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2016 Best Practices Study – What the Latest Report Says About the Industry

November 30, 2016

by Applied Communications

Since 1993, Reagan Consulting and the IIABA, “Big I,” have conducted the Best Practices 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. 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. In 2016, the beginning of the current three-year study cycle, over 1,000 independent agencies through the U.S. were nominated to take part in the Best Practices Study, with 255 of the nominated agencies ultimately designated as Best Practices agencies.

4 Key Challenges Facing the Insurance Industry

Year-over-year, the study evaluates new challenges facing the insurance industry. Let’s take a look at the four key challenges spotlighted in this year’s study, what each challenge means for your business and the opportunities technology can provide to enable you to succeed in today’s digital era.

  1. Growth is slowing

    What this means: The velocity of agency growth is slowing but remains strong. In the competitive landscape, consider the following:

    • Who is your target customer?
    • In what ways can your agency deliver a unique value prop to that target client?
    • How do you reach the target client?

    Specializing your business in a crowded marketplace can focus your internal resources on target growth opportunities.

    How technology can support: Identifying target customers and finding the right markets for their risks can be complicated. Consider an agency management system that provides a complete view of your total business – both clients and prospects – to identify growth areas within your current book of business and trends within your prospect base to target specifically. Once your business has identified new – and potentially hard-to-place – risks, leverage appetite search tools to quickly find the best markets for your risks.

  1. Consolidation is occurring at a record pace

    What this means: On a daily basis, there is a news story on the latest M&A deal happening in the industry. The pace of consolidation continues to steadily increase, with more than 469 announced transactions in 2015 alone (source: SNL financial). This trend presents two opportunities – either beat them or join them. Make changes of your own internally to compete in a more specialized market and maintain customer retention.

    How technology can support: Increasingly, firms being evaluated for M&A are considering what technology systems are being used. Between account management, customer service, employee benefits communications, workers comp mods, rating systems, websites and more, using a variety of different tech hardware and software could be a nightmare during or after a consolidation. For that reason, although the transition period could last anywhere between one and two years, having the same tech is highly beneficial in easing the transition and bringing employees on-board.

  1. The workforce is aging

    What this means: The average age of the employees at most agencies has increased significantly, and the Millennials are here. Succession planning and recruitment are critical during this time. Developing the next generation of leaders – at an early enough stage – is critical to maintain your position as an industry leading firm.

    How technology can support: Training and on-boarding employees as you develop your staff can be time consuming. Leverage an agency management system that has pre-defined workflows built in to reduce time spent on training. Additionally, your agency should consider opportunities to embrace cloud-based and mobile technologies to empower your young staff to work when and where they prefer. By creating a mobile work culture, you can increase operational efficiencies, extend customer service opportunities beyond the office and meet today’s employees demands for flexible working environments.

  1. New technologies threaten the traditional broker model

    What this means: Technology has a profound impact on every aspect of individuals’ lives. The expectation for technology and connectivity has seeped into people’s customer service and workplace expectations. Technology startups in the industry are targeting consumers who are increasingly willing to purchase nearly everything, including insurance, on the internet. It is important for agencies to meet this consumer demand for online quoting and self-service to remain competitive against direct insurance providers.

    How technology can support: Agencies must embrace digital transformation to enhance their competitive value while protecting their core trusted advisor role. Provide online customer self-service portals and mobile apps for your customers to access their insurance information anywhere, anytime at their own convenience. Automate quoting processes through enhanced insurer connectivity to provide timelier service while ensuring the best coverage.

Interested in learning more from the 2016 Best Practices Study?

Preview the Key Benchmarks from the Study >

Trending This Fall: Data Analytics

November 07, 2016

by Michel Guillet

3 ways to get the most out of your business data

Fall is a great time of year. With beautiful views and football games, a long drive through the changing leaves on the way to a big game can be the perfect fall moment, where a love for the season is re-ignited.

However, there’s a new player on the fall landscape: data. While you may think those photos that you take of stunning fall colors and your family at the game are just pictures to view and share, they’re actually data – compiled and categorized.

Data is now an integral part of almost everything we do, including the sports fan experience. If you’re an avid football fan like me, consider how much of your time is spent reading football-related statistics and watching sports analysts who measure player performance based on data points.

Even at NFL stadiums, giant screens project player stats and team rankings during the game, giving you quantifiable data to enhance your experience. And let’s not forget Fantasy Football. An NFL football game is a lot more fun with Fantasy Football. For fans across the country, Fantasy Football brings a whole new dimension to the game.

Data influences so many aspects of our lives, helping us make decisions and connecting us to the information we need. And while data might neatly fit into our personal lives, the same thing usually can’t be said for data and metrics in our professional lives.

Data in the workplace can be more complex and difficult to manage. How do you transform your professional data experiences to be more like your personal ones?

Here are 3 ways to get the most out of your business data:

  1. Use SMART Metrics

    With the wealth of data at our fingertips, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Using SMART metrics ensures a focus on valuable and usable metrics. A metric is defined as SMART when it meets the following criteria:

    1. Specific – Has a precise understanding or meaning.
    2. Measurable – Quantifiable.
    3. Actionable – Spurs the data consumer or reader to do something with it.
    4. Relevant – Connected to business performance.
    5. Timely – Can be measured and reported within the timeframe needed to react.

    SMART metrics un-complicate things. Think about that camera you got last year with all the bells and whistles. If you spend all of your time at the game messing with the settings, you might miss the winning touchdown. Using SMART metrics allows you to focus on the right things at the right time so that your data becomes a useful and productive tool to help you achieve your business goals.

  1. Emphasize Composite Metrics
    A composite metric is a single metric made up of many combined metrics to show comparisons and monitor trends, offering a “snapshot” of business performance in a single view. With composite metrics, your data can tell a richer story without being weighed down by too many complicated numbers.
  1. Rely on Charts
    Have you noticed how often professional NFL analysts use charts, sketches and other visual displays? What sports commentators and others have figured out is that humans are visual learners. More than 50% of the brain’s efforts are dedicated to processing visual information. Charts and visualizations help us understand data quickly and efficiently, as well as allow us to easily share information and reach a wider audience.

With these tips, you can begin to get more out of your business data. If you’d like to learn more about how you can further leverage data for valuable business insights on your clients and operations, check out these data analytics resources.

Michel Guillet, Agency/Broker Solutions product manager at Applied Systems, has been leading the design and implementation of data solutions for more than 25 years. His experience includes working with structured and unstructured data across consumer goods, telecommunications and the government. Michel is also an adjunct professor of data visualization at Georgia State University.

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

October 25, 2016

by Applied Communications

Women in Insurance: Meet 2 Industry Leaders Paving the Way for the Future of InsuranceInsurance Networking News’ 9th Annual Women in Insurance Leadership conference took place this month in Chicago, celebrating gender diversity in the workplace and honoring the important contributions of women who have helped redefine the insurance industry. The conference provides a platform for women around the country to learn from industry thought leaders, network with other influential peers and discuss the key issues facing the insurance business today. One of this year’s key issues is the role that gender diversity and inclusion play in ensuring the successful future of the insurance industry.

Each year between 2006 and 2015, women comprised about 61% of the insurance workforce, with 1.5 million women employed in the insurance sector in 2015.1 Additionally, new research shows that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.2 In a historically male-dominated business, it is clear that the insurance industry today is making important strides towards gender diversity and inclusion. However, when it comes to women in leadership positions, the insurance industry falls short. A 2012 study showed that women hold only 6% of top executive positions, 12.5% of board seats, and 8% of inside business, legal or actuarial officer roles.3

Women Leaders in Insurance

Women in leadership roles continue to actively promote gender-inclusive workplaces by establishing mentorship programs for women and sponsoring executive networking opportunities. Read on for insights from two influential women who are helping to reshape the insurance industry and working to inspire the next-generation of leaders and thinkers.

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

Kris Hackney is the Executive Vice President of Customer Experience at Applied Systems. She is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s Professional Services, Support and Cloud-based solutions.

How did you get your start in the insurance industry?

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie Gould, Chief Operating Officer, AssuranceJackie Gould, Chief Operating Officer, Assurance

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

How did you get your start in the insurance industry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, 2015
  2. McKinsey Analysis: Why Diversity Matters, 2015
  3. Saint Joseph’s University Study on Insurance Industry Demographics, 2012

Winning More Commercial Business for Independent Agents

October 13, 2016

by Matt Foran

IVANS Market AppetiteKnowing the right markets for your insurance risks is critical for success. Without the right markets, you can’t win as much 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 and learn where your competitors may be coming from. When you don’t now the right markets, 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 of nearly 30,000 independent insurance agencies, 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 be a match.

IVANS Market Appetite is built into Applied, HawkSoft, NASA, Strategic Insurance Software and Xanatek agency management systems already. Additionally, there are ongoing conversations with many other system providers. IVANS Market Appetite is also available at markets.ivansinsurance.com, and every independent agent can use it free of cost.

“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.

Digital Technology Adoption: How Does Your Agency Score?

October 12, 2016

by Applied Communications

The results of a recent survey conducted by Applied Systems found that the national average for digital technology adoption among independent agencies is only 42%. In a time when consumers expect instant access to information and real-time customer service from mobile devices, this finding — indicating that the independent insurance agency channel continues to lag behind other financial services industries – reveals there is significant opportunity and competitive advantage to be had for agencies willing to adopt new technologies and implement digital transformation strategies.

Digital Agency Adoption Across the U.S.

NEW Digital Agency Scorecard

To enable agencies across the U.S. to gauge digital transformation progress, Applied has created the Digital Agency Scorecard, a complimentary online tool to help your agency discover how it compares against industry peers nationwide.

The Scorecard assesses the 5 core competencies of a digital agency, including:

  • Agency management system capabilities
  • Data analytics/business intelligence utilization
  • Insurer download adoption
  • Cloud migration
  • Mobility

Based on agents’ answers to a series of questions designed to assess agency capabilities across the above competencies, the scorecard provides a technology adoption percentage and compares that to statewide and nationwide averages. An agency that scores 80% or higher is considered to be a Digital Agency, having adopted most of the key drivers for digital transformation.

Using the Scorecard

The Digital Agency Scorecard not only creates an industry-wide benchmark by which agencies can measure digital technology adoption and progression towards digital transformation, but also offers valuable insight into specific areas for an agency’s own improvement and strategies for adopting key digital technologies.

How Does Your Agency Rank?

Use the Applied Digital Agency Scorecard now to find out how your digital technology adoption compares to that of your peers and get feedback on how to improve your score for continued success in the digital age.

Get Your Score

4 Reasons We Chose Download

September 29, 2016

by Erin Cheatham

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 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 Insurer-Agency Connectivity: An IVANS Annual 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.

Week In Review: Applied Net 2016

September 28, 2016

by Applied Communications

As more than 3,000 attendees can attest, Applied Net is THE forum to learn about the latest insurance technologies and strategies for success in the digital age. If you weren’t able to be a part of the world’s largest gathering of independent insurance agents and brokers this year, all is not lost. Read through for a recap of Applied Net 2016, as experienced and reported by some of this year’s attendees.


Whether catching the flight to Orlando, picking up a conference badge at the registration desk or connecting with other Applied software users, excitement was in the air as attendees descended upon the lovely Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida last week.

Quote-Worthy Keynotes

Tuesday’s opening keynotes set the tone for the week ahead, featuring inspiring presentations by American hero Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and Applied Systems CEO Reid French. On Wednesday, Michael Howe, SVP of Product Management, unveiled the newest features and products of the Applied product portfolio. On Thursday, Kris Hackney, EVP of Customer Experience at Applied Systems, and Holly Hoffman, Disney Institute Facilitator, discussed how to exceed expectations and deliver exceptional customer service.

Time to Learn

This year’s conference included the most user-led education sessions than ever before. With more than 200 sessions and 11 different tracks, there was something for everyone at Applied Net 2016. In between sessions, conference goers continued learning with valuable 1-on-1 support appointments with Applied Customer Support.

Evening Entertainment

After full days of learning and networking, it was time to let loose! From exploring the streets of Universal Studios to enjoying live music at the House of Blues, Applied Net 2016’s evening events showed us all how to have some fun!

Until We Meet Again

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

Looking Ahead

Already excited for Applied Net 2017 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? Learn how you can be a part of it.

Learn More

Experience the excitement of Applied Net 2016 first-hand? Leave a comment and tell us about your favorite part of the week.

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

August 10, 2016

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 to be a part of the largest gathering of independent insurance agents in the world.

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

June 15, 2016

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.