Deregulation of the financial services industry through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 has the potential to stimulate a structural transformation, but whether one-stop shopping will succeed is still uncertain.Not only is the industry struggling to achieve the customer-centered view required for one-stop shopping to work, but convergence also is stymied by process issues, such as who owns the customer, says Faith Trapp, managing director of the global insurance industry for EDS, Plano, Texas.
In the insurance industry, in particular, a lot of the customer data resides with the agent rather than with the company. And agents will share data only if it's in their best interest to do so.
The agent's role is crucial in cross-selling, says Ken Porello, leader of the North American Insurance Practice at Deloitte Consulting, New York. "Getting the agent sensitized to the opportunities to attempt the cross-sell-and to make the pitch-is critical," he says. "But how do you get an agent who is used to selling me life insurance policies to try to take me somewhere else in that relationship?"
Some agents don't even want to go there. Allstate agents, in particular, have voiced their concerns about cross-selling bank products.
In a newsletter published by the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents, Canton, Mich., agents say sales quotas for banking products are compromising their responsibility to serve their customers' best interests.
They're also worried that they'll be legally accountable if they turn clients over to the company's call center and a bank representative provides inadequate or incorrect information. Still others complain that they haven't received adequate training to effectively market banking products.
The education of agents is a challenge for the industry, Porello admits. "How do you get beyond training (agents) in a classroom for a couple of days? By the time they're in a position to cross-sell a product to a client, they've forgotten the information they need.
"My sense is that (insurers) have to think about strategies that balance traditional learning techniques with just-in-time techniques-as well as sales support at the time of transaction," he says.
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