January 05, 2012

Eric Poe, the COO and principal of Princeton, N.J.-based CURE Insurance, knows all too well that in an increasingly mobile and complex world, convenience is relative. That's why his company, a not-for-profit auto insurer, recently implemented a text-to-pay option for customers' premiums.

"I remember having to write checks, but now even sitting down to do online bills is a task," Poe says. "If every one of my bills came through a text and all I had to do was reply, that would be great." CURE worked with Western Union to integrate the Englewood, Colo.-based payments vendor's SpeedPay offering with CURE's billing systems. The integration process took about seven months, with the service launching September 1 last year.

"We did about one month where we didn't advertise it, to check and see if there would be any glitches," Poe says. But since it's been launched, he adds, "20% of our new business have enrolled on it."

[What are the opportunities for mobile payments in insurance? Esurance, Allstate and Aite Group weigh in.]

To access the service, customers register an account with Western Union and receive a text alert when their bill is due. When a policyholder replies "AUTO" to the text, the amount of the premium is automatically deducted from that account. Western Union charges $4.99 for the transaction, but Poe says CURE wanted to make sure that the additional infrastructure required for the capability was only paid for by those taking advantage of it.

"If you entice people to drive up the costs up the company, the people who don't use it are sometimes the ones penalized" through higher rates for everyone, Poe explains. "We don't want to charge everyone for a feature that only some people need to use.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...