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How MGAs & Coverholders Can Leverage Technology as a Differentiator

Meeting the demands of market by launching new programs or through innovative changes to existing ones have become top priorities for MGAs. Growth-oriented and market-share oriented initiatives must streamline, automate and accelerate product development to meet producer and policyholder demands. 

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With digital business and mobility demands increasing in the marketplace, current generation systems deployed by MGAs have become insufficient for meeting agent and operational demands. Agents and brokers desire the ability to capture information once, on any device. Internally, underwriters need a faster, more effective way to rate, quote and bind policies.

Assembling these capabilities can often take significant time – which results in opportunity cost, lost market share or both!

This article is written for program administrators and for other market players that have a specialty book of business, and are considering their automation options to launch the new program or upgrade an existing one.

 

Agency Management Systems

Agency systems are a key imperative and there are plenty of robust and proven agency systems available to MGAs. Leading agency systems will provide you an integrated policy, accounting, claims, and document management system with automated business process workflows, and a host of related features that are designed to make you productive.

What’s most important for you to know today is if the agency management system you are evaluating has a robust web services or well defined APIs. Today, agents, customers and employees – expect to conduct business anytime, anywhere and from any device.

So if an agent wishes to access policy information, your agency management system should be able to expose the data via APIs or web services to – in this instance – your agent portal. This is extremely important because the number and nature of distribution channels is changing rapidly. Today, MGAs can distribute via retail agencies, wholesalers, brokers – the traditional channels – but new ones are emerging rapidly, including digital agencies (e.g. Insureon) and wholesale agencies (e.g. Insurance Noodle).

 

Rating Engine

Another key component for automation is rating. There are many different ways to accomplish rating – the most common being using spreadsheets, online rating or building custom rating engines. Further, you may have developed the rating parameters as a proprietary system using historical loss data or you may consider using a bureau such as ISO, NCCI, AAIS or others.

Regardless of your rating parameters, you should consider a rating engine that supports the bureaus such as ISO, NCCI, AAIS and others, as well as custom rating options. This can give you options if you want to modify the program or launch adjacent coverages.

Another parameter to consider is the ability to enable online rating. As discussed earlier, the competitive landscape necessitates such an option. Even if you write mid-market or large accounts, you must consider enabling online rating to ensure you keep your options open for the low premium, high volume business you may want to write in the future.

Finally, when considering rating engines with support for ISO & NCCI, be sure to inquire if they support ISO Electronic Rating Content – an offering from ISO that allows vended rating engine to consume ISO advisory loss costs, algorithms, rules that govern which forms to attach – electronically. This provides significant speed to market with both – launching new programs – and also keeping them up to date with ISO & NCCI changes and importantly, avail of ISO content “interpreted by ISO” rather than manual interpretations by vendor staff.

 

Digital Engagement (Agent Portal)

Agents, brokers and even customers, today, have heightened expectations of how they want to engage with their insurers. MGAs and coverholders require to meet these expectations or be prepared to have the business be placed with someone who does. Nearly a third of the agent and broker workforce today comprises of digital natives – millennials and Gen X – who expect that insurance products are available to them in any channel or device and that they provide a truly omni-channel experience – that is seamless across devices and channels.

For example, an agent may be at the point of sale capturing details about a business, and may seek to submit directly to the MGA of choice or convenience. Or the agent may seek to email an ACORD application and may choose to place the business with those who turnaround a quote faster than others. The agency’s employees must then have ready access to the submission without having to rekey the data – and today’s technologies easily allow extracting the data from ACORD submissions into electronic forms that can prefill the rate-quote-bind systems for faster turnaround of quotes. Agent portals or in the case of the modern MGA – digital engagement systems – are a key component of the MGAs’ technology arsenal.

 

When selecting an agent portal, be sure to inquire:

  • If they can support multiple channels and their unique preferences – (i) retail agents, digital agencies, online wholesalers, affinity groups such as associations, (ii) CSRs that support high volume low premium business and (iii) customers for those classes of business that can directly be sold to end customers (small businesses and individuals).
  • That the portal supports all devices – mobile, tablet and desktops, while presenting the experience best suited for that device.
  • If you will be able to build a rich intuitive guided experience for your users. Users expect to be guided through the rate-quote-bind process – such that marketing content, and related information associated with insurance concepts can be surfaced during the process and not be available in a separate static website with brochures. They may want to check appetite upfront, understand what coverages are ideal for a risk type, get recommendations for coverages and limits, and so on.
  • That they support the automatic preparation of quotes and sending these quotes electronically in the channel they want, with a mechanism for them to share with their customer to electronically sign a proposal.

 

Conclusion

The technology landscape is rapidly evolving and the expectations of agents, customers and employees are increasing. There are numerous new technology capabilities available today – but that is just the tip of the iceberg and many new capabilities are becoming available imminently. How MGAs develop, market, distribute and service their programs or products has already undergone a significant evolution with a faster pace of change emerging on the horizon. Carefully assembling your technology capabilities with a focus on speed to market, is key to success today and in the future.

Originally published in the CHART Exchange digital magazine, April - May, 2017


 

Click below to view the on-demand webinar: Delivering A Superior Agent Experience with Agent Portals to gain insights into how Agent Portals can provide the foundation for a unified experience that helps drive sales success and growth. In the webinar, Matthew Josefowicz of Novarica shares. trends, survey data and perspectives on how carriers can deliver effective agent experiences to derive a competitive advantage. The other panelists were: Peggy Bresnick Kendler of Insurance & Technology and James Carlucci of ValueMomentum.

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