Modernizing the independent insurance agency: a roadmap to unlocking profitability and time to focus on client relationships

June 8, 2020 /
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By James Thom

The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the urgent need for digital transformation in the insurance industry. Not only is a robust technology stack necessary for keeping your agency operational and efficient, but also for meeting the needs of your clients during challenging times.

But modernizing isn’t only about maintaining operations in crisis mode; it’s also about growing your agency. Vertafore customers who have adopted a suite of best-practice technologies in four key areas of modernization report up to three-times higher revenue growth compared to the industry average. That’s a major jump that can make a huge difference in your ability to invest in growing the agency, attracting new clients, and expanding into new markets and services.

The combination of crisis response and hardening markets means now is the time for agencies to examine their processes and technology and put in place solutions that enable maximum efficiency, superior client service, and faster, smarter decision-making. Data shows there are four critical areas of investment for modernizing your agency:

Modern client digital experience

Clients expect digital options for interacting with their agents. Digital banking, shopping, and even entertainment options abound, and consumers expect the same for their insurance. By providing clients with 24/7 self-service access to their policy data and online transactions through an online portal, agencies can provide timely, streamlined service that benefits both customers and agency efficiency. Instead of spending valuable time mailing out policy ID cards, processing payments and other routine tasks, agencies can let the app take care of that, which gives them more time to spend providing valuable risk advisory services.

In addition, combining a digital content platform with the client data stored in your agency management system (AMS) allows you to send targeted, timely content to clients at the right time. For example, you might share information on litigation and legislation around business interruption insurance or workers compensation due to COVID for business clients or send details about new cyber-security risks to vulnerable individuals.

A digital experience allows you to offer advice, keep in touch, and provide value outside of the transactional relationship—all of which increase your stickiness with the customer. And, with the tools in place to automate the process, it’s fast and easy.

Efficient agency management

The agency management system is the core of every agency, but many are not making the best use of the tool or taking advantage of all the features. We often hear customers say, “I wish I could do ____,” and many times they already have this capability within their AMS.

Start by making sure you’re getting the most out of your AMS by reviewing processes and practices with agents and CSRs. This can help ensure consistency in both AMS usage and data entry, resulting in better, cleaner data. Getting everyone on the same page also ensures you’re running as efficiently as possible.

On top of the AMS, consider more advanced workflow automation and document management systems that can further streamline processes and improve client service. Tools that automate manual tasks and store information efficiently can make a huge difference in agency productivity.

For example, the carrier download process in many agencies is manual and time-consuming. Automatically pulling new policy updates into the system not only eliminates this manual chore but keeps your records up to date in real-time. Similarly, the submissions process can be radically faster and more accurate by leveraging an AMS that allows you to enter data once and send it to multiple carriers.

Streamlined market connectivity

To provide your clients with the right coverage at the best possible rates, you must work with the right trading partners and maintain strong connectivity. As the market hardens and prices increase, your clients are more likely to shop around. Agencies with the ability to reach out to more markets faster and get the best coverage options for the best price have a strong advantage.

Tools like comparative rating and electronic submissions platforms can help you get the right information to underwriters quickly and reduce the amount of questions and forms the end-insured needs to answer or fill in. With an efficient system for submitting risks, you can also identify which carriers have an appetite for that risk and quickly choose the right ones for your client’s needs.

Unlocking the power of data

Agencies have a wealth of data available inside their systems, but many aren’t taking advantage of it. In fact, the entire industry has been slow to leverage its treasure trove of data, for several reasons:

  1. Most data are unstructured and trapped in formats and systems where it can’t be easily used, such a PDF documents.
  2. To date we haven’t seen a cohesive data model. Agencies can create data models that work for them, but that still creates a barrier to aggregating industry-wide insights. In other words, one agency’s model doesn’t play well with others.
  3. The industry has lacked analytics resources to unlock the value of the data.
  4. A fear of the unknown. Insurance is a relationship business and agencies differentiate on the close bonds they have with their clients. For some agents, the notion of “data science” flies in the face of that personal touch and they don’t see data analytics as a necessity. They believe data and analytics they need is “upstairs” — the inherent knowledge and experience they’ve honed over many years.

The problem is that this leaves a huge untapped potential. Data analytics has never been meant to take the place of a personal relationship. Instead, it is an incredibly valuable tool that can enhance it. It allows agents to tap into insights from across the industry, beyond their inherent knowledge, to provide better advisory services to clients.

At Vertafore, our platform solves the problem of unstructured data and provides an industry-wide data model and analytics resource, allowing our customers to leverage aggregated insights to better serve their clients. And now, our agent-facing tools like Analytics in Your Inbox embed these insights directly into the workflow, allowing agents to leverage that information immediately. This integration allows agencies of all sizes to leverage data without having to become data scientists themselves.

A roadmap to modernize—fearlessly

Vertafore’s investment in solutions that target these four key areas of modernization has radically transformed the business performance and growth potential for many of our independent agency customers by eliminating the need to stuff envelopes and mail policy documents, improving client retention, growing revenue, and enabling re-investment of resources into agency expansion.

Learn more about what we are doing to help your agency move forward at www.vertafore.com/solutions/modernizing-agency.

James Thom leads Vertafore’s Corporate Development team and guides the company’s relationship with other Insurtech companies through our Orange Partner Program. James joined Vertafore in 2017 from a career at McKinsey & Company in its New York and San Francisco offices.