WORCESTER — When a customer calls a big insurance company based in Florida or Ohio, the phone just might ring in a modest office on Worcester’s Main Street.
That’s because Covenir LLC, a small business founded in 2016 in the basement of a co-working center, has taken over some or all of the back-office operations for 18 property and casualty insurers and is adding more customers.
“We’ve grown astoundingly, and we are continuing on a ridiculous, ridiculous trajectory of growth from a revenue perspective,” said Jon Hughes, Covenir founder. “Our goal this year was to bring on four new logos (company clients), which I think’s going to be very conservative … it’s only February, we’ve already brought on two new logo zones. So we’re halfway there.”
Covenir caters to insurers that want to outsource operations. If an insurer does not want to answer customer calls, open envelopes and cash customers’ checks, or print paperwork and mail it to customers, Covenir can do that.
Covenir can also tackle underwriting for its customers. With guidance from an insurer, Covenir workers can evaluate the risk of insuring a house, a car or something else to determine the price of a policy.
More recently, Covenir is offering sales services to insurers. If a client wants to offer new coverage, it can do so with Covenir workers selling the service.
There are good reasons for insurers to outsource customer service, bill processing and other functions. Pressure to cut operating costs is growing, even as costs in information technology are growing for insurers.
Over the last decade, insurers moved work to India and other lower-cost locations, according to a 2018 Information Services Group Inc. white paper. Meanwhile, insurers also focused their businesses on specific niches or specialties.
Another wrinkle: Technology developers are creating robotic systems to automate business processes historically handled by workers.
Mr. Hughes launched Covenir after about eight years as a vice president at Blue Cod Technologies Inc., a Marlboro business now known as Activer Solutions that provides services to property and casualty insurers.
After about a year in the Clearly Coworking center on Grove Street, Covenir was up to 35 employees and anxious for more space. Mr. Hughes promised them that the next office would have windows. He secured a 15,000-square-foot floor in the Guaranty Building at 370 Main St.
Some of the workers transferred from large insurance operations to work at Covenir, according to Sallie A. Ricardo, operations manager for Covenir, who worked at Blue Cod with Mr. Hughes.
“They literally just said, ‘I can’t work for this company any more, it’s too corporate,’ ” Ms. Ricardo said.
The company has about 80 employees and second site in Illinois, covering 10,000 square feet of space, where it handles printing jobs.
“I walked away from a 30-year-old company in a higher-level management position, but the culture was not what I was looking for,” said Eleni Koumpis, Covenir customer service manager. “When I came in, I interviewed with Jon and Sallie. I got a real clear picture of what they were trying to achieve here and the way in which they were trying to achieve it, and for me, that was incredibly attractive.”
Covenir’s call center — a cluster of cubicles where workers speak to their clients’ customers — handles about 20,000 calls per month. Covenir declines to release the names of its customers but says clients range from large, well-known national insurers to small startups and specialty insurers.
Strategic Cat Solutions LLC hired Covenir to answer calls for the Clearwater, Florida, business, which provides claims services to insurers, said Steve Backman, Strategic Cat chief operating officer.
“As we’ve grown and added clients, one thing we know is we don’t want to be a call center,” Mr. Backman said. With Covenir, “we don’t have to staff for the slow periods of time. I don’t have to bear the overhead and expense of people waiting around to answer the phone.”
He also likes the low employee turnover at Covenir.
“When they hire people, they tend to stay,” Mr. Backman said. “They develop experience with you.”
Covenir markets its U.S. location as a selling point, catering to insurers that cannot or do not want to outsource jobs to foreign sites.
Other clusters of cubicles at Covenir hold underwriting workers and sales workers. A “premium support” cluster of workers handles checks sent to insurers, scans payments, validates whether payments should be posted to clients and handles other tasks for insurers.
Covenir does not disclose revenue.
The company has also partnered with other organizations that also offer services to insurers. The collaborative goes by the name Kaboodle and has offices in Worcester for entities such as professional services business Red Hawk and software services business Insuresoft.
Covenir expects to continue hiring in 2019, particularly to bring on managers to handle the growing business. Covenir also wants to market itself more.
“We’re growing up as a company, we’re trying to formalize our marketing and our sales,” Mr. Hughes said. “So far, we haven’t been very active at all in that arena, and so we’re starting to recognize that we can take a moment to breathe as we’re maturing as a company and better document processes, better streamline, be more efficient and look toward — now that we’ve got that foundation more secure — actually actively starting to sell and market ourselves.”