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The Connected Business of Insurance

30 Days to Applied Net: 10 Favorite Things from Last Year

September 12, 2019

by Applied Communications

There are only 30 days until Applied Net 2019, and we are preparing for the biggest and best conference yet. As the largest independent insurance agency and brokerage technology conference in the world approaches, we’re highlighting attendees’ 10 favorite things about last year’s Applied Net. As you get ready for this year’s conference, be on the lookout for all of these exciting things and more at Applied Net 2019.

Monday’s Pre-Conference Program

Kicking off the week, Monday’s Pre-Conference program includes valuable education sessions and networking opportunities. Last year’s Executive Management Program featured sessions on the latest trends – from growth benchmarks to successful perpetuation methods, as well as ways to build your digital transformation plan. Attendees can take advantage of the Continuing Education sessions, providing a way for U.S.-based agencies to meet their state licensing requirements while gaining additional education on niche topics such as Employment Related Practices, Exposures & Coverages, Ethics for CSRs and Analyzing Cyber Liability. To wrap up Monday night, attendees can connect with fellow attendees on topics of mutual interests at the Networking Roundtables and reconnect with peers and friends while exploring the Applied Net Exchange at the Welcome Reception.

Learn more about this year’s Pre-Conference program.

Opening Video

Technology is changing our world and the insurance industry is no different. Last year’s opening video highlighted the opportunities created by the digital age of insurance, setting the tone for the conference as innovative and inspiring. We can’t wait to see what this year’s video has in store.

240+ Educational Sessions

Woman on laptopWith more than 240 education sessions taught by subject matter experts and industry leaders, conference attendees have countless opportunities to take valuable insights back to their businesses. The sessions provide attendees with critical insights regarding their Applied technology investment, industry trends and best practices. Session tracks represent a variety of interests including mobility, data analytics, the cloud and more.

View the education sessions offered at Applied Net 2019.

Session Formats Back By Popular Demand

Last year’s Applied Net featured even more of the session formats that you requested. During Case Study sessions, attendees have the opportunity to hear from peers about recent projects completed with Applied technology. Attendees can also participate in Roundtables for energetic discussions around a particular topic to encourage informal learning. Hands-on Workshops provide attendees with an interactive experience and allow them to apply learnings to their businesses in real time. Lastly, Peer Spotlights provide a forum where attendees can share experiences about a recent business challenge or opportunity, what they did to address it, and what they learned from it.

Applied Net Exchange

Open daily throughout Applied Net, the Applied Net Exchange lets attendees witness first-hand how technology can transform their businesses. Attendees also have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Applied software experts, demo the latest Applied innovations, and network with peers, vendors and insurers on the latest technologies.

Read our blog post, 6 Tips to Get the Most Out of the Applied Net Exchange, to learn more about the Applied Net Exchange.

Applied Developments

Applied is committed to providing innovative technologies to drive productivity and profitability within the insurance industry. Last year, Reid French, former CEO at Applied Systems, discussed new product capabilities to enhance connectivity with staff, customers and insurer partners, including integrated quoting in Applied Epic®; automation of night utilities in Applied TAM®; the ability to issue an Auto ID card via text or email to an insured from Applied Mobile®; and more. French also announced the investment in Applied Systems by Google through its growth investment fund, Capital G. What exciting news will we hear at this year’s conference?

Pinnacle Award Winners

Every year at Applied Net, five Applied customers receive the Pinnacle Award, our highest customer honor. This award recognizes a select group of Applied Systems customers for their valuable partnership with our company and visionary use of Applied software. On stage last year, Reid French recognized these winners: Brokers Trust Insurance Group, Hylant Group, Nationwide, Swingle, Collins & Associates and The Daniel and Henry Agency. Who will this year’s winners be?

Keynote Speakers

Reid French and Captain Scott Kelley on stage

Attendees at last year’s Applied Net witnessed an impressive lineup of keynote speakers including Captain Scott Kelly, Applied Systems former CEO Reid French, EVP of Customer Experience Kris Hackney, and SVP of Product Management Michael Howe. During his keynote, Captain Scott Kelly captivated attendees with his extraordinary experiences as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot and record-holding astronaut. He also shared lessons on leadership and teamwork, personal stories of perseverance, and the path that led him to secure his place in history.

Check out the exciting lineup of keynote speakers we have store for this year’s conference.

Applied Net Mobile App

The Applied Net app provides attendees with everything they need to know about Applied Net. With detailed conference and education session schedules, venue maps, daily updates, and a lively discussion board, all the conference info needed was easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet. Attendees can even connect with other conference attendees, compete in a game for a chance to win prizes, and check in by posting on the daily news feed.

Download the Applied Net 2019 app from Apple App Store (iOS™) or Google Play™ (Android™) to get the most out of your conference experience.

Networking Events

3 attendees at networking roundtableAttendees at last year’s Applied Net enjoyed some of the most exciting events yet. Starting the week off, attendees enjoyed a night out in Nashville at the world-famous Wildhorse Saloon and The George Jones for a true Music City experience. On Wednesday, attendees wrapped up a legendary Applied Net with an exclusive show at the Grand Ole Opry House, starring country music superstar Darius Rucker, former lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish.

Learn more about Applied Net 2019 exclusive evening events.

You Don’t Want to Miss Applied Net 2019!

This year’s Applied Net conference is anticipated to be the largest and most exciting yet with more than 4,000 insurance professionals in attendance. Attendees will have access to valuable networking events and more than 240 education sessions focused on how your business can compete and thrive in the digital revolution of insurance. Additionally, Walter Isaacson and Applied Systems’ new CEO Taylor Rhodes, among others, will provide keynotes discussing industry trends and inspiring transformation within the industry. Don’t miss what is sure to be an unforgettable event at Applied Net 2019.

Attend Applied Net 2019 from October 14 – 17 at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas to explore how the rapid pace of change and opportunity being created by technology in our industry best positions you to thrive in the digital revolution of insurance.

6 Tips to Get the Most Out of the Applied Net Exchange

August 29, 2019

by Applied Communications

Two people testing software on a tabletOpen daily throughout Applied Net 2019, the Applied Net Exchange provides the opportunity for you to discover new Applied products, network with your peers and industry experts, and see the latest vendor and insurer technologies and products.

This year, the Applied Net Exchange will be the biggest ever, with more than 100 exhibitors and our largest exhibit floor yet.

To make navigating the Applied Net Exchange easier, here are 6 tips to help you stay organized and make the most of your visits:

  1. Plan Ahead – Identify Exhibitors You Want to Meet
    Check out the list of 2019 exhibitors and decide which companies you’d most like to meet with. Are there vendors that your business would like to learn more about? Are there exhibitors your business already has relationships with? Make a list of any questions you have for them and be sure to stop by their booths to learn about the latest vendor and insurer products and technologies.
  2. Bring Your Contact Information
    Don’t forget your business cards. Industry peers, Applied staff, Applied Client Network members and exhibitors are ready and willing to network with you so have your business cards handy to exchange contact information. Or, the Applied Net 2019 mobile app makes networking even easier. See the next tip…
  3. Use the Applied Net 2019 App
    With the Applied Net 2019 app, you’ll have all of the resources you need at your fingertips to successfully navigate the conference. You can manage your session schedule, network with peers and exhibitors, view conference venue maps, and more – conveniently from your phone or tablet. Download the Applied Net 2019 app on the Apple App Store (iOS™) or Google Play™ (Android™) to get the most out of your conference experience.
  4. Experience New Applied Technology
    At the Applied Net Exchange, you can meet with Applied software experts at the Applied booth to demo the latest Applied innovations, or schedule a one-on-one meeting with a support specialist. Below are some questions to think about ahead of time to help narrow down which products you should check out:

    • Are there technology solutions available that can automate communications from insurers directly into my management system?
      Suggestion: If you are a U.S. agency interested in solutions to increase efficiency and save your staff time, don’t miss the IVANS Insurance Solutions booth. IVANS solutions enable U.S.-based agents to seamlessly connect to insurers and MGAs by a single, efficient workflow for information exchange that reduces manual processes, so agents can deliver faster client service. Stop by to demo IVANS complimentary solutions to discover how you can access more markets and automate servicing.
    • Am I still using the best Applied agency or brokerage management solution for my business?
      Stop by the Applied booth for a demo of the latest version of Applied Epic®, the fastest growing and most widely used management system in the world chosen by more agencies and brokerages to manage their P&C and benefits business in a single application. Applied will be announcing new capabilities at the conference that you don’t want to miss!
    • Do I have multi-channel service capabilities that enable my staff to meet today’s consumer expectations?
      At the Applied Net Exchange, you can demo technology solutions that enable mobility for your customers and staff. For example, Applied Mobile® connects insurance producers and brokers in the field to information in their management system via a mobile app, enabling them to sell more business for increased profitability. Consider an online self-service portal like Applied CSR24® to provide your clients with 24/7 access to their information. You can demo both at the Applied booth.
    • We have massive amounts of data but does our current technology truly provide data-driven insights that enable us to make quicker, more informed, actionable business decisions?
      If you’ve heard about big data and understand its importance but find it challenging to actually move from data to insights, stop by the Applied booth and ask for an Applied Analytics™ demo. Applied Analytics is the first insurance data analytics solution built for independent insurance agents and brokers that provides access to multiple levels of analysis on key performance indicators, book of business, employee operations and insurer relationships.
  5. Don’t Miss the Applied Client Network Booth
    The Applied Client Network is the only authorized user group for Applied Systems software. The network assists member agencies and brokerages in driving Applied product system use to increase business value through communication, education and advocacy. More than 55 affiliated local and virtual chapters give members the opportunity to network and take advantage of training materials, seminars and membership support with other users in their area. Simply put, Applied Client Network facilitates “users helping users.” Stop by their booth to learn more or visit the Applied Client Network website.
  6. Last But Not Least, Learn All You Can
    The most important thing that you should take away from the Applied Net Exchange or Applied Net conference as a whole is education – whether new tools, insights, or best practices, putting what you learn to work at your business will help you succeed and grow.

As we like to say, “What happens in Vegas, DOESN’T stay in Vegas.” Instead, the insights and best practices you learn for using Applied solutions return home with you so you can share your knowledge and improve your business.

Not yet registered for Applied Net 2019? It’s not too late. Sign up today to ensure you don’t miss out on the Applied Net Exchange or all that the conference has to offer.

6 Business and Leadership Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

August 15, 2019

by Applied Communications

Man reading book outdoorsSummer is a time when many of us devote extra time for reading, diving into fascinating stories or learning important life lessons. The benefits of reading go beyond just entertainment: research shows it can help fight depression, and make you more confident, empathetic and a better decision maker.

To get you started, here are four books from Amazon’s list of Best Books of 2019 (so far). Plus, two additional books that are personal favorites of our new CEO Taylor Rhodes. These must-reads in business and leadership will help you to end the summer feeling more motivated and resilient.

  • The Making of a Manager book coverThe Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to YouBy Julie ZhuoIn “The Making of a Manager,” Julie Zhuo, the former vice president of product design at Facebook, shares her own recollections as to how woefully unprepared she was to tackle her first managerial role and explores what new managers can do in their first three months and beyond to ensure their team gets excellent results. From meetings to recruitment and managing a growing team, Zhou provides insight on the opportunities and pitfalls that all new managers face, and reveals that great managers are made, not born.
  • Raise Your Game book coverRaise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets From the Best of the BestBy Alan Stein Jr. and Jon SternfeldIn “Raise Your Game,” co-authors Alan Stein Jr. and Jon Sternfeld address three common problems faced by decision-makers today: ineffective leadership, team dysfunction and low performance. Performance coach Stein Jr. shares the secret principles used by world-class performers that will help you improve your productivity and achieve higher levels of success.
  • Be Fearless book coverBe Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and PurposeBy Jean CaseWhen National Geographic Chairman Jean Case set out to investigate the core qualities of great change makers, past and present, from inventors to revolutionaries, she found five surprising traits they all had in common. It wasn’t wealth, privilege, or even genius. It was that all of these exceptional men and women chose to take bold risks, learn from their failures, reach beyond their bubbles and let urgency conquer fear. Weaving together storytelling, practical tips and inspiration, “Be Fearless” will teach you how to put the five fearless principles to work so that you too can spark the sorts of remarkable breakthroughs that change the world.
  • Scaling Leadership book coverScaling Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter MostBy Robert J. Anderson and William A. AdamsDrawing upon decades of solid research and experience enhancing individual capability and collective leadership effectiveness with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, Anderson and Adams provide a proven framework for magnifying agile and scalable leadership in your organization. “Scaling Leadership” provides effective techniques, real-world examples and expert guidance for organizations seeking to improve performance, align and execute strategies, and transform their business with scalable leadership capability.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things book coverThe Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy AnswersBy Ben HorowitzIn “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup. Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in and supervising technology companies. Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures.
  • Leaders Eat Last book coverLeaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t By Simon Sinek“Leaders Eat Last” is the highly anticipated follow-up to Simon Sinek’s global bestseller “Start with Why.” In this sequel, Sinek expands upon his ideas, addressing how to get people on board with your ‘why’ and how to inspire deep trust and commitment to the company and one another. He cites the Marine Corps for having found a way to build a culture in which men and women are willing to risk their lives, because they know others would do the same for them. Drawing on powerful and inspiring stories, Sinek shows how to sustain an organization’s ‘why’ while continually adding people to the mix.

So there you have it! Grab a cold drink and a shady spot and get reading. You’ll be refreshed and inspired to share and implement some of these tips and ideas when it’s time to get back to work. Happy reading!

Leave us a comment below letting us know what books are on your summer reading list.

What Chatbots Mean in Claims Management

August 01, 2019

by Michael Howe

Man using mobile smartphone sitting in vehicle with door openIf you attended Applied Net last year, you may remember that we introduced and demonstrated an early prototype of a new chatbot capability to be made available in Applied MobileInsured™ this year. For those of you who did not attend, the essential idea behind this feature is to remove friction from stressful situations by making it easier for insureds to submit a claim via an automated chatbot.  Well, I’m happy to announce that the virtual assistant for claims management capability is now available in the latest release of Applied MobileInsured.

Through our partnership with Google, we were able to leverage Google’s artificial intelligence powered chatbot technology to develop this capability. Your agency can now provide the option for your customers to submit an auto claim from the convenience of a mobile app, branded to your agency. With cutting-edge AI technology, the chatbot collects details on the claim in a simple, conversational interaction. Once the claim has been submitted, you have the option to respond to the insured, keeping that personal touch in their time of need.

Watch the video below to see how our virtual assistant can provide a quick, convenient claims experience – right at the moment when your customers need you most.

Learn more about Applied MobileInsured and other ways this tool can help you deliver superior customer service.

Also, if you haven’t already registered for Applied Net 2019, I encourage you to do so now so you can get an early look at some of the emerging innovations we have in store for the future.

Michael Howe, Applied SystemsMichael Howe, senior vice president of product management, Applied Systems, is responsible for the strategic direction of the Applied product portfolio. Howe joined Applied in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software. He formerly served as senior vice president of marketing and product management at Aptean, a global provider of industry-focused enterprise software. Prior to Aptean, Howe held senior executive management positions at SAP and other leading software companies.

Visualize the Benefits of Being a Digital Agency

July 18, 2019

by Applied Communications

As noted in the news daily and discussed at every industry event, the insurance industry has entered into a new digital age. Due to this, more and more agencies have started to digitally transform their businesses to capitalize on the opportunities that being a digital agency brings to employees, customers and insurer partners.

In years past, we have established what it takes to be a digital agency. This year, we are focused on the why – as in, why your agency should be digital. Here’s why being a digital agency matters, and 5 digital agencies that are thriving in the Digital Age of Insurance:

3 Ways to Approach Your Next Benefits Renewal Conversation

July 02, 2019

by Applied Communications

Woman presenting in business meetingWe all know the traditional way of presenting plan options for renewal. The broker goes in and shows the client several plan options with different benefits, including the total cost of each plan. Once the employer decides on a plan, the broker may help them decide on a contribution strategy to make the plan fit in their budget; other times, the employer has to figure out how to pay for the plan themselves.

The problem with this way of handling benefits renewals is it doesn’t focus on what really matters to employers. Total plan cost isn’t the number that employers really care about. They are concerned with the amount they have to pay. However, the typical plan renewal process doesn’t integrate premium share into the initial plan discussion. First the employer chooses a plan, then premium share is discussed. If the cost is higher than the employer was hoping to pay, they are forced to either pass off those extra costs to employees or absorb the extra costs themselves. Or, it may open up another round of discussions with the broker to look at additional options to lower costs, leading to more meetings and a drawn out process.

This facet of benefits planning is a major reason employers find the process so cumbersome and frustrating. It is the one area where they can’t budget ahead of time, which is detrimental for employers of all sizes.

There is an alternative method to consider that is a completely different way of approaching the renewal conversation, and it’s one that employers love. It begins with the employer’s budget in mind, then focuses on various plan options that fit within that predetermined number.

A New Approach to Renewals

Budget-based benefits planning turns the traditional renewal experience on its head, allowing brokers and employers to start with a budget and find a plan that fits within that framework. So how exactly does it work?

  1. Start with the budget
    The renewal conversation should start with the employer’s budget. What do they want to spend this year? Do they want to keep costs flat, are they trying to save money, or are they comfortable with a small increase? Not every budget will be feasible, but by starting with a budget, you can present plans that fit and give the employer an idea if that number is reasonable or not.When you start having these conversations with clients, they may need some explanation to understand the new approach. You may get clients who say, “Just negotiate it as low as possible.” Explain that you will of course still negotiate on their behalf, but that isn’t the intention of asking a budget. By establishing a number up-front, you can present only plans that fit their budget. For example, if the client has a 15% increase coming on their existing plan, tell them that, and ask how much they can afford or want to spend. Maybe it’s 6%. That gives you a starting point for step 2.
  2. Present plans that fit the budget
    Once you have a budget, it’s your job to present only plan options that fit that budget, taking into account premium share and contribution strategies. Using 15% as a renewal example, to hit the 6% budget, you’d need to make that plan fit a 6% increase – or not present that plan at all.Think outside the box a little. Though there are only so many insurers, there are essentially unlimited plan options you can present when you take into account different ways to apply premium share, add HRAs or HSAs, change deductibles, etc.
  3. Change the conversation
    Presenting only plan options that fit the budget changes the conversation to a more consultative one, and makes the employer more comfortable knowing what they will pay up-front. As you discuss the plan alternatives, it will be easy to look at employee impact as well, so employers can take that important factor into account.

Differentiate Your Business with Budget-Based Benefits Planning

Traditional benefits planning focuses on total plan cost, but employers want to know what their bottom line is. This disconnect causes employers to be frustrated with their renewals year after year, and struggle with budgeting on an annual basis.

Budget-based benefits planning can differentiate your business, grow your sales and delight your clients. It’s a more consultative approach than just shopping insurance policies each year, and a less frustrating experience for employers. Your prospects and clients will feel the difference, and reward you with sales and retention.

For more insights on benefits planning, download our eBook, Budget-Based Benefits: A New Approach to Renewals.

Insurtechs Working Together: A Different Way to Cover Small Businesses

June 20, 2019

by Patrick Girouard

Woman shaking hands in meetingAny agent who has worked with small business owners knows that the process is a complicated one. There is typically a lot of work involved, including working through complicated insurer appetites, policies that don’t properly cover customers, and what feels like endless forms to fill out in order to submit and underwrite a risk. And since these are small business owners, the payoff is smaller than other larger clients, discouraging agents from these accounts.

As the insurance industry is currently undergoing digital transformation, the quoting and underwriting process is no different.

Enter Attune

Started in January of 2017 and backed by AIG, Two Sigma IQ and Hamilton Insurance Group, Attune is reinventing how independent agents cover small businesses. Attune works only with strong financial insurers to offer Businessowners’ policies, Commercial Liability Excess policies and Workers’ Compensation.

As a digital-first general agency, ease of use is critical for our customer base and embracing digital is what springboards that experience. Attune uses technology to gather data to limit the amount of data entry agents must complete for applications and underwriting. Getting a bindable quote from Attune takes minutes – not days or weeks.

Broker portal screenshot

Broker portal

Attune’s use of data doesn’t stop with the application process. It is an integral part of its underwriting and analytical edge, allowing Attune to successfully write many classes of business including some of the most frequently searched classes on IVANS Markets: Lessor’s Risk, Medical Offices, Aristan Contractors and Restaurants.

Insurance for small business owners is deeply personal as they have their livelihood on the line with their policies. By embracing digital, we can further our mission of empowering our insurance agents to spend time where it matters most – with their clients, not on paperwork or administrative tasks.

Where can you find Attune?

Attune’s BOP, Excess and Workers’ Compensation appetite is now searchable in IVANS Market Appetite and within Applied Epic. As a free tool available to you, IVANS Markets allows you to search by NAIC/SIC code and state for commercial lines market appetite to submit new and renewal business.

Integrated within nine agency-management systems and available through markets.ivansinsurance.com, IVANS Markets allows you to search for insurer appetite within your daily workflows. Simply type in your search criteria, including state location and industry code, and instantly receive a list of insurers, MGAs and wholesalers who have an appetite for your risk and information on who you can contact.

Look for Attune within your search results, and request access to the Attune Portal.

Patrick Girouard headshotPatrick Girouard, Head of Business Development, Attune, is responsible for identifying, building and managing distribution and sub-producer relationships. Patrick and his team focus on both traditional insurance distribution (retail and wholesale) as well as strategic partnerships. He joined Attune from Hamilton USA in 2017, where he had a similar position in Business Development and played a significant role in the design and launch of Attune with Hamilton, AIG and Two Sigma IQ. Prior to Hamilton he spent eight years at Guy Carpenter & Company where he most recently led the Umbrella & Excess Casualty Specialty Practice and had numerous responsibilities as a team leader in reinsurance structuring, placement and strategic advisory for global insurance companies. Pat is a graduate from the University of Notre Dame and obtained his Masters of Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Applied Systems’ New CEO – Q&A with Taylor Rhodes

June 06, 2019

by Applied Communications

Taylor Rhodes headshotTaylor Rhodes has taken the helm as Applied’s new CEO. We recently sat down with him to discuss this new chapter in his life and learn more about his perspective on the insurance industry, digital transformation and more.

How do you see your experience in technology and tech-enabled services transitioning to the world of insurance? How about your time in the Marine Corps?

Taylor: Technology is changing business models and creating opportunities for companies to serve their customers in ways that are more valuable and convenient. My experiences at both Rackspace and SMS Assist have focused on enabling companies in other industries to adopt and leverage new technology to create revenue growth and cost savings in their own business models. I think that insurance agencies in this time of change and digital transformation are no different – our job at Applied is to enable agencies and brokerages to consume technology in more valuable ways. Applied already excels in this area, and I look to further that focus for the benefit of the industry.

My Marine Corps experience relates to how I connect with people and lead teams to achieve great outcomes. Author Simon Sinek wrote a great book called Leaders Eat Last in which he studied great leadership cultures. He found that the Marine Corps is one of the most successful leadership cultures because of the way Marine leaders are taught to put those entrusted to their care first. Marine officers always eat last, making sure everyone else is taken care of first. This is a proxy for an entire ethos around servant leadership. In my time as a Marine, I found that to be followed as a leader, you must have followership that is volunteered, not ordered. Followership must be earned, and you earn it by first being a servant to those you would lead, showing them that you care for them.

Are there any big changes/initiatives at Applied Systems you envision happening now that you’re leading the company?

Taylor: The digital age of insurance is here, and it is presenting immense opportunity for the entire value chain. As a company, we remain committed to bringing advanced innovation to market that automates our customers’ daily operations and helps them sell to and service their customers more effectively. We are focused on delivering digital agency technology that provides our customers greater connectivity within their own businesses, with their customers, and with their insurer partners. Additionally, with the recent investment from Google’s Capital G and the acquisition of TechCanary, we see great opportunities to bring new products to market that will help us maintain and expand our leadership position.  As the leader in the industry, we feel it’s our happy obligation to innovate on behalf of our customers to create value for their businesses.

What digital transformations are you keenly watching? Anything on your radar you predict driving major change in the industry?

Taylor: Insurance has one of the biggest opportunities for powerful new capabilities like machine learning to help produce actionable insights and valuable products from data. Insurance produces some of the largest data sets in the world, and historically the industry hasn’t maximized the opportunities to leverage that data to create more customer value. With the ability to create data-driven insights for the agency channel, we can help our customers know more about their customers, their businesses, and their insurer partners. There is a huge opportunity to take this largely untapped data in the insurance industry and turn it into value for both agencies, insurers and their customers.

Is there anything else our readers should know at this time, or is there anything you’d like to emphasize about Applied Systems/your new appointment?

Taylor: When I was considering the opportunity to join Applied, I ultimately decided to join this team because it is a winning team that is the clear leader in the industry. That leadership position has been achieved through an intense focus on product innovation and customer centricity. With new market entrants and investments driving change in how insurance is created, sold, distributed and consumed, it’s a really exciting time to be joining Applied. As an industry leader for the last 35 years, we feel like it’s our responsibility to continue to lead, and not to rest on our laurels. It’s time for us to double down on our commitment to innovate and bring value to the industry for the next 35 years and beyond.

To learn more about Taylor Rhodes joining Applied Systems, read the press release.

Spring into the Digital Age of Insurance

May 23, 2019

by Reid French

Our 2019 Digital Agency Survey indicates that the national average for digital technology adoption among independent agencies is 43%. Given this score is nearly the same as 2018, it reveals that agencies have yet to fully embrace the opportunities that digital technology affords to service and support consumers in this new digital age.

Technology expands your agency’s communication channels—to clients and insurer partners. It effectively mobilizes your staff from their desk to your customers and prospects in the field. Digital technology also elevates your role as a trusted advisor, making you present at all moments of opportunity—anytime, anywhere. There is significant opportunity and competitive advantage to be had for agencies willing to adopt new technologies and implement digital transformation strategies.

The 5 Pillars of a Digital Agency

The Digital Agency Survey evaluates adoption of the five core capabilities of a Digital Agency, including a management system, insurer connectivity, mobility, cloud, and data analytics, which work cohesively together to drive digital transformation.

Here are a few key takeaways from this year’s report:

  • 96% of survey respondents use a management system
    This almost ubiquitous adoption by agencies worldwide confirms that the management system is the foundation of their businesses and indispensable for their day-to-day operations. Managing separate, disparate systems is both costly and time consuming to agencies. In fact, switching between different systems can reduce staff productivity by as much as 30%.¹ Using a single application to manage your entire business, including P&C, Sales and Benefits, eliminates the need for multiple systems and creates standardized workflows so that your staff can be more productive and make better business decisions faster.
  • 63% of survey respondents receive eDocs and Messages download from insurers
    Utilization of eDocs and Messages download is strong and growing among agencies in North America. eDocs and Messages are a form of download that push a PDF or a message from the insurer’s policy admin system directly to the agency management system. The ability to work in one management system versus referencing individual insurer portals ensures the most up-to-date P&C and Benefits information is instantly available at the moment you need it and saves up to one hour per employee per day.
  • Only 47% of agencies have mobile access to management system information, and even fewer, 24% and 18% respectively, offer clients self-service portals and mobile apps
    Given that more than half of all consumers first use mobile devices for anything they do online, agencies must embrace mobile technology now for both clients and staff. Today’s consumers demand anytime, anywhere service and businesses that don’t provide this risk losing their customers to alternative providers. In fact, 80% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies with mobile sites or apps that help them easily answer their questions.²Your staff also demand greater flexibility and servicing options. Giving staff remote access to information and tools within the management system empowers them to quickly respond to client and prospect service and sales requests. In fact, 78% of survey respondents said access to the technology they like to use, such as mobile, makes them more effective at work.³
  • 69% of agencies host software in the cloud
    Studies show that 94% of companies that suffer from a catastrophic data loss do not survive,⁴ which is why more and more agencies are moving to the cloud. Hosting the applications that your agency relies on day in and day out in the cloud ensures continuous business operations and data security. By leveraging software that is always accessible and backed up by redundancies, your business is available to customers—even during a catastrophic event that historically would have completely disrupted agency operations. Additionally, by eliminating the time and expense spent managing IT systems, more of your staff’s time can be spent selling insurance and servicing customers.
  • Only 23% of survey respondents use data analytics applications
    Year over year, agency use of data analytics applications to gain insights from their management system data remains virtually unchanged. Ambivalence to adopting data analytics is likely due to the misconception that it is too complex and technical for agencies to manage on their own. However, data analytics solutions have rapidly advanced and are extremely accessible to any business regardless of size, revenue and/or IT resources. Agencies need to gather, process and get insights from data in real time across the entire business. Making the shift from being a data-generating organization to one that is data-powered gives agencies a competitive edge through enhanced decision making, insight discovery and process optimization. Data-driven organizations are also 23x more likely to acquire customers, 6x as likely to retain customers, and 19x as likely to be profitable as a result.⁵

Why Becoming a Digital Agency Matters

While the independent insurance agency channel has progressed in its adoption of technology, this year’s results indicate that there is still considerable opportunity for agencies to digitally transform their business to provide complete connectivity to staff, insurers and insureds. When you think about the core promise of insurance—to safeguard and protect what matters most in people’s lives—it is vital to use digital technology to ensure your agency will be there when your customers need you most.

For more industry insights and to learn how technology can help your business grow in the digital age of insurance, sign up to receive a complimentary copy of our forthcoming Applied Digital Agency Annual Report.

1. American Psychological Association
2. Google/Ipsos
3. PwC
4. University of Texas
5. McKinsey Global Institute

Reid FrenchReid French, Former Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, was responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He played a prominent role in developing and fostering relationships throughout the Applied community. French came to Applied in 2011, after serving as chief operating officer at Intergraph Corporation, a global company at the forefront of geospatial and computer-aided design software. Early in his career, he was a strategic planner for the Walt Disney Company, and he managed investment banking transactions in the technology sector for Robinson-Humphrey. French holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Davidson College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School. He sits on the board of directors for Applied, Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK) and The Lovett School in Atlanta.

The Technology Behind Being a Digital Agency

May 09, 2019

by Michael Howe

The Digital Age of Insurance is here. This means that agencies can no longer afford to remain un-automated and rely on manual processes or traditional methods of conducting business. Those who do run the risk of being surpassed by competitors. An eroding competitive position will harm all aspects of the business and even raise the risk of not surviving long term.

Consider Blockbuster. The company once had revenue of more than $4.8 billion. Despite a strong brand and market position, Blockbuster was put out of business by Netflix over the course of just a few short years primarily because Blockbuster did not evolve their operating model as the industry went through digital transformation. Instead, they undertook business decisions that emphasized short-term profitability while neglecting the broader transformation happening around them, a transformation that ultimately threatened their long-term survival. Blockbuster, which had studio relationships, content and a rich customer database, enjoyed an enviable position of strength in the market and, to the outside observer, seem well-positioned to continue as such. But, in neglecting the digital transformation, they allowed an opening.  Netflix, an upstart competitor at the time, embraced the transformation and quickly became the market leader. Blockbuster was no more, and it happened almost overnight.

History shows us that those who move swiftly to innovate, adopt technology and improve customer experience are the ones that thrive during digital transformation, enhancing revenue growth and profitability in the process. Digital transformation, when embraced as a core part of your overall business strategy, actually offers the promise of new ways to communicate to the market and strengthen your customer service. If that’s not enough to convince you of the impact that ignoring digital transformation can have on your business, read Technology Adoption: Risk or Reward? for more examples of how other industries have reacted to digital transformation.

I’ve heard many agency owners acknowledge that they need to transform their businesses but they haven’t started yet because the very thought seems too overwhelming. With more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, I know that technology investments can sometimes be viewed as risky – they cost money, involve process change, and require meticulous planning. However, digital technology provides agencies with an opportunity to perform better, move faster and drive even greater success. In fact, according to a Capgemini Consulting and MIT study titled The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform Their Peers in Every Industry, digitally transformed businesses realize significant economic benefits including revenue growth, profitability and market evaluation.

Technology provides the very opportunity for brokers to reinvent themselves and get closer to the customer than they have ever been before.

Hammad Rafique, Managing Director, Accenture Insurance Practice

What a Digital Agency Is and Why You Should Become One

For those of you not yet on a path to digital transformation, I urge you seize this opportunity and decisively move to becoming a digital agency. A digital agency is defined as one that leverages:

  1. Digital automation within the agency to drive extreme efficiency
  2. Digital connectivity to policyholders to drive an enhanced customer experience
  3. Digital connectivity to insurers to drive efficient interactions

With these capabilities in place, digital agencies position themselves to generate significant business value in 5 key areas: Growth, Efficiency, Customer Satisfaction, Advice and Trust. If you want to learn more about these 5 key areas of business value and why becoming a digital agency matters, check out The 5 Whys of Becoming a Digital Agency post by Applied CEO Reid French.

For this post, I will focus on the “How” aspect of becoming a digital agency by recommending the types of technology needed to transform your agency and drive significant business value.

Technology Needed to Get Started

  1. Growth

Digital agencies leverage a single management system to gain visibility across an entire book of business, delivering integrated capabilities to manage P&C, Benefits and Sales in a single application. Integrated and open architecture provides essential capabilities for each stakeholder within an agency to have the right information and products available to sell and serve customers. By utilizing a single management system that was designed from the ground up for the user experience and with integrated capabilities, digital agencies drive superior business growth.

Example Technology: Sales Automation
Automating sales operations in your management system allows your sales staff to easily view, monitor, track and forecast new and renewal business directly within the application, eliminating the need to invest time and expense in separate solutions. Having a single view of your prospects and customers within your management system ensures you offer complete coverage for all their insurance needs.

  1. Efficiency

Digital agencies operate more efficiently by utilizing technology that enables staff to better manage customer relationships, sales opportunities, market access, financial accounting, reporting, business processes, and policy and benefits administration. This includes:

  • Streamlining business processes through automated, standardized management system workflows
  • Exchanging policy information with insurer partners via connected applications and APIs accessed from a single sign-on
  • Leveraging mobile technology to reduce time to service and sell accounts by eliminating manual, paper-driven processes, and expediting communication between clients, prospects, colleagues and staff

Example Technology: Mobile
Directly linking mobile apps to the management system empowers your staff with the information they need on the go, and gives them the ability to add prospects, create and manage activities, initiate a claim, and begin new sales opportunities while out in the field.

  1. Customer Satisfaction

Digital agencies deliver superior customer service via self-service portals and mobile apps that provide policyholders with 24/7 access to insurance information. By offering multiple ways for consumers to interact with the business – whether it be in person, phone, online or mobile – digital agencies create happier customers, which ultimately drives business returns through enhanced retention and growth from new business.

Example Technology: Customer Self-Service Portals and Mobile Apps
Provide your clients the freedom to access insurance information, documents and online bill pay when and where they prefer via an online portal or mobile app that is customer branded to your agency. Offering customer self-service options strengthens your relationship with customers and saves money by shifting transactions historically provided by agency staff to self-service. Because of these efficiency gains, customer self-service often delivers a return on investment in less than a year.

  1. Advice

Providing excellent advice to customers remains the core of any strong agency. Digital agencies can automatically find the best markets, as well as identify and highlight policy differences for new business and renewals, making them better risk advisors to both personal and commercial lines customers.

Example Technology: Market Access
Embedded Market Appetite enables you to have better targeted marketing submissions via an agent-driven, real-time search engine for commercial insurance. Using this capability is easy, simply enter two fields to denote the specific type of commercial risk you are searching for and instantly receive a list of insurers most likely to have appetite for that risk and appropriate pricing.

  1. Trust

Using cloud technology, a digital agency provides enhanced security, operations recovery and anytime, anywhere access during any disruptive event.

Example Technology: Cloud
The cloud offers your agency a flexible operating environment with scalability for business growth, stronger business continuity protection, increased mobile access to business information, and compliance related to data privacy regulations like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Hosting agency solutions in a cloud purpose-built for your independent insurance agency fosters client trust and peace of mind knowing that your data is secured, software is current and business is running smoothly 24/7.

The Time to Start Your Journey Is Now

The time for denying the Digital Age of Insurance is over. In fact, consider the transformation now underway as a new and exciting opportunity to make your business better. It’s time to start your journey towards becoming a digital agency. In doing so, you enhance your agency’s ability to meet the needs of the modern consumer and lay a foundation for continued success in the Digital Age of Insurance.

For additional insights on the value of being a digital agency and the types of technology needed to transform your business, watch The Value of Being a Digital Business on-demand webinar.

Michael Howe, Applied SystemsMichael Howe, senior vice president of product management, Applied Systems, is responsible for the strategic direction of the Applied product portfolio. Howe joined Applied in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software. He formerly served as senior vice president of marketing and product management at Aptean, a global provider of industry-focused enterprise software. Prior to Aptean, Howe held senior executive management positions at SAP and other leading software companies.