At the ACORD/LOMA forum, I sat down with Agencyport co-CEO Steve Hauck for a conversation on the continuing debate over what the optimal workflow for insurance agents should be. He offered a take I didn't quite expect. Read on:
Insurance & Technology: There's been a lot of discussion and competing research over whether agents prefer to write business through their agency management systems (AMSes) or through company portals. What have you seen?
Steve Hauck: Ideally, agents would like to work out of their management system either initiating or facilitating transactions. While this might be the best industry solution and best for agents (SEMCI), vendors and carriers within the chain of the transaction make this utopian vision difficult to take hold. Agency management system vendors aren’t innovating to optimize the movement of data or the user experience external to their systems. On the other side of the chasm, carriers and vendors continue to invest in making carriers proprietary distribution strategies the easiest way to do business. Relative to commercial lines, we sit with an agent to determine the fastest way to get business done and they say they like going to a carrier portal to get a quick quote or quick eligibility because it’s faster than booting up the export function of their management system.
I&T: Interesting, as I'm sure most people would assume from your company name that you're squarely on the portal side.
SH: One feature of our portal offering is AgencyConnect, which integrates data with agency management systems or comparative raters to reduce rekeying. We've developed thousands of mapping libraries from native exports of AMSes. It's the tail that wags the portal dog, so to speak. Everything that we do from a product standpoint has been building solutions for carriers from an agent's workflow or system perspective.
I&T: There's a group pushing standardization and single sign-on in portals to relieve agents of the dozens of passwords they need to have for each portal. Do you think there's an opportunity for that to take off and alleviate some of the tension over this issue?
SH: Single sign-on is functionality driven by the agency management systems or comparative raters in how they shake hands with carriers outside of their systems. With multiple agency management and comparative rating systems, carriers still face the challenge of multiple integration targets to support the functionality. Basic inquiry, bridging of data or comparative quoting can all be completed in a single user session. For commercial lines and relative to quoting or eligibility checking, the benefit of single sign-on ends after the initiation of a transaction as the agent workflow transitions into a carrier proprietary portal. There have been legitimate industry workflow gains in personal lines, largely based on standard personal line products within comparative rating systems. For more complex products or commercial lines, a breakthrough with any kind of multi-company business model remains elusive. Our customers are well positioned to participate in any exchange or multi-company oriented model, but, non-technical barriers cloud the value proposition for carriers. For a multi-carrier commercial line model to take hold, either within the management systems or with an intermediary on the browser, carriers would need to reach a common ground on product definition and underwriting criteria. If this could be achieved, it would drive a singular and consistent user experience for the agent across multiple companies. Unlike with personal lines, carriers of more complex products are hesitant to commoditize their product offering or compromise how they differentiate themselves. There is also the question of “data.” Who owns it? In a multi-company model, every customer wants to receive the key underwriting data directly from the agent in a proprietary manner. Relinquishing this data capture to an intermediary is highly problematic to our carrier customers. Until there is clarity on the value proposition for carriers, I’m afraid we are not yet at an inflection point where agents will realize the workflow benefit of a multi-company transaction within standard commercial lines.
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio