Independent insurance agents know their ability to offer policies from a variety of carriers is one of the greatest incentives for consumers to connect with them for their insurance needs.
The downside, however, is the time it takes to track down insurers that will effectively cover your clients’ risks.
Do you have a strategy for understanding which carriers have an appetite for the unique risks of your prospects and clients? Consider implementing one of the following tools to ensure you spend more time serving customers—and less navigating carrier websites.
Commercial Lines: IVANS Market Appetite
A component of IVANS Insurance Solutions, Market Appetite is what Matt Foran, president of IVANS Marketplace at Applied Systems, calls “match.com for commercial insurance.”
Using a combination of an insurer’s historical appetite with “stated appetite”—what the company says it will cover—the tool matches a client’s information with appropriate coverage offered by insurers the agency is appointed with. Plus, Market Appetite can tell an agency which insurers it has the potential to connect with.
According to Thad Bauer, vice president and general manager at IVANS Insurance Solutions, agents are missing out on 60% of potential connections. Market Appetite delivers results in a matter of seconds and is compatible with most agency management systems. “It’s a powerful tool in both who you work with and who you may want to work with,” Foran says.
Foran explains that Market Appetite helps independent agents weed through 400-plus insurance markets. “Carriers decline roughly 60-70% of submissions,” he says. “One of the reasons is the wrong risks are showing up at their doorstep. Our platform sets out to more effectively route risks between agents and underwriters.”
Amanda Sasser, commercial marketing and automation specialist at Watkins Insurance Group in Austin, Texas, says Market Appetite has done just that for her agency. “Agents in commercial lines waste a huge amount of time just searching for the right company to send applications to,” she points out. “Many times, that leads to us sending the application to every company we have. Market Appetite eliminates the need to save success lists, or have folders for each carrier in your inbox.”
So far, IVANS Insurance Solutions connects more than 420 carriers and MGAs with 30,000 agents. “In this industry, there’s so much paper being passed around,” Bauer says. “When you think about those interactions at a time of technological availability, it makes you cringe because there are so many efficient ways to handle business.”
Personal Lines: Vertafore PL Rating
For about 20 years, Vertafore’s PL Rating comparative rater software—which, like Market Appetite, is compatible with most agency management systems—has streamlined the quoting process for personal lines independent agents using third-party data integration.
“Comparative raters are meant for agents to only enter data once,” explains David Bevan, director of project management. “We’re trying to move beyond that into areas where they don’t have to enter data at all.”
For example, about a year ago, PL Rating debuted its Incident Prefill function, which provides a client’s driving violation history based on court records. The Solutions at Quote feature identifies drivers and vehicles in a given household after an agent enters only the client’s name and address. Another more recent offering includes automatic flood quoting with homeowners policies. And if a client declines, PL Rating saves a signed waiver as backup for any potential E&O claims.
Asking clients fewer questions while keying in less information is a “huge time saver,” says Craig Kutchmanich, personal lines agent for Gerald Price Insurance Agency in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. “It has made our agency more efficient, so we can focus on other tasks while still being able to take that new business call.”
Instead of sticking to the same carriers, Kutchmanich uses the tool to expand the companies he works with. “There have been plenty of times where I’m surprised,” he says. “You go into it with preconceived notions of the carrier you think the client will end up with, and when you find a quote you didn’t anticipate, you get to know that carrier’s appetite a little better.”
Bevan notes that PL Rating is as “essential in an agent’s toolkit” for renewals as it is for new business. “If an existing client wants to find a better opportunity to place their risk after six months, the agent is able to send existing information from the agency management system back into PL Rating to requote the policy,” he explains.
Specialty Markets: Big ‘I’ Markets
Available exclusively for Big “I” members, Big “I” Markets offers both commercial and personal lines specialty products from an array of insurance providers—at no cost.
Aimee Fawns, director of Big “I” Markets, says the program began in 2001 when many member agents didn’t have access to products for community banks, bonds and more. Today, the program assists many agents who may have standard appointments for auto and homeowners, but also need to cover less common markets like fine art, jewelry and special events.
For example, “the bond product on Big “I” Markets offers E&O protection for the members who aren’t as experienced in placing bonds,” Fawns explains. “Our provider gives the member agent the choice to work with our member or to work directly with the insured. Either way, the agent gets the same commission.”
According to Fawns, the biggest benefit of Big “I” Markets is that every product starts in the same place. After logging in, the home screen lists only products available in that agent’s state. When they select a product, they land on an underwriting page where they can request a quote. “All previous clients are saved in a record on the website,” Fawns points out. “Whether it’s an existing client or a new one, everything is all in the same place.”
Phyllis Turner, a commercial lines agent for Turner & Assoc. in Kansas City, Missouri, appreciates the program’s efficient communication. “I’ve been doing commercial insurance for more than 40 years, so I know a little bit about everything, but I’m not a master of anything,” she explains. “When I submit something and I get an immediate response, that’s good. When I ask questions, like where we are with a quote, someone gets back to me. And that’s all I’ve ever asked.”
Jordan Reabold is IA assistant editor.