can connect with the new carriers, see quotes and reach into the carrier website seamlessly to service their customers.
Integration with carriers ranges from a few weeks to a few months, Pinkovezky said.
“It’s been a very streamlined and positive experience,” he added.