I had the pleasure of leading a group of agents on face-to-face visits with regional and national carriers along the east coast. The discussions were enlightening, enjoyable, and challenging. Agents and carriers have come a long way together, but still have far to go. Our journey is titled “Partnering for Efficient Workflows” and is led by agents who use one of the major agency management systems to run their agencies.
The good news: Our industry has turned the tide, and we are well on our way to conducting business together in a very efficient and automated way through the use of real-time and download interfaces that have been created based on ACORD standards. Finally, we are all on the same page in recognizing that we can differentiate our service and products in many ways, but our data can be standardized and sent among the partner systems and is able to be sent and consumed in our respective systems without the need for re-keying the data. SEMCI (Single Entry Multi Company Interface) is alive and well.
The not so good news is that our industry still needs to do a better job adopting the available technology. Studies have shown savings of millions of dollars through the use of real-time interface instead of manual login and processing on individual carrier proprietary websites, but we are still far short of our goal of 100-percent adoption. So we will continue the fight.
An exciting new development being implemented is the activity/note transaction. This provides the ability to send documents back and forth in a secure pipeline similar to download. The transaction is securely sent from a carrier to an agent and is automatically interfaced within the agency management system without the need to use email or cut/paste or print/scanning. The efficiencies and opportunities with this capability are thrilling. Not only can policy and billing documents be easily sent, but the carriers can send agents marketing and upsell/cross-sell information that is automatically placed in the client’s file for the agent to use in selling more products for the carriers.
Going forward, agents and carriers need to continue to work together to implement, communicate, and educate on the value of using the available technology, because it truly benefits the insurance distribution system. We all know that consumer expectations are increasing, and our clients expect value, professionalism and a stress-free experience. As we move together into the digital age, our electronic interfaces will enable agents and carriers together to provide a transparent interface between the agent who sells the products to the end consumer and all of the many carriers or brokers who provide the products sold for the protection of our clients and the items they care about. Truly a win-win scenario.
Angelyn Treutel, 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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