Independent Agents and Digital Transformation is an important topic.
With the advent of digital transformation throughout the insurance industry, many independent agents and agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with larger agencies and companies. The larger companies have the resources to invest in advanced technology that mines data, provides insights to management, streamlines operational processes and arms agents with the information and tools they need to be effective. Most independent agents do not have access to these resources and technologies. But with the emergence of cloud technologies, interoperability standards, and online portals that help connect agents with consumers and providers, this does not have to be the case.
So we at TechCanary were proud to have Agency Nation / TrustedChoice.com use our new offices to host a two-day summit of individuals representing diverse segments of the insurance industry to discuss digital transformation and the independent agent.
Our objective was straightforward, but not simple:
“How can the insurance industry interoperate and work together to empower independent agents and agencies to compete better in the new digital world of the insurance industry.”
We had a stellar set of smart and accomplished executives in our offices from a distinguished set of organizations. Their titles included CEO, CMO, CTO, CRO, Co-Founder, Chief Architect, Digital Sales Director and Distribution Leader. We had multiple representatives from four different facets of the insurance industry:
- Carriers: Westfield Insurance Group, Acuity and Travelers
- Agencies: Zinc Insurance, HNI Insurance Services and Hill & Hamilton
- Organizations serving independent agents: Ohio Independent Insurance Association, Indium and TrustedChoice.com
- InsurTech Companies: TechCanary, Ask Kodiak and Bold Penguin
And yes, some of these organizations compete with each other, but this issue is important enough for them to look past that and cooperate on brainstorming a solution.
Our agenda at the Independent Agents and Digital Transformation Summit included, a review of technologies that could contribute to an interoperable solution, discussions of how an interoperable industry-wide solution could work, and a walkthrough of the insurance sales process if such a solution existed.
As we went through our agenda, three key topics became clear:
- It’s all about the data that currently exists, and providing access to it
- Interoperability and cooperation between companies and technologies will be key
- Automation and data sharing will streamline processes and improve agent performance
For example, below are some of the industry challenges that were discussed at the Independent Agents and Digital Transformation Summit.
- Top Performers Not Getting Recognition Due to Lack of Data
In one conversation, it was discussed that more carriers and large insurance companies have invested in new systems, but independent agents don’t have access to them. It was posited that there are agents who are performing at the level of a top 20% producer, but not appearing in the top 20% because they they don’t have access to the tools, market and relationships required to get the right commissions, and therefore are not get the proper recognition.
- Systems Are Making Agents More Capable
Another discussion centered on how responsibility has moved from management to systems to train and guide agents through best practice processes, but that independent agents without these systems are at a disadvantage. One example given was agents not asking consumers the right questions at the right time, and losing the confidence of the consumer as a result. An automated system could walk the agent through these questions and improve their performance.
- Management Not Having the Right Data or Understanding the Data
We at TechCanary often run into prospective customers whose management is using reports with incorrect data to make important conclusions and decisions, or they have the right data, but don’t understand how to interpret it. This can hinder agency and industry growth.
- Incomplete Customer View
In the current state of the industry, we all know that plenty of customer data exists. The problem is no one has access to a complete view of the customer. For example, agencies have the customer data they need to sell and service the customer, and carriers have the customer data they need to insure the customer. This means the carrier and agent each have a 50% view of their customers and not a 360° view.
Just the Beginning
While we did not expect to solve the industry’s problems in two days, we started the conversation of how we can start working together. Three years ago, this meeting could not have happened, because the technology did not exist in our industry. In past years, it has been important for legacy insurance solutions to own and keep the data, with minimal or no interoperability between systems.
If we as an industry work together, we can once again put independent agents on an equal footing. Marketing and sales are not holding agencies back from adapting to the changes being made by the carriers—it is operations and systems. Helping agents generate more business will bring in more revenues for the industry as a whole. And that is a good thing for all of us.
I’ll conclude by borrowing from Illya Bodner, CEO of Bold Penguin, with his summary of the meeting :
- Everyone shares data
- Everyone gets something in exchange for it
- It helps advance humankind and takes insurance out of the dark ages
We at TechCanary look forward to hosting more summits like this one for Independent Agents and Digital Transformation, and contributing to making our collective vision a reality.
View the Agency Nation video of the Summit