OneCore Financial Network, an online provider of small-business services, opened the virtual doors of an insurance agency this week and plans to private-label it along with its other services to banks.
Moving into insurance continues an effort to provide small businesses with affordable services online, said Jack Littman-Quinn, chief executive officer of the two-year-old firm, which is based in Bedford, Mass. Its other services are cash management, payroll, 401(k), checking, bill payment, leasing, credit services, and account aggregation.
OneCore Insurance Agency Inc. offers employee benefits such as medical, dental, and vision coverage as well as life and disability insurance policies. Users can also buy commercial lines such as umbrella coverage, worker's compensation, auto, errors and omissions, and business owner's policies through the site from Coverage Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., and Small Business Insurance Agency of Worcester, Mass.
Small-business owners can get quotes and in some cases make purchases online through the OneCore site. They can also contact licensed agents at OneCore and the two partner agencies for help with purchase decisions on insurance and employee benefits.
No banks have signed up to private-label OneCore Financial's services, but the addition of insurance should attract some, Mr. Littman-Quinn said.
Todd Eyler, a senior analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., said small businesses are likelier to buy insurance from multiservice sites such as OneCore's than from insurance-only sites.
"Insurance is definitely not a top-of-mind activity for a small business," he said.
He agreed that adding insurance should help OneCore attract banks. Smaller banks often have difficulty negotiating arrangements with individual insurers, he said. Using OneCore "would allow community banks to consolidate their buying power," he said.
Mr. Littman-Quinn said he had decided to form OneCore's agency - instead of contracting out all the insurance services - because of the importance of integrating insurance with OneCore's other services. OneCore had surveyed 2,000 small businesses, he said, and found that they had a lot of difficulty obtaining health insurance for their workers, especially if they had operations in more than one state.
A key part of his strategy is to give small businesses one place to handle all sorts of financial matters without having to enter data again and again.
Being able to manage four or five relationships through a single account saves the business owner "a tremendous amount of time," Mr. Littman-Quinn said, and "being able to access your account anytime, anywhere, gives business owners tremendous flexibility in their schedules."
Using the Internet for distribution cuts OneCore's costs, and bringing together groups of small businesses increases buying power, Mr. Littman-Quinn said. Four thousand small businesses have paid fees to use OneCore's services, he said.
The OneCore agency offers life and health insurance products from Aetna U.S. Healthcare. Its partnerships with Coverage Corp. and Small Business Insurance Agency allow it to offer commercial insurance lines from carriers such as Travelers and Hartford.
The life and health products are available in 25 states, and the commercial insurance in 46. The company is working to obtain licenses in the remaining states.
Mr. Littman-Quinn said that the OneCore agency will eventually sell commercial insurance on its own instead of referring customers to Coverage Corp. and Small Business Insurance Agency, but that he had wanted to get the employee benefits available online first.
"Insurance is a complicated space," he said.