Sep
07

Winning More Commercial Business for Independent Agents

by Matt Foran

IVANS Market Appetite

Knowing the right markets for your insurance risks is critical for success. Without the right markets, it is more difficult to win new business and your renewals will face fierce competition. When you know the right markets, you can get the best coverage for your client at the lowest price while learning where your competitors may be coming from. When you don’t know the right markets for a particular risk, you spend a large amount of time searching through outdated carrier appetite guides, visiting websites, and emailing your underwriters.

71% of Agents Say They Missed Opportunities

In the 2016 IVANS survey, 71% of agents said they missed opportunities because they couldn’t find or access a market for a prospect’s risk. Every agent and CSR knows how painful it can be to spend a significant amount of time getting a submission to a carrier only to hear nothing back or get declined.


71% of agents said they missed opportunities because they couldn’t find or access a market for a prospect’s risk

Even the most talented and experienced agency marketing personnel still use binders full of carrier appetite guides and drawers full of underwriter business cards. When asked, “When did you print that guide?” The usual response is “three years ago.” It’s no wonder agents constantly receive declinations and run into dead ends.

Why You Never Have to Miss Opportunities Again

IVANS, the largest digital distribution network connecting agencies, MGAs and carriers, knew there was a better way. With the goal of better connecting agencies with their carrier partners on specific risks, IVANS invented Market Appetite.

IVANS Market Appetite is a search tool that helps agents find carriers and MGAs based on key risk characteristics. Agents use a cutting-edge industry lookup for SIC and NAICS and then further refine their search by selecting products and risk location. The result is a list of carriers and wholesalers ranked in order of relationship, detail, and likelihood to want the business.

IVANS Market Appetite is built into Applied, HawkSoft, NASA, Strategic Insurance Software and Xanatek agency management systems already. IVANS Market Appetite is also available to every independent agent for no additional cost at markets.ivansinsurance.com.

“I never want to miss an opportunity because I’m stubborn. I will find a market. IVANS Market Appetite is one of my new favorite things.”

– Crystal Hart, Hazel Partners LLC

More Opportunities = More Premium Dollars

More than 2,000 agencies have already signed up for IVANS Market Appetite and many have been able to translate the information provided into real premium dollars.

Crystal Hart, Director of Marketing at Hazel Partners LLC, recently told us that she found the answer for a more complex risk by using IVANS Market Appetite. Crystal’s experience and understanding of long-term carriers told her that many of her standard carriers wouldn’t bite at a manufacturing company with less than $100,000 in revenue. She jumped on IVANS Market Appetite and quickly identified a brand new carrier their agency had just appointed. Seeing her new carrier partner at the top of the list, she picked up the phone to the underwriter and it became an easy $3,000 win.

IVANS is hearing more and more stories about how agents are winning with this information as the tool gets better and better.

Agents looking to leverage this complimentary search tool from IVANS can access it via their agency management system, or by visiting markets.ivansinsurance.com. Principles, producers, or CSRs looking to learn more about IVANS Market Appetite can also watch our latest on-demand webinar video.

Matt Foran, VP and general manager of IVANS Market Appetite, a division of Applied Systems, is responsible for the creation and strategic execution of the cutting edge distribution platform built for the commercial insurance industry. Prior to his current role, Matt was the CEO of EvoSure, which was acquired by Applied Systems in September 2015. Before co-founding EvoSure, Matt was the director of strategy for Zurich Specialty Products, a $2.5 billion business unit of Zurich Insurance Group, where he worked closely with the CEO and Senior Management to set overall strategic direction, develop and execute financial and operational plans, and lead execution of strategic initiatives. Previously, Matt served as assistant vice president of Marsh USA, with responsibilities including the initial formation of the Marsh & McLennan Agency, the Marsh Select Model, the restructuring of Marsh USA, and was a broker for healthcare and Fortune 500 firms. Matt was selected as a Global Rising Star by Reactions Magazine in 2011 and named in Insurance Business America magazine’s Hot 100 list for 2015.

Aug
24

4 Reasons We Chose Download

by Lori Heemstra

Technology has changed the way we do business today at Berends Hendricks Stuit, especially when it comes to receiving client, policy, billing and claims information. In fact, we have made it a priority to stay ahead of the curve with technology to drive efficiency and gain a competitive advantage.

At first, the only way to receive information was via snail mail and then manually input all of the data in the agency management system. Eventually, we started receiving information via email or fax, which was slightly easier. However, there was still an incredible amount of tedious work to be done by staff members.

Until recently, our Commercial Lines department had a processing team in place, with each team member assigned a carrier. They were required to go to the assigned carriers’ websites to find the policy information and input the data into the agency management system, so that it could be delivered to the client. This was still a very time-consuming process and ate up a lot of valuable resources.

The good news is, we don’t have that problem anymore. With download, our agency receives this information from 19 different carriers directly to our agency management system. Our account managers can now focus on serving our clients, rather than finding and inputting data into the system.

Other agencies are seeing success with download as well. According to a recent IVANS survey, 67% of agencies saved at least one hour per day, per employee using Commercial Lines download. At Berends Hendricks Stuit, we are experiencing similar success with download. In fact, we can relate to these 4 other benefits reported in the IVANS survey.

  1. 95% report significant time-savings

    Since we have turned on Commercial Lines download our processing team no longer spends time finding policy information and inputting the data. The data is automatically downloaded into our agency management system and is easily accessible. This gives that team more time to serve our clients and focus on growing the business.

  2. 88% report more ease of conducting business

    Not only do we have more time to dedicate to conducting business and advising our clients, but with download, we are working within a single system. The processes are much more streamlined because we don’t have to take data from one platform and input it into our agency management system. Everything is in one place, working cohesively.

  3. 87% report the ability to serve clients faster

    Before turning on download, it would take days to go through the process of receiving all of the information from the carriers so that we could present it to our clients. Now, we are better equipped to give our clients superior customer service. The account managers can access the information in seconds. We are able to advise clients at the exact time they need us, making our clients very happy!

  4. 84% report increased agent productivity

    Because our agents don’t have to be part of the “processing team” anymore, they are much more productive. The team is no longer spending time re-keying information from carriers or fixing issues that resulted from manual data entry. They are able to focus on customers and developing new business.

With all of the benefits from Commercial Lines download, it is no wonder why there has been a 50% growth in agency adoption over the last two years. In short, it is an extremely useful data exchange solution that will help grow your agency. Similar to the agencies who took the survey, Berends Hendricks Stuit is taking full advantage of all 4 benefits of download.

Is your agency taking advantage of download? Share your thoughts below.

You can read “Expanding Agency-Carrier Download: An IVANS Industry Survey Report” to learn more about how P&C agencies like yours and mine are benefiting from download.

Image of woman smiling

Lori Heemstra joined Berends Hendricks Stuit in 2005 as the Commercial Lines Division Manager. Her duties include overseeing the customer service agents and support staff, training new and existing staff, coordinating technology and developing consistent professional standards. She has over 25 years of insurance experience and is a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC). Lori is a member of the Ivans Agent’s Council, Applied Client Network Large Agent Alliance, the Vice Chairman of the ACN Member Relations Committee and serves on various insurance company councils.

Aug
10

40 Days to Applied Net: 10 Favorite Things from Applied Net 2015

by Applied Communications

Attend Applied Net 2016

We’re 40 days away from Applied Net 2016, and the excitement is growing. This year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever: inspiring keynotes, engaging education sessions, exciting product sneak peeks, networking and unforgettable evening events. To get ready for the world’s largest meeting of independent insurance professionals, we’re highlighting attendees’ 10 favorite things about Applied Net 2015.

1. Opening Session Video

There’s no better way to start off the week than with a reminder of the importance of insurance, a reflection on why we all do what we do. Last year’s opening session video was truly uplifting and set the tone for an amazing conference.

2. 200+ Education Sessions

room full of people sitting at long tables, behind laptops, looking to the front of the room

2015’s lineup of education sessions provided conference attendees with crucial insights into Applied technology, business best practices and industry trends. With more than 10 content tracks to choose from, conference attendees easily built a customized agenda relevant to their personal career goals and role within the agency or brokerage. Tracks represented a variety of interests, including Business Continuity, Connecting with Customers, Mobility, System Admin & IT, Carrier-Agency Interface and much more.

3. Product Releases

Applied is continually innovating products, providing our customers access to the latest technology to succeed now and in the future. Last year, Michael Howe, SVP of Product Marketing at Applied, revealed some of Applied’s exciting new and enhanced products, including the extended product capabilities of Applied Mobile 2016, the launch of the industry’s first agency branded app, Applied MobileInsured, and the industry-first capabilities of Applied Epic 2016.

4. Pinnacle Awards

Line of people standing on a stage, with the words

Each year at Applied Net, Applied announces the winners of the prestigious Pinnacle Award, our highest customer honor. This award recognizes a select group of Applied Systems customers for their valuable partnership with our company and visionary usage of Applied software. Last year, we applauded the inspiring work of our 2015 Pinnacle Award winners as CEO Reid French recognized them on stage: Drayden Insurance LTD., Liberty Mutual, Van Zandt, Emrich & Cary, Vantreo, and Woodruff-Sawyer & Co.

5. Pre-Conference Monday: Executive Management Program & Continuing Education

Applied Net’s Pre-Conference Monday is a great way to gain valuable knowledge and learn best practice business strategies from industry thought leaders. Last year’s Executive Management Program discussions centered on the future of the insurance agent/broker, highlighting best practices for digital businesses and ways to stay connected in our digital world. Applied Net’s Continuing Education program provided a way for U.S.-based agencies to meet their state licensing requirements while gaining additional education on niche topics.

6. Applied Net Exchange

Three women standing around a computer, looking at the screen

The Applied Net Exchange offered conference attendees an exclusive opportunity to experience live demos of new innovations and the latest product enhancements, meet one-on-one with Applied software experts, and learn more about the newest vendor and carrier technologies. Last year, there were more carriers, partners and solution providers than ever! The Applied Net exchange is also the perfect place to catch up with business colleagues and network.

7. The Applied Net Mobile App

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

8. The Venue: Caesars Palace

photo of a pool with tall building in the background

The venue for Applied Net is never an afterthought. From the magical and luxurious Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin to the iconic Caesars Palace you can rest assured that the venue will be first-class. Last year’s venue was no exception. Caesars Palace is synonymous with Las Vegas. Its lavish rooms, splendorous pools, world-class shopping, extravagant entertainment, gourmet dining and hot nightlife define just what “doing Vegas” is all about. This luxury hotel and casino located on the west side of the Las Vegas strip served as the idyllic location for an engaging, spectacular Applied Net 2015.

9. Evening Events

Applied Net’s evening events are always one of the most anticipated parts of the week, and last year’s events didn’t disappoint. From dancing the night away at Drai’s Nightclub, one of the most exclusive night clubs in Las Vegas, to singing along to classic tunes at an exclusive performance of Cirque de Soleil: The Beatles Love, each night’s entertainment was the perfect way to let loose after a busy conference day.

Actors dressed in 1960's costumes on stage with a voltswagon beetle car in the middleDJ playing music with large crowd in front of him and flashing lights

10. Keynote Speaker: Madeleine Albright

woman standing at a podium speaking into a microphone

Last year, Applied Net had an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, including former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine Albright, Chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel Group Horst Schulze, Applied Systems CEO Reid French, EVP of Customer Experience Kris Hackney, and SVP of Product Management Michael Howe. Dr. Albright inspired us with her words, speaking about her life during WWII and her subsequent rise into politics on the global stage. As the first female Secretary of State, a global strategy consultant and a best-selling author, Dr. Albright recognizes the value of hard work and dedication to your craft. In her keynote, she offered advice on how to be a leader in the global marketplace, and stressed the importance of innovative thinking to make a difference in the world.

Watch this video to see what makes Applied Net a must-attend event for any insurance professional:

Don’t miss out on what is sure to be our best year yet. Join us at Applied Net 2016 to be a part of the largest gathering of independent insurance agents in the world. Register today to take advantage of Applied Net 2016 pre-registration rates before they expire on August 19!

Jul
27

MythBusters: Commercial Lines Download Edition

by Jim Bany

3 Myths That Could Be Costing You Valuable Time

Mythbusters written in white text with blue background

One of my favorite TV shows is MythBusters, the popular Discovery Channel program where hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman use scientific methods to test the validity of popular beliefs, rumors and myths. It’s fascinating to see a commonly held belief get “busted” after a scientific experiment or research proves it to be false.

So I thought it would be fun to apply the myth-busting principal to Commercial Lines download. Commercial Lines download isn’t as heavily adopted as Personal Lines. My hope with this “MythBusters” edition blog post is to dispel some of the commonly held beliefs about Commercial Lines download and uncover the truth – it not only works, it works well!

Today, download is more advanced than ever and use continues to grow with more download services available to agents, including Commercial Lines. Commercial Lines download improves operational and policy writing efficiency by giving you accurate real-time transaction data from carrier systems.

74 percent of agents want commercial lines download from all of their carriers

In the past two years, the use of Commercial Lines download has increased by 25%, totaling nearly 10 million transactions in 2015 alone. Your peers are demanding it from carriers, with 74% citing that they want Commercial Lines download from all their carriers.

However, agents haven’t always been as eager to embrace Commercial Lines download as they are today. In the past, agents didn’t trust it and thought it was “broken.” And here’s where we get to the myth busting. I’ve outlined a few commonly held beliefs about Commercial Lines download and provided the facts that prove them to be false.

Myth 1: Commercial Lines download overwrites data in my management system.

Myth Busted: One of the first things carriers and agents say when exploring the possibility of using Commercial Lines download is, “I’ve heard there’s an overwrite issue.” The idea that your data could be overwritten is a myth. Agency management systems today have applications that create an efficient merge of data – better than ever before. Carriers are also using advanced logic to analyze data and determine how to protect it, safeguarding against data overwriting. Commercial Lines download actually increases data accuracy and minimizes errors, since information is sent directly to your agency management system.

Myth 2: Commercial Lines download creates more work for me.

Myth Busted: Many agents believe that Commercial Lines download doesn’t fill in the proper fields, requiring them to go in and manually correct the downloaded information. While this may be the perception or what you’re currently experiencing, in actuality the policy information being sent from the carrier system to your management system via download is placed in the proper fields. Most often, this “overwritten” data occurs when agents input information into the incorrect field (i.e. vehicle model = RED) and then it’s replaced by the download. Thus, the perception is that data is being overwritten, when in fact the policy info is being downloaded into the correct fields.

Some carriers have produced Commercial Lines download guides to help you better understand download options and capabilities. These guides also reference download fields, enabling you to know in advance what to expect when the download populates. Once you understand this process, you’ll recognize the time savings that Commercial Lines download offers.

67 percent of agents save at least one hour per day per employee with commercial lines download

Myth 3: Commercial Lines download disrupts my current workflow.

Myth Busted: Your current workflow likely involves a lot of manual entry, which diminishes productivity and increases risk for errors. Adopting a new process always comes with a learning curve, but once you become comfortable with this new workflow, you will experience greater productivity and always have up-to-date policy information. Using Commercial Lines download saves almost 1 hour per employee per day, according to ACT/Augie. With this type of time savings, you become more efficient and can spend more time on valuable activities.

Today, nearly 19,000 agencies receive Commercial Lines download and benefit from the time savings it provides.

As you can see, many commonly held beliefs about Commercial Lines download are just not true. As a growing market, carriers are continuously adding Commercial Lines available for download, creating immense time savings opportunities – nearly an hour per employee per day – and enabling you to focus on revenue driving activities. By eliminating time spent manually managing administrative tasks, your agency can spend more time servicing customers and selling insurance, resulting in greater growth and profitability.

Still not convinced? Then take it from fellow agent Rachael Bassett, Commercial Lines Manager at John M. Glover Agency. Rachael went from being a non-believer to complete convert. To hear her story and experience with download, watch the on-demand webinar, Increase Policy Writing Efficiency with Commercial Lines Download.

Jim Bany

Jim Bany, Agency Relations Manager at IVANS Insurance Solutions, began his career in the P&C industry as an underwriter at Cincinnati Insurance and moved into the field with Heritage Mutual and eventually held management and Director Positions at Fireman’s Fund Insurance. In addition, Jim was an agent for 6 years in the Cincinnati area. Throughout his 25+ year career, Jim has always worked with independent agents.

Jul
13

Connecting the Dots – The Insurer Connectivity Capabilities of a Digital Agency

by Paul Warga

3 Ways to Stay Ahead of the Digital Curve

insurer-connectivity-blog_300x200Rapid and increased technological innovation has significantly changed consumer behavior and expectations. Readily embracing social, mobile and cloud technology, consumers today, particularly younger millennials, prefer interactions to be instant, brief and digital. As a result of this digital transformation, never before have we experienced a level of connectedness that exists today.

This underlying current of connectivity embedded in our daily lives has begun to drive new consumer expectations. We expect to be able to instantly connect to friends and family via text or social media. We require connectivity to keep us engaged with work both in-and-out of the office. We also expect our devices to speak to one another and seamlessly stream audio and video.

So why connect?  In the face of this new marketplace dynamic, insurance agencies must evolve and begin the journey to becoming digital businesses. Connectivity gives you immediate access to information. It enables you to build current and new relationships. And, most importantly, connectivity gives you more time. The speed and automated simplicity in which information is exchanged and connections are made inevitably ensures the benefit of time savings.

So, as an insurance agency, how can you embrace connectivity as part of your digital transformation? An important component of digital transformation is insurer connectivity, the ability to efficiently communicate and exchange data securely and seamlessly from insurer systems directly to agency partners. Insurer connectivity provides your business with a single, efficient workflow for information exchange with your insurer partners, reducing manual processes and enabling you to deliver faster, more complete service to your clients. Connectivity allows you and your insurer partners to exchange current, accurate data for quoting, appetite search, underwriting, billing and customer service via download, real-time and market search tools.

Agencies that embrace insurer connectivity will enhance their core value proposition and strengthen their position as a digital business, resulting in a significant competitive advantage today and in the future

Key insurer connectivity benefits include:

  • Access to real-time, accurate policy information and quotes throughout underwriting and servicing
  • The ability to provide an enhanced customer experience
  • More desirable business opportunities with more market access for new risk types
  • Identifying the best markets for client risks
  • Ensuring critical documents are immediately available to agents, insurers and insureds


Connect Today for a More Competitive Tomorrow
The good news for agencies is that all of these connectivity services are available to them today.

   3 core connectivity technologies for your business include:

  1. Download: A data exchange solution that enables insurers to automate delivery of information from their systems directly into your agency management system. By automatically receiving critical policy-related information from your insurers, download eliminates the need to rekey data into multiple insurer web portals to verify information.Insurer Connectivity Blog Graphics_r1_04
     
    With more than 1,800,000 download connections available, and only 41% activated, there is immense opportunity for your agency to take advantage of the time-saving and customer service benefits of receiving all available download services from your insurers.
    Insurer Connectivity Blog Graphics_r1_03
  2.  

  3. Real-Time rating, service inquiry and claims: An automated data exchange that provides instantaneous lookup of data in an insurer system from within an agency management system or comparative rater, enabling you to quote; inquire on a policy, bill or claim; submit a First Notice of Loss; obtain loss runs and more in real-time.By making these requests through the management system, you can reduce duplicate keystrokes and respond to clients quickly and easily, without having to log into an insurer web portal. This not only saves time and effort by eliminating manual entry, but also minimizes errors, provides an E&O trail within the agency management system, and enables you to deliver rapid, more efficient service to meet the expectations of today’s consumers.
     
    Real-Time/Download Campaign. 2013 Agency & Brokerage Technology Survey Final Report. 2013.

    Real-Time/Download Campaign. 2013 Agency & Brokerage Technology Survey Final Report. 2013.


     
    With more insurers adopting Real-Time for comparative rating and service, you can increase the opportunity to showcase the advice and value of working with an independent agent by providing clients and prospects the best policy options and overall improved customer service.
  4.  

  5. Market search tools: Enable you to find more and better markets for your clients’ risk. A long-time industry challenge has been identifying insurer market appetite for commercial risks. Historically a costly process in terms of money and time, the results typically yielded a high percentage of declines from insurers.
     
    Insurer Connectivity Blog Graphics_r1_0
     
    Automated technology available today matches insurers and agents based on appetite for new risks and renewals using a Google-like search. Market search tools improve your staff’s productivity by reducing time spent on traditional ways of identifying market appetite, such as referencing outdated insurer risk guides, accessing insurer websites, historical agent experience, or directly contacting individual underwriters.

As competition evolves and market dynamics increase the pace of business, it is critical for your agency to consider your insurer connectivity options in order to enhance the core value proposition of the independent agent – by providing greater access to product range, insurer choice, and localized personal advice. Technology continues to transform the insurance landscape, and those agencies that embrace the possibilities of becoming a digital agency through connectivity will be best positioned to grow and thrive in this new era.

To further explore how insurer connectivity can drive greater business success, download this ebook:

The Digital Agency: Insurer Connectivity

Fill out the form to get the Insurer Connectivity ebook now:

Paul WargaPaul Warga is the Vice President of Product Management for IVANS Insurance Solutions, a division of Applied Systems. Paul has a wide variety of leadership experience on implementing solutions for business and technical issues across software and web-based products, using effective development methodologies.

 

Jun
30

Irrefutable Interdependencies: The Case for Agent – Insurer Connectivity

by Thad Bauer

What Insurance Can Learn from Nature

Irrefutable InterdependenciesAs a lover of all things tech, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that I also love science. Recently, while thinking about the future of the insurance industry, I was taken back to something I first learned about in my sixth grade science class, which is the concept of mutualism. Do you remember mutualism, a type of symbiosis? If not, a mutualistic relationship is when two different species “work together” and each benefits from the relationship. One example of a mutualistic relationship is that of the oxpecker (a kind of bird) and a hippo, zebra or giraffe.

Watch this short clip from Richard Attenborough’s BBC nature series to see mutualism in action:

 
The concept of mutualism is being embraced by some of the world’s most successful companies. In fact, perceptive leaders at P&G, Nestlé and GE Digital have all recognized that mutuality and interdependence with partners fuels growth.

So how does mutualism apply to the independent insurance channel?
While huge efficiencies have been gained by insurers and independent agents who are using digital technology for internal process automation, this alone is simply not enough to grow and thrive. We live in digitally driven, hyper-connected times. Thus, it is critical for agents and insurers to extend their use of technology beyond their own offices and form an interconnected insurance ecosystem whereby everyone involved – agents, insurers, MGAs, wholesalers and ultimately insureds – wins.

There’s that concept of mutualism. By connecting through digital technology, agents and insurers work better together and mutually benefit. Digitally connected agents and insurers can exchange accurate data for quoting, market identification, underwriting, billing and customer service via download, real-time and market search tools. This allows agents to work more efficiently with insurers to provide access to advice, product range, insurer choice and localized personal service. Ultimately, it builds better, mutually beneficial relationships between agents and insurers, which increases the value of their service to insureds and to each other.

Of course delivering superior customer service has never been more crucial. According to Accenture, “In the ‘Age of the Customer,’ in which technology and economic forces have put customers in control of their interactions with businesses, companies are actively working to transform their organization, processes, and technology in pursuit of a more effective digital business and a more satisfying customer experience. While companies have made good progress, especially over the last five years, they still have a lot of room for continued development of their digital capabilities.”

As key business partners in the insurance lifecycle, agents and insurers have an irrefutable interdependence on one another and therefore have a stake in each other’s success. To fully capitalize on this mutualism and fuel growth, agents and insurers must increase their connectivity by using automated data exchange technologies such as download, real-time and market search tools. In doing so together, they are both positioned to experience higher profits, greater efficiencies, reduced expenses, faster service and stronger business relationships.

To further explore how insurer connectivity can drive greater business success, download the Insurer Connectivity ebook now

Thad Bauer, IVANS InsuranceThad Bauer, vice president and general manager of IVANS Insurance Solutions, has had 25 years of property and casualty experience and has played a key role in furthering the adoption of ACORD standards to exchange data within the industry to improve efficiencies.  He has helped carriers and MGAs realize benefits through innovative technology and workflow implementations of real time, download, Web service connections to third parties and maximizing data within their enterprise. Prior to IVANS, Thad was president and co-founder of  NxTech, a leading provider of agency-MGA-carrier interface and data integration solutions. Prior to NxTech, he spent nine years with BWC Systems and IVANS, Inc. and has worked with more than 350 insurance carriers throughout North America.
Jun
15

What it Takes to Be a Digital Insurance Agent or Broker Today

by Michael Howe

T-73345_What-It-Takes-To-Be-A-Digital-Promo-Graphics_Blog_r1Technology is now essential to how insurance agents and brokers run their businesses, including how they serve existing clients and attract new ones. To fully realize the benefits of being digital, forward thinking agents and brokers are embracing technology to fully automate all aspects of their operations and customer service.

Beyond the four walls of the business, independent agents and brokers are pursuing technology solutions that help them connect with all stakeholders in the insurance industry, including capabilities that provide for the seamless exchange of information back and forth with their insurer partners. Perhaps most importantly, the expectations and preferences of the end customer, the insured, are evolving rapidly so leading agencies and brokerages are increasingly adopting solutions that help them connect with customers and prospects, when and how they want, via online and mobile. The core competency of any strong agency or broker, providing trusted advice to the insured, remains paramount, but the promise of digital presents exciting new possibilities to better serve customers and emerge as a stronger competitor in the years ahead.

5 Core Capabilities That Define a Digital Agency or Brokerage

So, what exactly does it mean to be “digital” and how should an agency or brokerage approach this opportunity? There are five pillars that work together cohesively to support a business’ digital growth strategy, each providing the core capabilities needed to operate more efficiently, make more informed business decisions, build better insurer relationships, improve customer service, and accelerate growth and profitability across all lines of business.

  • Foundational Management System – First and foremost, focus on building a strong internal foundation based on information and visibility. A world-class management system drives the day-to-day operations at an agency or brokerage, enabling the business and all employees to be as efficient and effective as possible. With a single management system, agents and brokers efficiently manage customer relationships, policy and benefits administration, sales automation, financial accounting processes and document management across the entire business in one application.
  • Data Analytics – As they head down the “digital” path, agents and brokers will find that they generate and have access to more and more data, which raises the challenge of how best to make sense of it. Historically, agents and brokers sat on mostly transaction level detail in various systems without ever realizing the potential of that information. Business intelligence and analytics solutions allow agents and brokers to transform the vast amounts of data within the management system into simple, visual insights for data-driven analysis of business performance. A digital business leverages technology to make their data more consumable, which leades to better insights about the business and, therefore, more informed decision-making by agency and brokerage leaders.
  • Insurer Connectivity – “Digital” also applies to how agents and brokers can work more effectively and efficiently with insurer partners.  In simplest of terms, insurers, agents and brokers have an interest in efficient and secure exchange of information, directly from insurer systems to management systems and back.  Digital businesses that capitalize on this seamless interaction provide faster and more accurate quotes and information to their clients.  They do less manual data entry and they make fewer mistakes. Additionally, digital businesses use rating technology to obtain timely and accurate rates, a crucial step in the selling process that demands quick and accurate information exchange. Lastly, innovative market search tools help digital agents and brokers expand in to new areas of commercial lines business, serving up insurers that write specific policies.  All of these technologies contribute to a more seamless, connected ecosystem of data exchange.
  • Mobile – Mobility and mobile apps are now ubiquitous. Mobile solutions can enable staff to be more productive and better connect with insureds. Agents and brokers are embracing mobile technology to meet the needs of all employees and, further, to respond to the increasingly common expectation by insureds to interact via mobile. Mobile extends the agent’s and broker’s role as a trusted advisor by providing an additional servicing channel, which allows insureds to interact how and when they prefer.
  • The Cloud – We have seen tremendous cloud adoption in our industry. Digital businesses are trusting the cloud to run their critical applications and manage their data. The cloud allows agents and brokers to safeguard data and provide better customer service from anywhere.

With all the technology options available today, the sky is the limit for independent insurance agents and brokers. We are in the early stages of a multi-year transformation, and the pace of adoption is steadily accelerating. I believe our industry stands to change quite dramatically in the years to come, and it’s for the better! At its core, a “digital” transformation is about realizing an opportunity to better service clients and create an enduring and more profitable business. The digital transformation is for the good of the insurance industry and it presents an unprecedented opportunity for our industry to emerge stronger than ever before.

Interested in hearing from independent agents and brokers who have made the digital transformation? Watch the How to Become a Digital Agent webinar to hear from HHM Insurors and Watson Insurance Agency about the advantages of becoming digital agencies and how to develop your own digital transformation plan.

Michael Howe, Applied SystemsMichael Howe, senior vice president of product management, 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.

Jun
01

Applied Net 2016: Attend, Learn & Succeed

by Brian Langerman

5 Reasons Why You Should Attend

Attend Applied Net 2016Applied Net is not your average conference. It’s a convergence of minds. It’s a community gathering. IT IS THE CAN’T MISS PLACE TO BE for discussions of leading practices and critical issues – all shared by Applied Client Network members, users and experts. Do you have a long to-do list of work at the office or a limited budget making you question your attendance?

I know how hard it is to walk away from emails, conference calls and projects but stepping away from your desk to attend the premier insurance industry educational and networking event – Applied Net 2016 – will be an incredible experience on so many levels, and here’s why:

  1. Education & Learning
    This is an area I am most excited about this year. The education program will be a robust lineup of 200+ engaging sessions that move beyond the typical lecture-classroom style and will introduce new formats like TED talks, real-world case studies, energetic roundtable discussions, peer spotlights and expert panel discussions. You will leave with an understanding of how forward-thinking professionals are employing Applied technologies to transform and improve their businesses. Applied Net will give you the opportunity to discover how industry leaders envision the future of the insurance industry and learn how other users and peers are navigating current insurance challenges to be most successful.
  2. Community
    The peer network may quite possibly be your greatest takeaway. With 3,000+ insurance professionals in attendance, you will network and build connections with others in the industry whom you can swap stories with year-round when it comes to identifying solutions for day-to-day challenges at your agency/brokerage.
  3. Professional Development
    Seeing how others in the industry leverage their Applied technology can provide a unique perspective on opportunities to advance your career and role in your agency or brokerage. And, as an added bonus, Applied Net offers up to 7 hours of CE credit to ensure you meet the licensing requirements of your state.
  4. Personal Growth
    An event with 3,000+ insurance professionals can be intimidating, but think of yourself as someone who has something to give: advice, mentorship and resources. Think about where your expertise lies and how you can share that knowledge with others at the conference.
  5. Keynote Headliner “Miracle on the Hudson” Captain Sullenberger
    Applied Net is about inspiring attendees to discover the latest trends, insights and skills to drive success at your own agency or brokerage. As a recognized hero, the keynote speaker Captain Sullenberger will deliver a valuable message that motivates you and provides trusted advice during the times when it matters the most. This is a presentation I couldn’t be more excited to experience.

Attend Applied Net 2016 September 19 – 22 and interact with a community of people just like you: open-minded individuals from all areas of the insurance industry who have been where you are today. It’s an investment that pays for itself and will provide immediate benefits to you and your organization.

Need more incentive? SAVE $50 when you register by August 18, 2016.

Don’t make excuses – just go. You won’t regret it.

Brian Langerman, Applied Client NetworkBrian Langerman is the CEO of Applied Client Network. He’s a seasoned technology executive and won’t be missing this year’s Applied Net.

May
16

Keep Your Feet on the Ground and Head in the Cloud

by Kris Hackney

Business-Continuity--Kris-Hackney-Blog-1Has weather ever kept you off the roads and away from the office? Have you ever feared that your data and clients’ data has been exposed to external threats? If the answer is yes to either question, it is more important than ever for your organization to develop a business continuity plan to ensure your business remains financially and operationally viable regardless of external factors or unforeseen events.

Market intelligence firm IDC’s 2015 survey reported that 72% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) expect to increase their investments in business continuity over the next 12 to 24 months. And 81% of SMBs are considering improvements to their existing business continuity strategies. Business continuity plans require you to assess and adopt technology, tools, and processes that ensure your business continues to operate at all times – particularly when customers need you the most.

From a systems standpoint, the cloud enables agencies and brokerages to protect important data in a secure online environment within off-site data centers. The cloud is a delivery mechanism for IT services and data exchange over a secure network, providing on-demand, remote access to information. Data centers deliver a high level of security and also provide redundancies for power and back-up sites, so in the event a data center is in a disaster location, the redundant site will take over to ensure business continuity.

Moving core software applications to the cloud is fundamentally a decision about how to maximize your investment in the people, systems and strategies to grow your book of business more profitably. With a cloud solution, agencies and brokerages can increase their return on investment as applications and supporting software update automatically, so your business continually runs the latest software without incurring delays or extra expenses that may be required for manual updates.

5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt the Cloud

With spring weather season in full swing and cyber threats on the rise, I encourage you to consider adopting the cloud for these five reasons:

  1. Improve your business continuity
    With the cloud, your critical applications and data reside in a secure data center, which provides redundancy for power, Internet access and a physical infrastructure that offers greater protection from natural and man-made disasters and other unpredicted business interruptions. The ability to remotely access and use your core business systems in the event of a disaster enables your agency or brokerage to maintain operations and continue to serve your clients anywhere, anytime.
  2. Reduce costs to maintain and manage IT infrastructure
    The average agency or brokerage staff has .5 dedicated IT personnel, meaning that many insurance agencies and brokerages operate without dedicated IT personnel and lack the expertise to deploy and manage multiple IT applications required in business today, as well as the hardware and software needed to run these systems. Cloud technology eliminates many requirements for hardware and software on-site and can significantly reduce your budget and capital costs for IT. It also reduces the need for personnel to manage IT infrastructure, freeing up time and money to focus more on core insurance activities.
  3. Increase information security and data management
    With weekly news stories on the latest corporate data breach, maintaining data protection has become table stakes for business success and client loyalty. In the cloud, you gain an extra layer of data defense by maintaining critical business information in secure data centers. In addition, your business benefits from implementing more efficient data management and data access processes. The cloud ensures you are running the latest version of your software applications, including any antivirus programs. By offering an exponential amount of data storage, the cloud allows you to focus on growing your business and clients without the concern of running out of storage space.
  4. Provide better customer service
    If weather keeps you at home or travel has you on the road, the cloud provides you and your employees remote access to up-to-date client and policy information using virtually any connected device, enabling you to reach and service clients at any time regardless of location. Instant access to information enables agents, CSRs, producers and others to provide clients faster service that can lead to higher productivity. In addition, reduced staffing for IT allows you to assign more employees to client-facing activities that improve customer service and satisfaction.
  5. Increase your ability to grow fast
    The flexibility of a cloud solution can be ideal for insurance agencies and brokerages that need to scale their business quickly to meet changing needs, such as a business acquisition or rapid growth, without the time and expense of adding or integrating new IT capacity. Since applications are hosted remotely in data centers and accessible via the Internet, new users can quickly connect to systems of record and gain access to data across your business enterprise, improving collaboration and productivity.

Today’s insurance marketplace continues to move at an accelerated pace, requiring you to provide information in a more timely and effective manner in order to enhance your competitive value and serve as a trusted resource. Integrating cloud solutions and emerging communication channels enables businesses to increase their operational flexibility and security while reducing downtime and bolstering connectedness to both an agency or broker’s internal operations and clients, enabling you to uphold your role as a trusted advisor and better service clients at times when you are needed the most.

Learn more about why the cloud makes sense for your business >>

How is your agency using the cloud for business continuity? Share your thoughts below.

Kristin HackneyKris Hackney, executive vice president of customer experience, is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s Professional Services, Support and cloud-based solutions. She is the former vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Solutions & Services for Chicago-based SPSS Inc., a leading global provider of predictive analytics software and solutions, now part of IBM.

May
06

The “Go-To Place” for Insurance – In a Digital World

by Joe Sultana

BIBA 2016 ConferenceEvery year, the BIBA Conference and Exhibition provides a forum to discuss the latest UK economic and regulatory developments and trends affecting the insurance industry. This year, the conference will focus on how brokers remain the “Go-To Place” for insurance advice, choice and expertise. As brokers embody this concept, it is important for them to consider how their “place” is evolving in today’s digital world. Advice, choice and expertise is taking new forms as the business of insurance becomes more connected and consumers become increasingly mobile.

Consider today’s consumer – mobile and engaging predominately on digital channels for both personal and professional purposes. Nearly every consumer has a smartphone or device that provides 24/7 connectivity to the Internet, email, social networks, voice calls and text messaging. A single device is creating multichannel customer service expectations at both the individual and enterprise level. In fact, 92% of UK consumers expect an organisation to offer a self-service support portal where customers can find the information they need online*.

Delivering a digital insurance customer experience

Delivering a digital insurance customer experience has become table stakes for the next generation broker. The insurance experience of yesterday is no longer sufficient for the demands of today and expectations of tomorrow. The convergence of technology and changing consumer preferences in the insurance industry has brokerages adopting new technologies to grow and thrive during the digital transformation of the insurance industry.

Become a Digital Broker

Digital transformation reflects the transition of taking manual, paper-filled processes to digitally automated workflows powered by software and the Internet. A digital brokerage leverages modern technologies to connect its brokers, insurers, current policyholders and prospective clients. It automates business operations to transform into a paperless brokerage, saving time and money previously spent on outdated processes. As a digital brokerage, your business can seamlessly exchange information, gain informative data-driven insights and connect with customers through more channels. As more and more brokerages are embracing digital technology to automate their business operations and provide better customer service, digital brokerages have a competitive advantage to realise more business success.

The Digital Insurance Broker

Consider the Four Pillars of a Digital Brokerage

  1. Broker management system as the core: A single broker management system to serve as the operational foundation and efficiently manage customer relationships, policy information and financial accounting processes across the entire brokerage in one application. Your system should be able to manage every type of business from personal lines and commercial lines, and should connect all of your staff under one roof – with a single view into all of your business data.
  2. Effective and efficient insurer connectivity: The ability for brokers and insurers to automate communications for the purposes of obtaining quotations and managing the full lifecycle of the policy once purchased. As insurers increasingly invest in SME eTrading, your business needs to take advantage of this connectivity to provide access to more and better products for customers.
  3. 24/7 mobility: Mobility enables digital brokerages to provide customers anytime access to insurance information from their smartphones, as well as keep employees connected to the office while on the go. At the same time that your customers want 24/7 access to insurance information, your staff also requires mobile capabilities that empower them to effectively service customers and conduct business while away from the office. And as the next-generation of insurance professionals enter the workforce, providing the flexible and innovative workplace mobility delivers will be as critical for obtaining and retaining talent as with customers.
  4. The cloud: Digital brokers are moving core software applications to offsite data centres for improved performance, flexibility and security, safeguarding data and providing better customer service from anywhere. The increasing pace of business and ubiquity of the cloud provides a simple solution for brokers to ensure maximum operational efficiency while reducing time and cost spent managing hardware and software.

Bringing the Go-To Place into the Digital Age

With today’s customers expecting more and changing global market dynamics redefining the insurance industry, there is tremendous opportunity for digital technology to simplify and amplify your current processes. It can free up time for staff to focus on sales and service. Digital can expand your communication channels to clients and insurer partners. Allow digital to mobilise your staff to extend your broker advice and brand beyond the office.

As the Go-To Place, consider ways to set forth digital transformation to make your business the Go-To Digital Place – for both your staff and customers.

How do you see your “place” setting forth on a digital transformation? Comment below.

Attending BIBA? Join us Wednesday 11 May from 13.15 – 14.00 for “The Digital Broker” Fringe session for a look at the tools and services available to start or enhance your digital strategy. You can also visit us at stand C76.

Joe Sultana Applied Systems UK

Joe Sultana, Managing Director, Broker Solutions, Applied Systems UK, is responsible for broker relationships and support services for Applied Systems’ UK business. He came to Applied Systems in August 2013 following the acquisition of Insurecom Limited. He has held senior positions in both the IT and broking sectors spanning 20 years and has unique insight and understanding on how technology can be utilised to improve the industry and more specifically the broker market. Previously, Sultana joined Moorhouse as Operations Director in 2008 and led offshore and nearshore projects in Europe and Asia.

*2015 UK State of Multichannel Customer Service Report