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It’s a widely held notion that technology in the insurance brokerage industry is behind the times.

Our industry has surprisingly few options for automating our agencies.

When you focus your technology on your customers, you can change entire models of doing business.


Pointing in the Wrong Direction

Here’s what’s wrong with today’s agency technology. Banking changed while we were idle.

By  Christopher Gagnon

[Page 4 of 5]

Choice

How does this relate to our industry? Choice doesn’t mean more vendors but, rather, a choice in innovation. Apple didn’t just provide a Windows alternative; it provided an entirely new way to connect. We need more vision, a more thorough understanding of our needs and a better way to address them in our industry.

Can our existing vendors address our need to innovate? We know they can execute on development. The real test is adjusting the vision. Even the boutique firms tend to follow the automation course we’ve been riding for decades.

Innovation is a tricky proposition. Agency system vendors clearly have a grasp on our business needs, but they must follow the industry’s lead. Are they responsible for creating new ways for brokers to serve customers? Are they even qualified?

Your Move

What’s the role of the agency principal? In many agencies, automation is defined by and delegated to the servicing teams. This is shown true at any user group event. Yes, agency principals are in attendance, but the bulk of these events are focused on servicing tasks, workflows and interface. While this level of detail should be maintained, this narrow-band focus is the greatest impediment to innovation.

From production to product lines, agency principals provide a wide-band strategic focus to their organization. This same focus is required when thinking about automation. At the end of the day, automation is customer service.

The idea that a single software vendor can provide a complete set of tools to cover all needs of all agencies is unrealistic. In addition to agency management systems, most brokers have deployed department-specific software and highly specialized systems covering everything from captive management to predictive modeling. Simply put, we require multiple solutions built by multiple firms with deep expertise in many disciplines.

Integration is complicated. In some cases, lack of integration is a conscious choice of system vendors. But, often, challenges are defined by individual engineering choices. These systems are not intentionally engineered to be compatible and thus are not. Integration requires joint development between vendors of both systems. But integration is expensive, and the cost does not directly translate into increased revenue.

Mind the Gap

Software development standards exist that ease the ability to integrate unrelated systems. Unfortunately, most software providers in our industry do not fully embrace them. For system vendors, the good of the industry is not the primary motivating factor. While agencies have expressed their displeasure, we usually acquiesce and accept the burden.

This has to change.

Our industry must pool the combined experiences of our leaders, define a business model that better serves clients, and demand systems that provide unified, collaborative placement ability with customer-focused functionality at the core of the model.

 

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