By Dillon Tabish, 10-14-11
||Caption: Mike Martinez, a database developer with Torrent Technologies, Inc., works at his desk in the company's Kalispell location. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
Before winning awards, before becoming an innovator in customer service, before branching out to Washington D.C. and partnering with some of the largest companies in the country, Travis Pine was an entrepreneur starting up a new company in his house.
In Seattle in 2005, Pine and Theresa Johnston co-founded Torrent Technologies, a flood insurance provider that contracts out policy and claims administration and customer service. The advantage of being in Seattle, a hub for technology development and in the backyard of Microsoft, paid off for Pine. He envisioned a business established with a 21st century approach.
“At the end of the day it really comes down to service and we’re able to provide service levels that are really unparalleled in the market because we can leverage technology,” Pine said.
A year later, with the business model working nicely and the company growing, Pine decided to branch out and find a new operation center. Although Washington seemed like an obvious fit and tax incentives elsewhere enticed the company, Pine chose to return to his roots and settle Torrent into his hometown of Kalispell.
“It made a lot of sense to be in Seattle in the beginning,” Pine said. “But there really wasn’t a question where to put our hub. The great thing about Montana and specifically Kalispell is there’s a wonderful work force of people. For our type of business, it’s an excellent place to have a service-based operation.”
To date Torrent has 70 employees – roughly 50 in town – and has been able to tap into almost a quarter of the market in the country, Pine said. A few of the major partners include National Flood Services, Electronic Data Services, which was established in Texas by Ross Perot in 1962, and the global business solutions and outsourcing giant, CSC.
Recently, Torrent won an award from the U.S. Commerce Association in Seattle for being an “outstanding local business that achieved exceptional marketing success in their community and business category.”
“We leverage technology to enable us to provide the industry’s best service levels and that is frankly how we are taking over the market,” Pine said.
“We’re really ready to tear the top off this thing.”
Travis Pine, chairman and CEO of Torrent Technologies, Inc., talks via teleconference about the reasons and benefits of having offices in Kalispell.
The company operates inside the old U.S. Forest Service building on Third Avenue East south of town. Mounted wildlife once adorned the wooden walls but today the building is filled with flat screen monitors, computers and cubicles for staff who are taking phone calls from Puerto Rico to Hawaii. Inside a conference room, Pine, sitting inside his home in Seattle, appears on a large screen for a videoconference.
“The industry knows Torrent as the innovator, as the technology leader,” Pine, the company’s chairman and CEO, said through the live feed. “Now that we’ve been operational and live for about five years, they’re learning very quickly that it’s not just about technology for technology’s sake, it’s very much focused on providing the best service.”
With degrees in business and computer science, Pine is a good example of the modern businessman. He travels constantly, from Seattle to Kalispell to the company’s third and latest hub in Washington D.C. When talking about the company he’s fostered and the technology being used, he finds a way to explain a highly technical world in simple ways.
Both the technology and insurance worlds are complex after all. That’s exactly why the world needs a company like Torrent.
But still, “I have a hard time explaining to my family exactly what we do here,” Executive Vice President Doug Fraley said smiling.
Torrent handles a variety of situations, from taking phone calls from customers filing flood insurance claims to helping agents issue quotes to offering support to companies too large to handle the small details. Working in a paperless environment, Torrent prides itself on issuing roughly 65 percent of its claims immediately. When a customer needs to file a flood claim, Torrent staff take the call in Kalispell.
“One of the things that interested me about this company is it’s multifaceted. Most of our competitors do just one thing,” Fraley, who joined the company last summer, said.
This is the mindset of Pine and his growing staff.
“The good news for our business model is that the efficiency we’ve built into our products also lowers our overhead. We operate in our niche industry much more efficiently,” Pine said.
[End of article]