The Future of Insurance
August 10, 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
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
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
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
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.
10. Keynote Speaker: Madeleine Albright
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!
June 15, 2016
Technology 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, 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.
June 01, 2016
5 Reasons Why You Should Attend
Applied 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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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, 2016
Has 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How is your agency using the cloud for business continuity? Share your thoughts below.
Kris 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, 2016
Every 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 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.
Consider the Four Pillars of a Digital Brokerage
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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
April 20, 2016
Well, if you’re like most people, probably not. And similar to many of us, you started working in the insurance industry by chance or someone told you it was a great place to work – and that turned out to be true. Today, one of the best kept employment secrets is that people working in the insurance industry are likely to experience stable, high-paying jobs, and have a fulfilling lifelong career.
With nearly 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day in the United States, approximately 65,000 of them are employed in the insurance industry. According to a recent article in Insurance Journal, “Almost half of insurance industry professionals are over age 45, with 25% of the industry expected to retire by 2018. What’s more, there will be 400,000 open positions by 2020.” That’s a lot of jobs and today insurance companies and insurance agencies are working hard to attract and retain employees to close this talent gap in their businesses. To interest more young people in the industry, insurance companies and agencies must get the message out that they are innovative, and technologically savvy, and offer stable employment.
As millennials and Gen Z have emerged as the new political power, the new consumer, and the new face of our global workforce, we must quickly tap into how to draw them to insurance careers. To better understand what millennials and Generation Z are looking for in terms of insurance service providers and careers, Applied Systems collaborated with InVEST, a school-to-work insurance program, to conduct a first-of-its-kind survey of this post-millennial generation and compared insurance habits of millennials verses Gen Z. Here’s what we found:
Gen Z Places a High Value of Technology and Innovation
You won’t be surprised to learn from our survey that technology is important to both attracting future insurance employees and captivating our future consumers of the insurance industry. And here’s some statistics from our survey:
- 88% of Gen Z said when thinking about purchasing insurance, access to information and service via a mobile app is important to their decision
- While calling agents directly is still a primary channel for millennials to communicate with insurance agents, 37% say they prefer to use an insurance providers website
- 57% of Gen Z say that it is important for a company to provide the ability to work outside the office (hence technology must be in place)
- 48% say it’s very important and 45% somewhat important for Gen Z to work for a company that is innovative
Millennials and Gen Z Differ in Insurance Purchase Channel Preferences
Another interesting finding from the InVEST/Applied survey is that both generations value insurance providers or insurance agents as a “trusted advisors” when they are seeking information about insurance. Millennials and Gen Z have different insurance purchase preferences: Gen Z prefers purchasing insurance in person from an agent (55% Gen Z and 37% millennials) vs. online (29% Gen Z and 37% millennials) or via phone (16% Gen Z and 28% millennials).
At the same time, both generations have an appetite for online service technology and mobile access to insurance agents. On-demand, 24/7 digital access to service and information is very important and definitely influences their choice of insurance provider. One thing’s for sure, companies that continue to innovate with technology at its heart – Apple and Facebook, for example – are finding fierce and loyal advocates in these generations.
Millennials and Gen Z Place High Value on an Innovative, Flexible Workplace
Finally, for insurance to be an appealing career option, millennials and Generation Z both say insurance firms must demonstrate that they are innovative, service driven, secure and stable, entrepreneurial and profitable as well as flexible. The good news is there’s some really great innovation happening in the insurance industry right now such as mobile apps to assist customers with insurance transactions, and remote telework options for insurance staff, which provides them with 24/7 access to all the information they need to deliver exceptional service — even when away from the office.
What looms before the insurance industry is:
- How do we close the employee gap and attract top talent to our industry?
- How can we drive the insurance industry to fully embrace technology and showcase this transformation?
- How do we effectively convey to millennials and Gen Z “how cool” our seemingly old school, but long and strong standing insurance industry really is?
- How do we convey that the insurance industry is a great place to have a career?
For those of us in the insurance industry, we need to find answers to these questions now.
This post is based on findings from an InVest Survey. You can access the full report via the banner below:
Deborah M. Pickford is the Executive Director of InVEST, a non-profit organization with a mission to improve the insurance literacy of students and attract new talent to the insurance industry. Prior to joining InVEST, Deborah served for 10 years on Allstate’s Capital Region Leadership team as a Senior Corporate Relations Manager and also worked on national flood insurance issues. In addition, she served as the Chairman of the Board for DriveSmart Virginia and Vice-President of the Virginia High School League Foundation Board for five years. Deborah also worked as press officer under Andrew Cuomo at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as served on the editorial board at USA Today.
April 06, 2016
It is the Masters golf tournament week. This means azaleas, pimento cheese sandwiches and of course, incredible golf. Taking place in Augusta, Georgia at Augusta National Golf Course and steeped in Southern traditions, the annual Masters tournament is where top global golf talent compete for the famed green jacket.
With each year, viewers watching the Masters on TV see an increasing number of stats and data on each of these world famous players. Scrolling along the bottom of the screen, networks broadcast stats on distance, accuracy, iron play and short game. It’s really quite fascinating how each facet of a player’s golf game can be digitally tracked and compared, then improved upon.
Even more amazing is that this one tournament holds just a small subset of all of the data that goes into the game of golf. Golf has millions of data points behind it. GOLFstats.com alone boasts 1.6 million records (that is records per golfer) for men/ladies golf tournaments in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The record for Tiger Woods for example, takes into account EVERY single tournament he’s played, each swing from driving distance to short game – even his cash winnings.
Truly, big data is everywhere these days.
Like golfers, independent agents and brokers have a vast amount of data to draw upon and analyze to improve their business game, both long and short. But, what information is critical to understanding your business on a deeper level?
Here are some questions you should ask yourself to understand your game, improve your swing and get one step closer to a business performance “hole-in-one.”
Look at the trend of new business over the last two years.
- How many new clients are you adding on a quarterly basis?
Dig into this data to determine what is contributing to the increases, decreases or steady streams on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Are certain lines of business driving new clients more than others?
- Which geographic locations are driving new business?
Your agency or brokerage might be focused on expanding your client base in a specific suburb in your main city of operation. To increase awareness and drive new sales, you could run an advertising campaign, including local print and TV, for a month targeted at this specific suburb or nearby neighborhoods to identify success in current and new geographies.
- Is there seasonality in your revenue stream?
Consider what could be driving the seasonality and execute more marketing/sales tactics during the off-season to drive revenue.
An important factor of being able to react to changes in the marketplace is understanding your current customers and what impacts their retention and renewals.
- What clients are driving the most revenue and why?
You should identify client value, size, policy mix, servicing team, and various client trends over time – and evaluate how each is impacting your bottom line.
- What clients could be affected by a natural disaster?
Natural disasters are inevitable. Can you identify who is impacted by a recent earthquake and what coverage they have in order to proactively reach out and provide your trusted advice?
- What is driving client retention?
Analyze factors affecting client retention, such as insurer choice and renewal submission status, against various drivers, like policies, revenue or premium.
Your staff keep your business running. It’s important to look at how they impact the growth and profitability of your business.
- What is the average revenue per employee at your firm?
Evaluate which employees (and potential branch locations) of your business are leading revenue per employee (RPE) and closely monitor individual, team, and total business performance against this essential metric as it changes over time.
- Who are your top performing producers?
Identify top performers and evaluate their best practices to share with the wider team to enhance overall sales performance.
Lastly, it’s important to look at your insurer relationships to see which are the most responsive, providing the best services and driving the most revenue.
- Who has the best submission rates?
Track the performance of submission responses, declines, and what policies were written with each of your insurer partners.
- Who brings in the highest policy volume and revenue?
Look at insurer performance in terms of new business and activity across all of your insurers.
Consider More Robust Reporting
It’s hard to imagine analyzing so many metrics when traditional reporting is complex and time consuming. In addition, basic reports on any of the scenarios mentioned above, created in Excel for example, are defined and static and only offer a point-in-time snapshot of one or more business metrics. Consider robust business intelligence applications, such as Applied PerformanceManagement, to transform data into visual insights so you can more efficiently understand how your business is playing “the game” and the strategies needed to improve.
Understanding your data gives you a competitive advantage into today’s digital market, as well as the opportunity to grow your business. While our handicaps may never be as good as the golf pros at the Masters, we can at least analyze our performance data in many of the same ways.
How are you leveraging data to better understand your business? Share your thoughts here.
February 09, 2016
Every day we hear from our customers that their business is becoming more complex, with nearly every agency diversifying into a range of new lines of business. For example, more and more agencies that traditionally focused on P&C are seeking additional growth by diversifying into Benefits and vice versa. On top of that, agencies frequently pursue any number of additional specialty lines of business and even offer some related financial services.
While this diversification is a sound growth strategy, it can create a very difficult IT landscape where agencies introduce multiple, separate software products to manage each of the business areas. Having multiple systems means agency staff now have different products to learn with varying user interfaces. It also introduces the challenging and costly task of building and maintaining a degree of integration between those systems. By managing separate systems, agencies struggle to manage data from many sources into a single, consolidated view of the business.
There is a better way – a single integrated agency management system.
A better digital foundation can be achieved through a modern, integrated agency management system, providing a single source of accurate data across all lines of business. An integrated agency management system provides many critical capabilities, serving as the central system for all prospect, customer, policy and financial data and providing efficient, standardized workflows with all data residing in one place. It allows for all of your staff to use the same system and workflows, leveraging data for quick, accurate insights. Integrated agency management systems automate selling and renewal tasks for producers, as well as servicing and accounting activities, all within a single application. Flexible software architecture is key to easily adding users, processes and workflows, enabling agencies to quickly respond to changes in the market or their customer base.
Your business requires an application that provides a comprehensive view of client information and internal operations to enable your agency to make more informed decisions about your business and capitalize quickly on new opportunities.
Benefits to consider when evaluating how to utilize a single, integrated agency management system as the foundation of your digital agency:
Single source of the truth
Integrated agency management systems leverage a single data source. By removing the need for additional software, agencies no longer have multiple customer records across multiple databases, thereby eliminating data integrity issues. Additionally, for multi-office agencies, a single application provides the same set of data across all offices and enables agencies to adequately balance work across offices, particularly in the event of a disaster. Agencies are left with a single source of truth about customers, prospects, carrier relationships and all internal operations to build their growth strategy.
Service multiple lines of business in one application
An agency management system needs to grow and evolve with an agency’s business without relying on separate, disconnected software applications to manage specific components of the business. As the foundation of an agency, an integrated agency management system enables your business to manage multiple lines of business, like P&C, Specialty, and Benefits, in the same application. By supporting multiple lines in a single application, staff can follow consistent and common workflows for each segment of the business and quickly identify opportunities to cross- and up-sell clients to drive growth.
Get everyone on the same page
As selling insurance continues to evolve into a team-based effort, marketing specialists, service representatives, account executives and others in the agency all need access to the data in one system to assist producers in marketing policies to the right carriers and obtaining quotes for a solid proposal package. To date, agents have used a myriad of methods of tracking prospects and new business opportunities outside of an agency management system which vastly limits the ability of principals and managers to understand how well – or not – sales are progressing. Separate data sources reduce management’s insight into the sales process and create redundant work for producers and service staff who have to manually rekey the same information into two disparate systems. By integrating sales automation, all of the critical steps that are part of a new sales process AND the renewal process remain within one single source of truth within the agency management system.
Stay connected with your carriers
Importantly, end-to-end transactions between an agency and insurers need to happen within the management system as well for optimal agency productivity and efficient business operations. Download allows insurers to automate the delivery of information to an agency, driving greater agency productivity. For example, agencies that use various types of download have seen an average time savings of up to two hours per employee per day. Integrated agency management systems also enable staff to quote in real-time and quickly determine carrier appetite directly from the application. By tapping into the carrier interface provided in the application, agencies are able to deliver better advice, a wider range of products and localized personal service with greater productivity.
As your business considers how to expand and diversify into new lines of business, consider the value of a software solution that enables you to manage your entire operations – across all roles and multiple products – within a single application. An integrated management system will allow you to better service clients without the need to log into multiple software solutions to view customer records. In addition, native sales automation and market appetite search capabilities will allow you to have deeper insight into your sales performance and carrier appetite preferences. The future of the insurance agent will be shaped by tools and technology that allow your staff to work faster, smarter and together.
How is your business looking to grow in 2016 and beyond? Are you diversifying into new lines of business?
Michael 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.
January 26, 2016
Since 1993, Reagan Consulting and the IIABA, “Big I,” have conducted the Best Practices Agency study to identify the top performing agencies in the United States. Conducted on a three-year cycle, the study measures the operational performance of nominated agencies against critical industry and business benchmarks. 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. To provide insider intel on the program, process, and the benefits of participating, Applied caught up with two Best Practices Agencies: Stu Durland of Seely & Durland, Inc. and Hanna Oggle of Watkins Insurance Group.
Why do you participate in the Best Practices Agency study?
Stu: Well, we started during the 2013 cycle, so that was the first three-year cycle we completed. We always thought about participating, but hadn’t committed the resources to managing the submission process. But after being a part of the industry for years and association/groups like Augie, ACT and ACORD, I saw they always referenced Best Practices – the status has become a benchmark among peers and established a “best-in-class” group of agencies. So I knew it would be worth the effort to submit our agency.
Hanna: While we only recently began participating in the program, we are really committed to the opportunity this study represents as a new initiative for our agency – and we take great pride in being part of it. We also knew that the opportunity to review our results and our data, as well as measure our results against our peers, would be immensely beneficial when evaluating our company’s performance. The more agents that participate, the more valid the data is and the more cross-comparisons can be made to improve the overall operations and growth of the independent agency channel.
What benefits have you received from participating in the program?
Hanna: We have recognized benefits in three main areas: carrier relationships, client communication and internal operations. From a carrier standpoint, they are focused on growing their business through their agency distribution channel, and the Best Practices Agencies list provides a “best of the best” list for them to immediately reference when determining agency partner relationships. Client communication and raising our agency branding is critical so being able to promote this industry recognition is immensely helpful. We use our Best Practices Agency status as part of client marketing, including website blogs, which further reinforces to our clients that we are committed agents to do business with. As a relationship driven industry, the peer-to-peer respect for participating is intangibly beneficial. I believe it is a good notion to have “peers look up to you,” and we want to set an example for others to aspire to one day.
Stu: Like Hanna’s agency, we too use our Best Practices Agency status as part of client marketing to reinforce our commitment to clients. And, yes it’s something our carrier partners and industry peers recognize. Most importantly, going through the program process and strategic counsel from Reagan Consulting sheds light on what we do well – of course – but it also identifies opportunities to improve. The diligence the program promotes to routinely evaluate the company’s operations for improvement is vastly helpful.
What would be your advice to agencies considering participating?
Stu: For years, we didn’t participate in the program because of the time commitment to pull the data for the requested submission form. Once we went through the process, we realized that the time investment was worth it for the sole reason that it defined good structure to pulling reports and evaluating company performance. So, I strongly encourage agencies to designate resources to the project because the means is worth the effort. Additionally, Applied, as a technology partner, is actively involved in supporting its agency partners in providing step-by-step guides on how to pull this information from your management system, significantly reducing the time it historically used to take to pull the submission information. With the guidance from Reagan, agency peers, and Applied, the time spent participating in this program is very well spent.
Hanna: If you question whether participating is worth the effort, I would unquestionably say yes. By choosing to participate, your agency has the opportunity to analyze internal data and evaluate how these insights affect future planning. Also, if you feel like you are not big enough or have not been in business long enough, apply anyway – you will create the internal procedures that will get you there in the future. The program provides great goals and diligent practices. Set your mind to it.
Are you interested in being nominated for this cycle’s Best Practices Agency study? Fill out the form below:
January 19, 2016
In any industry, planning for the growth of technology and innovation to come is critical, and in the insurance industry, it’s even more important. Agencies are becoming increasingly aware of the need to embrace technology, but more than that, they’re beginning to see the maturation of existing technologies and how that’s changing the way independent agencies already operate.
At Strategy Meets Action (SMA), we have examined emerging trends and developed a list of key initiatives that will shape the insurance industry in the coming years. The Top 8 Imperatives for Agents are designed to help independent insurance agencies take their business forward by embracing the technological trends that will have the biggest impact on the way they do business. The first four and most critical of these are outlined below.
The steps to becoming a next-generation agency build on one another, from agency management system, to connectivity to insurers, to serving customers better and more efficiently, so as you make each change, you are laying the foundation for the changes that will come after. Consider a few of the following:
The First Step: Modernize with an Advanced Agency Management System
The benefits of an agency management system cannot be overstated. More than just automation, it’s the foundation for creating the kind of flexibility and adaptability that a business needs in a rapidly changing industry. With the ever increasing need for business processes to flow with sequenced precision, an agency management system is the first step in modernization. It’s also a huge step towards innovation.
Being able to better organize your business provides the opportunity to begin implementing new processes and establishing new methods that better serve your customers, and your employees. This speaks to the need to be adaptable. You can increasingly customize your service to the way you do business when your agency is automated.
Embrace Digital Technologies For All Aspects of Business
The world is becoming increasingly digital – technology is increasing connectivity between people and businesses more frequently, and independent agents need to have a detailed strategy for how to evaluate and implement digital platforms as part of their business.
Building a roadmap to determine what, how, and when an agency will leverage opportunities on the Web, social media and mobile platforms is no longer an optional part of the yearly planning process. Expanding your business’ presence through these channels and ensuring that employees are trained to meet customer needs through Web and mobile in particular, should be an integral part of your business plan.
Interconnect Using Rating Underwriting/Rating Intelligence
Another layer of connectivity is building stronger, more efficient connections between agents and insurers to better serve your customers. Using comparative raters and direct connections to insurer rating engines allows you to deliver faster, more accurate quotes to your clients, and create a significant time savings within your business.
I’ve mentioned using an agency management system to organize your business, and ratings intelligence and greater connectivity with insurers builds on that as the next step towards becoming a modern, next-generation agency.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box
. Innovation could be what separates your business from the competition. With the increasing number of niche markets, and unique opportunities within the insurance industry, differentiation is about providing the service your customers want in the way that best aligns with their needs.
Keeping up with industry developments, not just in technology but also in best practices is a good way to find inspiration. Empowering your staff and yourself to look outside of tried and true methods and working together to find ways to implement new ideas is a critical step in modernizing your agency and making your business ready to embrace change and adapt.
As technology changes it is sure to bring new opportunities and new paths for the savvy agency, and that’s why being adaptable is such an important part of the process. The good news is that once you have the infrastructure in place; once you have organized your business processes around a central system, and embraced the growing power of digital platforms, and once you have become accustomed to innovation, and trying new things for the sake of growing your business and improving the services you provide, adapting to the next shifts within the industry becomes much easier.
This blog is an extract from the report “8 Imperatives for Becoming a Next-Generation Agency” by Strategy Meets Action.