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Torus Leverages Portal Tech for Expanded Small Business Strategy

The global specialty insurer has adapted its industry-leading ESCAPE portal capabilities from its beginnings in excess casualty to commercial E&O and healthcare/medical professional liability.

In Nov. 2010, just two years after Torus (London) opened its doors, the start-up global specialty carrier launched its online ESCAPE broker platform to differentiate itself to distributors with an appetite for more efficient, technology-driven transactions for excess casualty business for small and medium-sized enterprises. The carrier has now leveraged ESCAPE’s capabilities to the specialty commercial errors and omissions (E&O) and healthcare/medical professional liability insurance markets as part of a strategic focus on the risk transfer needs of smaller businesses.

Torus’ introduction of automated capabilities to the specialty commercial and healthcare markets is aimed at taking advantage of the increasing proportion of the economy represented by small business, according to Jeff Grange, head of Torus’ management liability and professional lines. “Traditionally we have thought in terms of retail and wholesale or program administrator distribution channels,” Grange comments. “We’re very much of the view that the Internet is a complementary channel all on its own, and that there is business to be done on the Internet above that within the traditional channels.” Noting that service providers represent 60% of the U.S. economy, Grange says, “We want to provide a set of solutions that target that part of the economy which is growing as part of a long-term, secular trend.”

ESCAPE’s capabilities include a “quick quote” option; immediate policy issuance; multiple limit options at quote; a live underwriter chat capability; and the ability to combine, quote and bind multiple policies.

[For more on ESCAPE’s development and capabilities, see Torus Insurance's ESCAPE Broker Portal Aspires to Industry Leadership .]

In the medical professional liability market, the overwhelming portion of Torus’ business has been in retail and large accounts, according to Bob Allen, senior VP and head of the healthcare business at Torus. “To efficiently deal with higher volumes of business and smaller risks, we needed automation on our side,” he says. “The technology within ESCAPE was instrumental to that goal.”

Torus also saw an opportunity to leverage automation to serve smaller healthcare provider practices, according to Allen. “There are other portals to handle individual risks — such as for a nurse or physical therapist — but there was no tool that either wholesalers or retail distributors could access to handle something like a student health center or smaller healthcare corporation,” he explains. “We saw an opportunity to handle small business in a way unlike that of any of our competitors.”

Success in the small-to-medium sector is in part a matter of learning to change along with customers in how they use technology, posits Grange. Small businesses are using technology to grow their brand through marketing and sales, and insurers would do well to understand that use and walk in step with customer distributors in terms of both expedited transactions and the provision of relevant products.

“The insurance industry is notorious for delayed and often inaccurate delivery of the one product that we manufacture,” Grange declares. “One of the great things about our portal is that you can quote, bind, issue online and get fulfillment in minutes — not days or weeks — and the policy is delivered accurately and is printable from your desktop.” Torus is also aiming to supply the broader needs of a given small to medium-sized business, according to Grange. Whereas many existing portals serve individuals within a monoline business paradigm — as in the aforementioned example of individual medical professionals — Grange has built commercial E&O with 75 different customer types. In an effort to align more closely to customers needs than their competitors, Torus has also bundled in technology E&O media liability, privacy and network security coverage.

“Most of our customers are providing services that are themselves technology enabled,” Grange explains. “As a result, if they’re not able to deliver a professional service owing to technology errors, that makes them also a media company. Most liability policies don’t address this exposure.”

The expansion of Torus’ ESCAPE platform is also a testament to the carrier’s centralized, non-legacy technology environment and agile corporate business philosophy, suggests Allen. “I’ve worked with other companies that had portals for excess casualty, but they were tightly held by those profit centers,” he relates. “At Torus we have shared the technology across multiple business units.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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