Industry Trends | Read Time: 5 Minutes

Next-Gen Is Now: Embracing Emerging Technology to Build the Agency of the Future

January 19, 2016

By: Deb Smallwood

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. 

Download the full report >

Deb Smallwood

Deb Smallwood, Founder of Strategy Meets Action (SMA), is highly respected throughout the insurance industry for her expertise in helping companies re-think, re-energize, and re-tool their business strategies and technology investments for profitable growth and differentiation. Focus areas include distribution, portals, agent connectivity, and underwriting automation. Exclusively serving the insurance industry, SMA is an advisory services firm offering retainers, research, consulting, events, and innovation offerings to insurance companies, agencies, MGA's, and solution providers.