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Digital platform makes insurance-buying easier, provides options for small businesses
Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance Mutual Holding Company (American Family) today continued its innovative and collaborative approach to serving customers, this time focusing on small businesses with the acquisition of insurtech company Bold Penguin.

Bold Penguin, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a technology company that simplifies and quickens the often complicated and time-consuming process of obtaining small business insurance. The Bold Penguin digital exchange is used by insurance agents, brokers and other distributors to match, quote and bind policies from a range of insurers to meet customer needs.

Bold Penguin will become a subsidiary of the American Family Insurance group, pending regulatory approval and closing. Financial details of the transaction are not being disclosed.

Bold Penguin will maintain its name and business model, operating with a relentless commitment to neutrality and confidentiality with its insurer, broker and agent customers.

"We welcome Bold Penguin’s incredibly talented, nimble and customer-driven team," said Bill Westrate, American Family president and CEO-elect. "Like American Family, they believe that innovating and collaborating with others is the best way to meet customers’ wide-ranging needs."

"Bold Penguin shares our commitment to strong relationships built on the principles of exceptional service, integrity and value," said Fabian Fondriest, president of the American Family Direct companies that sell products online and through partners. "As another member of our family, Bold Penguin will have the autonomy and support to fulfill its important roles with small businesses and partners."

Ilya Bodner, Bold Penguin founder and CEO, Ben Clarke, co-founder and chief data officer, as well as other leaders and employees will remain with the company.

Why is American Family acquiring Bold Penguin?

American Family is the country’s 13th largest P/C insurance group with $11.5 billion in direct written premium at the end of 2019. Auto and home insurance make up most of its sales, followed by commercial insurance, with a strong focus on protection for small- and mid-sized business and rental property owners.

"Ultimately, this is about small business customers and their communities," said Westrate. "We recognize the importance of small businesses and we want to do our part to support them.

"Bold Penguin reduces the complexity of small business insurance for customers, for us and our industry. It enables insurers to reach more business owners with protection they need to safeguard their livelihoods and pursue their dreams to serve and employ people in their communities."

Bold Penguin’s culture of closely working with its partners will remain as it is today, as will its platform of providing options from multiple insurers, which it expects to grow. Additionally, American Family agency owners will use the platform with a suite of products available specifically to them.

"Our partnership with Bold Penguin is another investment in our American Family agency owners," Westrate said. "They are trusted insurance advisors, and especially with small businesses, which require a broad product suite and tailored solutions. The Bold Penguin platform will take our agency owners’ ability to fulfill that role to the next level."

Why is Bold Penguin joining American Family?

Bold Penguin launched its exchange in 2016 to enhance connections between small businesses, insurance agencies and insurers – reducing the complexity and hassle in the insurance-buying process for all parties. American Family Ventures, American Family’s venture capital firm, was one of the early investors in Bold Penguin.

Bold Penguin will be able to leverage the scale and financial stability of American Family, allowing it to accelerate its digital capabilities while remaining independent in how it operates and expands its exchange.
Bold Penguin steadily grew from operating a small commercial solution to now running the largest U.S. commercial insurance exchange. The company recently announced eight major partnerships and two additional coverage lines, while rolling out new functionality and acquiring two other companies to bolster its data science initiatives.

"We remain committed to our partners and their individually unique use of our platform," said Clarke. "Our teams, capabilities, security, reliability and approach to handling every organization leveraging our solution with utmost regard is something we are proud to maintain."

"We are grateful for our tremendous staff and support from all our partners – insurance companies, brokers, agents, advisors and backers. They are the reasons we have been able to accomplish so much in such a short time – and we’re just getting started," said Bodner. "Helping streamline the insurance experience for small businesses inspires us, and this transaction will super-charge our growth and service to partners even more, while fueling visionary, long-term work."

American Family continues transformation

The purchase of Bold Penguin continues American Family’s transformation into a national, multi-line insurer, created in part through multiple acquisitions and a merger. It also reflects the company’s involvement with adjacency companies that complement its insurance operations.

Since 2012, American Family has acquired Permanent General Companies (The General), a direct non-standard auto insurer; Homesite Group, a homeowners insurer; and CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance (renamed from Ameriprise Auto and Home), a property-casualty insurance company. Both Homesite and CONNECT distribute products through partners, including insurance and non-insurance companies.

Main Street America Insurance, which sells commercial and property-casualty insurance through independent agents, merged with American Family in 2018.

"We know what it takes when adding a company that brings new talents and perspective to our enterprise," said Westrate. "It begins with respecting and learning from that company’s success, and then building on it. And, that’s what we will do with Bold Penguin."

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP served as legal advisor for American Family on the transaction. FT Partners served as financial advisor for Bold Penguin.


About the American Family Insurance group

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 254 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The General, Homesite and Main Street America. Across these companies the group has more than 13,500 employees nationwide.

About Bold Penguin:

Bold Penguin is where technology enhances the human touch in commercial insurance. With a heavy focus on agents, Bold Penguin upgrades the user experience for businesses, creates an easy tool for agents, and offers a streamlined process of underwriting for carriers. Bold Penguin was founded in 2016 by a group of entrepreneurs who spent their early days working with Allstate, Nationwide and Progressive alongside regional carriers and established insurance agencies. For more details, please visit