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The Connected Business of Insurance

The Technology Behind Being a Digital Agency

May 09, 2019

by Michael Howe
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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.

Celebrate Earth Day, Go Paperless

April 19, 2019

by Applied Communications
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With Earth Day here, now is the perfect time to think about changes you can make around your business to reduce your environmental impact. While there are many earth-friendly practices you could implement, there’s one change you can make that will have a positive impact on the environment and on your bottom line: going paperless.

Insurance has historically been known as a paper-heavy industry that mails all notices, policy information and general messages. Not only is manually managing paper expensive and time-consuming for your business, but in today’s digital age it’s also outdated and prevents you from servicing customers when and how they prefer. To keep up with changing market dynamics and consumer preferences, it’s critical for your agency to eliminate paper and go digital.

Why Go Paperless?

As you evaluate becoming a paperless agency, consider these stats:

  • A typical employee spends 30 – 40% of their time looking for information locked in email and filing cabinets.
  • 45% of the paper printed in offices ends up trashed by the end of the day – accounting for more than a trillion sheets of paper per year, worldwide.
  • In the U.S., companies spend more than $120 billion a year on printed forms, most of which out date themselves within three months’ time.
  • More than 70% of businesses today would fail within the first three weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of paper-based records due to fire or flood.


Restoration & Remediation Magazine

Going paperless can benefit your agency in a number of ways, including:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity: Instead of printing, filing and then having to search for documents manually at a later date, your document retrieval process turns into a few clicks and keystrokes. By going digital, employees can process or update information immediately and share with anyone who needs access to it.
  • Reduced costs: Going paperless increases bottom line savings dramatically. Electronic faxes and emails replace the need to print and mail documents to clients, which reduces expenses for paper, toner, envelopes and postage.
  • Increased security: Paper documents are at a greater risk of being lost or damaged. Storing documents digitally and ensuring your company’s data is continually backed up will provide your business with the proper security.

How to Go Paperless

The biggest barrier to activating the benefits of ditching paper is not knowing where to start. Going paperless involves deploying technology to simplify and transform day-to-day business operations.

Get your agency on the road to paperless with the following technology:

  • A Foundational Management System
    Agency management systems are the electronic cornerstone of insurance agencies, providing a centralized platform for managing almost all aspects of the business. With an agency management system, you can save policy statements, quotes, renewals, cancellations, reinstatements and other supporting documents by scanning them in or capturing them electronically. Documents can then be sorted, filed and organized for quick retrieval when it matters most. Going paperless enables for greater collaboration by providing employees across multiple office locations with access to the same information.
  • The Cloud
    It’s difficult to store paper documents securely. Not only can they easily get into the wrong hands, but they’re also susceptible to disasters like fire and flooding. Keeping digital documents secure, on the other hand, is easy thanks 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.
  • eDocs and Messages Download
    Taking advantage of eDocs and Messages download eliminates a long, difficult process of logging into insurer portals, downloading individual documents, organizing those documents, and then manually attaching them into the agency management system. Instead, you benefit from an automated process where documents are transferred directly into your agency management system when they become available. Implementation of eDocs and Messages download enables you to increase overall operational efficiency with immense time savings. In fact, according to a recent IVANS study, agencies saved at least one hour per day per employee when using eDocs and Messages download.
  • mobile iconCustomer Service Portal and Mobile Apps
    Customer self-service software is another tool agencies are using to go paperless. For many agencies, issuing certificates of insurance is a major undertaking. Construction firms, for instance, can require hundreds of certificates each year. Technology makes the process of issuing accurate certificates easier and less time-consuming, which frees service staff to handle more productive tasks. Offering clients the ability to access policy and billing information on their own terms via self-service portals or mobile apps, not only eliminates service work, it also responds to consumers’ growing desire for 24/7 access, which helps strengthen relationships, ensure high retention rates and drive revenue gains.
  • laptop with pen iconeSignature
    You can also use electronic signatures to further reduce the amount of time employees spend processing paper. eSignature offers a quick and seamless way for your business to provide customers the convenient digital service they expect while keeping all workflows within the management system. Plus, eSignatures can boost sales by enabling clients and prospects to complete and return agreements on the spot from their desktop.

There’s much more to celebrate in addition to the earth-friendly factor of going paperless. Without paper documents holding you back, your business processes will go much more smoothly. That’s because digital document management enables you to set up automated workflows that seamlessly transition between steps in a process and provide helpful alerts when documents are missing or actions are delayed. Ultimately, going paperless enables you to spend less time managing paperwork and more time giving your customers what they need: prompt service and quality coverage.

Visit our Digital Transformation Resource center to learn how you can become a paperless agency today.

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend Applied Net 2019

April 04, 2019

by Applied Communications
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Applied Net header graphicEach year, thousands of insurance agents, brokers, industry experts and Applied team members from across the globe come together for 4 jammed-packed days of learning and networking that can only be experienced at Applied Net. This year’s conference takes place October 14 – 17 at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas and focuses on arming attendees with valuable insight, tools and techniques required to succeed in the digital revolution of insurance.

Applied Net 2019 is sure to be our best conference yet and you don’t want to miss it. But don’t just take our word for it.

Top 5 reasons why you should attend Applied Net according to previous attendees:

  1. Build your industry and technical knowledge

Choose from more than 240 interactive sessions from a variety of business and technical tracks to get hands-on experience and learn from your fellow peers and industry experts about the new opportunities technology provides your business.


I attended absolutely every Applied Epic session at Applied Net. At the time we were in the process of deciding if we would move to Applied Epic. The sessions were great and worth the time, especially since we implemented Applied Epic at our brokerage this year.

Lisa Colwell, operations manager, Wilson Insurance Ltd.

  1. Uncover the latest products and services

Visit the Applied Net Exchange to meet one-on-one with Applied software experts, network with other users of Applied technology and connect with more than 100 exhibitors to discover the latest products and services driving the future of our industry.


Applied Net is an awesome place to learn. The Exchange is a great place to discover the latest advancements in technology and third-party applications that integrate with Applied technology. The Applied booth is the best place to get hands-on training and product demonstrations.

Collin Passman, IT coordinator, The Signature B&B Companies

Attendees at Applied Net Exchange

  1. Connect with industry professionals

Cultivate relationships at the world’s largest gathering of insurance professionals. Applied Net provides the opportunity to meet industry leaders paving the way and to network with a community of 4,000+ insurance professionals.


The best part of the conference are the networking opportunities that you are presented with. You meet a variety of people – new users, seasoned users, vendors, consultants, Applied Systems employees, Applied Client Network Board Members and Chapter Leaders – all of who bring something different to the table. As your network grows so does your product knowledge and experience.

Kristin Thelen, Commercial Lines coordinator, Mason Insurance Agency Inc.

Three women sitting at a table networking

  1. Enjoy exciting entertainment

Look forward to unforgettable experiences in the evenings at exclusive networking events. A lively assortment of entertainment presents the perfect setting to connect with fellow attendees.


The evening events are always unique and fun. I really enjoy the networking, so it’s nice to get a relaxed atmosphere, have a conversation and get to know people. It feels like a family since everybody understands our industry.

Lisa Colwell, operations manager, Wilson Insurance Ltd.

Performers at the Grand Ole Opry

  1. Be inspired by engaging keynotes

Get inspired by extraordinary keynotes from Applied leaders and engaging guest speakers. Past speakers include Captain Scott Kelly and Admiral William H. McRaven sharing their unique perspectives and approaches on business, leadership, customer experience and more.


Captain Scott Kelly’s keynote was spot-on for the changes we are seeing in the insurance industry and with what most agency principals want from their agency.

Deb Woolcock, office manager, Franklin Insurance Agency Inc.

Attend Applied Net 2019 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.

Applied Systems Recognized in G2 Crowd’s Best Software Awards 2019

March 28, 2019

by Applied Communications
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Peer-to-peer business solutions review platform G2 Crowd recently announced the 2019 winners of its annual Best Software Awards. The equivalent of The People’s Choice Awards for tech companies, G2 Crowd’s Best Software Awards provides the definitive ranking of the best software companies and products worldwide.

Thanks to real users on G2 Crowd, Applied Systems® ranked as the highest insurance software provider (#69) in the Top 100 Best Software Companies of 2019 list and Applied Epic®, the fastest growing and most widely used agency management system, ranked as #19 in the Top 50 Products for Small Business of 2019 list. We are speechless. Being recognized for even one of G2 Crowd’s Best Software Awards is exciting but two – wow.

With more than 45,000 software companies and 60,000 software products on G2 Crowd, our recognition on the prestigious Top 100 Best Software Companies and Top 50 Products for Small Business lists is an exceptional achievement and one that can only be earned through the endorsement of our users – and for that we are extremely thankful to all of our customers.

It’s also an incredible honor to be recognized alongside leading software companies like Google, Adobe, Mailchimp and Microsoft, just to name a few, who ranked high on the list, and to be ranked above companies such as SAP, GitHub and Facebook.

Why does this matter?

While we’re clearly flattered by the formal recognition assigned to us by G2 Crowd, what excites us the most are your comments:


Great experience with an awesome implementation team.

A Verified Current User


Support is awesome. Very attentive.

A Verified Current User


One of my favorite features about Applied is their quick and knowledgeable customer service.

A Verified Current User

At Applied, we are laser-focused on providing the best customer experience. From system usage and optimization consulting to M&A integration and development of custom forms, templates and proposals, we are here as your partner to provide the services that meet your business needs. If you have a question or need expertise, we are here to get it resolved. That’s why we offer Follow the Sun support, available 24/7/365. This program, providing the industry’s highest level of customer support, ensures you can always connect with a live support technician – anytime, anywhere.

Beyond the customer experience, feedback on our software is extremely important to us. When asked what our customers like best about Applied Epic, here is what a few of them said:


Communication with clients has gone from a manual system to a highly automated system. We have letters, activities and emails automatically generated from scheduled reports that notify our clients 90 days ahead of their renewal all the way up to day of renewal. So many hours of time savings from this automated process.

A Verified Current User


Being able to use one system to track our Commercial, Personal and Benefit clients is amazing. We now know at a single glance all the different policies we write for each client. We can communicate with our clients in their preferred method, phone, email, fax or even text all within Applied Epic.

A Verified Current User


There are many things I like about Applied Epic, but if I had to pick one it would be the marketing area. You can create one master marketing submission, choose the lines of business and attachments that you wish to send to each company, and keep up with your submission, correspondence and quotes. This feature alone made the switch to Applied Epic worth it in my opinion.

A Verified Current User

We love to see reviews like these. As a team, we celebrate the positive impact we are having on our customers’ success. Our goal is to be agile and innovative in ways that resolve the daily challenges independent agencies face. It’s about providing tools that enhance an agency’s role as a trusted advisor.

“At Applied, we are committed to customer satisfaction, and these awards are further validation of the tremendous work Team Applied puts in every day to build products that provide a high level of value to our clients,” said Reid French, chief executive officer, Applied Systems. Like our CEO said, receiving this recognition is a real validation to the quality of our software and the level of our service. It’s very rewarding to know that our customers value our software and partnership as much as we value them.

We Couldn’t Do It Without You

At the end of the day, our customers are at the heart of everything we do. Thank you to all of our clients who have reviewed Applied Systems on G2 Crowd and provided the insights needed to help other organizations make the right decision for their business needs. Without you, we could not continue to innovate and deliver on the core promise of insurance – to safeguard and protect what matters most in people’s lives.

See what others say about Applied Epic on G2 Crowd and leave your review today.

Celebrating Women in Insurance: How Two Female Professionals Are Shaping the Future of Insurance

March 21, 2019

by Applied Communications
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Women in Insurance: Meet 2 Industry Leaders Paving the Way for the Future of Insurance

Women’s History Month is a time to look back and honor the many achievements of women through history and the vast strides made by women today. One does not have to look far to see the influence women have had in medicine, politics, technology, literature and nearly every industry or aspect of society. This month is a time of reflection as much as it is an opportunity to look into the future for women.

Specifically, this had us reflecting on the contributions made by women to the insurance industry. In our research, we came across an article by Property Casualty 360 and we wanted to highlight a few facts from it that we found interesting.

Since 2007, women have consistently comprised about 60% of the insurance workforce, with 1.7 million women employed in the insurance sector in 2016. In a historically male-dominated business, it is clear that the insurance industry today is making important strides towards gender diversity and inclusion. However, when it comes to women in leadership positions, the insurance industry falls short. Research shows that women occupy only 19% of board seats and 11% of named executive officer positions. Furthermore, only 35% of independent agencies are led by a woman agency principal or senior manager. Equity in leadership at the executive level is critical in every industry, especially in technology where partner collaboration and diverse perspectives are essential. Reports also indicate that companies with female decision makers achieve higher market returns and profits.

Establishing mentor-mentee relationships fosters support for women in the insurance industry and increases likelihood of upward mobility. Mentor ship from senior leaders is viewed by women as a top enabler for advancing women into leadership. This represents an opportunity insurance companies must take advantage of in order to support and promote their female employees.

Women Leaders in Insurance

We want to recognize two influential women who are reshaping the insurance industry and working to inspire the next-generation of female leaders.

Kris Hackney, Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, Applied Systems

Kris Hackney is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s Professional Services, Support and Cloud-based solutions.

How did you get your start in the insurance industry?

I have spent more than 20 years in the software industry, primarily focused on business intelligence and predictive analytics, which gave me an opportunity to be exposed to many industries, including retail, insurance, telecommunications, manufacturing and government. I was drawn to Applied, and thus to a focus on insurance, because of the great opportunity to leverage technology to empower such a critical industry.

What is one important thing that you’ve learned from your professional experience?

At Applied, our mission is to power the business of insurance through innovative, cloud-based software. In my role as the leader of our customer experience organization, I’m responsible for customer delivery strategy and operational execution of Applied’s professional services, support and cloud-based solutions. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to build great teams. I’m especially proud of how we’ve coupled deeply experienced experts in insurance with individuals from diverse technical backgrounds who bring new perspectives to the table – true innovation takes strong, collaborative teams focused on challenging the status quo.

What do you believe the future of the insurance industry will look like?

The convergence of technology and changing consumer preferences in the insurance industry have agencies and brokerages adopting new, innovative technologies that blend the personal, trusted advice of the agent with customer preferences for interaction – and that is a tremendous business opportunity to capitalize on. Consumer demand for anywhere, anytime access to information is challenging agents to scale their resources to provide around-the-clock service and adopt new technologies that extend the personal touch and trusted guidance of an insurance agent to a 24/7 insurance experience. To provide this experience, digital agencies and brokerages require client self-service software that allows their clients to review policy information, request changes, make premium payments and manage claims processing via online portals and mobile apps. Native mobile apps offer clients quicker, more convenient access to insurance information directly from their smartphone or tablet, providing greater flexibility and servicing options while keeping their agency and brokerage’s trusted advice top of mind.

Read our blog posts, How to Lead Change Management: 6 Guiding Principles or Convenience Is Key: Interacting with the Connected Insured, for more insights from Kris Hackney.


Jackie Gould, Chief Operating Officer, Assurance

Jackie Gould is responsible for the overall client service delivery platform at Assurance, as well as maintaining an efficient operation structure through high quality standards. Jackie’s strength lies in leading Assurance through major operational changes and managing multi-faceted projects that touch many organizational areas.

How did you get your start in the insurance industry?

I started my insurance career at Liberty Mutual one year after I finished college, after moving back to the Midwest from Seattle. It was a time in my life where everything I owned could fit in my car – and it was a very small car. The district sales manager at Liberty hired me as a Special Products Representative, where I worked closely with our sales reps in the greater Chicago area as a property insurance specialist and a liaison to place coverage with our internal underwriting team. It was a training ground like no other to be able to go out on calls with a wide variety of producers, and the experience dismantled my prior conception of what it meant to be an insurance salesperson. We were out meeting business owners every day and helping them manage major risks and costs in their businesses. I learned the technical coverage and underwriting side of the business, as well as how important insurance coverage and the associated services were to a business owner or executive.

What is one important thing you’ve learned from your professional experience?

Scrappiness matters. I discovered that I was hired in that first job with no experience largely because my boss was impressed with the way that I had worked my way through college and how I approached new challenges. Every job I’ve had since has allowed me to get things done with limited resources by being creative and scrappy. I’ve never had a role where I’ve simply taken over a well-defined and well-oiled machine and kept it running. I’ve always been able to roll up my sleeves and make an imprint, build something special, and help to define the future. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of people over the years with a similar approach to getting things done.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that women face in the insurance industry today?

I don’t tend to think in terms of challenges for women differently than those for men and that is a testament to the hard work of women in the business world before me. I believe the biggest challenge that we all face is changing our insurance and employee benefit delivery system to catch-up to the current technology, risk, legislative, and consumer environment. As a broker, we must continually earn our position in this new and evolving world. Our role is much bigger than placing coverages with an appropriate insurer and managing the associated transactions. We sit at the risk management and employee engagement table with our clients and help make their businesses better. If we can’t measure our impact, and our clients don’t experience a partnership and value when engaging with us, then we will become obsolete.

What do you believe the future of the insurance industry will look like?

Managing risk is complicated. Engaging employees and providing benefits is complicated. Insurance is complicated. As an executive in my company, I rely on professional partners to help our business with complicated accounting, tax, legal, real estate, and other issues. Although there are mountains of information out there in all of these areas, I don’t have the time to wade through the research and figure out how to apply the information to a given situation. I find trusted advisors in each field to help me. I believe the future of the insurance industry is similar – business owners and executives want trusted advisors to help them to navigate all of the requirements, options, and decision points in their insurance and benefit programs. Analytics will continue to play a rising role in this process, and my hope is that the providers and carriers break down proprietary walls that impede the ability for their clients and brokers to access and use data for better transparency and decision-making.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on how women are shaping the insurance industry of the future.

What Repeat Attendees Say About Applied Net

March 14, 2019

by Applied Communications
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Applied Net is the largest technology gathering of independent insurance agents and brokers in the world. To be held at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas October 14 – 17, Applied Net 2019 explores 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. This year’s conference promises to be our best one yet and you don’t want to miss all the excitement we have in store, including insightful educational sessions, newfound industry innovations, countless networking opportunities, industry-changing announcements and once-in-a-lifetime evening events.

To give you an idea of what your Applied Net experience could be like, we sat down with Kristin Thelen, Commercial Lines coordinator at Mason Insurance Agency Inc. and three-time Applied Net attendee, to discuss her favorite parts of the conference and why she recommends attending Applied Net 2019.

Applied Communications: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Kristin. To start, can you give us a brief introduction to your agency and role there.

Kristin Thelen: We are a P&C agency with 11 users located in Mason, MI. We take pride in being a small town agency that provides a personalized experience to each of our clients.

AC: Appreciate the introduction. Let’s switch gears and talk about Applied Net. What is your favorite part of the conference?

KT: The best part of the conference is the networking opportunities that you are presented with. You meet a variety of people – new users, seasoned users, vendors, consultants, Applied Systems employees, Applied Client Network Board Members and Chapter Leaders – all of who bring something different to the table. As your network grows so does your product knowledge and experience.

AC: How has your business benefited from attending Applied Net?

KT: My agency has benefited tremendously from Applied Net. We bring back so much information and new ideas. Our improved efficiency is the greatest benefit. We learn how to streamline our processes and incorporate new product offerings, such as Applied CSR24®, a cloud-based insurance customer self-service software, and Applied MobileInsured™, a custom branded mobile application, into our agency’s culture, making our clients experience as enjoyable and easy as it can be.

AC: Do you have an example of content that you’ve brought back and implemented into your agency?

KT: The most valuable content that I brought back from conference was the ability to upgrade our proposals and form letters. To fully understand the merge fields and how they work in summaries, proposals and letters made our communications more time efficient and easier to incorporate into the workflow. The enhanced look of layered colors, use of tables and a more polished appearance was just an added bonus.

AC: Can you tell us more about the feeling of community you get from Applied Net?

KT: The atmosphere at Applied New is energetic, enthusiastic and eager. The community of insurance professionals that come together for four days of learning and networking is like no other. Every attendee is there for a common purpose – to make themselves and their agency better. Whether it’s from a technological standpoint or educational perspective, we all share one common goal to be the best and help one another become the best.

AC: Do you feel that Applied Net is a good place to discover new technology?

KT: For sure! It’s the one place you can hear first hand what has changed, been enhanced and what is forth coming directly from Applied Systems CEO, Reid French. The exhibit hall is another great source of information that Applied Net offers. Vendors from all over are there to showcase products that can help make what you do easier.

AC: Do you feel like Applied Net pays for itself in terms of how it helps your agency?

KT: 110% – the return on our investment is continuous. Being able to meet individuals and use them as ongoing resources, being hands-on at the Applied Systems booth and preparing for the changes we know are coming keeps our operations perpetuating.

AC: What other parts of the conference do you enjoy?

KT: Everything about conference is enjoyable. You can tell that a lot of time, effort and care is put into planning this event. From the session tracks to the evening events, it’s four days of learning, networking and fun. However, if I had to pick one, it would be presenting. I had the honor of presenting at Applied Net 2018. The opportunity to share what I know with other users and provide them with new ways of using their systems was incredible.

AC: How many times have you attended Applied Net and why do you continue to come back year after year?

KT: I have attended Applied Net the last three years. Every year offers something different, whether it is the venue, the exhibitors, the session tracks or the presenters. I guarantee you will walk away with new knowledge and ways to improve your agency’s processes.

AC: Would you recommend this conference to your peers? If so, why?

KT: Absolutely! Anything you want to learn, anyone you would like to meet, and what the future may hold is all provided to you at Applied Net. It’s a great opportunity to learn, meet new and passionate people, and even have a little fun.

Learn more about Applied Net and discover how to take advantage of the opportunities available in the digital age of insurance to prepare your business for success today and in the future.

 

2019 Digital Technology Survey: Share Your Feedback Now

February 14, 2019

by Reid French
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While digitally transforming your business was once a nice-to-have, it is now an imperative. The time for denial of the Digital Age of Insurance is over. Those who seize the opportunity of transforming their businesses to become digital stand to gain a triple reward of satisfied customers, lower operating costs and faster growth. Conversely, businesses still denying the digital transformation of insurance do so at their peril. It’s time to either accept and thrive – or deny and disappear.

The Industry’s Progress Towards Digital Transformation

To establish an industry benchmark and track digital technology adoption among independent insurance agencies and brokerages, Applied developed an annual Digital Technology Survey. Now in its fourth consecutive year, the survey gives agents and brokers across North America, the UK and Ireland an opportunity to anonymously participate in this study, which determines an average industry score for digital technology adoption at an independent agency or brokerage.

This score is relevant because it reflects the progress agents and brokers have made in their adoption of digital technology. Regardless of where your business ranks compared to your industry colleagues, understanding the role digital technology plays in delivering on the promise of insurance – to safeguard and protect what matters most – in a world more connected than ever before is the first step to ensuring your business thrives today, tomorrow and in the years ahead.

How to Participate in the 2019 Digital Technology Survey

Simply complete the online survey by answering questions about the five competencies of a digital business, including management systems capabilities, data analytics, insurer connectivity, the cloud and mobile. Organizations scoring 80% or higher across all core competencies are considered to be digital businesses, having adopted most of the key drivers of digital transformation.

The results of the survey will be published later this year in the “Applied Digital Agency/Brokerage Annual Report: 2019 Digital Technology Adoption Benchmarks and Trends,” which provides insights on how your digital technology adoption and strategy compares to your peers. By taking the survey today, you’ll be among the first to receive the report upon its publication.

I cannot thank you enough for taking the survey and contributing to the annual report. Know that all of us at Team Applied are here to enable your business to thrive during the Digital Age of Insurance.

The survey is now closed. Applied appreciates your participation! Stay tuned to the blog for the annual report later this year.

Reid FrenchReid French, Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He also plays 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.

IVANS Index: 2018 Year-End Results for Premium Renewal Rate Change

January 31, 2019

by Brian Wood
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IVANS Index is a data-driven report of current conditions and trends for premium renewal rate change of the most placed commercial lines of business in the insurance industry. Data collected in the IVANS Index enables insurers to determine competitive rates and the most profitable lines of business for investment. To learn more about IVANS Index, read IVANS Index: Industry Insights to Help You Run Your Business Better.

Positive Uptick in Premium Renewal Rate Change Average Across Nearly All Lines of Business
The latest IVANS Index results for Q4 and year-end 2018 show that insurance industry premium renewal rates are up quarter-over-quarter across nearly all major commercial product lines, except Workers’ Compensation. Commercial Auto, Business Owner’s Policy, Commercial Property, Umbrella, and General Liability show positive results compared to Q3 2018. Workers’ Compensation remains the only line of business experiencing a negative rate change, which was consistent throughout all of 2018.

Q4 and 2018 key findings in premium renewal rate change include:

  • Commercial Auto:  2018 average premium renewal rate change for Commercial Auto was higher compared to 2017 throughout the entire year, peaking in September with an average premium renewal rate change at 4.50% in 2018 versus 2.55% in 2017.
  • BOP:  Quarter premium renewal rate change averaged 4.23%, representing an increase over last quarter’s average of 4.15%. BOP premium renewal rate change finished the quarter at 4.23% in December.
  • General Liability:  General Liability started out 2018 in January and February with lower average premium renewal rate than 2017, averaging 0.44% higher from March through the remainder of 2018 across the same period of time the year prior.
  • Commercial Property:  Q4 premium renewal rate change rose again quarter over quarter, with an average rate change of 3.74% as compared to 3.34% in Q3. Commercial Property premium renewal rate change reached its high for 2018 in Q4 at 3.95% in December.
  • Umbrella:  Umbrella premium renewal rate change reached its high for 2018 in Q4 at 2.76% in November. 2018 average premium renewal rate change for Umbrella was higher compared to 2017, averaging .70% higher year over year.
  • Workers’ Compensation:  2018 average premium renewal rate change for Workers’ Compensation was consistently more negative compared to 2017, with the exception of December, which ended at -2.66% in 2018 versus -2.92% in 2017.

 

Relative to other lines of business, BOP’s average premium renewal rate experienced the most variability between 2018 and 2017.

 

Workers’ Comp average premium renewal rate change reached -3.04% in Q4 versus -2.76% in Q3. 2018 was consistently more negative compared to 2017, except for December, which ended at -2.66% in 2018 versus -2.92% in 2017.

The end of 2018 experienced the greatest change in premium renewal rates from the year prior for nearly all major commercial lines products. As we begin 2019, the IVANS Index will continue to provide data-driven insights into the health of the industry, enabling brokerages to give more accurate premium renewal guidance to customers and serving as a valuable reference to insurers when determining pricing strategies.

Analyzing more than 120 million data transactions, the IVANS Index premium renewal rate change measures the premium difference year over year for a single consistent policy. Inclusive of more than 32,000 agencies and 400 insurers and MGAs, the IVANS Index is reflective of the premium rate change trends being experienced by all agencies and insurers across the U.S. insurance market.

For further insights into premium renewal rate change across the industry, download the Q4 and 2018 year-end IVANS Index report >

Headshot of man in casual attire smiling.Brian Wood, Vice President of Data Products Group for IVANS, develops innovative and data-driven applications, tools and services for the insurance industry. Prior to this position, he co-founded EvoSure, which was acquired by Applied in Sept 2015. Brian spent 10 years with Marsh & McLennan as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Analysis where he developed global insurance distribution platforms. Brian began his career in insurance building the first company to bind insurance online, insuranceOrder.com (a Trilogy company) which was acquired by Marsh & McLennan in 2001.

Why You Should Participate in the Best Practices Agency Study

January 17, 2019

by Applied Communications
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Since 1993, Reagan Consulting and the IIABA, “Big I,” have conducted the Best Practices Agency study to identify the top performing agencies in the United States. Conducted on a three-year cycle, the study measures the operational performance of nominated agencies against critical industry and business benchmarks.

2019 marks a new cycle in the Best Practices Agency study. Agencies who believe they have the qualities of a Best Practices Agency and are interested in participating can now be nominated by Applied, as well as their regional IIABA association or insurer partners. To participate in the study, agencies are required to share key business practices and to complete an in-depth survey detailing your financial and operational year-end results. Results are scored and ranked objectively for inclusion based on operational excellence.

Reap the Benefits of Being a Best Practices Agency

As the Best Practices program has grown, being nominated and taking part in the study has become a prestigious recognition of the superior accomplishments of the top insurance agencies in the country. Best Practices agencies are viewed as the industry standard of excellence and looked upon for insights on how to drive superior operations and drive revenue among their peers.

If selected as a Best Practices Agency, your agency will receive:

  • National exposure through ads in trade publications
  • Invitation to the Best Practices Symposium, a multi-day event open only to Best Practices Agencies and study sponsors for networking and education
  • Wall plaque and color copy of the media ad associating your agency with “Best Practices Agency” status
  • Specialized media kit to announce status to clients, insurers, your community, including a “Best Practices Agency” logo

The return on time is enormous with the survey being beneficial even for an agency that does not receive the status of Best Practices Agency. By taking the time to participate in the survey, your agency will receive a free Agency Performance Analysis from Reagan Consulting which compares your results to those of your industry peers who are of a similar size in revenue. This provides invaluable data to your agency for its own future strategic, operating and financial planning. It provides the ability to critically assess and enhance your practices to improve agency performance beyond what a traditional internal review might stimulate. There is no better tool for an agency to use in clearly defining and communicating its goals to its staff than the directly applicable benchmarking data.

Participating in the Best Practices Agency Study Is Easier Than Ever

Submissions will now be managed through an online portal, significantly reducing the time to prepare the data workbook to less than a day. Additionally, Applied offers helpful guidance as part of our commitment to your success to streamline the submissions process. This includes a nomination submission, a step-by-step guide to quickly pull information you need for your submission directly from your agency management system, and access to a dedicated Applied Support resource to assist your agency through the reporting process.

If you question whether participating is worth the effort, we would unquestionably say yes. Even if you feel like you are not big enough or have not been in business long enough, apply anyway – you will create the internal procedures that will get you there in the future. Ultimately, the program provides great goals and diligent practices to enhance your agency’s performance and value.

For more insights on the Best Practices Agency study and the benefits this program can provide your agency, watch the Become a Best Practices Agency webinar we recently hosted with Reagan Consulting.

The 5 Whys of Becoming a Digital Agency

January 03, 2019

by Reid French
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For years, we’ve been talking about the impending digital transformation of insurance. Well now that it’s here, how is digital transformation impacting our industry?

Last year, the management consulting firm McKinsey completed a research paper titled Time for Insurance to Face Digital Reality. To be honest, the first page was a bit tough to read. It stated that the insurance sector offered the worst online customer experience of all industries surveyed, other than utilities. After that first page, the report shifted to a call to action for agents, brokers and insurers alike to seize the opportunity of digital transformation. The time for denial of the digital trend in insurance is over. Businesses still denying the digital transformation of insurance do so at their peril. It is time to either accept and thrive – or deny and disappear.

So as we consider the opportunities offered by the digital age of insurance, it helps to first define what it means to be a Digital Agency.

At Applied, a Digital Agency is defined by 3 core characteristics:

1. Digital automation within an agency to drive extreme efficiency
2. Digital connectivity to insureds to drive an enhanced customer experience
3. Digital connectivity to insurers to drive efficient interaction

Now that we have defined what it means to be a Digital Agency, we shall spend the rest of our discussion together on why you should become a Digital Agency. Applied believes that the deployment of enhanced technology for agencies, their insureds and insurer partners drives significant business value.

Here’s why being a digital agency matters, and 5 digital agencies that are thriving in the Digital Age of Insurance:

1. Digital agencies grow faster.

Agencies that adopt technology are in a better position to more quickly identify new business opportunities.

Case in Point: ChurchWest Insurance Services has doubled their premium in five years with sales automation.

2. Digital agencies are more efficient.

Agency efficiency drives agency profitability. Time is money, and by being more efficient in your day, more hours can be spent on revenue generating activities.

Case in Point: Schultheis Insurance saves 100,000 hours per year by eliminating manual, paper-driven tasks through download.

3. Digital agencies deliver enhanced customer satisfaction.

Simply said, happy customers mean loyal customers, and loyal customers mean retained business. By retaining business and actively drawing in new customers (often through happy customer referrals), you grow your business.

Case in Point: Hall & Company saved $70,000 in COI labor, printing and postage expenses per year with client self-service technology.

4. Digital agencies provide better advice to their customers.

Insurance customers need agents for access to products and advice to stay protected in the best and worst of times. Digital agencies must make sure that their technology supports the solid advice they provide to their customer base.

Case in Point: 618 Insurance Agency utilizes an online market search tool to instantly identify markets for commercial lines risks, enabling them to close more new and renewal business in less time and provide clients the best coverage.

5. Digital agencies generate greater trust.

Customer trust is vital for all businesses, but absolutely essential in the world of insurance. Without trust, insurance simply does not work, as any insurance product is essentially based on a promise.

Case in Point: Fisher Brown Bottrell operates in the cloud to keep their data safe, software updated and business running smoothly – no matter the circumstances – so that they are there for their clients when needed most.

The Digital Agency is the future of our industry, and it is the path to value for both you and your customers. It delivers business value to your organization by enhancing growth, efficiency, customer satisfaction, advice and trust in your business. For those not on the path of digital transformation, I urge you to start your journey to becoming a Digital Agency today. I promise, your owners, your employees and your customers will thank you for it.

For more insights on the business value of a Digital Agency, download our eBook, The Digital Age of Insurance: 5 Reasons Why Your Agency Should Be Digital.

Reid FrenchReid French, Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He also plays 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.