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Agent Relationships Strengthen at EMC

The insurer’s proactive communication strategy improves agent relationships and increases efficiency through information management.

For the past twenty years, EMC Insurance Companies (EMC) has collaborated with insurance software provider Vertafore to improve its agent collaboration strategy. The P&C insurer solely distributes through independent agents, which are increasing their adoption of new technologies.

“We see more and more agencies that are putting an emphasis on technology into their operations,” says Sara Richards, business technology analyst for EMC. “It’s critical that we are working with the vendor providers that our agents are choosing to build their business around. If that’s where agents are choosing to be, we need to be there as well.”

Three-quarters of EMC agents have implemented an agency management system, Richards explains, much more than the industry average of 62%. Agents with a strong foundational system are better able to focus on new tech projects, such as website building and data mobility, and write more business. About 83% of EMC’s written premium comes from agencies that use management systems, she says.

[ In IT, The Business Should Always Be the Winner. ]

Access to information is a primary issue for agent relationship management, says Richards. Vertafore, which 45% of EMC agents have implemented, addressed this with a recent update to its Activity Notes feature, which provides agents with information on policy activity that occurred the previous evening.

The upgrade aligns closely with EMC’s goal of being proactive in agent communications and providing information that clients need at the time and place it is required. Information management is key, Richards explains, and insurers faced with growing amounts of data must handle it with the right tools. EMC continues to invest in connectivity tools to better deliver information to its agents.

“Information isn’t any good if [insurers] don’t know what to do with it,” she says, noting that data must be packaged in a manner that helps insurers make the best business decisions.

Self-service and mobile are also among primary focuses for agents, explains Vertafore VP Bruce Winterburn. “For us to compete in a modern marketplace, there are certain underlying technologies that we have to be able to leverage,” he says. Vertafore has implemented mobile and social capabilities to improve agent interactions and is currently working on a client portal.

Richards and Winterburn describe password management as a key issue between agents and carriers. The requirement for multiple log-ins is a pain point among agents, says Richards. She notes that they should have access to single sign-on capabilities while working with multiple companies – something that would be "a huge leap forward" for the industry.

Problems in agent relationship management are best solved through collaboration, both agree. “I think that agents are not just looking for a system, and they’re not just looking for a carrier website,” Richards explains. “[They] need a vendor system, and carrier partners that provide the easiest way to do business that’s possible.”

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
7/23/2014 | 5:59:50 PM
re: Agent Relationships Strengthen at EMC
To your point, and Kathy's above, it's really in a carrier's best interest to make processes as simple as possible for its agents. EMC has realized this and is using it to its advantage. Updating systems and including new tech such as self-service and mobile capabilities can really help insurers out and establish better relationships with their agents.
User Rank: Moderator
7/23/2014 | 3:18:49 PM
re: Agent Relationships Strengthen at EMC
This article is prescient as we have been seeing that In the midst of
transforming various other operational components, carriers are coming to realize that their on-boarding, licensing and appointing agents / brokers are still
largely managed by manual, non-integrated, and unrelated processes supported by antiquated systems, 30-40 years old. (In fact, the systems are so outdated; instances have been reported where carriers are running out of producer identification numbers.)

Needless to say, this environment is not capable of facilitating producer self-help and represents an unacceptable level of transparency.
Kudos to EMC for being clear on how their product is sold and the partnership it requires.
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 7:20:09 PM
re: Agent Relationships Strengthen at EMC
This quote at the end is key: "Agents are not just looking for a system, and theyG«÷re not just looking
for a carrier website. [They] need a vendor system,
and carrier partners that provide the easiest way to do business thatG«÷s
possible.G«• Another way of putting it, agents want to sell insurance policies/products. They don't care about agency management systems per se. If they can successfully sell a carrier's products with minimal friction or manual processes, they will favor that carrier. If for whatever reason it's a hassle to sell another carrier's products, no matter how highly rated they are, the agent will avoid that carrier. This is especially important as self-service becomes more pervasive and a growing number of consumers are favoring ways to buy insurance directly from carriers, not having to go thru an agent.
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