New MGA taps app to target optional auto

Retirement didn’t suit Colin Brown.

After a period of consulting, the former CEO of Canadian Direct Insurance and long-time vp of the Insurance Corp. of B.C. has launched a new venture called Stratford Underwriting Agency.

The managing general agency hopes to make inroads into ICBC’s vice-like grip on the optional insurance market in B.C.

“When we first began to talk about this, we thought of starting another insurance company,” he told Thompson’s. “But that’s tough sledding in today’s regulatory regime — not only in terms of time but also in effort and capital to start up a new company.

“We decided fairly early on that an MGA with a good, strong backer for underwriting purposes was the way to go.” So, with ownership participation from Ken Armstrong of Sussex Insurance — although not Sussex itself — Stratford was born.

The MGA is “not replicating but feeding off” of the old CDI model, right down to some personnel such as Karen Hopkins Lee who brought with her several people from her underwriting department.

“But we plan to be a lot more broad-based than CDI was,” Mr. Brown said.

Stratford intends to target not only good drivers, but also new drivers using a telematics app.

“I also want to be one of the first writers in Canada to offer an up-front discount for people that will put a good distracted driving app on their phone, which means they cannot — literally cannot — use it while driving.”

To that end, Stratford has acquired eBrake, makers of a unique app that cannot be turned off while the vehicle is in use yet can be used when the driver is a passenger.

Mr. Brown said he believes these incentives will undercut ICBC rates.

Within three months, he said, Stratford plans to be operating online — so its customers can buy either from a broker directly or online via a brokers site with a broker receiving credit for the sale.

Stratford Underwriting is based in Vancouver and is offering extended third-party liability, collision, loss of use and comprehensive protection.

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