“Mobile” was the buzzword at an executive conference held by the American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS) this week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., as speakers reinforced the need for property/casualty insurers to use mobile technology to engage and retain customers who have grown up knowing only a digital world.

The AAIS Main Event is an executive conference held by AAIS, a national advisory organization that develops standardized policy forms and rating information used by more than 700 P&C companies throughout the United States.

Jamie Bisker, IBM’s global non-life segment manager, opened the conference by telling attendees that commerce today is divided between "digital natives" and "digital immigrants." The former are those who have grown up surrounded by Web-based connectivity; the latter have had to learn how to use consumer technology and apply it to business purposes, he said.

"You think about technology differently when you were born into it," Bisker said. "Digital natives expect things to work easily, and they'll drop you quickly if your applications don't."

P&C insurers are implementing applications of mobile technology, according to Martina Conlon, a principal in the insurance practice of the research firm Novarica. Conlon told the group that nearly half the P&C executives surveyed by Novarica believe business conducted through "smartphones" and related devices was having a strong positive impact on their operations. Conlon noted that banks, airlines, hotels and other service providers are raising the bar for insurers.

As a result, P&C insurers are held to providing more information and functionality on their mobile "apps" than they have previously provided online, confirmed members of a panel of experts on the topic.

In the mobile world, it's all about the customer experience," said Frank Petersmark, CIO advocate for the software consulting X by 2. "You need to build your brand among the millennials, and let this emerging demographic know you're there."

Whatever you do as a carrier, keep in mind that independent agents are ready to partner with you, said Jeff Yates, executive director of the Agents Council for Technology.

"Most successful carriers have agent councils," Yates said. "What we're interested in, from the agency standpoint, is to be able to authenticate users on the agency side, connect them directly to carriers, and allow for secure transactions."

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