Mortgage Startup Blend to Offer MetLife Policies With New Unit

(Bloomberg) -- Blend Labs Inc., a startup that first became known by helping big banks make it easier for homebuyers to get a mortgage online, is branching out into a new industry: insurance.

The San Francisco-based company is launching Blend Insurance Agency. Much like its mortgage platform, the firm will leverage partnerships with large insurers to scale its business by pairing the offerings. One of those initial partners will be MetLife Inc., a U.S. insurer with more than $700 billion in assets.

“Blend is the type of partner that we are looking for because our visions are very aligned,” said Kevin Chean, vice president of group auto and home at MetLife, adding the company is looking to strengthen its digital presence to meet changing consumer preferences. “They are used to doing more and more of their shopping online.”

According to Blend, there will be six partners on the platform to start, with the potential for more. Executives said the move to homeowners’ insurance is a natural extension of the mortgage business. Buyers often need proof of insurance to close a home loan. With this new product, consumers will be able to streamline that process rather than going to several different websites and filling out duplicate information.

“For the consumer, insurance is a major piece of getting your mortgage and purchasing your home,” said Greg Isaacs, who’s leading Blend’s new venture with a team of roughly 20 employees. “The home purchase and mortgage process is complicated and stressful, and insurance is often an overlooked piece of that.”

The firm was founded six years ago by three former Palantir Technologies employees. Its main business line is selling technology to lenders that helps create a more efficient and consumer-friendly mortgage lending experience. The company now has more than 80 partners with its customers controlling more than 25 percent of the total U.S. mortgage market. Investors including Founders Fund, Greylock Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners have plowed $160 million into the firm in hopes that it will continue to grow at a fast pace.

“We’re in a unique position to sell this,” said Nima Ghamsari, co-founder and chief executive officer of Blend. “I think there’s a chance to make a difference.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.