Waukee-based insurance brokerage Holmes Murphy announced today it will launch a technology accelerator program specifically targeted to the needs of insurance agencies and brokerages nationally. 

Holmes Murphy is partnering initially with five insurance brokerages — M3 Insurance, PayneWest Insurance, ABD Insurance & Financial Services, Conner Strong & Buckelew, and Assurance — to create the program, which will be called BrokerTech Ventures. Holmes Murphy Chairman and CEO Dan Keough said he believes the initiative, which will be based in downtown Des Moines, is the first in the insurance industry to specifically address technology needs for agencies and brokerages. 

“There is an ongoing need for technology solutions specific to agents and brokers, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this cutting-edge initiative,” Keough said in a news release. “BrokerTech Ventures will alleviate some of these pain points by creating an ‘innovation hub’ for startups to test broker-centric ideas and products, while bringing new and innovative ideas and solutions to our customers.”

BrokerTech Ventures will deploy a highly intentional accelerator curriculum, as well as a veteran mentoring network, seed funding for a portion of the chosen startups’ research and testing, and a distribution platform to deploy the technologies. 

In an interview with the Business Record, Keough said BrokerTech Ventures will have an operating budget of approximately $1 million, half of which will be invested in a cohort of six to 10 insurance technology companies and the other half in administration of the accelerator program. “Over time, we plan to grow that with other agencies and insurance companies that want to partner with us,” Keough said. 

Holmes Murphy has contracted with Brian Hemesath, former managing director of the Global Insurance Accelerator, as a consultant in forming the accelerator and to lead the search for an executive director. 

Keough said the initiative is a response to the increasing trend of insurance agencies being bought up by private equity firms, and is part of Holmes Murphy’s strategy to remain committed to a private, independent ownership model. The company, which is employee-owned, is the third-largest private independent insurance brokerage in the United States and the 22nd-largest overall. 

Brokerages will be able to invest in the accelerator at three different levels based on their technology needs and budgets. M3 Insurance, based in Madison, Wis., and the largest brokerage in Wisconsin, has invested as a co-founding partner with Holmes Murphy. 

“The idea behind the alignment of BrokerTech Ventures as both an accelerator and an investment vehicle is that we, and our agency partners, have an opportunity to shape a product or solution alongside the startup,” said Mike Victorson, M3 Insurance president and CEO. “We intend on being active participants in the insurance technology space and offering a testing ground to benefit our customers.”

The window for startup companies to apply for a spot in the first BrokerTech Ventures cohort will open in late October of this year, with program launch planned for February 2020. To learn more and sign up for updates, go to www.brokertechventures.com