10:54 AM
Evan McDonnell, Appian
Evan McDonnell, Appian

How Automated Sales and Distribution Optimize Financial Performance for Life Insurers

Life insurers can find financial success through the automation of sales and distribution processes.

When transforming their business, most life insurers concentrate on operational efficiency and customer service, and consider sales and distribution last. Sales and distribution, however, is the discipline responsible for attracting sales talent, driving new premium growth, and harvesting from existing portfolios.

Sales and distribution is a cornerstone of financial success, yet life insurers' traditional means of managing these channels have fallen behind the times and threaten to render some organizations obsolete. A typical problem is having specialist work teams in separate locations use different and specialty IT systems. These siloed systems often do not communicate well with each other, leading to layers of manual work-arounds and ad hoc fixes that involve many different specialists.

Evan McDonnell
Evan McDonnell, Appian

Finance might use the commission system while the agent compliance team might use e-mail, spreadsheets, and third-party systems. Licensing might use spreadsheets, Microsoft Access, or another database. Managing agents, producers and brokers might use agent portals, agency management systems, quoting consolidators,, and e-mails.

Reaching in through this mass of people, processes, and systems to resolve something as simple as producing a commission statement eats up time for agents, producers and brokers. Now multiply the time required to resolve one request by the many times an agent needs to interact with the insurer for things like rate modifications, status of a sales candidate hiring process, quote or claims status, or a client's billing history. These layers of complication translate into administrative overhead. Even the most loyal agents and brokers may choose to take their skills and portfolios elsewhere.

The solution is to look across all parts of sales and distribution, understand the processes inherent in each, and simplify the agent, producer or third party's job of selling products. Through automated processes and on-demand data, agents can gain insight into client product gaps and have opportunities driven by life events pushed out to their desktop or mobile device. Real time portfolio views and on-demand access to sales opportunities can greatly improve the insurers' financial performance and make it easier for clients to purchase more comprehensive products based on their needs.

Insurance sales and distribution is supported by four main categories of processes and activities:

• Agent lifecycle management

• Sales needs, leads and product tips

• E-Platform for new business applications

• Retention, renewal and conversion activities

These processes are generally executed by different teams working with different systems in different locations – possibly for different companies. Let's look at each category and consider how automating processes and on-demand data can improve an insurer's financial performance.

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Agent lifecycle management: Getting and retaining the right talent

Agent lifecycle management spans all activities within the recruiting, onboarding and off-boarding of agents, producers and brokers.

Managing agents in field sales offices typically hunt for talent. Each prospect goes through a round of interviews, a background check and so on. There is the administrative burden of having the field office report to the home office. Regular reporting activities usually require manual development of spreadsheets, which are exchanged with the home office through massive rounds of e-mail. Weeks can pass while candidates get lost in the process.

Manual, paper-based and disconnected processes are expensive and time-consuming. Recruiting and onboarding an agent or broker can take three to six months. If recruits drop out, the hiring expenses are lost – and so is that prospect's anticipated revenue.

By automating recruiting and on-boarding, a company website can include an e-application for direct entry by job seekers. Enforcing mandatory data fields can avoid delays associated with applications missing important information. Third-party data can be obtained automatically to accelerate the candidate's evaluation and control costs. Companies can use application data to assess its predictive value during the agent's performance review.

E-applications automatically become the "front door" to the longer onboarding process because they allow activities to be coordinated across departments and people involved with onboarding. If a personality test or state licensing test is required and administered through a third party, results can be automatically included to keep the process moving forward.

Home Office or Sales Management can be automatically alerted to any activity that requires their participation, even from their mobile device, enabling quick collaboration with the field office or others.

Next time, we'll discuss the other three categories and how they fit into this larger strategy.

About the Author: Evan McDonnell is VP of Solutions for Appian. He can be reached at

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