How COVID-19 is pushing insurance brokerages into the cloud

"It's helping our customers become more resilient," says tech leader

How COVID-19 is pushing insurance brokerages into the cloud


By Alicja Grzadkowska

In the time of coronavirus, digital tools have become critical to allowing insurance brokers to continue providing their essential services to insureds. The five weeks of government-mandated shutdowns so far have been particularly important for one provider of these digital tools.

“Where we’ve been focused on helping our customers is getting them through that initial phase of people having to work from home,” said Michael Howe (pictured), senior vice president of product management for Applied Systems. “Our customers had to adapt and change their own business to be able to continue to serve their customers.”

For insurance brokerages hoping to maintain business continuity during this time – and do so smoothly – the cloud has been an especially important technology that they’ve had to rely on. Some of Applied’s customers run their systems on their own computers and systems inside of their businesses. A challenge with that type of setup is that if all of their employees one day suddenly have to wake up and work somewhere else, such as in the current scenario, it can make accessing those systems difficult because people aren’t in the office and they don’t have access to their everyday computers.

While 69% of insurance agencies and brokerages already host their software in the cloud, according to the 2019 Applied Digital Agency Annual Report, the coronavirus has pushed those Applied customers that weren’t taking advantage of this feature to move their systems that way. A key benefit of the cloud is that agents and brokers don’t need to worry about accessing their systems and all of the information they need to do their job since the cloud allows for that access from anywhere, even if computers are locked up in an office.

“All of the same security protocols are in place, but the point is to make the systems more accessible for people wherever they are. That’s a huge element of business continuity because the nature of the products that customers run from Applied are so mission critical to their business that it really brings their business to pretty much a standstill if they don’t have access to basic information about their customers, what policies are enforced, etc.,” said Howe.

At the same time, the transition to the cloud opens up the doors for brokerages in a post-coronavirus future. Working remotely and promoting social distancing measures will be the new normal, at least for a period of time, and in this context Applied can offer customers cloud-based tools and capabilities so that insurance businesses can continue their services and support their customers, now and down the road.

“That means working with digital tools that aren’t so reliant on physical papers and scanning and all the things that you might do from a typical day to day perspective in the office,” Howe told Insurance Business. “There is an awakening around digital tools for many … and what it’s doing is it’s forcing people to think about ‘how should my business operate in this environment and what kinds of tools and capabilities do I need to be able to operate?’ It’s helping our customers become more resilient and be able to continue to operate in ways that they never thought they would have to and the digital tools that they’re employing are really central and fundamental to that.”

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