The Allstate acquisition of National General has improved Arity’s bottom line and not for the obvious reason. When I think of Arity, I think of telematics and its Route Report app – now known by some as Routely. “We designed the Route Report app as a customizable, off-the-shelf option for insurers seeking to capture telematics data while creating a brand-specific experience for their customers. The app accurately records a user’s trip behavior and provides deeper insight into every customer’s driving, ensuring each experience is optimized to meet their expectations.”
Scratch Routely. Think Transparent.ly. And let’s start with National General, which was acquired for $4 billion in January (the time of the acquisition completion) to grow Allstate’s market share within the independent agent channel as the insurer has appointments with over 42,000 independent agents. “That expands our product portfolio as well. It includes nonstandard auto insurance where we had a very small presence, lender-placed homeowners insurance, accident and health insurance, and 2 digital marketing platforms [ALL Q1 2021 earnings call, May 6, 2021].” These “2 digital marketing platforms” are likely LeadCloud and Transparent.ly.
LeadCloud is an Integration Platform as a Service (IPaaS) founded in 2013 by Brian Ocheltree to connect insurance carriers and other large advertisers to their digital marketing partners through one simple integration. In 2018, it was sold to National General. LeadCloud’s list of insurance buyers includes Liberty Mutual, Metromile, Plymouth Rock; but this isn’t to suggest these accounts are active. For a $150 setup fee, you too can join the LeadCloud directory and get listed under 3 categories.
Transparent.ly is another advertising business operating in similar verticals as LeadCloud. It was founded in 2018 and claims to have been profitable since its second quarter. It was acquired by National General in just over 18 months from inception and has enjoyed “explosive revenue growth in insurance verticals in 2020 and 2021.”
According to Allstate CEO Tom Wison, Arity is combining with LeadCloud and Transparent.ly to integrate telematics information into pricing at the time of quote rather than after the sale. And for that (Arity’s expansion into marketing services following the launch of Arity IQ), Arity gets to claim a $38 million boost in revenue compared to the prior-year quarter, “primarily driven by the inclusion of Transparent.ly and LeadCloud as a result of the National General acquisition, and increased device sales driven by growth in the Allstate brand Milewise® product.”
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The business is a bidding platform for car insurance where it isn’t unusual for insurance companies to bid $50 per lead, according to a source. And why would it be? After all, a company like Progressive has seen its marketing spend rise over the years – in 2020, it spent ~$2.2 billion on ads and ~$3.3 billion on policy acquisition costs – up $340 million and $250 million from 2019, respectively.
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In more entertaining news, Rihanna joined the billionaire’s club; except the vast majority of her fortune has nothing to do with her record-breaking hits (including Umbrella). Most of it – approximately $1.4 billion – has been accumulated through her Fenty Beauty makeup line founded in 2017 in a 50-50 partnership with luxury brand LVMH.
But in related news, both Allstate and Travelers want to capture a piece of the 21% of marketing dollars spent by insurance companies to win business digitally, and the innovation they are known for isn’t always the innovation that’s boosting their bottom line. The observation is simple – not trivial – with the difference being that simple can be powerful and trivial implies little worth.
It’s worth mentioning Chubb’s acquisition of water monitoring company StreamLabs from Reliance Worldwide Corporation (RWC). Last year, RWC CEO Heath Sharp was asked about products that aren’t living up to his company’s expectations; unsurprisingly one such product is StreamLabs:
“Look, there is — we have a really broad range of new products that have been released over the last 12 months or so. I mean that goes across the ProLock product, even EvoPEX is still, in our mind, a new product. The StreamLabs product falls into that bucket. Some of the Holdrite HydroFlame products fall into that bucket, and look, each of those have always, in our mind, had a different time frame for rampup. Some are shorter, some are medium, some are longer term. So we’ve got different ways of sort of evaluating or considering those. If you take the Holdrite, the HydroFlame product, that’s a great product that is growing really strongly. Did it grow quite as strong as what we thought? No. But is it doing really well? Absolutely. So that’s one where we will, if anything, probably put more effort into it as opposed to less. At the other end of the spectrum, StreamLabs is a challenging product. I mean it’s a category-creating product, which as I said on the — earlier on, we absolutely believe in that product. It’s got an important place in the industry going forward. It’s a slow ramp-up product full stop, and when you put it in the context of the U.S. plumbing market, it’s even slower again. So we’re putting — we have been, for a while, putting some time and effort into considering how best and where best do we ramp that up. And is that something we’re best to doing on our own, should we adopt a different process and so on. So there really is a broad category of products there, each with sort of a unique set of circumstances.”
Chubb cited the evolution of insurance from a model of ‘repair and replace’ to ‘predict and prevent’ and its ability to offer Chubb clients a broader range of water monitoring and leak detection products to choose from. But is Chubb up for the challenge and will StreamLabs live outside the walls of Chubb’s userbase or it will fall into the same bucket of the NGL-Everplans acquisition where an insurer is aiming to add value by integrating two utility products? “In life, two negatives don’t make a positive. Double negatives turn positive only in math and formal logic. In life things just get worse and worse and worse,” says Robert McKee, who appeared as himself on The Simpsons – episode “Caper Chase.”
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Not much has changed since I wrote about LendingTree’s acquisition of QuoteWizard in 2018 under the heading ‘low-tech’. Today, QuoteWizard is twice the size it was from an employee count perspective; highlighting the power of low-tech, simple concepts and the ability to tell the difference between what your rival is known for and what it is good for.