Leaders of independent insurance agencies are facing a critical ultimatum: adapt to new technology-driven consumer preferences—and revisit your own internal operations—or be left behind.
While the insurance industry has traditionally been sleepy in this regard, 2014 marked an important shift in mainstream thinking. Not every agency is utilizing new products and platforms, but acknowledgment of their importance is increasingly widespread.
And 2015 stands to see the most dramatic shift yet in terms of technological take-up rates.
“I don’t think there’s anyone anywhere in an agency today that doesn’t know the environment has changed—that the rules of engagement have changed,” said Bruce Winterburn, vice president of industry relations with agency tech company Vertafore. “I think 2015 will continue to see the early adopters of some of this technology continue to succeed, but what is just as relevant is that it will be an excellent opportunity for other agencies to catch up.”
With technology that is more intuitive, more affordable and simply more palatable, agencies have a good chance to improve their bottom line dramatically in the New Year.
Insurance Business America
spoke to several industry leaders to pinpoint six of the most important tech trends that can help make that opportunity a reality. Today, we highlight three.
1. “Big data” is a buzzword for a reason
With more than 20 years in the insurance technology world, Peter Lynch—former president of the LexisNexis Insurance Exchange–has both witnessed and help bring about much of the tech revolution. In 2015, he anticipates one area will be more dynamic than most: the use of big data, particularly as it affects the producer-carrier relationship.
“There’s an age-old conflict between brokers and carriers. Brokers want to protect their risk and carriers want more visibility,” Lynch said. “With data more readily available to be consumed by these entities, it will be fascinating to see how big data influences the way they manage their relationships.”
Carriers have traditionally been ahead of agencies in the harnessing and use of big data to fuel business decisions, but agency software firm Applied Systems is hoping to bridge that gap with its Applied PerformanceManagement product.
The software program is designed to give agencies “data-driven business insights” including identifying cross-selling opportunities, evaluating carrier relationships and breaking down internal concerns like employee performance.
Despite the product’s relatively recent launch, CEO Reid French believes high take-up rates and interest levels reflect big data’s positive potential for independent agencies.
“This is a big, big trend that won’t happen overnight, but in the next three to five years,” French said. “Agencies and brokerages have a lot of data around customers, employees and interaction with carriers, but the industry has not done a great job creating insight from that and using it to better manage business.
“Applied PerformanceManagement has done very well, and will really begin to take off in 2015.”
Big data is so vital to success, a report from Vertafore suggests that independent agents failing to leverage their own data for marketing and risk selection purposes will miss out on a full 45% of new lines of business in 2015
2. Enhanced revenue programs will boost agencies’ lead gen
During Lynch’s time with LexisNexis, the company—in an initiative with the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers—attempted to tackle the inefficiency in back-end insurance processes like risk-matching and application delivery. While he feels that data flow between agencies and carriers is still a very fragmented process, one area of the initiative generated great interest and success—technological solutions to revenue generation.
“The reality is brokers really want help in lead generation and efficiency of revenue generation rather than efficiency of operations,” Lynch said.
Today, he’s involved with EvoSure—a commercial insurance
software developer attempting to connect underwriters and brokers in more efficient and profitable transactions. Lynch believes companies providing services like EvoSure, and the brokers that use them, will be better positioned for future success.
“This really has some opportunity for helping brokers in building their business,” he said.
3. Social media isn’t just for marketing
Winterburn believes marketing is where technological change is having its “quickest and most readily available impact”—particularly with regard to leveraging social media.
“Any agency that doesn’t have a social presence—a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile—in 2015 is far behind,” he said. “The bigger question is how to properly leverage that presence.”
As an owner of his own small town independent agency, currently run by his son, Winterburn has seen the value social marketing can bring. However, it’s critical not to think of social media platforms as traditional marketing venues.
“It’s more to do with how many people you can reach with your message,” he said. “We hardly ever advertise, but instead put a lot of helpful hints out there, or pass along tornado warnings.
“Then, all of a sudden, we start getting phone calls saying ‘Do I do business with you?’ and ‘If not, can I?’ They’ve never had anyone contact them like that before.”
Stay tuned this Thursday, when
Insurance Business America highlights three more tech insights on success in 2015!