Home insurance group Hippo acquired the startup in late 2020 and continued the company as a subsidiary. First Connect President Aviad Pinkovetsky (pictured) explained that the platform gives independent agencies a valuable way to expand their reach.
“The relationship that First Connect has with various insurance carriers allows independent agencies to access those carriers without necessarily meeting production volume, etc., which in many cases can be difficult to obtain,” said Pinkovetski.
Pinkowecki previously served as Hippo’s chief product officer, helping it develop the technology tools and products that bring its policies and services to market. The former LinkedIn executive and former Israeli intelligence officer was Hippo’s first employee and helped the company enter and expand into the U.S. homeowner market. He became president of First Connect in February 2022.
The company now has more than 40 carrier partners and thousands of independent insurance agency or agent customers. Pinkovezky focuses 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 that you have the right kind of carriers that provide … the availability of the insurance product in the best possible way, which means that they are able to provide support for the scale of agents that we have,” Pinkowecki said. “Quality takes priority over everything else.”
In addition to home insurance, First Connect also provides carriers with access to agents in motor, life and commercial insurance – part of its expanded reach following the acquisition of Hippo.
Earlier in July, First Connect added Cowbell Cyber to its platform, an insurtech MGA focused on providing cyber coverage to small and medium-sized businesses.
“When I joined the leadership team at First Connect, we began to redouble our efforts to grow the business by keeping it going,” Pinkowecki said.
First Connect generates revenue by splitting agent commissions paid with the sale of carrier policies, a standard industry practice.
Agents pay zero access fees.
First Connect’s core technology focuses on APIs and “quick connections” that independent agents can make with different insurance carriers, Pinkowecki explained.
“Instead of going through different carriers, agents have quick access to all of them the first time, so they can manage their permits and admissions, etc., and also track commission payments,” he said. “They get the commission, which is also handled by First Connect.”
API-driven integrations with multiple insurance companies and carriers are a major technology focus for First Connect. The goal is to create a better experience for agents so they can provide their customers with better service.
In other words, the key ingredients are the API and cloud-based access that First Connect’s platform provides. Independent agents don’t necessarily have the same technical capabilities, Pinkowecki said.
“Typically, these are family businesses that don’t have access to these cutting-edge technology resources,” he said. “In a way, they’re left out of the technology game because there’s no solution in the market that easily connects an insurer” to them.
The value proposition, he said, comes from leveling the playing field at a national level so that smaller and medium-sized independent agencies can build their business by connecting to the platform. Carriers, he added, don’t necessarily have to contact individual independent agencies themselves.
“Carriers are not going to integrate with different agencies one by one, obviously because of their size,” Pinkowecki said. “What we do is provide these agencies [access] that usually [don’t] they have the technology and don’t benefit from the scale. We give them the same kind of experience, performance and API integration that the bigger players would have access to.”
To integrate with operators, First Connect initially focused on how they provide access to agencies. Based on these processes and preferences, First Connect provides an integration plan connecting from its portal to an API that provides the full range of quoting and binding options with as few keystrokes as possible, Pinkowecki said.
Following the technical integration, First Connect announces the new addition to its agents and operator panel. There are also tutorials and webinars hosted jointly between the company and the new carriers introducing the new carrier option for agents.
First Connect then begins giving agents access to the new carrier based on their level of interest.
At this point, agents can contact the new carriers, view offers, and seamlessly access the carrier’s website to serve their customers.
Integration with operators ranges from a few weeks to a few months, Pinkowecki said.
“It was a very streamlined and positive experience,” he added.