Independent agents want more digital connectivity with their insurer partners and insurers are responding, acknowledging the time savings and ease of doing business.
Technology has transformed both our personal lives and the commercial sector. For example, servers at a restaurant use point-of-sales systems to place orders faster and with better accuracy. The question is: Why has the insurance industry been such a laggard?
Fortunately, the slow-to-change ways of the insurance industry are fading away. Industry professionals agree on the importance of connectivity and automation, according to the IVANS 2021 Connectivity Survey, completed by 1,700 agents, insurers and managing general agents. More than 80% of agents ranked insurer connectivity as important or very important. In addition, nearly 85% of agents said they place more business with connected insurers.
Independent agents have spoken—they want more digital connectivity with their insurer partners. And insurers are responding, acknowledging the time savings and ease of doing business for all stakeholders.
Here are a few takeaways on the state of digital connectivity among agents and insurers from the IVANS 2021 Connectivity Survey:
1) Agents spend too much time searching for markets. Sixty-nine percent of agencies say they can't win an opportunity because of difficulty accessing a market that will quote the risk.
Insurers and agents must both adopt market appetite tools. When carriers communicate their appetite and eligibility to agents more effectively, agents can provide a better customer experience by finding the right coverage at the right price. Agents also benefit by using appetite tools integrated with their agency management systems. In fact, agents using appetite tools integrated with their management systems spend 15 minutes or less searching for appetite, versus 30 minutes on average for agents who didn't.
2) Agents don't want to use insurer portals to provide quotes. Agents are notoriously bogged down with excessive data entry tasks and manual processes. This might be a critical reason why more than half of surveyed agents said that quoting from insurer portals is not their preferred method to quote. Instead, they prefer to begin within their agency management system or use a comparative rater.
Insurers are listening. In fact, today's disconnected quoting and submission workflows are also challenging insurers, with more than 50% saying they spend too much time on administrative and data entry tasks to process submissions.
The good news is that digital transformation is already occurring in commercial lines quoting and submissions. Thirty percent of insurers currently process submissions using application programming interfaces (APIs)—that's up 5% year over year—and 33% of insurers plan to invest in commercial lines submission technology within the next year. Agents should ensure they have the tools to digitally submit new and renewal business to these insurers.
3) Agents using download are seeing huge benefits. The majority of agents are using download, which is good because download saves agents on average of 2.2 hours per day, decreases errors easily caused by manual data entry, and reduces cost spent on printing and mailing paperwork.
While most agencies use download—74% use claims download and 78% use eDocs and Messages Download—a quarter of insurers still say their agents don't want eDocs and Messages Download. This discrepancy shows how important it is for agents to communicate their desires to their partners.
Technology is transforming the industry for the better, creating greater productivity and business opportunities for all stakeholders. Commercial lines, in particular, are making headway into digital transformation and we expect it to continue to evolve to incorporate more automation and fewer manual processes like personal lines.
It is imperative that all stakeholders, including agents, insurers, MGAs and technology companies, constantly evolve to meet the new and existing needs of their partners and continue to connect the digital ecosystem of insurance.
Reid Holzworth is CEO of IVANS. Read IVANS' full study to gain more insights into the current state of agency-insurer connectivity.