Plymouth Rock leans on big data in adding homeowners’ coverage

Evoking the American history side of its name, Plymouth Rock Assurance says its new homeowners product represents a “rebellion” against the traditional customer experience in the industry.

Launched in New Jersey, the company’s homeowner’s line is heavily digitalized, leaning on multiple data sources to pre-rate properties so that when customers come shopping for coverage, there’s no lengthy quoting process. The company is also focused on using its data assets to identify customers who could be good targets for their product and reach out to them proactively, to combat the generally lackadaisical churn in the sector.

“We decided we wanted to commit more capital and attention to the homeowners business because we thought it hasn’t been approached with the same sophistication from a digital perspective that auto had been,” says Bill Martin, who runs the unit for Plymouth Rock.

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Plymouth Rock tapped into more than 15 data sources for its pre-rating project, which covers about 93% of the properties in its states, it says. It also invested in data scientists to help construct the analytical framework that operationalized that data. Much of this work has been done in-house, Martin says.

“Some of the modeling started with a contest between consultants,” he explains. “When I got here, we borrowed auto’s data science department, but now about a quarter of our workforce is dedicated to it.”

Though digital technologies like big data and analytics play a big part in underpinning the program, Martin is quick to draw a contrast between digital and self-service. The company is still committed to the agent channel, and sees the heavy pre-quote work as valuable for that population as well as customers. With bread-and-butter lines like auto ceded mostly to direct and self-service, the more complex homeowners line gives an opening for agents to get into the conversation with people, while the particulars of the Plymouth Rock product in terms of pre-rating take the friction of the process out.

“Agents always favor ease of use,” Martin says. “The pressure is more on them today, since a significant chunk of their auto market goes to less advice-based channels. So this lets them protect this great share of homeowners they have, but get away from the tech question.”

The ability to pre-rate comes in handy in targeted advertising as well, he adds: Plymouth Rock can identify customers that would benefit from insuring with them and send them advertising to bring them into the agent’s office.

Martin concedes that the insurtech community has changed the conversation around insurance in terms of ease of access. However, he says, companies that buy into digital transformation can apply those lessons to their existing business and find success.

“Insurtechs are breaking down regulatory walls, and we appreciate that,” he says. “But we have a lot more room to make mistakes and survive.”

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