Going digital has been at the top of most companies’ priorities for 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic has upended business-as-usual – and that includes brokerages and agencies, who had to adapt quickly to the new remote working environment.
That’s why the overlying theme at this year’s Applied Net conference, which brought together insurance agents, brokers and industry experts from around the world, was how to move forward on this digital path.
“We all understand and know that this can be one of those digital inflection points,” said Taylor Rhodes (pictured), chief executive officer at Applied Systems. “When COVID hit, many companies commented how much more easily they were able to send everybody home to work than they might have imagined … but I will say that in the independent agency [space], that wasn’t universally true.”
In fact, many of Applied’s customers still had more traditional processes in place that were not fully online, such as receiving cheques in the mail, doing business by fax, and not having a customer portal in place or other simple online ways to interact with clientele. Agencies and brokerages have not been alone in this – some of Applied’s carrier partners have had similar roadblocks.
As a result, what Rhodes and the Applied leadership team hope happens is a turnaround similar to the one seen after the 2008-09 global financial crisis, which gave birth to cloud computing. For the insurance industry, 2020 could likewise lead to an unparalleled speed of innovation, where old business models are reinvented and new business models are introduced.
“That was the moment in time when necessity became the mother of invention, and you saw a lot of economic devastation, but what you really saw was that people who needed to shed costs figured out that building their business models digitally in the cloud was a lot more flexible,” explained Rhodes, adding that what insurance companies should be asking themselves now is, “What can we learn this time as we go through a bigger magnitude crisis, and potentially longer magnitude crisis, with COVID?”
He continued: “We think the answer is, don’t let a crisis go by – take advantage of it. This is the opportunity for the industry to come together and start to get serious about the broken processes, the poor customer experiences, the lack of access to data and analytics that can help you make better business decisions … It’s time for the independent agency channel and the carrier market to catch up [because] other industries used the last inflection better than insurance did.”
Applied is already introducing new ways of doing business that have become especially useful during the current crisis. The company previewed its technology stack modernization, and is focusing on openness, velocity, and customer experiences as the three key themes for how it will develop products going forward. Applied will also continue to make its Epic agency management system better for agents and brokers to use in the back office.
At the same time, Applied has launched frontend products, including Applied Marketing Automation, which allows users to implement and track campaigns, and run sophisticated marketing efforts with relevant content for P&C and benefits prospects, and Epic for Salesforce, which utilizes the TechCanary capabilities and seamlessly integrates them with Epic, noted Rhodes.
Finally, data and analytics has been top of mind for Applied this year, as it has been for the insurance industry more broadly.
“I can’t talk to an agency leader or a carrier leader today without them saying, ‘the top-five list for us always includes how do we make better use of data, how do we get smarter, and how do we have better insights,’” said Rhodes. “Our job is to bring the distribution channel and the carriers closer together through data and analytics, so that people can sell, market and service more efficiently and more profitably together.”