Julie Howe

Get Comfortable Living in the Fog

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I had the pleasure of attending Celent’s 2016 Innovation and Insight Day on Wednesday at the historic Museum of American Finance on Wall Street. The sold-out event gathered Banking and Insurance executives from more than 30 countries to learn from each other and from an impressive group of speakers how to consider and prepare for the future of their industries. Not surprisingly, Digital ruled the day.

Julie HoweGet Comfortable Living in the Fog
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Carriers need to step on it

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That “time is money” is hardly a new concept, but the axiom is increasingly true around the sale and servicing of P&C insurance.  As agents work with increasingly impatient consumers and policyholders, the speed with which carriers respond to agents’ needs becomes a key differentiator. If carriers think of their agent portals as sales and servicing tools—for themselves and their agents—it becomes clear why sluggish response times from carriers are a major agent aggravator.

Julie HoweCarriers need to step on it
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Novarica’s recent research findings is music to our ears

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We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops since we opened our doors for business:

Carriers that make it easy for agents to do business with them see more and better business from those agents.

Our technology is rooted in the belief. In 2009, we traveled over 1,500 miles in 30 days to visit 66 agencies to learn exactly what carriers (and the vendors that support them) can do to further the cause. And it didn’t stop there. Our in-house Agent Insight Team continues today to bring the latest agent findings to light on our dedicated website http://www.powertotheagents.com/.

Julie HoweNovarica’s recent research findings is music to our ears
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4 Questions P&C Carriers Should Ask Portal Vendors

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Once reserved exclusively for complex Tier One carriers, frontend agent and consumer portals have become and industry norm—a competitive requirement.  But how does a carrier know which solution is best for their situation?  They ask lots of questions; and they don’t settle for vague answers.

While the frontend selection process is typically lengthy, and many aspects of due diligence are deeply technical, some of the most critical information that carriers need to understand about a vendor can be gleaned by asking a few simple, high-level business questions:

1.   Are portals a product focus for your company?

If you required open-heart surgery, would you choose a general surgeon or a cardiac specialist—a doctor who has performed a variety of operations, maybe even successfully, or one who has spent a career honing a particular set of skills for a particular set of circumstances?

When it comes to building web applications for users outside of a carrier’s four walls, a best-of-breed solution has enormous benefits. When a vendor spends years at a single craft, its team has seen myriad agent/carrier portal workflows and dynamics many times before, knows where the pitfalls are, and understands the straightest and safest path through the challenge. The more focused on portal implementations a vendor is, the lower the risk for a carrier.

2.   How is your solution designed and developed?

Understanding the business model and daily needs and habits of a portal’s end users, and designing a UX and workflow that matches those requirements at each touch point in the policy lifecycle is the single biggest influence on user adoption.

In the case of agent portals, many carriers make the mistake of either building or buying a web-based frontend designed from an internal system of record processing perspective, one that the carriers themselves are familiar with and can easily adopt internally.  The result is often a solution that makes little or no sense to the agent and her needs and workflow, making their online experience with carrier partners frustratingly slow and unintuitive.

It’s a fact, unhappy agents will take their business elsewhere.  When talking to prospective agent portal vendors, make sure you ask how much time they spend with end users understanding exactly what they need from an online experience with their carrier partners.

3.   What is your philosophy around dual maintenance between your portal and carriers’ backend systems?

Dual maintenance is a hot button. No team welcomes the prospect of keeping more than one set of data between its frontend and backend systems. To that end, minimizing dual maintenance should be every vendor’s goal. However, if one of your strategic objectives is to give each end user an experience tailored specifically to his or her needs, some degree of dual maintenance is necessary—and, in fact, valuable. Agents, brokers, MGAs, consumers, underwriters and administrators all have different process needs that require different terminology, questions, rules, limits, workflows, etc. The most successful (read: highly-adopted) portals have the flexibility to give different users and roles the online experience that is most intuitive and efficient for them.

What products do you offer; are they out-of-the-box or custom work? Just because a vendor can implement a line of business or type of transaction, does not mean that they’ve done it before.  Understanding the difference is critical for a carrier.  If a vendor indicates that it “can do that,” be sure to ask whether it is an out-of-the-box capability.  If it isn’t, carriers should consider the potential risk. Being a guinea pig is precarious business.  Each P&C line of business and the transactions associated with it is nuanced.  Rolling out any one of them quickly and safely requires extensive experience—the kind that ultimately allows a vendor to offer the element out-of-the-box.

Click here for a handy, shareable one-page version of these questions.

Julie Howe4 Questions P&C Carriers Should Ask Portal Vendors
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The Secret Sauce

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In keeping with our time-honored tradition, here it is: the 2015 Agencyport Annual Conference video. Having premiered in Chatham, Massachusetts on Monday to an exuberant gathering of P&C carriers and service providers from all over the country, we are now proud to now offer it to the world!  (We get pretty excited about our videos.)

Special thanks to our genius film-making muse, Jeff Boedeker; to our oscar-worthy customers, Ken Wolff from Electric Insurance and Mark Benoit from Arbella; and to our ever-enthusiastic Agencyport cast.

Grab some popcorn and a Coke, sit back and enjoy…

 

 

Julie HoweThe Secret Sauce
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In theaters this fall: The Agencyport Annual Conference video

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If you’ve ever attended an Agencyport Annual Conference, you know what an important part of our opening session the video has become. 2015—our 10th annual conference (!)—will be no different. We hope to see you for the premiere of the action-packed 2015 Annual Conference Opening Video in Chatham on September 28th.

For now, enjoy a little sneak peek:

Julie HoweIn theaters this fall: The Agencyport Annual Conference video
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A warm AP welcome to Fil Firmani!

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Fil Firmani

Fil Firmani

We are proud and excited to announce that Fil Firmani, a 25-year product and digital strategy veteran, has joined the Agencyport leadership team as SVP of Product and Strategy. With a career spanning from Accenture and Epsilon to Fidelity Investments, BusinessEdge Solutions (now part of EMC Consulting) and other leading companies, Fil brings just the broad-based experience that Agencyport sought to help lead us to our next growth phase. For the full scoop, check out a recent press release.

Welcome aboard, Fil!

Julie HoweA warm AP welcome to Fil Firmani!
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Boost Efficiency Without Rocking the Agent’s World

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It’s a balancing act that carriers regularly face: how much agent routine is worth disrupting or changing in the name of improved efficiency?

The question is paramount when considering a new core system. The long-term benefits of modern PAS solutions are clear, but the potential pain for agents during a prolonged implementation can be detrimental to business for both parties. While a lengthy conversion process is unavoidable, introducing an independent front end to agents into the process can greatly diminish the hassle of transacting business with the carrier “during construction.” Arbella Insurance used the strategy as it was consolidating from five to one core system.

Similarly, carriers know that internal processing of ACORD PDFs that are emailed from agents is expensive and time-consuming. But, many agents are used to and comfortable with emailing new business forms to their carrier partners. Requiring a different workflow of them could be off-putting and risky. But, what if carriers could automate the form-to-data process internally? No change of routine for the agent; improved efficiency for the carrier. Magna Carta Companies, one of the largest mutual carriers of commercial business in America, did just that.

It was taking Magna Carta 45 minutes on average to process a single Commercial Package new business application emailed to the carrier from an agent. Using our form-to-data cloud service, Turnstile®, the insurer has decreased that time to roughly 15 minutes per application.

Keeping agents happy, focused and productive is key to their loyalty and to carriers’ success. Let technology help make all three possible.

 

 

 

Julie HoweBoost Efficiency Without Rocking the Agent’s World
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ACORD Standards to Greater Heights

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Anyone who has been in this industry for more than ten minutes knows that ACORD standards, both their Form and XML Data versions, sit at its foundation. They provide consistency, efficiency and simplicity to one of the world’s most inconsistent, inefficient and complex industries.

Sadly, however, when these Form and Data champions of STP and defenders of streamline meet in the hands of insurance carriers, efficiency can come to a screeching halt. The ACORD form/data workflow chasm is wide, and continues to be bridged primarily by time-consuming rekeying by both agents and carriers.

The good news is that Agencyport has built its business on bridge-building—connecting the agency system world to that of the carrier system. As such, tackling the form/data chasm has been a natural fit for us. Over the last few years of actively pushing rekeying nearer to extinction with our ACORD form-to-data solution, Turnstile, we’ve learned a few important things about where the solution is most helpful and effective: improving adoption of carriers’ agent portals, and helping carriers’ new business and FNOL intake teams optimize and simplify their processes.

We’ve created a couple of videos to help paint more detailed pictures of each of these Turnstile applications. Let us know what you think. And we’d love to hear your ideas about where you think ACORD form-to-data conversion could help streamline and speed workflow.

 

Julie HoweACORD Standards to Greater Heights
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