Ever wish you could access all carrier websites and agency platforms with one single login? Good news: Thanks to the ID Federation’s SignOn Once initiative, that could be a reality within a year or two.
A non-profit cooperative effort enacted by insurance carriers, technology providers, agents and brokers and associations, ID Federation recently announced the launch of a new technology that allows agents and brokers to use just one password for all their participating agency management and carrier systems.
“There’s been a gap in addressing the issue that agencies have in keeping track of all these passwords,” says Teresa Addy, business technology analyst at EMC Insurance Companies and one of two primary carrier representatives leading project management for SignOn Once. “It affects agent productivity and the security they’re looking for, as well as the security the carrier is looking for.”
What It Is
Between constant password expirations, unwieldy spreadsheets containing login information and the practice of leaving carrier portals open all day in order to ensure access, current password practice is “almost like Russian roulette,” says Doug Johnston, vice president of Applied Systems, Inc. and a vendor representative implementing the initiative.
SignOn Once is designed to change all that. “The person logs into the agency system in the morning and they’re automatically logged in anywhere else they need to go in the insurance industry, without having to worry about password failures,” Johnston explains. “The only thing they have to do is maintain their password in their primary system of choice.”
Although a variety of companies have tried to solve the problem in the past, “this is the thing that’s going to stick,” says Nellie Massoni, senior product manager for connectivity at Vertafore and another vendor representative implementing the initiative. “It’s based on industry security standards for the world, and it’s seamless for an agency as long as they have an identity provider that’s certified. It’s also easy for the carriers, because the ID Federation has done all the heavy lifting.”
That includes nailing down the technical specifications—“how you create identity, how you communicate identity and how you authenticate it,” Johnson says—and legal guidelines, all of which the ID Federation has already secured in version 1.0 of SignOn Once. “When you sign up for ID Federation, it’s totally spelled out—the roles, the relationships, the responsibilities,” Johnston explains.
“Nobody wants to take automation that’s homegrown,” Addy adds. “We want to make sure everyone understands this is an industry standard and the trust framework is an agreement derived from all facets of the industry.”
How it Works
Each agency user receives a unique identity token based on distinct credentials for that person, which is then authenticated and passed between technology providers and carrier systems. Once set up, the process is transparent to the agency user—and beyond agency and workflow management, it offers other benefits.
“The one person we keep forgetting about in this industry is the agency’s customers,” Johnston says. “If you’ve been with an independent agency for 20 years and you have policies with four different companies, what do you do if you have insurance questions at 11 p.m.?”
SignOn Once will address this by making policyholders part of the authentication process, which means agencies will be able to host customer service centers for their clients to log into 24 hours a day—allowing them to click a button on the agency’s website and be dropped directly to the carrier website.
“As an industry, we really need to start including the customers of the independent agency as a constituent in all our thought processes,” Johnston says. “We don’t want to lose them to other markets that allow for easier 24-hour service. ID Federation isn’t just for making agency personnel’s lives easier—it’s for anybody that interacts with the independent agency channel.”
From a data security standpoint, SignOn Once is designed to address a host of problems, as well. Aside from eliminating the sticky notes and spreadsheets, which leave big gaps in data security if someone were to ever steal a password, SignOn Once will make it so that you never have to remove a past employee from dozens of carrier accounts ever again.
“It takes agents so long to deactivate a user who leaves the agency because they have to log into so many accounts turning that user off,” Addy says. “Now when someone leaves, you just deactivate that person within the management system, and he or she can no longer access any other system—it’s a single entry point.”
So how can independent insurance agents get involved? By spreading the word among carriers and vendors. Massoni notes that the group has developed an informational brochure to share with industry partners, and Addy suggests directing them to the ID Federation website (signononce.com), where they can download the trust framework and participation agreements so they can get them in front of their legal and IT departments.
“If it’s just three or four agency management solution providers and seven or eight insurance companies, we fail,” Johnston says. “Even if we get to 100 insurance companies, we fail. We’ve got to be at 90% or higher.”
ID Federation expects to spend 2014 raising awareness and getting people on board. Although Massoni notes at least two carriers should be ready to go before the end of the year, 2015 is when the group anticipates more widespread implementation to begin.
“We have to get out of the password management business and into the writing insurance business,” Massoni says. “This is game-changing stuff.”
Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.