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Firm hopes new deal uncorks surge of business

Rochester Business Journal
June 13, 2014

A locally developed flood insurance tool was rolled out nationally last week by the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents.

The feature was created by Perinton insurance broker Evan Spindelman and four others who operate as Floodbroker.com LLC. It was launched in 2012 and became a moneymaker this year for the first time.

“It gives people in real time their flood zone determination, where their property is relative to a flood plain and what hazard they are determined to be in by the federal government,” Spindelman says. “And the site will give them an online quote, in most circumstances.”

The product was officially paired with NAPIA as of June 5.

“The agents association has about 10,000 agents,” says Spindelman, CEO of Floodbroker.com. “We’d love to pick up 1,000 of them. We really won’t know where we stand probably until about a year after the contract.”

Participating agencies pay $50 a month for access. The cost to consumers is included in their flood insurance policy, whose price is determined by the federal government.

“The biggest value about having PIA involved is it’s legitimizing the company,” Spindelman says. “It’s saying this is important, these guys are for real and we endorse it.”

The website averages perhaps 500 hits a month, and the number is growing slowly, he says.

Robert Miller is Floodbroker.com’s chief technical officer. Also part of the business are Claude Marini, chief financial officer; Peter Tieslink, chief operating officer; and Mary Scipioni, Web designer.

“We do a lot of trade shows through PIA, and the agents are very interested because we’re doing something different,” Spindelman says.

“They like the idea, for the most part, that their customers and prospects are able to rate their own policies. They’re pushing out the message but aren’t necessarily doing a lot of the work until that lead comes back as a prospect who wants to buy.”

Flood insurance is increasingly important, as recent storms in the Finger Lakes region suggest, says Spindelman who is also owner and president of Lombard Insurance Agency of Rochester Inc.

“Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover the perils of flood, and the worst time to figure that out is when you have a flood,” he notes. “Even with agents, flood insurance is kind of a neglected product.”

The first contractual arrangement for Floodbroker.com came two years ago, with the NAPIA’s New York branch, which covers New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

The program is sold to New York PIA members by subscription, with those agencies and Floodbroker.com co-branding their own Web page.

“We’re still under 100,000 (users),” Spindelman says. “We’d love to see 200,000 or 250,000 by the end of the year. We’re also trying to push this out to other industries, such as Realtors, who don’t really have any resource at this point to find out flood information.”

Marini is president of the Rochester Group Inc., a software business. Tieslink is its chief technology officer. Miller was its president for 17 years before leaving to concentrate on a music career.

Spindelman has known the three for years because he handles the Rochester Group’s commercial insurance.

Miller used data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in shapefile format to determine flood zones. Addresses are entered to determine flood risks and rates for insurance.

“It sounds simple,” he says. “It’s just that there are millions of records, and these shapes are big, so it has to be efficient.”

There is plenty of room for Floodbroker.com to grow, Miller says.

“The need for flood insurance is going to explode, unfortunately,” he says. “We’ve seen enormous potential. I think this could be a whole lot bigger than us.”

Small Business is a biweekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.

6/13/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.



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