Not only are InsurTechs dying to work with the independent insurance agency distribution channel, agents, spurred on by growing technology adoption, are taking the bull by the horns.
Despite record investment and frenzied mergers & acquisitions activity, InsurTech is failing to meet the expectations of consumers and independent agents. The fear that technology would replace agents seems very 2010. And now, the tables have been turned.
As the pandemic accelerated technology use in both businesses and at home, would it tip the scales and finally make independent agents insignificant? No, it didn't—in fact, it has had the opposite effect. Not only are technology companies dying to work with the independent agency distribution channel, agents, spurred on by growing technology adoption, are taking matters into their own hands and coming together to devise strategies to improve relationships with stakeholders, enhance existing technology and nurture innovation.
Across the country, independent agents, insurance companies and InsurTechs are meeting to discuss how to correct the inefficiencies that have plagued agents for decades and capitalize on the opportunities they would create.
“Workgroups and mastermind groups offer a safe space for people from all parts of the industry to collaborate, discuss best practices, share learnings and offer insights about additional ideas that may be on others' minds," says Chris Cline, executive director of the Big “I" Agents Council for Technology (ACT).
With ACT's workgroup model, agencies, carriers and tech providers come together to discuss technology-based issues and opportunities facing the industry.
“People who may even be direct competitors come with the greater good in mind to offer learnings and help build tools to help agencies leverage technology to enable their individual strategies," Cline adds.
The spirit of camaraderie and togetherness is also alive and well among users of the most popular management systems, such as those hosted by Applied Systems, Vertafore and Hawksoft. Each company hosts a user group to support its users with common issues and, most importantly, listen to issues and implement changes that agents want and need.
This voice is potentially loudest in a new InsurTech accelerator initiative called 101 Weston Labs, started by the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina (IIANC). The project will operate like any other technology or business incubator and will support startup InsurTechs and get them ready for investment.
Crucially, as the seeds of independent agency technology solutions are sewn, the incubator will open up the startups to the inner workings of independent agencies and receive feedback that will make them more successful.
In these groups, agents provide the user perspective, which can help InsurTechs enhance their user interface and experience. This insight “helps better develop and scale innovative solutions that empower the agents to both be more productive and provide a better customer experience to their insureds," says Aubie Knight, CEO of IIANC.
When independent agents are asked for feedback, it “helps the agency channel in that it provides agents early access to new technologies, which should drive higher agency adoption rates earlier in tech cycles," Knight adds. “This can only strengthen the agents' competitive position."
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.