Woman in business attire sitting in office, she is looking down at a tablet in her hands.

The Connected Business of Insurance

2019 Digital Technology Survey: Share Your Feedback Now

February 14, 2019

by Reid French
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

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.

Select your region below to start the survey:

U.S. Survey >

Canada Survey >

UK Survey >

Ireland Survey >

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
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

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
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

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
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

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.

Happy Holidays from Team Applied

December 17, 2018

by Reid French
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

On behalf of all of us at Team Applied, I’d like to thank you for your ongoing partnership with our company. As we conclude this year and head into 2019, we look forward to driving continued success for your business in the digital age of insurance.

In the spirit of this festive season, we’ve created a special video card. I hope you enjoy it.

Wishing you and yours health and joy now and in the New Year.

Warmest regards,

Reid French

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.

A Journey Through Applied’s 35-Year History

December 06, 2018

by Applied Communications
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

For 35 years, Applied’s commitment to innovation has enabled thousands of agencies, brokerages, and insurers from around the globe to safeguard and protect what matters most in people’s lives. Who would have imagined that a simple idea – a new way to manage an agency and connect an industry – would revolutionize the business of insurance?

It did, and over the last 35 years, Applied has been at the forefront of insurance technology with a myriad of innovative “industry-firsts.” Here are some of the key milestones throughout our storied history:

Developing Your Perpetuation Strategy

November 21, 2018

by Harrison Brooks
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

Why are so many insurance agencies selling to third party buyers? Many valid reasons exist: record high valuations, desire for resources, legislative changes, competition, etc.

However, I believe the primary reason agencies sell is due to a lack of a formalized and funded perpetuation plan. Many agencies have informal perpetuation plans in place, but an agency must have motivated employees and sufficient cash flow in order to turn their plan into reality. If your agency desires to formalize its perpetuation plan, I would refer you to Reagan Consulting’s Private Ownership Study. The study is designed to help agency principals navigate the maze of perpetuation alternatives and create effective strategies to remain privately-held, if desired. In this study, we highlight four key elements that should be incorporated into your agency’s perpetuation plan: (i) healthy operations, (ii) reasonable sellers, (iii) able buyers and (iv) an effective transfer mechanism. Without any of these four key elements, your perpetuation plan will likely fail.

A high-level summary of the four pillars of perpetuation and a few key findings from The Private Ownership Study are outlined below for your quick reference:

  1. Healthy Operation

The ability to perpetuate any business begins with the operational health of the business. For an insurance agency, operational health encompasses two key factors:

  • Organic growth. Organic growth refers to the rate at which an agency grows its revenue through expanded sales efforts rather than by acquisition of existing revenue from another agency or agent.
  • Profitability. Profitability is the measure of an agency’s true financial viability. If an agency isn’t turning a profit, it is unlikely to hold long-term value.

In order for an agency to perpetuate, there must be a healthy balance between growth and profitability.

Reagan Consulting developed a simple growth and profitability balancing equation called “The Rule of 20.” This metric is calculated by adding half of an agency’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margin to its organic revenue growth rate. An outcome of 20 or higher typically means a firm is generating a shareholder return of about 15% to 17%, which is generally considered a normal return under ordinary market conditions.

  1. Reasonable Sellers

Our research indicates that a reasonable seller possesses three key characteristics:

  • Valuation. A reasonable seller is willing to sell shares internally at a discount to third party valuation multiples.
  • Financing. A reasonable seller either personally finances the sale of his or her ownership stake, participates in agency financing or assists in arranging suitable third-party financing for buyers.
  • Timing. A reasonable seller is willing to sell his or her shares to the next generation of shareholders once they are ready to buy into the firm. Further, a reasonable seller is willing to time share sales to avoid redemption title waves – situations where one or several large shareholders need to be redeemed simultaneously.
  1. Able Buyers

Finding able buyers is the biggest challenge to internal perpetuation. Our Baseline Perpetuation Survey asked agencies about their biggest challenges with finding able buyers. Over 60% cited a lack of financial resources. An able buyer must be financially capable of purchasing equity in the firm, and a buyer’s financial capability can generally be boiled down to one question: how much must he or she come “out-of-pocket” to purchase equity in the firm?

To evaluate this question, we look at a metric called the “Buyer Coverage Ratio.” The Buyer Coverage Ratio is calculated by dividing the buyer’s ownership distributions or bonuses by the annual principal and interest payments due on their ownership purchase notes. Our research revealed that a typical agency has a Buyer Coverage Ratio of 100%. This means that over half of firms structure their perpetuation plans to ensure that a buyer’s principal and interest payments are entirely covered by shareholder distributions or bonuses. While there is not a “correct” Buyer Coverage Ratio, determining whether or not your firm has able buyers is impossible without considering the Buyer Coverage Ratio and the resulting out-of-pocket requirements for the buying group.

  1. Effective Transfer Mechanism

An agency must have an effective mechanism in place to facilitate the transfer of ownership from one generation of owners to the next. In our In-Depth Perpetuation Survey, over 60% of firms reported their primary method of transfer is ownership purchases whereby an individual buys ownership shares either from another shareholder or from the company.

In determining which transfer mechanism is right for an agency, the owners must match the transfer mechanism with the agency’s unique DNA and circumstances. This is a critical process, as not all transfer mechanisms will work for every agency. The agency’s distribution philosophy, shareholder distribution, growth prospects and other attributes will influence the appropriateness of any given transfer mechanism. Reagan Consulting specializes in designing transfer mechanisms to ensure that your agency’s perpetuation plans will work successfully.

Ultimately, successful agency perpetuation – whether it is a merger or sale to a third party or an internal transaction – is about protecting the owners’ ability to choose their direction without limiting their range of choices by preventable factors or circumstances.

For more insights on perpetuation and key findings from The Private Ownership Study, watch the “Developing Your Perpetuation Strategy” webinar I recently hosted or contact me, Harrison Brooks, at hbrooks@reaganconsulting.com.

Harrison BrooksHarrison Brooks joined Reagan Consulting in 2015 and is a Vice President of the firm. Harrison primarily works with clients on mergers & acquisitions, agency valuation and strategic consulting projects. Prior to joining Reagan, Harrison spent two years at the private equity firm, Carousel Capital, acquiring business and consumer services companies. He was responsible for leading valuation exercises and executing due diligence processes. He also worked closely with management teams on strategic planning and value creation initiatives. Harrison began his career in investment banking with Edgeview Partners (now Piper Jaffray). During his tenure in mergers and acquisitions, he completed numerous buy and sell side transactions. Harrison is a Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Business Administration degree from the Kenan-Flagler Business School. He currently maintains the Series 63 and 79 FINRA Registrations through Reagan Securities, Inc., the affiliated FINRA-registered Broker/Dealer of Reagan Consulting, Inc.

The Google and CapitalG Investment in Applied Systems: Good News for Independent Agents & Brokers

November 08, 2018

by Reid French
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

At last month’s Applied Net, 4,000 insurance agents, brokers and insurers gathered to hear about the latest trends and technology developments driving opportunity for their business. One announcement that generated buzz throughout the conference and the industry was the recent minority investment in Applied Systems by CapitalG, the growth equity investment fund of Google parent company Alphabet. Not surprisingly, the announcement spurred excitement and questions, particularly given Google’s previous forays into insurance. Let me use this as an opportunity to reiterate how the independent agent and broker channel stands to benefit from this investment and dispel any misconceptions.

How CapitalG Approaches Its Investments

CapitalG invests in larger, growth-oriented technology companies that have the potential to leverage Google technology, including notable names such as Lyft, Airbnb, SurveyMonkey and Glassdoor. Their investment approach includes providing portfolio companies access to Google and parent company Alphabet’s people, knowledge, and technology to support each company’s growth and strategic plan. The investment will bring Applied access to Google expertise across artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital marketing, to name just a few areas, and should be extremely helpful to both our company and our customers as we move into the Digital Age of Insurance.

What This Investment Does Not Mean for the Industry

Before partnering with CapitalG, we considered what others might say about Google becoming involved in Applied and more broadly, the insurance industry, as a result of this investment. Let’s get those concerns out of the way. The first question is: does Google have access to our customer’s data? Simply stated, no. By contract, not a single field of customer or Applied data will be available to Google. None.

The second question is: should this be seen as Google’s attempt to get into the insurance industry with the hopes of competing with the independent agent and broker? CapitalG invested in Applied because they believe in our mission, which is to revolutionize the business of insurance with cloud-based software. CapitalG believes what we believe: that the independent agent and broker is the cornerstone and future of the industry. Given that Applied’s success is directly tied to the success of agents and brokers, CapitalG cannot succeed in their investment if the independent agency channel doesn’t prosper.

What Agents and Brokers Stand to Gain

We believe this minority investment by CapitalG is an opportunity to further improve the technology we deliver to agencies and brokerages, dramatically improving the productivity of your organization to drive higher profitability. Simply put, it allows us to better prepare our customers for the future of the insurance industry.

It’s too early to share specifics, but it’s not too early to discuss how excited we are at Applied for the opportunity to work with Google. We’ve already begun brainstorming sessions internally about which Google technologies would benefit our customers and in what ways. You can imagine the possibilities that artificial intelligence and machine learning can have on our solutions in terms of reducing the amount of data entry required for Applied Epic® or improving the risk management advice presented to clients. To that end, 20 of our top developers are en route to New York later this month to attend Google’s internal machine learning boot camp, which is open to CapitalG companies.

The Digital Age of Insurance

The insurance industry is undergoing significant change. Applied intends to remain at the forefront of digital transformation for the benefit of our customers by taking advantage of opportunities like the investment by CapitalG. We believe the benefits of this investment will flow directly to the independent agents and brokerages who have selected Applied.

We also believe that this investment serves as a powerful validation of Applied’s people, technology and track record of success. Let me assure you that CapitalG and Google have the opportunity to invest in many market–leading firms. I am so very proud that they selected Applied. It is a testament to all of the progress that we have made together, both as a company and as an industry.

In our 35th anniversary year, know that we are proud of our shared history of success. But let me be very clear that as an organization, we spend precious little time looking backward. Instead, we choose to look forward, to the next trends in technology – such as artificial intelligence, micro-services, Big Data & block chain. With this investment from Google and CapitalG, we are doing just that. If you want to be prepared for the Digital Age of Insurance, there is no better technology partner in the world than Applied.

Thank you for your support and please do let us know how we can serve you better.

Visit the Google Partnership landing page to learn more.

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.

Applied Net 2018: Week in Review

October 25, 2018

by Applied Communications
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

As more than 4,000 attendees can attest, Applied Net is THE forum to learn about the latest insurance technologies and strategies to prepare your business for the digital age of insurance.

If you missed the world’s largest gathering of independent insurance agents and brokers in Nashville this year, all is not lost. Here’s a recap of Applied Net 2018, as experienced and reported by some of this year’s attendees.

Getting Ready for the Week

Whether catching the flight to Nashville, picking up a conference badge and those ever-important ribbons at the registration desk, or connecting with new and old Applied Net friends at the opening night reception, excitement was in the air as attendees descended upon the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.

Inspiring Keynotes

Tuesday’s opening keynotes set the tone for the week ahead. First, Applied Systems CEO Reid French took the stage to update attendees on the state of the insurance industry and five key areas of business value from the Digital Age of Insurance. Then, a true American hero, Captain Scott Kelly, shared what his experiences as a U.S. Navy Captain and U.S. Astronaut have taught him about leadership, teamwork and the importance of believing you can reach any goal, no matter how ambitious or audacious.

On Wednesday, Michael Howe, SVP of Product Management, unveiled the latest Applied product innovations and roadmap, while Kris Hackney, EVP of Customer Experience, discussed the expectations of today’s connected consumer and how Applied is dedicated to providing the technology needed to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Time to Learn

This year’s conference included more user-led education sessions than ever before. With more than 240 sessions and 9 different tracks to choose from, there was something for everyone.

Making Connections

As our alumni know well, Applied Net is the best place to network with agents and brokers from across the industry. We kicked off the week with great roundtable discussions at the Applied Net Networking Roundtables, where attendees chatted with new and old friends about topics of mutual interest. After sessions, attendees enjoyed exploring the Applied Net Exchange floor to network with peers, connect with exhibitors and test drive the latest product innovations.

Evening Events

In Nashville, there are countless opportunities to enjoy award-winning southern cuisine, catch the hottest in live entertainment, and kick up your heels on the dance floor. After full days of learning and networking, it was time to let loose! From a night out in Nashville at two iconic entertainment venues to seeing chart-topping artists in an exclusive performance at the Grand Ole Opry House, Applied Net 2018’s evening events showed us all how to have some fun in Music City.

Final Goodbyes

As the week came to a close, it was time to reflect on our time in Nashville and think about the knowledge and experiences we would be bringing home.

Looking Ahead

Excited for Applied Net 2019 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas? Make sure you’re a part of it.

Register for Applied Net 2019 by November 16, 2018 to take advantage of the lowest rates.

If you experienced the excitement of Applied Net 2018 first-hand, leave a comment and tell us about your favorite part of the week.

Benchmarking the Industry: The Best Practices Study

October 12, 2018

by Tom Doran
FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

The insurance industry is a challenging and evolving marketplace. To keep from getting left behind, agencies must continuously look to improve their performance. 25 years ago though, there weren’t meaningful industry metrics or benchmarks for insurance agents to compare their performance to. Reagan Consulting and the IIABA, “Big I,” responded to this need in 1993 by developing the Best Practices Study to identify the operating and financial characteristics of top performing agencies in the United States.

By studying the leading agencies and brokers in the country, Reagan Consulting and the Big “I” hoped to provide agents with meaningful performance benchmarks and business strategies that could be adopted or adapted for use in improving agency performance, thus enhancing agency value.

After 25 years, why does the initiative still matter? It matters because healthy firms can control their own destinies by understanding their business value levers, setting goals, managing carefully and strategically and leveraging opportunities.

5 Key Metrics Agencies Should Be Tracking

The Best Practices Study includes a variety of metrics on growth, profitability, productivity, perpetuation readiness, sales culture and more. However, there are five key metrics that every agency should track to best assess and improve their overall performance.

  1. Organic Growth
    Growth and profitability are the two variables that most impact your agency’s value and most closely influence your agency’s long-term viability. To grow and attract the best talent in our industry, you have to be a winning organization. Winning in our industry boils down to your ability to grow and generate strong profit margins. Organic growth is a great starting point to get a sense of where you are compared to the top performers in the industry. At the end of the day, winners and also-rans in this industry are generally characterized by their ability to grow organically. How do you compare with your peers?  
  1. Sales Velocity
    Over the years I’ve heard agencies say, “We want to grow 10% a year” – and that’s the end of the discussion. What they haven’t done is ask, “How much new business would we need to write to accomplish that?’” If you want to grow by 10% and you’re giving up 7 percentage points on rate, retention and exposure realities, you’ll need to write 17% in new business to get to your 10% growth goal. The Sales Velocity metric can be a real help in understanding how likely you are to be able to achieve your growth goals. Expressed as a percentage, Sales Velocity is calculated by dividing this year’s written new business by last year’s commissions and fees. By isolating the new business component of your organic growth, Sales Velocity will help you to assess your own performance and develop realistic growth goals.
  1. Pro Forma Profitability
    It’s important for your agency to generate strong profit margins. This is the money you’ll use to hire new producers, invest in new technology and to make other the investments required to grow your business. Pro forma profitability is the actual profitability of an agency after non-reoccurring/extraordinary revenue and expenses and excessive owner compensation/perks are normalized. It is the best measure of profitability to allow you to compare your agency to top performing agencies. 
  1. Net Unvalidated Producer Payroll
    One issue we’re struggling with in the insurance industry is the ability to attract and retain young talent, specifically producers. The key metric we developed to determine if an agency is making an effective investment in its new producers is net unvalidated producer payroll (NUPP). This metric is a percentage of an agency’s annual revenue that is invested in payroll compensation for young and developing producers, over and above what their books of business would entitle them to receive. The average agency’s NUPP is between 1.0% and 1.5% and the more successful agencies tend to have a NUPP of greater than 1.5%.  NUPP is a great way to ensure that you’re making an appropriate investment in next-generation producers. 
  1. New Commissions & Fees and Total Book Sizes for Validated Producers
    OK, I cheated – there are actually 2 metrics here. But both very important. New business per validated (mature) producer is another key metric in better understanding your agency’s sales culture. By understanding better how your producers are performing relative to your peers, you are able to identify and address new business performance gaps that are hindering your overall growth.  Your average book size per validated producer is critical to understanding the efficiency of your producer and support teams. Knowing what book sizes producers in peer agencies can support and service enables you to establish achievable goals and workloads for your producers and support staff. If your producers are handling materially smaller books of business than your peers, it may be an indication that you are understaffed or in need of additional training and supervision. 

Overall, focusing on the best practices that drive agency value remains one of the best disciplines available to firms of all sizes looking to achieve their long-term goals and maximize their values.

For more insights on benchmarking and key findings from the 2018 Best Practice Study, watch the “Benchmarking the Industry: The Best Practices Study” webinar I recently hosted.

Tom Doran is Senior Vice President and Principal at Reagan Consulting. Tom joined Reagan Consulting as a consultant in 1993 and became a principal in the firm in 1995. He is a Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) with an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems and a Masters of Business Administration from Georgia State University. Before joining Reagan Consulting, he worked in the computer industry, both as a software developer and as a management consultant. Tom’s areas of expertise include merger and acquisition representation, agency valuation, ownership perpetuation planning, agency valuation enhancement and strategic planning facilitation. Tom is a regular contributor to Reagan Consulting’s industry studies and is frequently published in various insurance industry publications. He also speaks on a regular basis to industry trade groups and associations on a wide variety of topics concerning the insurance distribution system.