It seems like only yesterday when agents and carriers came together to devise ways to streamline data exchanges. The days of a rating manual in an agent’s office would be gone forever, and agents would be able to have a standardized way to communicate with multiple carriers. The use of ACORD standards and electronic interfaces was supposed to catapult our industry into the digital age. But alas, I have been in the industry for 17 years, and the data discussion is still ongoing. We still have a long way to go.
So I will focus on the good news — together as an industry, we now can securely transmit confidential documents between carriers and agents through the implementation of activity-notes transactions, which batch large documents together and are automatically attached to the appropriate client in the agency system. Claims information download from the carrier ensures that agents have critical updates to a client’s claim status, the agent can upload first notice of loss and, together, the carrier and agent can better serve our mutual clients.
In addition, policy information can be securely downloaded from the carrier to agency systems for almost every policy type. Agents have real-time rating upload capability now for both personal and commercial lines. This is very helpful for agents because the thousands of pieces of information on a risk application do not have to be retyped into individual carrier website raters. With real-time rating, the information already residing in the agency system is electronically copied into the carrier system, which saves time, energy and reduces errors.
As an industry, we also now have electronic signature capability, and we have greatly improved the seemingly impossible task of having to remember hundreds of different login IDs and passwords for myriad websites agents must access every day to do our jobs. Most carriers have reduced the complexity of password authentication, and have extended the duration that a password can exist before requiring a change. Even better, many carriers never require a password change for transactions that are securely transmitted from an agency management system. Yes, we have come a long way.
So what keeps our industry from getting our act together like, say, the banking industry? Why do we continue to build walls instead of bridges between agents and carriers and, even worse, build walls that block our mutual clients from being able to conduct business electronically with us? Some carriers have now opened a path for clients to log directly into their proprietary websites. This is a show stopper because agents who represent multiple carriers are the central repository for a consumer’s data in the same way that a bank needs to host the consumer-facing virtual storefront for a customer who has multiple accounts. So, let’s work together and build these bridges. Let's take that next step on the long road to streamlining the exchange of data.
Angelyn Treutel Zeringue, CPA, is president of Southgroup Insurance Gulf Coast and the chair of ASCnet's Industry Solutions Industry Initiatives Committee and the past-chair of the IIABA Agents Council for Technology.
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