Insurers need to make an historic shift toward agile distribution and away from linear distribution models, according to “Distribution Management Portal Insights,” a new survey from Strategy Meets Action.

More than three-fourths of insurers surveyed said they already offer agent/broker portals with access to forms and billing/policy inquiries; slightly fewer insurers offer proposal generation, payments, claims inquiry, news and alerts, and quote/new business transactions. Nevertheless, a large portion of those surveyed said they plan to add several more capabilities in the next three years, including communication functions (58 percent), licensing (55 percent), social media (53 percent), information on books of business performance (47 percent) and FNOL (45 percent).

While insurers are in a state of transition now, SMA said, the goal for the future should be distribution management capabilities that encompass direct service portals, agency sales and service portals, with structured and unstructured data being collected on all transactions. The key to achieving this, according to SMA, is powerful enterprise-portal-technology platforms.

“[C]ommunications are multifaceted, nonlinear, and unpredictable. Individuals communicate via various types of devices, often reaching out to many people at once, disregarding the sequential processes of yesterday. There is a need for all services and all devices to operate seamlessly in an any-to-any mode,” SMA said in the report.

This requires accommodations for a variety of sales and service channels spread across a number of different forms of communication and devices.

“Data and information will be exchanged between any and all parties involved; interactions will take place between any and all parties involved,” the report said. This will require an infrastructure to support agile transactions of data and sales, which comes from an enterprise portal technology platform powerful enough to provide “real-time, any-time connectivity that results in favorable experiences for

prospects, policyholders, distribution partners, and others, no matter what interface they choose, regardless of where, when, and how they elect to interact with either the company or an agent,” according to SMA.

SMA said the sooner and more effectively this is achieved, the greater the competitive advantage there is to be gained among insurers.

Portals must be thought of in a broader, more holistic view, and as an important element of an overall strategy, SMA said, as opposed to the rigid, tactical applications they have been used for in the past.

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