Universal Direct, a direct-to-consumer online platform for Universal Property Casualty Insurance Co. homeowners insurance, is now available in Florida, Hawaii and North Carolina. With these additions, the direct business model is now available in 10 states, including Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Alabama.
“The expansion of Universal Direct into these new markets is a testament to the positive feedback we continue to receive from consumers for this unique online platform,” said Sean P. Downes, the chairman and CEO.
The platform, first announced and launched in Pennsylvania in April, allows homeowners to directly purchase, pay for and bind policies online without any intermediaries. Customers can access live customer support agents by phone or online if they wish.
While the business is written directly, the company says independent appointed agents have the opportunity to receive commissions from policies written via Universal Direct from business bound online based on sales and territory structure.
A 2015 survey by consulting firm Accenture found that independent agents see insurance carriers’ direct sales via the online channel as a serious competitive threat, with 39 percent of respondents citing such direct sales as their greatest source of competition. Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of the agents said that threat takes the form of lower prices, while 48 percent see better brand recognition and more effective marketing as key elements of the competitive threat.
While some independent agents see direct sales as a threat, some independent agency system insurers continue to test the waters while trying to not alienate their agency force.
Edison Insurance in Florida allows potential policyholders to customize their own homeowners insurance quote online and transfer their information to a licensed agent to complete the transaction.
Plymouth Rock Assurance — a Boston-based auto insurer serving Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire — last year launched a new online tool called “Prime.” When a consumer buys a policy online in the Prime system, the policy is transferred to a local independent agent who can provide additional consultation and advice. Agents pay a one-time marketing fee once the policy is transferred. After the transfer occurs, the agent owns the business for life and receives full commission on it.
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