Agents want more tech investments from carriers

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Insurance agents are aging and declining, but they still seek technology enhancements to improve online transactions with customers.

The agent market has traditionally lagged in its embrace of technology. But across all lines, producers are urging insurers to double down, says Tom Scales, research director of Celent’s Americas life and health insurance practice.

In a February report, Scales ranked 16 areas agents suggest insurers invest in based on level of importance. Surprisingly, technologies critical to insurer’s distribution and customer experience strategies were down towards the bottom, namely portals, mobile applications, and online quick quotes.

“The areas lagging behind are areas agents feel they have great access to and don’t need much improvement,” said Scales. “Admittedly, agents have never really asked for much in mobile. They are more comfortable with tech on their laptops.”

Agents are eyeing five upgrades in particular: better marketing tools to help explain complex products to customers, easier producer onbarding, and improved online policy change, application enrollment, and customer bill pay.

So far, insurers are doing a suitable job meeting agents’ expectations, Scales said. Celent’s discussions with carriers show they are making major investments in digital initiatives that are in-line with agents’ expectations.

Yet there is room for improvement, especially in life insurance.

“The life online application is complicated, but that’s not on the tech so much as it is the application being 35-pages long,” Scales says, adding the recent introduction of new tech by carriers for life, health and P&C agents to leverage should attract younger professionals to enter the aging market.

The median age of today’s insurance agent is 61 years, according to Celent’s study, which surveyed more than 300 agents. Thirty-six percent of respondents were over the age of 65.

“Historically, there has not been a lot of tech applied to the industry. That’s obviously changing,” Scales said. “Simpler products are going to go direct to consumer, leaving higher-compensated policies to health and financial advisors. That will appeal to young people as these larger policies will also have more tech involved in them.”

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