Progressive Insurance now is rolling out an automated download functionality intended to save agencies and agents time and effort every day, the company says. Progressive’s Automatic Direct Download, an exclusive capability created through a partnership with Vertafore, an insurance software manufacturer, enables agents to receive a daily automatic update to their books of business via a new direct connection between Progressive and Vertafore’s data centers.
The AMS360 agency management application contains customer policy information, and with the automatic download, agents will have access to the most accurate and complete information regarding their customers, explains Jim DeVito, business leader of agency systems and control at Progressive Insurance.
“I had this idea quite a few years ago; there are a lot of steps involved for agents to get this updated data, and I thought there’s got to be a simpler way,” DeVito says. “As technology has evolved, it was just a matter of finding the right motivated partner, getting together and figuring out our technology roadmaps. I think that was kind of the breakthrough point.”
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Vertafore seeks out carriers that are looking to improve workflow for users, explains Mark Craig, SVP, product management at Vertafore. As a large carrier, Progressive has a lot of market share, and there is significant crossover and overlap between Vertafore users and the agencies appointed by Progressive, he says. So, it made sense to work on a technical solution to eliminate those steps and provide a better experience for Vertafore users and Progressive’s agencies. ”Progressive was the first one to take it; we have an arrangement keep it exclusive for a period of time, but we’ve written it in such a way that it could be used in other scenarios as well.”
During the daily automated download, policy data is passed between Progressive and Vertafore, with all the appropriate securities and identifiers, and then to the agents, via a web service call, DeVito explains. Previously, Progressive offered the download through an FTP protocol.
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“This makes it easier for our agents, and we pride ourselves on ease of use as a key differentiator and selling point in our commitment to the independent agent channel,” DeVito says. “Progressive continues to be an innovator, and this is a great example of finding a partner who also is committed to innovating and delivering a solution.”
Typically, the industry approach to agency download has been to connect and download through IVANS, a middleware application from IVANS Insurance Solutions that acts as a data connection between carriers and other third party systems, Craig explains. In addition to offering connectivity through IVANS, Progressive offered a proprietary downloader, that DeVito describes as a fat client. “If they have a network management system, they would have to download each night. We recently modernized that as well to make it a simple thin client for all those agencies out there that are not AMS360 users.”
The project took a year, and Vertafore had five to 10 people on the project at various times, Craig says, working in the Vertafore data center and on application changes. “There are different people playing different roles; you’ve got the AMS360 engineers and product manager as well as data operations and quality assurance people.”
Progressive has a similar number of people on the project, DeVito says, plus the team that created the business, technology and architecture requirements, before the coding began. “We had a fair amount of involvement from the business folks to make sure we stayed on track,” DeVito says.
Among the many benefits to Progressive is that the new system enables the company to continue retiring old technologies, DeVito says, which while helping the insurer contain costs, ultimately benefits agents. “I know intuitively, and through long years of having consistent growth in the independent agent channel delivering these technologies, that those two are highly correlated, but it’s hard to always put that in an explicit cost benefit model.”
Craig says Vertafore is taking projects off Progressive’s to-do list and helping improve workflow inside the insurer, as well as for the agencies it works with. “We helped improve daily tasks by eliminating the steps that they used to perform. Any time we have the opportunity to actually do something like that, especially when it involves modern technology, we should really be jumping at it,” he says.
Given the opportunity to replicate the project, DeVito says he would spend more time up front working with the project teams to define the execution roadmap. ”Not having had experience working across the aisle [with Vertafore], I probably thought it would be easier than was. Different companies talk different languages and have different processes; and it probably took us a little longer to get traction than we would have liked. So that was more about execution, not strategy. We have no regrets at all.”
“All agents can benefit from download technology upgrades," DeVito says. "For AMS 360 users, this new direct integration is great and can save agencies quite a bit of time and is a seamless workflow. Separately, with the modernization of our proprietary thin client Downloader web-service, non-360 users also now have a better option than before. Look for ongoing innovation in this space.”
Progressive agents will click a link and sign up to receive the automated download, Craig says. “It downloads automatically every day, and those agents can then just be deployed to other value-added tasks.”
“Some of the early adopters say it’s a breath of fresh air,” DeVito says. ”Once they’ve done that initial sign up, the data is all there, where it’s supposed to be, every morning. They are free to do other things, and that’s simple. That’s what we want. I hate to say my goal is to be invisible, but the less friction the better. Those agencies that recognize that productivity can be enhanced through the right technologies see it as a big win. And I’m thrilled about that,” and the rollout is progressing but not yet complete, DeVito says.
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