2014 marked the 30th anniversary of Boston-based Plymouth Rock Assurance
Founded in 1984 by former Commissioner of Insurance James “Jim” Stone, Plymouth Rock is the result of one man’s vision in wanting to create a company more in tune with its customers and independent agents. In 2014, the Boston-based insurer celebrated its 30th anniversary in the Commonwealth.
While the company has evolved and grown five different companies which write and manage over $1 billion in annual automobile and homeowners’ insurance premiums in four different states, it’s flagship company continues to be Plymouth Rock Assurance.
Now the fifth largest writer of automobile insurance in the Commonwealth, PRAC is rated A-/Excellent for financial strength by A.M. Best. In honor of the company’s anniversary, Agency Checklists posed the following questions to PRAC’s President and CEO, Chris Olie, to get a perspective on how this Boston-based insurer views its past, present and future after thirty years in Massachusetts.
How did Plymouth Rock get its start?
During the early 1980’s, the relationship between insurance providers and agents was extremely strained. Around that time, several leaders from the agency community met with Jim Stone, Plymouth Rock’s Founder, and explained that if he were to start a company that worked closely with agents and listened to their input, that it would easily differentiate itself from the rest of the crowd. Normand Dion and David Lane were two of those agents who were instrumental in helping Jim plan his company and recruit its first agents.
Over the last thirty years, what have been the three things that stand out in the company’s history?
Many noteworthy events have transpired over our 30 years as a company. Three that stand out are:
- Our ability to maintain a reputation of exceptional service to our customers for more than 30 years.
- Crossing the $1 billion premium threshold in 2004.
- Most recently, the exclusive endorsement from AARP for auto and home insurance in Massachusetts.
What has been the biggest challenge for Plymouth Rock since it has started?
The insurance industry landscape changed significantly with the introduction of managed competition. One challenge that arose from that change has been the presence of direct writers, many who maintain multi-million and billion dollar advertising budgets. We’ve continued to grow despite national competitors entering the market, but we’ve had to make some adjustments to our strategy along the way.
As a New England-based insurer and one that works through independent agents in Massachusetts, how has the introduction of Managed Competition been for PRAC?
After six years, we really don’t think about the old system too much anymore. As a company, we’ve enjoyed some great years recently. We have grown significantly – we’re the fastest growing independent agency company in the state – and last year Plymouth Rock and Bunker Hill became the exclusive auto and home insurance providers for AARP’s 800,000 members in Massachusetts.
How would you describe the last six years for the company? What changes have seen for good and for bad since Managed Competition arrived?
Certainly, there is more competition in the state now than there was before. Consumers have much more variety in terms of both providers and coverage than they did six years ago. We think that’s a good thing for the industry and for many consumers. However, we worry that the change has also weakened some consumer protections and increased price differentials based on factors other than driving record.
How is the online quoting tool that PRAC developed working? Have many agents embraced this?
Plymouth Rock is trying to create an entirely new distribution system for auto insurance. Traditional independent agency companies don’t offer consumers the option to buy or service their policies online. Traditional direct to consumer companies offer online capabilities, but have little to no local presence and lack the trusted advice and choice that an independent agent possesses.
Plymouth Rock’s approach is to provide the best of both methods – the opportunity to buy and service a policy online, combined with the expertise and knowledge of a local, independent agent. Our participating agents are thrilled when they receive sold policyholders and quality leads from us. It’s something that stands out in the industry and that none of our competitors are doing.
What about your partnership with AARP? How can agents better take advantage of this program?
In the first year of the program, more than 7,000 AARP members in Massachusetts purchased a policy. We’re very pleased that the rate of sales continues to grow. It’s a testament to the strength of the program and the momentum that we’ve built over this first year. Going forward, we’ll continue to work with our agents to build new marketing strategies that will help them reach the 800,000 AARP members across the state.
If you could cite one thing, what it is that make PRAC different from other insurers?
We’re the only company in Massachusetts who regularly delivers policyholders and top quality leads to our independent agents. No one else can make that claim.
Going forward, what does PRAC hope to accomplish in the coming years?
We will continue to invest in our independent agents and in technology that will allow us to offer competitive rates and exceptional service to our customers. They’re the same principles the company was founded on 30 years ago and they remain true today. In the coming years, we plan to roll out a number of new initiatives that will improve the way we do business, including a new product which will have agency interface enhancements, advancements in our telephony system which will enhance a customer’s experience, and improvements in our claims technology.