Digital transformation in insurance is well underway. The insurance distribution landscape is rapidly evolving in response to technological, regulatory and market change. Traditional agency roles, processes and strategies are being redefined and the new digital value proposition enabling distributors to provide greater value for all partners will be driven by data.
What are the challenges facing insurance distributors?
At the highest level, as distributors redefine their value proposition for a digital environment, the key question becomes how do we add the most value for our partners? A key value proposition to the advisor is to help them grow their business—providing them with the tools and systems to help them manage their practices.
To accomplish this several challenges need to be addressed:
A 360-degree view of the business is key
A distributor’s unique position in the insurance ecosystem makes it essential for them to have a panoramic view of data from all sources. Efficient management of internal processes and advisor service can only truly be optimized when all stakeholders can see what policies a client owns across all carriers.
In order to deliver on their advisor value proposition distributors need to be able to access, leverage and present data to give advisors and stakeholders transparency into all steps in the policy lifecycle. What advisors ask for is to be kept apprised of what is currently happening, and what will happen next. They frequently are in the dark about where a policy is in the approval process, why it hasn’t yet been approved, and what steps have to be taken to get to approval.
Providing a comprehensive view of prospect and client data helps advisors streamline their process and proactively manage the service aspect of their client interactions. Leveraged properly, the data provides updates on applications in underwriting, allowing advisors to manage client expectations. It gives a view into existing client holdings to uncover cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, and it enhances compliance actions such as client review meetings.
This type of data problem has been hard to solve for distributors relying on manual processes. Without an agency management system that centralizes carrier feeds and automates communication and follow-up activity assignment it is difficult and time-consuming to provide the level of transparency that digital era advisors require.
Enhanced sales and service capabilities
An evolving distributor value proposition has to address support for advisors and their clients. Effective data management in the insurance industry has been hard to achieve because much of the client data that advisors and distributors need to effectively handle service requests has been bottle-necked at the carrier level. It’s difficult to service clients in today's world if we don't know what products they hold; and distributors can’t support or manage sales if they don't know which policies have been sold.
Commission reconciliation for payment will always be slow, and the process made more difficult, without automated access to accurate commission data. Navigating the payment process with manual excel workflows and human reviews required at each step creates a drag on the efficient operations of the business.
How does data help solve those insurance agency management challenges?
Distributors are data-intensive businesses but bottlenecks in critical operations can be created when data doesn’t flow freely, either between stakeholders or internally. In some cases the 360-degree view that a digital value proposition requires is just not available.
It’s not that the data doesn’t exist. The issue is more about consolidating digital transformation goals amongst all stakeholders—finding ways to share data in real time through feeds, coupled with digital technology platforms that are API driven.
Consolidated data makes your operations more effective and efficient, but requires an important change for distributors
Accessing and centralizing critical data is important, but it begs the question, what are you doing with the data? Unfortunately, for some insurance distributors the true potential of their data isn’t being harnessed because they have continued to operate in the same ways they always have. They still manually review most cases. Core business processes have changed little over the years.
The reality is, an organization’s processes inevitably develop over the long term due to the systems they have. Workarounds are created to make processes fit the system.
New business models and systems provide the opportunity to re-think the approach to operations in order to optimize the business. That means leaving behind legacy thinking when you modernize your systems.
Distributors should ask how they can eliminate old processes like data entry or manual review. They could then shift resources to higher value work within the organization—like leveraging predictive analytics or enhancing customer experience.
How can agencies digitally transform?
Each distributor will have their own unique value proposition. Each of them must be aligned with the outcome and experience that they want the client or consumer to have. No matter how a distributor defines their value proposition, its potential can only be fully realized if it is supported by digital insurance agency management systems that centralize data through carrier feeds.
To access consolidated 360-degree views of a clients’ data, streamline all aspects of the policy lifecycle and enable enhanced communication and support for advisors, distributors need to fuel the future with rich sources of data from all stakeholders in the industry.