Recently, AE Magazine sat down with Brent Allen, president of StoneEagle Insurance Systems to learn more about the companies he runs, how they got started and their plans for the future. Allen also shared his insights on issues likely to impact the industry landscape in the near future and a little about what makes the man behind the company. Read on and hear, directly from him, all about what StoneEagle has achieved since he began running the company and what he has in store for them.
There are three StoneEagle companies that have offerings in the auto industry: StoneEagle Insurance Systems is our original company. It provides administration software for all types of aftermarket products offered through banks, credit unions, insurance companies and auto dealers. That includes everything from credit life insurance to complicated vehicle service contracts to all ancillary products. We spent the last few years completely re-engineering our contract administration system. It is using the latest .net technology, object oriented design and web service accessibility.
StoneEagle.com was our second company. It was started to create browser based interfaces to our administration systems in the ‘90s. We quickly became experts in data acquisition from all types of dealer management systems in the US. We applied the automation of data extraction to dealer performance analytics and created SEcureMetrics, our core product. Other products include a service drive analytics tool called SEcureMetrics Service, and our new menu SEcureMenu.
StoneEagle Services, our third company, owns a subsidiary called VPay. VPay is the original Virtual Credit Card payment vendor in our industry. We stumbled onto the idea in 1999 while working with an OEM. The virtual card allows your administration system to send a payment to a repair facility using a fixed value credit card. We can track all transactions on the card from payment request to final settlement and provide reconciliation files that will allow an administrator to electronically balance payments with their claims systems.2. Are there any recent or future developments within your company that you would like to tell us about?
Our most recent developments include SEcureMenu, SEcureMetrics Service and our new administration system.
SEcureMenu is focused on simplicity, accuracy and compliance. It is in beta as I write this, and should be fully deployed in December. In 2001 we built one of the first electronic menus. As part of that build we employed our “data pull” technology to the idea of pulling a deal from a DMS dynamically. After creating this functionality, we found that many other companies had the need for this type of process. Eventually we abandoned our own menu because we found ourselves competing with a growing menu segment that wanted us to pull deals for their menus or similar products.
As “certified” requirements have been implemented and enforced by DMS providers over the past few years, we have found that niche to be a dead end. We knew for a long time that a menu offering would complement our other products, but only recently have we felt that we could enter that segment without competing with our own clients. With this cornerstone piece of technology, we will have a unique offering in the industry. We can offer not only the menu, reporting, and data transmission, but also the administration system that is the system of record for the products being displayed, sold, reported on, and transmitted.
SEcureMetrics Service is a “back end” reporting tool. It is intended to allow dealers to monitor service writer performance, track most common and most profitable operations, track incentive programs like oil change marketing, and then give the dealer metrics on upsell for those programs, as well as many other reports.
Our product administration system, SEcureARCH is completely new from the ground up. We realized that even though our original systems had more functionality than our competitors, there was a “perception of technology” associated with newer platforms and “web based” or “point and click” solutions. We used the intellectual property we have gained from 25 years of writing systems and applied it to the latest applications of technology, including sequel server, object oriented, and web service oriented architecture. It is a web based solution that can be run from our location, your location, or in a cloud environment. We recognized years ago that administration companies are quite different in need and ideas, and wanted choices on how they could run their business, including whether or not they wanted to own or lease their software. We provide both options. This system is fully functional today, and has gained quite a bit of attention over the last couple of years.
StoneEagle is the only technology provider in this industry that can provide a partner company with menu, reporting, rating, forms generation, data transmittal and payment solutions under one roof.3. How did you get started? What caused you to choose this career path?
StoneEagle was incorporated in 1987 by my father Buz Allen and my brother Bobby Allen. I joined the company at 20 years old in 1990 to help work on our service contract administration system with my brother Blair, which at that time had a single client, but two in contracting. I was working on a Major in Business at night, and programming during the day. In 1992 we re-engineered our system to be year 2000 compliant. In 1993 the business really took off and spawned our StoneEagle.com company mentioned above.
I didn’t really choose this path. It was the only path in front of me at the time and like many family owned “boot strap” companies, I was just too busy to consider that there may be another option. I liked the people I was working with, and liked solving industry problems. Over the years I have played many roles in all three of our companies.4. Tell us about your family and the role they have played in your success.
I can never quite put into words how proud and passionate I am about my wife, Cindy. We have been married 21 years this November. She is brilliant, beautiful, talented, and has never met a stranger. Her charisma is and was no doubt cultivated by being a pastor’s kid and a gifted vocal performer. She loves to be on stage for any type of speaking engagement and she is terrific at it. Just ask anyone who has had to perform right after her.
I have two daughters, Alexis, age 20, and Andrea, age 17. Alexis is a junior at Oklahoma State University, majoring in business and marketing, while waiting tables at Buffalo Wild Wings. She is aggressive and motivated like her mother. I cannot wait to see what she does with her opportunities. Like me, she too loves cars and owns a 1970 BMW 2002, which she takes to car shows as often as her schedule allows. Andrea is a senior in high school and is the complete opposite of her older sister. Incredibly artistic, she paints, draws, and sculpts in almost any medium. She plays acoustic and electric guitars as well as the piano, and she is the vocalist for the school guitar club.5. What do you like to do on your days off? What activities or sports are you passionate about?
My number one priority is certainly my wife and daughters. Taking care of my 17-year-old and going to the university to see my oldest takes quite a bit of time these days. There is not much left for anything else.
I have always been very interested in and involved with automobiles. Some would say I am a true “gear head.” It’s fortuitous that I just happened to land in an industry so passionate about cars. I’m embarrassed to say how many cars I have owned, but they have ranged from my first “souped up” 74 VW Beetle, to a small block V8 powered Miata, to a 2014 Shelby GT500. I truly enjoy going to car shows and taking road trips.
I ran track and played soccer until I was 29, at which time my knees decided that the rest of my body should give up. I have season tickets to the Oklahoma State Cowboys where my daughter is in school, and I enjoy the entire football season. Otherwise, I am consumed with work and trying to stay healthy and fit.6. What are the biggest issues you see facing the industry today and in the future?
The issues I am closest to revolve around an administration company trying to provide products to its dealer customers . . . and there are many.Automation – The cost of doing business for TPA’s continues to climb. As administrative costs increase, the TPA is forced to either increase costs or reduce expense. Of course increased cost means reduced competitive advantage. Automating the way business is conducted is definitely the direction most companies are moving. There are a few ways they are working on this today. We see so many TPA’s working with more and more menu companies in the dealerships. Proper integration with menus allows the TPA to deliver rates electronically, reducing cost of paper booklets and increasing the accuracy and timeliness of rate changes. Menus also allow the delivery of up to date forms to the dealer. e-Contracting – As with rates and forms, electronic signatures are a way to reduce the amount of paper being passed back and forth from dealer to administrator. A true electronic jacket means a dealer will require less printer and paper costs as well as physical storage. This flows straight over to the admin company. They too will require less physical storage as well as fewer personnel to handle the paper, scan documents, and process the business. Integration – I alluded to this before. Integration to the DMS has become popular and will eventually become critical to compete. In today’s environment, menu technology or any technology requiring deal data to be pulled from a DMS is expected to be fast and reliable. Integration also extends to the other technologies above which mean the movement of rates, forms and electronic signatures to and from the DMS and the administration company. Cost – Everything I have discussed here comes at a price: new admin systems, menus, reporting, integration, electronic signatures. It is unclear which entity will bear the cost of these new technologies, but I think all will agree that ultimately it will be the customer. I think the only real break in all of this is the hope that the efficiencies found in electronic movement of data, the elimination of paper, and the ability to scale business without adding more personnel, will result in some reduction in the overall price increase to the customer. Electronic Forms in the DMS – There are many players in the industry trying to find a way to own the e-signature process. Menu providers, finance sources, rate aggregators, and of course DMS providers. The problem is quite complicated. The financial documents belong to the bank or financer, the rates and forms for insurance products belong to the administrator or the insurer, but the truth is, the dealer will not begin to take advantage of all of this new technology unless it makes his life easier, faster, more efficient and more profitable. An F&I manager will not eSign two documents then print and wet sign five. He will just print them all. As technology providers, we need to figure out how to work together to make sure all the documents can land in one location. That location is most logically the DMS which the dealer considers home. Pushing the documents there and retrieving them for the proper owner is a challenge we are all working to solve. With the reasonable help of the DMS providers, we can take this industry into the 20th century, maybe eventually the 21st. 7. What advice would you give to someone new to this industry?
This seems like a huge industry, but in fact, it’s very small. You will almost certainly do business with the same people more than once, so don’t burn any bridges. There are really no huge short term gains. Like most things in life, if it seems too good to be true. . . it probably is. Bolster up your moral character and ethics and do good business. Offer best-in-class products and services. Don’t promise something you don’t have; it will eventually come back to bite you.
Technology is becoming more and more important in the sales process, so be careful to pick partners that have experience providing long term solutions that have a proven track record. Be sure you can do the core business extremely well, with scalable repeatable processes, before you stretch out into the fringe offerings.
There are many things you will need in your sales bag that you know the customer will never use, but they still want to know you can offer it. Anything from niche ancillary products, to service drive VSC sales tools, to credit card offerings for those who can’t get financing. So don’t focus too much effort on those items, but again, get the basics down brilliantly.