How Applied Systems deal has – and hasn’t – changed EZLynx
Leaders on finding the business’s feet, maintaining a distinct identity, and tech-driven investment
Applied Systems’ EZLynx deal completed in March of 2021. Coming up to three years on, Insurance Business caught up with EZLynx general manager Michael Streit, who joined the business in January, and EZLynx VP of product management Brenna Johnson, who has been with the agency management system since 2016, to find out what has changed, what has not changed, and how EZLynx is tapping into Applied’s firepower to bolster its offering.
The run up to mergers & acquisition (M&A) deals may be akin to a courtship, but unlike the fairytales, the completion of a deal – like Applied Systems’ 2021 purchase of EZLynx – is unlikely to end with rolling credits as both parties sail off into the sunset.
Rather, this can be where the hard work begins.
Applied Systems’ EZLynx acquisition closed in March 2021. Following an integration period, leaders now feel EZLynx, which serves smaller independent agencies, is at a stage where it is delivering what its agent partners need and has built the right internal culture, they told Insurance Business.
“We were used to being a much smaller company, and so now we had access to all of these different resources and different inputs, but at the same time, we were almost trying to find who we were in a new relationship journey,” said Brenna Johnson (pictured left), EZLynx VP of product management, reflecting on the early post-deal days.
“We’ve finally gotten to the point where we can be the right company to be able to serve our customer base, and then doing that with the backing and support of Applied means that we can do that better, and that we can be a better partner to our agencies,” Johnson said. “But I think it’s taken us a little bit of time to finally find our feet through the transition.”
Michael Streit (pictured right), EZLynx general manager, came onboard in January to lead the business. Having spent 10 years in private equity, at one time working under Applied Systems CFO Graham Blackwell, Streit is no stranger to deals and integrations.
“It’s funny to hear Brenna say that because I totally get it – for example, the fact that the founders left as part of that process, they were such an important piece of the culture – so I totally get that and I really empathize with it,” said Streit. “But it’s rare to find businesses that serve the same space but jigsaw together so well in terms of the types of customers that they’re serving, and that benefit from the same integrations and surrounding technologies like Tarmika and Applied Pay.
“It’s easy for me to say, because I wasn’t there for the hard two years when people were getting to know each other, but I’ve seen 10 [deals like this], and this one feels like it’s in a really good spot.”
EZLynx leaders pledge distinct offering with the benefit of Applied Systems tech investments
For both Applied Systems and EZLynx, maintaining a degree of separation and making sure that the latter has its own distinct offering while benefiting from Applied Systems’ investments has been critical.
“Applied acquired EZLynx a few years ago, and there was a recognition that it went very well – it’s a great acquisition, there’s tons of mutual benefit – and yet, there was a feeling that EZLynx could thrive even more if we treated it more like its own business inside Applied,” said Streit. “I was brought in to do that.”
To achieve this, EZLynx is looking at how it can make the most of Applied Systems’ technology and its strategic partnership with Google to “turbocharge” its offering while prioritizing its agency customer base’s needs.
In recent months, EZLynx has been “growing as fast as [it has] ever grown” in terms of agency partnerships, Streit said.
Recent EZLynx updates have included reporting releases and quote by text capabilities.
It has also further developed agency retention center predictive analytics, with EZLynx research having found that keeping customers on board is now top of mind for agents, even above generating new business.
“We do an annual survey every year and this is the first year that retaining customers was the number one concern on people’s minds,” said Johnson. “We’ve been doing this survey since 2009 and typically and historically the top issue has always been acquiring new customers.”
Generative AI a hot topic – but EZLynx agencies are moving at different paces
Generative AI remains a hot topic across the insurance industry and further afield, and EZLynx is set to benefit from Applied Systems’ investment in the technology, according to Streit.
“We want to learn, do agents like engaging with this, what are the best ways to put it in the product? How do we make it so that they’re remaining at the center of the activity, and they’re not handing this over to the machine, but it’s also meaningful?” said Streit.
EZLynx will not look to “use AI for AI’s sake” and will instead look to target “real problems”, Streit said.
The software business has already used the technology in a bid to speed up marketing for agents. EZLynx, along with Applied Epic, has launched a generative AI driven email tool that crafts messages from brokers to customers and could-be customers.
“It’s built directly into the product to help them get that first draft of insurance-specific content, so that they’re not just staring at that blank page going, ‘OK, I know I need to write something, but it’s really challenging to come up with what to say’,” said Johnson. “It then lets them refine the content and they have some different options on setting tones.”
Not all agents are excited by the possibilities of generative AI, but many are actively curious about benefits the technology could deliver.
“We’ve seen both,” said Johnson. “Independent agencies are all unique and so we have seen some that are already out there experimenting with really cool stuff on the AI side and others that are waiting for us to take the lead and do that.”
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