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Cornerstone uses Policy Works for commercial growth

Like many brokerages across Canada, Saskatchewan’s Cornerstone Insurance has evolved from a mainly personal lines player to a firm with a much heavier weighting in commercial business. Through its main office in Prince Albert, this generalist brokerage writes all types of small to mid-market accounts across Saskatchewan and into Alberta, with specialization in contractors and surety.

Cornerstone's roots go back more than 60 years as part of the Saskatchewan insurance landscape, originally known as Stefaniuk Agencies and then later as Eldstrom Insurance. An ownership change in 2001 led to the eventual rebranding of the firm as Cornerstone Insurance in 2007. 

The name change reflected the firm’s values, helping people use insurance products to build a solid foundation of financial security. Not coincidentally, the location of the Prince Albert office is also known as the “Cornerstone” area of the city.

A focus on commercial

“This brokerage really started as a personal lines firm and that was the case when it was purchased in 2001,” says Brock Longworth, a commercial account executive with Cornerstone Insurance. “Today, we are about 55-60% personal, 40-45% commercial. So while both areas have grown, our commercial focus has really shifted.”

The anticipated rate of growth in commercial business at Cornerstone Insurance is a lofty 15-25% annually, outpacing the still solid 10-15% increase in personal lines per year. “If we continue on that trajectory, we expect to meet our plans of becoming a roughly 60% commercial and 40% personal lines brokerage,” Longworth says.

 

cornerstone insurance

Location: Prince Albert, SK
BMS: Epic (Applied Systems)
CL/PL split: 40/60
CL goal: 15% annual growth

Managing growth

That growth means a jump in small to mid-market business accounts – and a corresponding need to increase efficiency and consistency through automation and workflow.

“Policy Works gives us an edge, whether that is with our carriers, our employee productivity or our client service,” Longworth concludes. “We look forward to working with it even more as our commercial business expands.”

The transformation in commercial lines has not come without some growing pains, according to Longworth. A prime issue was hiring and training new staff with a business insurance focus.

Training system for new staff

“As our commercial department started to expand, one of our biggest challenges was bringing on new staff and training them,” Longworth notes. ”When you are transitioning more to a commercial lines brokerage, you are often on-boarding junior staff who are green and don’t know the insurance business. You have to do all sorts of training and bring them up to speed in terms of insurance processes and knowledge.”

 

We have a 96-97% hit rate using e-marketing for our submissions to SGI Canada.

BrockLongworth_square.jpgBrock Longworth, Commercial Account Executive

To handle the increased commercial activity, Cornerstone Insurance invested in Policy Works. One of the immediate payoffs was reducing the hiring and training time required for new recruits, according to Longworth.

“The cool thing about Policy Works is that it really shortens the training and on-boarding cycle in terms of increasing employee productivity,” he notes.

“It gives new employees a path to get more comfortable. Previously, we would bring someone in from outside the industry and then five years later, they would become a commercial broker. Today, we can cut that process down considerably. Usually within a year we can get that person up and running.”

Standardized workflows increase efficiency

Establishing standardized procedures throughout the commercial lines operation is a feature of Policy Works that benefits everyone in the brokerage, Longworth explains.

 

Policy Works really shortens the training and on-boarding cycle in terms of increasing employee productivity.

BrockLongworth_square.jpgBrock Longworth, Commercial Account Executive

“Once you get the technology up and running, you are in a consistent environment. It doesn’t just enable that consistency; it almost forces you to do things the same way. This not only increases efficiency, but it helps us reduce any E&O exposures. All of our staff ask the right questions in the right order – it gives them a template so they can’t get things wrong,” he says.

Commercial quotes in hours

Another key benefit Cornerstone Insurance has seen is in the success of its underwriting submissions. “When you create a submission through Policy Works, no matter who does it, it always has the same professional quality,” Longworth notes.

“You learn very quickly that underwriters like Policy Works submissions – they see a lot of them and they know what to do with them. You notice that your submissions go to the top of the stack.”

In one case, Cornerstone Insurance was singled out by SGI Canada as a broker of choice, in part because of its effective use of Policy Works in creating commercial submissions.

“We have a 96-97% hit rate using e-marketing for our submissions to SGI Canada,” Longworth says. “They love it, they don’t have to do double entry, they don’t have to ask for more information and they are responding to our quote requests within hours. That is pretty awesome for us.” He adds that the e-marketing functionality of Policy Works is rapidly expanding to other insurance carriers.

BMS integration key

Currently, Cornerstone Insurance is in the process of changing its broker management system to Applied Epic for its personal lines business. The transition, expected to be complete at the end of 2015, should boost productivity in the brokerage even further, given Policy Works’ successful integration with Epic.

 

Underwriters like Policy Works submissions. You notice that your submissions go to the top of the stack.

BrockLongworth_square.jpgBrock Longworth, Commercial Account Executive

“Epic’s ability to integrate with Policy Works was definitely a consideration for us when we were searching for a BMS,” Longworth says. “We are looking forward to that integration because we think we can realize more efficiencies with Policy Works and Epic working together.”

Looking forward

Longworth also notes that a critical part of Cornerstone’s strategy in the years ahead is to move more aggressively into the online space, broadening its coverage solutions across Saskatchewan and Alberta. One trend observed in the U.S. is the emergence of instant pricing for small commercial accounts.

“That is a space we are hoping to get into in the near future,” he observes. “As a broker, you have to be able to define classes of business and have the ability to generate quotes instantly. We have actually done the same thing with our habitational business, with instant quotes and the option to bind and purchase online. If we can get that kind of traction with small commercial, it will be well worth it.”

To accomplish instant pricing, brokerages typically require underwriting authority from their carriers. “Because of Policy Works, we already have been granted that underwriting authority to some degree with certain carriers – that is another advantage of our relationship with Policy Works,” Longworth says.