The life insurance industry is undergoing significant digital transformation in order to create superior customer experience and engagement that exceeds expectations. A critical part of achieving this is optimizing the insurance distribution channel. This channel is the means through which consumers purchase insurance from licensed agents who have formal agreements with carriers to offer their products.
Although distributors, carriers, and advisors all aspire to deliver and engage in a seamless customer experience, attaining this goal proves challenging when operating with outdated processes and legacy systems. Critical functions such as policy approvals, productivity management, and commission accounting are significantly impacted by these outdated systems, which in turn has a substantial effect on customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
Key players involved in life insurance distribution #
There are several major distribution systems for selling life insurance, each with its own characteristics and advantages. Although insurance distribution patterns vary based on location and product, the sector has historically been dominated by a face-to-face sales workforce consisting of agents and brokers.
Life Insurance carriers and their role #
An insurance carrier is a company that underwrites, issues, and sells its coverage through a variety of distribution channels. In its most basic form, the insurance distribution channel is made up of licensed producers who have contractual agreements with insurance carriers. In practice, there can be several additional layers of intermediaries between the carrier and end customer. These intermediaries include MGAs, BGAs, MGUs and AGAs.
Overall, carriers depend on distributors to provide a seamless customer experience.
Life insurance distributors and their role #
Captive Agents: Captive agents are employed by, and represent a single insurance carrier. They only sell that company's products. They often have in-depth knowledge of their company's policies but may have limited flexibility in offering alternatives to clients.
Independent Advisors: Independent advisors can sell more than one insurance carrier's product. Because of this, they are able to offer a variety of insurance products to clients. They can provide more choice and flexibility, helping clients find policies that best suit their needs. There has been a rise in the number of independent agents in the US. Currently, independent insurance agents have the largest share of the market, followed by affiliated agents. According to U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales Trends, Industry Estimates, 1975-2022, LIMRA, 2023, the proportion of independent advisors in the U.S. has grown from 45% in 2013 to 52% in 2022.
The rise of independent agents created new structures in insurance distribution management because carriers needed new entities to help them manage the flow of business from tens of thousands of independent advisors. These new entities are generally known as General Agents or General Agencies.
General Agent/Agency: This describes a business entity in which one person (the broker general agent or managing general agent) holds the contracts to do business with different carriers. There are two common types of distributors within this category: Broker General Agent/Agency (BGA) and Managing General Agent/Agency (MGA).
BGAs/MGAs act as intermediaries between clients and carriers. They have contracts with several insurance carriers, which allows advisors to provide clients with a range of options. Brokers focus on finding the best policy for the client's needs. A BGA/MGA may have thousands of advisors under contract all submitting business to the agency which submits it to the relevant carrier.
A key difference between the two entities is that an MGA is an individual or company who can act as a broker or agent on behalf of an insurer. While an insurance broker works on behalf of the policyholder, an MGA works on behalf of the insurance company.
MGAs may take on some carrier responsibilities, such as underwriting or claims. Whereas a BGA is more of a support system for advisors and doesn’t perform carrier tasks.
Managing General Underwriters (MGU): MGUs are similar to MGAs – but they are specialized in specific niche markets or insurance products.
Associate General Agents (AGA): An AGA is a business entity in which a small group of people (usually advisors) jointly hold the contracts to do business with a carrier. They tend to be smaller than BGA/MGAs but still act as intermediaries between insurance carriers and the individual agents or producers who have relationships with the AGA. AGAs are typically responsible for recruiting and appointing individual agents to represent specific insurance carriers.
Banks and Financial Institutions: Some banks and financial institutions offer life insurance products to their customers, often as part of a broader financial planning or wealth management service.
Financial Advisors: Certified financial planners and advisors may offer life insurance as part of a comprehensive financial planning strategy for their clients. Often, they are referred to as ‘dual-licensed’ advisors because they have completed the necessary work to earn licenses that enable them to provide both insurance and investment advice.
Direct Sales or Direct-to-Consumer (D2C): Some insurance companies sell policies directly to consumers through their own sales teams or online platforms. This approach can eliminate agent commissions, potentially resulting in lower premiums for customers. Often the products offered are simple and with relatively low face amounts (less than $1 million) so acceptance can be guaranteed, or underwriting is simplified, and a decision can be made quickly.
Hybrid D2C and Advisor Distribution: This approach begins with a D2C front end, but an advisor can be brought in to help the consumer if necessary. This is a useful option when offering more complicated products for sale online which might require education/explanation and advice.
Building A Successful Broker-Carrier Relationship #
Building a successful broker-carrier relationship relies on a mutual commitment to enhancing customer experience (CX) and achieving business outcomes. Both brokers and carriers rely on each other to attain these objectives. According to broker and carrier respondents, the glue in this relationship lies in the broker’s ability to provide unparalleled customer support. And this means investment in new digital tools that facilitate CX and advisor talent acquisition. To foster a successful partnership, brokers have made significant investments in various technologies, including agency management systems, mobile application browsers, and digital service portals. By aligning their technology offerings and focusing on elevating CX, brokers and carriers can cultivate a mutually beneficial partnership that not only meets customer needs but also propels their businesses forward.
The current state of life insurance distribution #
Since the inception of the independent insurance distribution channel, the entire insurance distribution process has improved. The progress that has been made reflects a shared desire among insurers and agents to enhance technological capabilities. Both insurance providers and agents are actively seeking increased technological capabilities from distributors, with the end goal of simplifying collaboration and enhancing the overall experience for the end consumer.
The good news is that most distributors are engaged in digital transformation, and progress has been made in implementing digital tools such as eApps, portals, and agency management systems. Unfortunately, however, new business submission remains a frustrating and lengthy process for all stakeholders involved.
Agency Management System
Improving the Agent Journey: Technology Capabilities to Improve Agent Experiences at Life Insurers
While brokers have invested in a range of technologies, there is still work to be done in order to fully digitalize the channel. Carriers are still evolving their digital quoting underwriting and policy approval processes and tools—which slows new business onboarding and is at odds with customers’ and advisors’ expectations.
In fact, according to brokers surveyed in an Equisoft commissioned report, the most challenging aspect of their relationship with their carrier partners is the lack of tools to manage their licenses, credentialing, and appointments. Increasingly, distributors have been asking for more communication within the channel, more access to carrier data, greater levels of automation, and better solutions for commission accounting.
Overall, life insurance organizations are typically transitioning from traditional, manual operations to more digital processes, which is a positive evolution for efficiency and business growth. However, it's essential to realize that the level of digitalization is limited by the least digital partner involved, and overall automation is restricted by the most manual processes in place.
The evolving BGA/MGA and AGA relationship #
While BGAs and MGAs are data-driven, they operate in an environment that hasn’t fully completed its digital transformation. They deal with vast amounts of data and a sizable segment of it still requires manual processing and has workflows involving numerous manual steps. Even today, paper applications are still sent via mail. These applications must be manually entered, processed, and approved. Tasks like follow-ups on paramedical issues are not automated. Commission payments, claims resolution, and customer service still lack the speed and user-friendliness that modern technology could provide.
Distributors had hoped that carrier data feeds would reduce manual intervention in their processes, but progress has been slow. Traditionally, BGAs/MGAs have been the intermediaries that exchange data with insurers. They take applications from AGAs (Agency General Agents), input the data, and forward it to the carrier, managing the approval process afterwards. The challenge for AGAs is that they lose access to their data once it's with the distributor. They can't easily check policy status or manage compensation and commissions. AGAs have resorted to re-entering application data into their own systems after sending it to BGAs/MGAs, leading to inefficiency and added costs.
However, BGAs/MGAs recognize the value of data-sharing partnerships with AGAs. Given these challenges, BGAs and MGAs are actively seeking ways to attract and retain more advisors. Emerging distribution models, such as robo-advisors, are diminishing the role BGAs/MGAs play in policy fulfillment, which is also altering the traditional role of MGAs.
Life Insurance Distribution Trends #
Overall, todays advisors are prioritizing strong partnerships with distributors who understand the challenges they face and offer solutions that can fuel their growth.
As the landscape continues to evolve, some key trends to consider include:
- The evolution of the advisor experience: Traditional workflows supporting interactions between distributors, advisors, and carriers are being replaced by streamlined, automated processes. There's a growing trend among distributors to build comprehensive digital packages that cover sales processes, service, and productivity management.
- Distributors are acting as tech consultants: Today’s advisors are faced with numerous software options. As a result, distributors are stepping into a new role as technology curators- assessing emerging technologies and providing advisors with recommendations for solutions that create the most value.
- The interconnection between advisors, distributors, carriers, and clients: Distributors are capitalizing on this trend by building integrated digital ecosystems that enhance productivity through seamless data flow between applications. This approach not only streamlines advisor operations but also creates efficiencies by integrating advisor apps with distributor and carrier core systems.
- Data is becoming essential: Data is becoming crucial for advisor value propositions as distributors and carriers collaborate to leverage their vast data resources to enhance the entire value chain. The ongoing challenges revolve around data access and flow. Distributors are tackling these challenges by adopting Agency Management Systems that centralize carrier data and connect with advisor tools like CRMs and portals.
- Advisors are providing more holistic financial solutions to clients: At its core, cross-selling and up-selling involve meeting more client needs, benefiting all parties involved. Clients who purchase multiple products tend to be more satisfied with their advisor and have higher lifetime value. These practices also create barriers against competitors trying to attract clients away, and they are more profitable and require less effort per client relationship.
Life Insurance Distribution Trends by Geography #
In addition to the trends highlighted above, the distribution landscape varies across regions. These differences depend on the local market, and the insures’ ability to tailor their products and customer experience to local preferences.
For example, in North America, insurers still rely heavily on traditional advisor-led distribution models but have invested significantly in the direct-to-consumer channel (D2C). However, carriers are still trying to address the challenge of low application completion rates in direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales. Potential customers often abandon applications or drop out of the sales process due to issues such as lack of trust, frustration, confusion and the continued reliance on paramedical testing.
To counteract this, carriers are simplifying their app process, implementing eApplications and increasingly offering simplified products with streamlined underwriting or guaranteed acceptance. In many cases, for more complex products, hybrids models are implemented in which advisors are included in the digital sales process in order to leverage their expertise in building trust, alleviating frustration, and reducing confusion among customers, ultimately enhancing the success rate of D2C sales.
- Dual-licensed advisors: More and more advisors are seeking to meet more of their clients’ needs, so they become dual licensed – meaning they can sell both insurance and investments.
- Merger and acquisition activity: The trend in recent years has been for larger BGAs and MGAs to expand by acquiring smaller agencies. This is causing consolidation in the channel. There are fewer distributors and those that remain are getting larger.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than 10% of adults are insured. In this region, distributors have a clear opportunity to grow insurance penetration, mainly through the modernization of core systems and integration with digital sales and service solutions. Some constraints to modernization include restrictions on people, skills and capacity, as well as low trust in implementation partners.
In an Accelerate webinar titled Accelerating Life Insurance Modernization in Africa with OOTB Solutions, poll results indicated that the most significant challenge faced by participants was the implementation of digital solutions, closely followed by resource constraints.
In a comprehensive study of the insurance distribution landscape in Africa conducted with Cenfri, common trends observed included low trust and understanding of insurance products across African markets, struggle with inefficient processes and the lack of digitalization of internal systems.
The Direct or ‘Home Services’ approach to life insurance distribution is still very common in the Caribbean. In this model, captive agents go door-to-door selling insurance and then visit each month to collect premiums in person. It can be a valuable option for those who may have limited access to transportation or are uncomfortable discussing financial matters in an office setting.
Although digital advisor enablement tools have begun to be implemented in recent years—which reduces the amount of data entry and paper agents have to grapple with—the underlying approach has not yet changed.
As consumer expectations in the region evolve, carriers are likely going to have to offer more D2C offerings and shift towards more modern independent advisor models.
Key Life Insurance Distribution Challenges #
Both distributors and carriers face significant challenges in optimizing distribution as the channel navigates its digital transformation. Carriers deal with massive volumes of data that require processing, analysis, and action. Additionally, many workflows still involve numerous manual steps, which has resulted in the persistence of inefficient processes--like paper applications still being physically mailed to their offices. Technological gaps are evident in commission management, licensing, and activity tracking systems, which hinder the potential enhancements in customer experience.
Distributors play a pivotal role in facilitating transactions between product manufacturers and independent advisors, acting as intermediaries for placing new business with carriers. However, since they operate in an environment that has not fully digitally transformed, they lack the digital tools and processes that would form a foundation for enhancing advisor and client engagement and creating sustainable growth.
What is the new digital value proposition for distributors? #
The traditional value proposition of distributors for advisors revolved around their ability to eliminate obstacles that restrict growth, cause frustration and reduce profitability. While they already excel in providing case management support, marketing assistance, and access to carriers, there exists an untapped opportunity to enhance advisor productivity and strengthen relationships.
How do you attract and retain top advisors when the wholesaling function is no longer as valuable?
The modern value proposition for BGAs/MGAs centers around their ability to address the most critical needs of advisors, which include increasing sales, saving time, and building more efficient practices. To add value for advisors and enhance their overall experience, distributors are focusing on providing the necessary tools and solutions to tackle these challenges effectively.
To enhance their value proposition, MGAs are integrating various approaches to create a comprehensive advisor support system, often referred to as a digital agency. This requires providing advisors with a full tech stack, marketing systems, case support, and simplified processes for closing deals and receiving payments. These solutions can encompass technology offerings like Financial Needs Analysis and CRM tools, as well as non-tech support such as training and administrative assistance.
This capitalizes on the increasing importance of technology in the industry, enabling organizations with a clear vision and expertise to deliver value to their partners and clients.
Consequently, the challenges outlined below represent the obstacles BGAs/MGAs face in fulfilling their value proposition:
Legacy financial planning software #
Legacy financial planning software, while an improvement over Excel spreadsheets, is still not enough to meet the needs of modern financial advisors. These older solutions lack automation, call for numerous manual steps, lack integration with CRM and distribution systems, and require duplicate data entry. Advisors often spend hours collecting and inputting client information, and then still need to review and customize recommendations manually. This restricts advisors to generating income based on limited client-facing time.
These bottlenecks are a business risk- particularly in competitive markets where growth and establishing a unique niche are crucial. Financial advisors require more streamlined and integrated tools to optimize their efficiency and the value they offer to clients.
Lack of centralized data #
Many distributors face challenges due to their lack of automated access to essential carrier data.
Inefficient manual processes for data handling and storage can lead to significant operational problems and this hinders their ability to efficiently manage their business. This is particularly problematic when it comes to tracking and managing policy submissions.
Additionally, the absence of a centralized location for client data from various carriers creates difficulties for advisors. They are forced to invest significant time and effort into obtaining a comprehensive understanding of a client's insurance products. This involves logging into multiple carrier portals and flipping back and forth until they find the information they need.
The ideal solution involves integrating carriers' feeds, parameds, clients, policies, and other contracting and compliance systems into a single platform. This Agency Management System ensures that data is readily accessible to advisors whenever it is required.
Furthermore, a centralized data feed is important in order to accelerate underwriting processes. Technological solutions like data pre-fill, integration, text ingestion, e-signature, e-app, rules decision engines, and quick quotes can reduce errors and speed up new business.
By equipping agents with better data, simplifying applications, and providing a streamlined digital experience, insurers can facilitate faster and more accurate sales processes.
Roadblocks in new business submissions #
Agents are hitting roadblocks in the new business submission process. These roadblocks include delays in the underwriting process, as well as slow quoting, application and policy onboarding processes – all of which draw-out the sales cycles and hurt agent experiences. Additionally, unpredictable underwriting and review timelines cause for application withdrawals and pool overall experiences.
A research paper by Aite-Novarica titled, “Improving the Agent Journey: Technology Capabilities to Improve Agent Experiences at Life Insurers”, revealed a significant challenge in the new business submission process: the prolonged review and approval time for policy applications, particularly for non-guaranteed products, which can extend to a month or more. It also revealed the infrequency of real-time policy issuance. Complex policies often take several weeks to complete due to the requirement for multiple signature submissions and additional forms.
The research found that in the new business submission process, agents encounter roadblocks falling into three main categories:
- Agent Delays: Agents contribute to delays due to issues like submitting incomplete applications, needing to generate multiple illustrations or resistance to adopting new technology among experienced agents.
- Digital Delays: These delays stem from issues such as e-signature processes, tele-application submission, and the absence of real-time notifications, all of which impede the swift submission of applications.
- Process Delays: These include protracted underwriting timelines and scheduling delays for exams. While some of these delays may be unavoidable, improving transparency can help improve the agent experience.
Lack of transparency into the carrier underwriting and policy approval processes #
New business applications, as they progress from advisors to distributors to carriers, often involve too many manual steps, resulting in delayed issuance times, client frustration, and challenges for advisors. In particular, manual processes within the policy approval and underwriting workflows lead to reduced visibility and numerous inefficiencies.
Advisors are frequently left in the dark regarding the application's progress and reasons for delays, while paramedical follow-ups lack automation, relying on manual task assignment and tracking. These inefficiencies create a workflow that is uncertain, time-consuming, and frustrating.
Distributors that can address these manual process inefficiencies will likely attract the best advisors. Instead of advisors hiring more staff to cope with suffocating manual processes, distributors have an opportunity to add substantial value by offering effective solutions to eliminate these roadblocks.
The Aite-Novarica report uncovered that CIOs recognize the need for a "pizza tracker" system that displays underwriting status within the portal or sends email or text alerts at different stages of the process. However, few insurers have actually implemented such transparent tracking systems. Instead, insurers tend to use various communication channels like text, email, or phone as needed, which may lack scalability. Some insurers employ a more personal "white glove" approach to communicate with agents, although it's not as automatic, reliable, or systematic as real-time status updates.
Commission accounting complications #
Advisors often face frustrations regarding commissions, as quick and accurate payments are not consistently provided. Challenges arise when distributors and carriers do not share commission data, and distributors lack effective commission management systems. This can lead to difficulties in managing complex commission splits, reconciling expected payments with actuals, and experiencing payment errors and delays.
A study commissioned by Equisoft revealed that brokers expressed dissatisfaction with the commission process, which they saw as straining their relationships with carriers. Their concerns included noncompetitive commission programs and a lack of real-time visibility into compensation performance. Brokers found carriers' compensation plans overly complex and felt that they were neither fair nor motivating. In contrast, carriers believed their compensation plans were fair and served as effective motivation.
Results from an Equisoft-commissioned study reveal the differences in perspective between carriers and agents when it comes to commission accounting.
The study also found that while 75% of brokers use agency management systems for managing relationships with carriers and customers, only 14% of brokers have fully integrated digital commission accounting capabilities into these systems. This lack of integration leads to payment delays for advisors and a lack of transparency in commission payments.
To establish trust and enhance relationships with advisors, distributors need to implement robust systems that automate commission calculations and ensure accurate and timely payments.
Resistance to digital adoption #
The final challenge is resistance to digital adoption by agents. Many agents have been in the industry for decades and some may lack familiarity with digital tools, finding the shift from traditional, paper-based processes daunting. Concerns about job security can also play a role, as advisors worry that increased automation might replace their roles.
Advisors might hesitate due to the initial investment required, data security concerns, or simply because of general resistance to change.
Benefits of optimizing life insurance distribution #
Optimizing life insurance distribution offers numerous benefits, including improved data and process control, streamlined operations, better advisor performance, data-driven decision-making, cost reduction, faster commission payments, and enhanced compliance and risk management.
Life insurers need to simplify the agent experience in order to grow their business and attract new life insurance agents. This involves technological advancements such as core transformations, cloud adoption, and data analytics but also a strategic focus on how these technologies can better support and augment the role of agents. Key areas of emphasis include streamlining and expediting agent processes, enabling agents to provide superior customer service, and attracting and retaining a more extensive pool of agents for sales. Efforts to enhance an insurer's operational efficiency, refine policy-level underwriting and pricing, and introduce more digital insurance products are crucial in ensuring a positive customer experience, thereby strengthening relationships with agents. By bridging the gap between available technologies for agents and incorporating reporting analytics, insurers can differentiate themselves in the competitive marketplace.
Attract and retain more advisors #
Enhancing the advisor experience is key to attracting and retaining more advisors. This involves addressing their primary needs, such as increasing sales, time management, and practice efficiency. BGAs/MGAs can add value by providing tools to tackle these challenges, including technology solutions like Financial Needs Analysis and CRM tools, as well as training and administrative support. BGAs/MGAs can also leverage their network to offer access to specialized professionals like tax experts or tech support.
Automating routine customer relationship management tasks allows advisors to focus on high-value activities. Additionally, agent portals and quick-quote capabilities, along with Agency Management System (AMS) integrations and data connectivity, are central to improving agent experience and, consequently, the customer experience. This efficiency allows advisors to allocate more time to higher-value services, benefiting their A and B clients and niche-specific concerns.
Life insurers are actively striving to enhance the agent experience through several strategic initiatives. Notably, they are prioritizing speed by expediting the quoting and application processes, and they've introduced quick-quote capabilities while investing in AMS integrations and third-party data connectivity.
By prioritizing advisors' satisfaction and equipping them with cutting-edge technology and support, insurers can not only retain their existing advisors but also attract new ones, fostering a thriving ecosystem that benefits both advisors and their customers.
Streamlined commission management for advisors #
The advisor role is unusual because they don't always know what and when they will be paid, and the frustration of not having this information can hinder their performance and satisfaction. A modern Agency Management System (AMS) plays a pivotal role in effectively, efficiently, and accurately managing commission accounting and payment processes. These systems have the capability to identify discrepancies in compensation, ensure the accuracy of carrier fees and commissions, and support various commission structures, including custom compensation types. This means they can handle complex hierarchy structures and commission splits, ultimately guaranteeing that advisors receive their payments promptly and correctly.
Streamlined commission management not only keeps advisors motivated but also enhances their overall experience and productivity.
Streamlined data flow between stakeholders #
The seamless flow of data between stakeholders is essential to optimizing the channel. In ideal situations, data can move effortlessly from manufacturer systems to distributor back-offichttps://www.equisoft.com/insig...es and portals, to advisor CRM systems, financial needs analysis solutions and asset allocation tools. This smooth data flow aaccelerates sales and support processes and improves advisor and customer experience.
However, it’s important to note that insurers are only as automated as their most manual process. All partners need to optimize their processes and modernize their technology otherwise their legacy manual activities will cause disruptions along the digital workflow. Consequently, the expected growth that accompanies digital transformation investments cannot be realized.
Increased efficiency and cost-saving #
Optimizing distribution channels in the insurance industry can result in streamlined operations, cost reduction, and enhanced efficiency. Prioritizing the most effective distribution channels allows insurers to allocate resources more efficiently and cut down on unnecessary expenses.
Enhanced customer experience #
Optimized distribution significantly enhances the customer experience by adapting to the evolving preferences of consumers. Customers increasingly expect personalized, digital access to their policies at any time, quick responses to their inquiries, instant quotes and illustrations, and rapid application decisions and policy issuance.
By optimizing distribution processes, insurers and advisors can tailor their offerings and communication approaches to specific demographic segments, delivering a more personalized and responsive service that aligns with these expectations.
Access to Diverse Markets #
By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various distribution channels, insurers can identify opportunities to target markets they might not have previously considered, ultimately increasing their market presence. Optimized distribution provides a significant benefit to life insurers through cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
Cross-selling is a valuable strategy for insurers, but advisors often face challenges in executing it effectively. Many advisors lack the appropriate technology tools to streamline their cross-selling efforts. When relying on outdated methods or generic CRM solutions, advisors struggle to transform their hit-and-miss cross-selling attempts into automated, consistent, and customer-need-driven processes.
Optimized distribution addresses this challenge by providing the necessary technology and support to advisors, empowering them to engage in effective and consistent cross-selling.
Technology to Optimize Life Insurance Distribution #
The most significant growth opportunities lie with insurers that embrace a digital-first mindset and adopt the necessary tools to remain competitive. The future of life insurance distribution is driven by the integration of digital tools that enable streamlined processes and better performance for carriers, distributors, agents and consumers.
Foundational technology that make new solutions possible #
APIs, cloud adoption and SaaS models are critical components that enable the development and implementation of new tech solutions. They serve as the building blocks for the development of advanced tech solutions.
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): APIs enable various software, platforms, and databases to exchange data seamlessly. They facilitate the integration of different systems, making it easier for insurers to connect with distribution partners, streamline processes, and provide a better overall experience for customers and agents. APIs empower agents by enabling the creation of customer-facing digital experiences that can seamlessly operate across different insurers. They facilitate the integration of internal systems and data for reporting purposes, as well as the incorporation of third-party data into the overall digital experience.
- Cloud adoption: Cloud adoption provides scalability, flexibility, and accessibility. Insurers can store and access data and applications on remote servers, which reduces the need for on-premises infrastructure. This scalability and flexibility enable insurers to adapt to changing market demands, improve operational efficiency, and offer digital services to both agents and customers.
- SaaS Models: SaaS solutions help insurers stay up to date with the latest technology and improve their overall distribution processes. They offer cost-effective access to critical software tools and eliminate the need for complex in-house software development and maintenance. Insurance companies can subscribe to SaaS solutions tailored for distribution, such as agency management systems or customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
Agency management systems (Equisoft/centralize) #
An agency management system provides organizations with enhanced control over the critical data and processes that underpin their operations. They empower distributors to manage various aspects of their day-to-day operations, including carrier feeds, application processing, underwriting, paramedical examinations, commission payments, and automated follow-up activities. By offering modern and robust technology, such as the agency management portal, these systems equip BGAs/MGAs with the tools they need to streamline their distribution processes. This includes unique features that enable BGAs/MGAs to excel in the competitive landscape of financial products and services distribution, ultimately resulting in more efficient and effective distribution.
Key features of an agency management system include:
- Automated application processes
- Easier Commission Payments
- Automatic rate updates
- Automated follow-up activity
- Data Accuracy
Advisor-focused CRM tools (Equisoft/connect) #
An advisor-focused CRM system plays a pivotal role in optimizing life insurance distribution by transitioning the process from a manual, paper-based chain of steps to a streamlined and automated workflow. With the right CRM, advisors can automate compliance processes, reduce the risk of errors, take advantage of specialized tools for financial services, facilitate thorough documentation, and enable client segmentation.
eApps (Equisoft/apply) #
Leveraging digital tools, such as e-apps with pre-fill capabilities, can address insurer pain points, such as reducing incomplete applications (NIGO) and facilitating omnichannel communications to set expectations about the underwriting process. eApps are easy to use, sales-flow oriented and can facilitate policy approvals.
How to encourage advisors to adopt modern technology #
To encourage digital adoption, insurance companies offer comprehensive training, highlight the benefits of digital tools, and ensure user-friendly and secure systems. Providing a choice between digital and traditional methods can also ease the transition for advisors and clients alike.
New technology-driven approaches to improving distribution #
Generative language models #
The adoption of GenAI is no longer a luxury but a necessity for staying competitive in the digital age. As the insurance industry undergoes a transformation driven by groundbreaking technology, GenAI plays a vital role in optimizing operations, elevating the customer experience, and driving innovation.
Generative language models are revolutionizing life insurance distribution by enhancing agent capabilities, becoming a competitive necessity, streamlining processes, and enabling the delivery of highly personalized services. This synergy between human expertise and advanced AI technology is reshaping the insurance industry and driving it toward a more efficient, customer-centric, and innovative future.
Some examples of how GenAI can improve life insurance distribution include:
- Enhance Agent Capabilities: While customers value trusted advisors, GenAI acts as a valuable ally to boost agents' abilities and effectiveness. Through AI-driven insights, agents can provide exceptional customer experiences, offer more tailored solutions, and extend their services to a larger client base. Customer service chatbots can be used to free-up agents for higher-value tasks. Large language model training on an insurer’s data can assist consumers if they need help during D2C sales process, describe products and educate and make recommendations.
- Streamline Processes: GenAI is instrumental in streamlining various insurance processes, such as underwriting. By analyzing vast amounts of data, market trends, and predictive analytics, it accelerates underwriting decisions, improving efficiency and accuracy.
- Personalize Services: GenAI leverages customer data to create personalized offerings and targeted marketing campaigns. By analyzing customer preferences and behaviors, insurers can tailor their products and services to individual needs, resulting in more satisfied customers and increased sales.
Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence #
Machine learning and AI offer several avenues for improving life insurance distribution. For example, forward-thinking agencies are looking to apply machine learning algorithms to their data to evaluate client needs and identify trends. This business intelligence can predict a clients’ likelihood of buying and even what they might purchase, enabling a company to segment their client base and create offerings that precisely match the needs of the client.
Some other examples of how machine learning and AI can be used to improve life insurance distribution include:
- Predictive models: Predictive models can play a crucial role in guiding agents by suggesting the next best actions, and helping them match the appropriate product with the corresponding application.
- Customer segmentation: Machine learning and AI can be used to segment customers based on their unique characteristics and preferences, allowing insurers to tailor their marketing strategies effectively. By analyzing customer profiles, they can provide personalized policy recommendations, enhancing cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
- Automate the underwriting process and expedite policy approvals: Machine learning models can automate the underwriting process by evaluating risk factors and determining policy eligibility. This speeds up the application and approval process, reducing the time it takes to issue policies and improving the overall customer experience.
- Fraud detection: Machine learning algorithms can detect fraudulent insurance claims by analyzing historical data and identifying patterns associated with fraudulent activities
- Chatbots and virtual assistants: Chatbots and virtual assistants powered by machine learning improve customer interactions
In summary, crafting a streamlined end-to-end customer experience while retaining top advisors who can support it hinges on optimizing insurance distribution channels. However, the presence of legacy technology and outdated processes presents a considerable roadblock to this objective. These hurdles significantly affect critical processes like policy approvals, productivity management, and commission accounting, consequently impacting overall satisfaction, engagement, and retention across the industry. Recognizing the pressing need for modernization and innovation is paramount for all stakeholders, as it is the key to providing a more efficient and gratifying experience for both customers and agents. This, in turn, fosters growth and success in the ever-evolving landscape of life insurance distribution.