New business sales and servicing has received increased attention from insurance carriers in recent years, and with good reason. Insurers that provide tools and resources that make it easier for agents and brokers to quote and retain clients have a better chance of return business. A key way to accomplish this is through agent / broker portals and exchange sites.Typically web-based, these portals support the sales and service function of a carrier and aim to improve efficiency in business processing through functionality that authorizes an agent to easily quote new business as well as service in-force business.
With a new wave of millennials entering the workforce, and an entire generation of baby-boomer knowledge holders preparing to leave, distribution management is poised for redefinition along with the rest of the industry. The digitization of core systems is largely underway and is now reaching out toward distribution channels, offering insurance companies a chance to help define what Ernst and Young (EY) refer to as the “agent of the future.”
The extent to which these agents and brokers will be successful will depend on the ability of both agent/brokers and insurers to adapt and collaborate. Distribution channels need to be willing to adopt new practices, tools and processes in order to adjust to changing regulation and customer-centricity. Insurers that inquire into the needs of agents and brokers, and implement portal solutions that address them, can improve business processes and possibly establish a competitive edge.
Craig Weber, CEO with Celent, an independent technology research firm, agrees: “Insurance carriers are starting to more aggressively seek out solutions to help them improve operational efficiencies and deliver better service to customers. In terms of distribution, independent agents have made it abundantly clear that underwriting speed and process support often drive their decisions to place business with one carrier versus another.”
Digital distribution models offer a new array of opportunity for usage, gathering and transfer of data. When insurers provide agents with access to data in the form of quotes, illustrations and marketing material, turn-around times can be significantly enhanced. Simultaneously, data gathered by agents during the sales process (CRM) can populate new business, policy and administration systems reducing the need to re-key information. Valuable analytics on channel activity and performance can further inform insurers by highlighting top producers and indicate where more support might be needed in the Agent/Broker Portal or exchange site.
IT departments have historically been tasked with developing these portals themselves, but insurtech vendors are responding to the increasing demand. Here is a list some of the standard agent portal features and functionality to watch for in your solution.
Since core insurance technology platforms are as varied as insurance companies themselves, portal and exchange site requirements and solutions are bound to reflect this complexity. Nevertheless, it is in the carrier’s best interest to make the agent/broker experience as easy, even enjoyable, as possible by including the features and functionality that producers, and insurers, need.
Insurance companies as well as offering agent/broker portal functionality are often tying their own sales and underwriting system into both portals and exchange sites. Exchange sites are numerous and are usually insurance product specific (P&C, individual health and life, or employee benefits and ancillary). The more an insurance company can streamline with straight-through processing across various digital media the better and more cost effective the solution.
FutureTech and Business Transformation
Additional and emerging technologies such as AI, robotics, sensors and predictive data, and adoption of digital self-service portals will all play a role in defining the “agent of the future” and the systems that support them. The digitization of distribution is one of many aspects that insurers must consider as business systems transform. Yet if undertaken strategically, with insight from stakeholders, it could yield a substantial return for insurers, agents and the customers they serve.