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The Power of Positivity: A Lesson In Successful Change Management

March 16, 2017

by Kris Regier

KFSA Insurance Agency has grown to be one of the largest insurance agencies in the state of Kansas, with four offices and more than 60 employees. At KFSA, we work hard to create a culture based on continued education and a constant commitment to leveraging technology innovation. But with adopting the latest innovation comes change, and there’s no way around it – change is difficult. And I think every agency leader would agree.

It’s critical to change and adapt to keep pace with today’s consumer habits and technology demands. When evaluating implementation approaches and methodology, it’s important to focus on the best steps to champion change for a successful technology transition. When we switched agency management systems last year, there were a number of programs put in place to facilitate successful change management, from hands-on training to fun activities. Managing change can only be truly successful when you work alongside a dedicated technology partner to ensure you gain the most value from your software.

Here are a few pointers that really helped us when we implemented new software to become a digital agency:

  • Acknowledge that change is difficult – We cultivated a culture that said “this is a change that’s coming.” And then we helped everyone prepare for it. Employees truly saw the advantages of moving to digital agency technology like a single management system. You have to believe in the technology you’ve purchased and transfer that belief to your employees.
  • Management support – I can’t stress enough that top-down support is crucial for a successful technological change to take place. Our management team supplied the resources we needed for a successful management system change.
  • Prepare with hands-on training – We created a hands-on training lab with older computer equipment for our employees. Anyone could go into the lab and use the demo database to work through examples and try different things. In order to be prepared for the data conversions – interactive learning is critical. Hands-on training makes employees more confident, and when your staff is confident in the system, it’s going to work better. Remember to keep your employees engaged with different types of training experiences that work for all types of learners.
  • Create a fun environment – We created a scavenger hunt within our management system. For example, employees would be asked to look for a client, set up a new client or bill a policy as part of the scavenger hunt. As we got closer to migration, employees could take an activity all the way through. And as we approached go-live, it wasn’t foreign to them. We also had a transaction party. All of accounting sat down and realized that our current billing methods weren’t going to work with our new system. So we all played with the data and tried billing different items to see how it would flow in the new system. The training at the transaction party was very successful. It helped us to write and establish various procedures that we still use today in the system.
  • Take advantage of online learning – When you have access to online resources, take advantage of them! Applied University was an amazing resource for us. There are more than 30,000 hours of education course work available in the University and more than 3,000 instructor-led courses. Giving your employees access to this type of knowledge is invaluable.
  • Be positive – We were highly focused on creating a positive change culture. You have to make your employees feel that the change is manageable, and then it will be.

Change doesn’t have to be scary – it’s all about the culture and employee attitude. The reward is in the way our employees work today. To thrive today in a time of digital transformation, agencies must seriously consider their technology options and become a digital agency. It’s no longer viable to remain un-automated and consumers expect mobile and self-service technology during all interactions. Digital technology has given our employees access to every customer, from anywhere at any time. And that amount of insight and ownership of their day-to-day has led to happier employees.

Have you lead a team through change management?

Comment below to share your thoughts and insights about the process and your tips for success. Are there any specific programs or strategic advice you can offer to other agents and brokers?

Kris Regier, director of operations for KFSA Insurance Agency, has been with KFSA since 1976. Over the last 40 years she has had held of number of positions within the agency. Currently she oversees the operations of KFSA offices with concentration on procedures and workflows of the agency. Kris obtained her Certified Insurance Representative designation in 1988 and her Certified Insurance Counselor in 1992.

Cloud Technology: Not All Clouds Are Created Equal

March 02, 2017

by Applied Communications

Cloud technology has become one of the most impactful trends for businesses in all industries. Providing many benefits including data security, operational efficiency and enhanced business continuity, cloud technology reduces time and expenses spent managing IT issues and resources. While there are many clouds to choose from, it is important for insurance businesses to be hosted on a cloud created specifically for the insurance industry.

To learn why all clouds aren’t created equal, view the infographic below:

How You Connect to the Cloud Matters

Applied Net 2017: Why Applied Net Is a Must Attend Event

February 15, 2017

by Applied Communications

Applied Net is the largest gathering of independent insurance agents and brokers in the world. Each year, agents and brokers across North America, UK and Ireland come together to discuss the latest technologies transforming the industry.

To be held at MGM Grand Las Vegas, Applied Net 2017 will raise the table stakes and feature inspiring keynotes, more than 200 educational sessions, and an innovation showcase to explore how agencies and brokerages can position their businesses to grow and thrive in the connected business of insurance. Applied Net also includes highly anticipated nightly events to network with other agents and brokers while experiencing world-class entertainment.

Lisa Colwell, operations manager at Wilson Insurance Ltd. in New Brunswick, Canada and multi-year Applied Net attendee, sat down with us to discuss her favorite parts of the conference and why she recommends every independent insurance agent and broker attend.

Q: What is the best part of the conference?

A: My favorite part of Applied Net is networking with other brokers because I’m able to learn about how they’re using digital technology. I’m all about taking the most out of the content and bringing it back to my brokerage. I usually have information overload on my way home because I want to implement so much.

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

A: I attended a session on auditing workflows when I was in Orlando in 2016. The speaker, who was absolutely amazing, talked about the basics of auditing and how reports can help to create workflows. It was a great session. My brokerage has since added immense efficiency with just this one session.

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

A: It’s great when you find somebody who’s in the same situation as you because the relationship continues even after the conference. Whether you’re becoming a member of the local chapter or you’re troubleshooting things together, I’ve gotten emails from people saying, “Hey, how did you go about that?” It’s really nice to have that connection with agents and brokers from Applied Net.

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

A: Applied Net is a great resource to stay on top of what’s out there and how brokers can keep up with digital technology that makes their businesses better. Applied CSR24 would’ve been unheard of a few years ago in our industry. I’ve always found that the conference is a great way to get that introduction and speak with the people who have it. Whether it’s Applied CSR24, Applied Rater or anything else, it’s great to be able to ask, “What do you like about it?” “What would you give as a takeaway if I were to move forward?” There’s a lot of helpful story sharing.

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

A: Yes, absolutely. As I said before, the toughest part is coming back to the office on your first day back when you’re on that information overload – you’ve got a list of 30 things to do because you’re so energized when you leave the sessions. My advice? Pick three ideas to implement first, then go on to the other 27 ideas.

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

A: The evening events are always unique and fun. I really enjoy the networking, so it’s nice to get a relaxed atmosphere, have a conversation and get to know people. It feels like a family since everybody understands our industry. Unless you’re in it, you don’t really get it, so it’s nice to troubleshoot with members of the community.

Register now for Applied Net 2017 and discover how to take advantage of the opportunities created by the digital transformation of insurance to prepare your business for success in our digital world.

Learn more about Applied Net

The Connected Business of Insurance: Technology for Driving Growth in the Digital Age

February 02, 2017

by Michael Howe

Technology continues to transform the insurance landscape, connecting all stakeholders across the insurance lifecycle. The future of our industry will be defined by the connected business of insurance, with complete connectivity between the agency, insurer and insured.

The connected business of insurance enables digital agencies and insurers to create higher-value business transactions and deliver superior customer experiences throughout the entire insurance lifecycle. Truly digital agencies 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 in the new digital era.

The connected business of insurance is comprised of three key components:

  • The connected agency: Has a complete view of clients and prospects for each person in an agency to access and act upon – regardless of role, time or location.
  • The connected insured: Expects consistent and personalized service across all channels and touchpoints – anytime, anywhere.
  • The connected insurer: Connects to a network that allows agencies to work directly with insurers to access markets and ensure accurate, timely and comprehensive customer service.

Here is the technology needed to achieve the connected business of insurance and the benefits agencies can realize:

  1. The connected agency: One system for the entire business
    Connected agencies build their businesses on a single management system to gain a comprehensive view of customers and prospects across all lines of business. A single agency management system also provides essential capabilities for every stakeholder in the agency to better manage customer relationships, sales opportunities, market appetite search, financial accounting, and policy and benefits administration across all lines of business, reducing time spent on multiple, disparate systems.

    Connected agencies utilize mobile capabilities integrated with their agency management systems. Agency staff can access and manage client, prospect, and overall business information anytime, anywhere via a smartphone or tablet device. On-demand access to client and prospect information enables users to conduct more business outside the agency and deliver better service to clients with a single, up-to-date view of client and business information.

    Data analytics applications also enable connected agencies to make quicker, more informed business decisions through analysis of their books of business, employee operations and insurer relationships. Graphical displays enable agencies to identify potential new markets, the most profitable client and insurer relationships and opportunities to improve employee productivity.

    With easy access to critical information anytime and from any location, every stakeholder at a connected agency is able to:

    • Capitalize on new business and service opportunities
    • Standardize operations and automate workflows
    • Provide better customer service with mobile access to information
    • Make data-driven decisions through enhanced reporting
  2. The connected insured: Omnichannel customer service
    Insureds today expect anytime, anywhere service. Connected agencies service insureds through innovative technologies such as a branded mobile application and a self-service client portal. A mobile app puts insurance information at a client’s fingertips, ensuring agency’s advice – and brand – are always available. Online customer portals provide an additional digital channel for 24/7 access to insurance information, online bill pay and self-service quoting.

    Information is updated in real time, so clients always have access to up-to-date policy information, claims filing and processing, premium payments and insurance documents. An omnichannel customer service model enables agencies to increase client satisfaction, build client loyalty and deliver a more competitive business proposition.

  3. The connected insurer: A single network for market access and service
    Insurer connectivity is critical to automating the distribution and servicing of insurance products between agents and insurer partners. A single network to insurer markets is essential to gain easy market access – and automated servicing of policies drives efficient interactions across the insurance lifecycle.

    The connected insurer enables agencies to quickly search market appetite for commercial risks, as well as review data-driven industry insights to better understand expected renewal rate changes. Insurer connectivity also enables agencies to automate the exchange of policy-related information with insurer partners, saving significant employee time by reducing manual administrative tasks.

    By developing relationships with the best insurers, agencies gain greater access to markets to provide customers superior product choice and timely servicing throughout the insurance lifecycle.

At the pace and direction the industry is headed, more agencies are embracing digital technology to realize the benefits of the connected business of insurance. The most successful agencies will meet the ever-changing expectations of the connected insured and capitalize on the new market opportunities of the connected insurer through digital connectivity.

Download the eBook, “Connecting the Business of Insurance: Reshape your business through digital technology,” to learn how you can grow and thrive in the connected world.

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

Accurate Quoting: The Key to Unlocking High Net-Worth Business

January 19, 2017

by Applied Communications

As a rule, high net-worth clients have not been a common target market for independent insurance agents. However, the number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more has hit a new record of 10.4 million households. This record marks an increase of 300,000 households since 2014 according to the Spectrem Group’s Market Insight Report 2016.

What’s interesting is that many high net-worth individuals are overpaying for their insurance; and what’s more, they are usually underinsured. It’s extremely common that we are introduced to a high net-worth client who doesn’t even have an umbrella, or has never heard of an umbrella,”* says Peter Houldin, president of Ericson Insurance Advisors.

The opportunity lies in your ability to provide more personalized coverage to these high net-worth consumers. Jim Fiske, senior vice president of Chubb, explains the challenge will be “convincing them they need to switch from their current carrier when they’re already satisfied.”*

Many quoting services prepare fast quotes, but they are not accurate. When working with high net-worth clients, professionalism is key. If you give a client a fast quote, but it’s inaccurate, your credibility suffers and the prospect will most likely walk away. The best way to convince these potential clients is to provide the best and most accurate quotes for their personal lines policies.

Applied Rater, an accurate, cloud-based insurance quoting application for independent agencies, automates quoting workflows for more than 500 insurers nationwide – the broadest coverage of any rating provider in the United States today. Applied Rater boosts your agency’s competitive value by delivering the most accurate quotes to enhance customer service and drive business growth.

In order to sway the high net-worth clients in finding a policy that is actually more beneficial for them, it is critical to be the subject matter expert. Applied Rater enables you to find the best policy from multiple insurers in a single point of data entry. The quoting workflow is then shorter, so you spend more time advising your client rather than searching for the best policy.

Your clients are also covered in whichever personal lines product they need. Applied Rater supports all personal lines of business including auto, home, umbrella, renters, condo, dwelling fire, flood and toys. Because high net-worth clients typically have extensive investments across all classifications of collectibles such as fine art, antique cars, wine, etc., it is important to have a broad range of insurers and product line coverage to offer your clients.

To enhance your customer experience even further, Applied Rater offers built-in proposals. These pre-designed templates pull in the rate quotes you have selected for your clients and arrange them in an easy-to-read, professional-looking proposal. Your high net-worth clients are always looking for the best, especially when they have such expensive assets to protect, so it is critical to provide a buttoned-up proposal that they can easily follow.

With the amount of high net-worth households rising at a record rate, it has become not only opportunistic to serve them, but necessary. Many can have gaps in their coverage, making them prime targets to evaluate and help protect. With the use of an accurate quoting application, it becomes easy and fast to give these potential clients the best quote for their needs.

Watch the full product demo to learn more about Applied Rater.

*What You May Not Know About Insuring High Net-Worth Clients, 2016

Insurance in a Connected World – What We Can Do Today for a Better Tomorrow

January 05, 2017

by Reid French

Technology is revolutionizing the business of insurance. According to Ernst & Young, technology is the number one external force impacting today’s insurance market. Technologies such as social media, telematics and analytics are redefining our market, impacting areas from marketing and distribution to customer service and pricing.

There is a notion oft discussed in our industry that technology is just now disrupting insurance. I would argue that technology has been impacting the insurance industry for decades and, frankly, mostly for the better. What is new is the opportunity that technology is now providing to better connect insurers, agents and insureds.

A recent Reagan Consulting report cites that technology investments have driven improved productivity and resulted in outstanding profit margin growth for agencies and brokerages. In fact, average profit margins for Best Practice agencies have grown from 12% to nearly 27% since 1993. These numbers clearly illustrate how investing in technology can enable agencies and brokerages to drive profitable growth, improve operational efficiencies and maximize business valuation.

Technology has clearly driven financial returns, but we shouldn’t forget that it has also raised customer and employee expectations. In fact, technology has reimagined nearly all customer experiences and at a pace never before seen in our world. All of us are experiencing a more connected life in a more connected world. And those connected experiences are impacting the expectations of insurance consumers across our industry.

To meet these expectations, our industry must deliver a connected experience between all participants in the insurance ecosystem. This means greater connectivity within an agency or brokerage; greater connectivity with insurer partners; greater connectivity to the insured; and greater connectivity and simultaneous exchange of information between all key stakeholders across the insurance lifecycle. When the business of insurance is digitally connected, we all benefit from superior experiences across the entire insurance lifecycle.

The connected business of insurance is comprised of three key components: the connected agency, the connected insured and the connected insurer.

The Connected Agency
Using multiple systems for different lines of business inhibits an agency’s ability to cross-sell products, which is the main reason agencies diversified into multiple lines in the first place. In fact, in a study completed by AUGIE, 98% of agencies responded that having a complete view of client business in a single agency management system was either important, very important or extremely important. Utilizing a market-leading agency management system is undoubtedly the first step to creating a connected agency.

A connected agency allows each and every employee to have the right information and products available anytime, anywhere to better serve clients via a single, integrated system. With many agencies expanding their focus to more lines of business, having the ability to efficiently access and act upon a complete view of the customer is becoming more and more important, regardless of whether the product is personal lines, commercial lines or benefits.

A connected agency also requires the ability to provide this complete view of the customer to your staff regardless of role, time or location – meaning at home, on the road, on a plane via a smartphone or tablet app.

The Connected Insured
Today’s consumer expects an omnichannel delivery model. A study by Bain & Co. found that over time, insureds will utilize online, self-service transactions more and more. They expect real-time access to information via multiple digital channels like self-service portals and mobile applications. They demand convenient, digital services such as online bill pay and eSignature. Agencies that cater to these demands are the ones that experience the most growth. In fact, according to research from Celent, when consumers were asked why they chose a particular provider when looking for financial services, 52% indicated that their selection was based on convenience or ease of service.

The Connected Insurer
Customers demand product choice and effective interactions with their insurance agents. A connected insurer relationship enables profitable growth through access to the right markets and automated servicing. A recent IVANS survey found that 79% of agents save at least one hour per day using eDocs & Messages, while 43% of agents save at least one hour per day with Claims download. A connected insurer relationship provides ease of doing business and greater productivity with automated download.

In today’s connected world, it has become more critical than ever to adapt with the changing landscape of the industry. Those who fall behind will become less competitive and less profitable. As Charles Darwin said over 100 years ago, “We don’t have to be the strongest or the smartest to survive – we just have to be the most adaptable.”

How do you feel about the changing technology landscape? Leave your comments below.

Reid FrenchReid French, Chief Executive Officer at Applied Systems, is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and operational execution. He also plays a prominent role in developing and fostering relationships throughout the Applied community. French came to Applied in 2011, after serving as chief operating officer at Intergraph Corporation, a global company at the forefront of geospatial and computer-aided design software. Before Intergraph, French was chief operating officer in North America for Solution 6 Group Ltd., Australia’s largest software company. Early in his career, he was a strategic planner for the Walt Disney Company, and he managed investment banking transactions in the technology sector for Robinson-Humphrey.

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, telecommunications, manufacturing and government. I was drawn to Applied, and thus to a focus on insurance, because of the great opportunity to leverage technology to empower such a critical industry.

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

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

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

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

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