Selling earthquake insurance has never been for the faint of heart. Catastrophic risks are notoriously difficult to calculate, price, and market. And most P&C insurers don’t get enough sales volume from earthquake coverage to warrant the investment of much time, energy, or operating budget.

But the number of potential residential and commercial customers in quake zones keeps rising, and the possibility of future high-magnitude seismic events in far-flung regions like the areas along the New Madrid and Cascadia faults are generating elevated concern. So insurers have an opportunity to serve customers and generate returns if they can find the right way to write the business.

Enter the Palomar Specialty Insurance Company and Intermap Technologies, which are offering technology solutions that inject greater efficiencies and predictability into the earthquake coverage line of business.

La Jolla, CA-based Palomar is looking to help insurers write earthquake policies by extending the geographic coverage of its Palomar Automated Submission System (PASS) to include Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kentucky—with more states to follow. PASS is a cloud-based environment custom-built for Palomar by Dallas-based P&C IT solutions developer PCMS. It enables agents and producers to rate, quote, issue, and make payments on earthquake business over the web in a matter of minutes and uses a variety of catastrophe modeling and exposure management tools for underwriting the policies made available via PASS.

This speed and convenience allows Palomar's distribtuion partners to add earthquake coverage to their catastrophic coverage lines with near-zero cost of entry and minimal per-policy overhead.

“Retail agents are very attracted to solutions that make it as easy as possible for them to be as productive as possible,” says Palomar SVP of marketing John R. MacDonald. “PASS fulfills this market requirement by enabling agents to go from entering a customer’s information to binding a policy in about three minutes.”

Englewood, CO-based Intermap is taking a very different approach—emphasizing data accuracy and highly customizable analytics over raw simplicity. The company already has a strong reputation for the quality of its geospatial data as a result of its nine-figure investment in topological mapping for its flood policy rating service. This week, Intermap announced an agreement under which it will license the catastrophe risk and hazard data archives owned by Atkins—the noted U.K.-based global engineering firm—as part of its InsitePro solution.

"With this agreement, Intermap can now provide underwriters with an unmatched combination of highly trustworthy data and the ability to fully tailor their policy scoring to fit their own view of risk and their own financial objectives,” says InsitePro product manager Ivan Maddox. “This combination of data and customizable risk scoring enables underwriters to optimize the quality of their underwriting across all types of catastrophic coverage—including earthquake, flood, hail, tornado, and wind.”

Matt Herr, president of Brighton, CO-based Superior Flood, agrees that accurate data based on original research is a major value-add for underwriters and policyholders alike. “Home-buyers and underwriters alike are unknowingly exposing themselves to risk because they are being told a lot of untruths about so-called ‘100-year floods,’” says Herr. “By providing much more accurate data about 20-year floods, Intermap empowers underwriters and their customers to avoid that kind of costly trouble.”

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