Keystone Underwriting Builds Secure Broker Portal on AWS


A Vision to Become Australia’s Most Nimble, Diversified Underwriter

Insurance brokers are increasingly looking to offload the administrative portion of their job to technology, focusing on their advisory value to customers instead. Keystone Underwriting aspires to be Australian brokers’ partner of choice by providing quick, seamless insurance quotes enabled by technology. With 30 different insurance products spanning 1,500 occupations, the startup’s vision is to be the most nimble, diversified underwriter in the country. Underwriters are financial experts who conduct research and assess how much risk they can assume for each insurance applicant. This process helps set fair insurance coverage and premiums.

Shortly after founding Keystone Underwriting in 2018, Neil Sheppard, managing director, fleshed out his technology vision. His 10-stage, five-year plan included developing a self-service portal for brokers to quote and bind on. This is a process where brokers provide a quote for coverage and bind the policy, confirming that coverage is in place. Goals for the new system, called the KeyQuote Broker Portal, included ease of use, time savings through automation, and a reduction in manual errors during the quotation process.

Keystone Underwriting Founder

A solid design process and the flexibility of the AWS Cloud keeps us excited about making the KeyQuote Broker Portal even better as time goes on.”

Neil Sheppard
Founder and Managing Director, Keystone Underwriting

Built-in Security Protocols on a Versatile Platform

Sheppard initially approached two development firms, both of which failed to deliver enthusiasm or an activation plan for the broker portal. “I was trying to build something amazing, and I wasn’t talking to people that could see my vision,” explains Sheppard. “Then I connected with Laneways.Agency, and they were building the portal by the following week.”

Laneways.Agency, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Select Technology Partner, chose to build the KeyQuote Broker Portal on the AWS Cloud. This would enable them to take advantage of native security tools such as AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and two-factor authentication during login using Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS). “There’s a high level of security monitoring for sensitive data on AWS, and we’re confident we can build anything on the platform with relative ease,” shares Jerome Rault, chief executive officer of Laneways.Agency. The portal also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for low-cost document storage and Amazon CloudWatch to monitor user load and detect system abnormalities.

Automation Enables 2–3x More Quotes Per Day

Laneways advised Keystone to include as many products as it could in the first round of development. The KeyQuote Broker Portal now features 12, soon to be 13, low-touch insurance products, which allows Keystone’s eight underwriters to focus on more complex quotes. Previously, Keystone was generating about 10 quotes a day with substantial manual effort, but that figure has more than doubled since launching the KeyQuote Broker Portal.

“Having a self-service portal has reduced our administrative tasks enormously,” shares Sheppard. “There’s a lot of activity and documentation required each time someone asks us for a quote, and it’d take at least a half hour to prepare each quote, email it, and save the file. We’re now giving out 20–30 quotes a day with hardly any effort at all.” Sheppard estimates the portal has saved him from hiring one or two underwriters, and at the rate the business is growing, those savings will only increase. The company projects it will reach 150 quotes per day by the end of 2021.

The automated aspect of the portal also suits the off-hours nature of insurance quoting. Keystone does just as many quotes on weekends as it does on weekdays, and a lot of activity occurs after business hours. Brokers logging onto the KeyQuote Broker Portal get their quotes immediately, at any time, day or night. Often, being the first to deliver a quote is enough to secure the business for Keystone.

Intuitive User Experience Attracts New Clients

In tandem with automation, the self-guided aspect of the portal checks the box for Keystone’s goal to develop a user-friendly platform. Unlike similar quoting systems in the market the portal is intuitive, even for brokers with no experience using cloud-based systems. None of the 700 brokers who have registered for the KeyQuote Broker Portal since 2018 have taken more than 10 minutes to onboard.

“We couldn’t have managed to onboard so many users in the past 2.5 years the old-fashioned way. If we’d had to carry out processes manually, we could have probably handled only 50 to 100 brokers in total,” Sheppard reflects. Keystone expects to have 1,000 brokers onboarded by the end of 2021, three years after launching the portal.

Brokers Benefit from Embedded, Branded Interface

One reason for the success of the KeyQuote Broker Portal is the ease of integration and promotion. Using application programming interfaces (APIs) on AWS facilitates integration between the portal and brokers’ in-house systems, including websites. This allows customers to generate insurance quotes anytime via a broker’s site without speaking directly to the broker. Keystone offers its portal as a white-label product, so brokers can self-brand each quote before sending it to a customer personally or through the automated system on their website.

It’s a winning, time-saving scenario for all parties involved—insurance customers, brokers, and Keystone. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are Keystone’s primary target, and the sophistication of the KeyQuote Broker Portal is a big draw for them—insurance brokers often operate with a limited budget that prevents them from building a branded quoting system of this scale.

Detailed Dashboards Offer Administrative Flexibility

On the backend, Keystone can regularly adjust and customize the portal using detailed dashboards on AWS. Laneways.Agency and Keystone took care during the build process to set up thorough administrative privileges for Sheppard and his team. These privileges ensure Keystone isn’t beholden to external developers. each time it wants to add a personalized email signature for a broker or change the prevailing tax rate for a quoted occupation, for example. “We’ve done the hard work upfront by putting a lot of information into these dashboards, which give us the flexibility to make changes quickly and efficiently,” Sheppard says.

With the portal, Keystone is now able to attract more IT-savvy, do-it-yourself brokers. “These types of brokers represent straightforward additional business for us, and this is where the market’s headed,” Sheppard comments. Keystone is looking to integrate a live chat function in the future to better serve this low-contact market segment and integrate machine learning to guide users through the portal.

“We’re now about halfway through our original technology vision. There are always improvements and changes to make, but a solid design process and the flexibility of the AWS Cloud keeps us excited about making the KeyQuote Broker Portal even better as time goes on,” Sheppard concludes.

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About Keystone Underwriting

Keystone Underwriting offers brokers 30 insurance products covering 1,500 occupations. The company has developed a self-service system called the KeyQuote Broker Portal to support its mission to become Australia’s most nimble, diversified underwriter.

Benefits of AWS

  • Generates 20–30 quotes per day instead of 10
  • Saves 1–2 additional hires
  • Onboards brokers to portal in just 10 minutes
  • Secures portal data with two-factor authentication
  • Registers 700 brokers in the first 2.5 years after launch
  • Empowers administrators with detailed dashboards
  • Integrates via APIs with brokers’ internal systems

AWS Services Used

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) enables you to manage access to AWS services and resources securely.

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Amazon Simple Notification Service

Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) is a fully managed messaging service for both application-to-application (A2A) and application-to-person (A2P) communication.

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Amazon S3

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.

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Amazon CloudWatch

Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service built for DevOps engineers, developers, site reliability engineers (SREs), and IT managers.

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