Insurance News

By Gia Snape | Mar 25, 2024

CEO on why physical growth still makes sense.

"We're not running away from brick and mortar"

First-generation Portuguese and Spanish-speaking communities remain one of the most underserved insurance groups nationwide.

One independent agency is on a mission to remove the barriers hindering these customers from accessing coverage, leveraging both technology and a growing physical presence to do so.

“Culture and language barriers are the two pain points for the industry today,” said Tiago Prado (pictured), CEO and co-founder of BRZ Insurance Agency.

The New England-based startup is growing from its six locations thanks to funding from private lender InsurBanc. It leverages partnerships in Brazil and Puerto Rico to offer its artificial intelligence-powered proprietary technology.

The independent agency targets bilingual speakers. Its website features Portuguese, Spanish, and English and focuses on financial literacy and education.

Despite its tech-forward business model, Prado revealed that the agency is looking to use InsurBanc’s funding to grow its physical footprint.

“We’re not running away from the brick-and-mortar model. We’re thinking of franchising in 2025,” Prado told Insurance Business. BRZ Insurance is currently generating over $1 million in new premiums a month with around 80 employees and contract workers.

“Through our technology and servicing centers, we can become the largest bilingual (insurance) franchise distribution,” Prado said.

‘Insurance is still a local thing’

To better reach its target demographic, BRZ Insurance is embracing the traditional brick-and-mortar agency growth model.

“Insurance is still a geographical and local thing,” said Prado. “Foreign-born first- and second-generation citizens will still want a physical location; that’s not going to go away. That means our business model will still have a long runway, longer than the rest of the market.”

Ultimately, BRZ Insurance is concerned about “helping the small business owner who owns the local bakery or pizza shop, or the small contractor get coverage in his native language.”

Communicating in the format that the consumer chooses – whether through Viber, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger – is also core to BRZ’s strategy.

“Instead of telling my client to download my app or to fax or email me, we’re using omni-channels, AI tools and our proprietary two-way CRM system to deliver this experience,” Prado said.

Leveraging technology to improve the insurance client experience

Aside from opening new locations in the US Northeast, BRZ Insurance is building a bilingual insurance educational platform to train new producers – the first of its kind, according to Prado.

To scale its business, the agency is also developing its customer relationship management system based on its own workflow and client life journey.

“There’s no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to CRM,” said Prado. “We’re building on top of what exists, and it’s the same thing with the omnichannel for external communication. We have integrated our CRM so that it’s unique and tailored to our needs. We have over 20 developers in-house focused on our client experience.”

Balancing tech investments with a physical footprint

How is BRZ Insurance juggling both technology investments and physical growth? Prado admitted that the combined focus makes profitability more challenging.

“Yes, it does take a toll on short-term profitability, but we’re not in the game for the short term,” the CEO said.

“Our business is modeled around client experience. A better client experience increases your lifetime value (LTV). Unlike other agencies, we serve seven days a week through our omnichannel.

“Our aim is to actually start servicing them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in their native language. So, we can have lower margins at a higher LTV. It is worthwhile because the compound annualized growth rate is much higher.”

Despite its ambitions, BRZ Insurance is feeling the hard market conditions like many agencies. However, Prado is confident of slow and steady progression.

“2024 is still a challenging year for us in terms of the industry,” he said. “For this fiscal year, we reduced our growth target. Our strategic goal for the fiscal year 2024 is to increase the maturity level of our team while growing sustainably, and in 2025, we will scale up again when the market has normalized.”

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