Agency Interface

On Demand: 10 Things that Drive Agents Nuts Working with Carriers

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Stressful and frustrated Asian manager talking on telephone in oWhat better way to learn what drives Agents nuts than straight from the horse’s mouth? And that’s just what happened when Foy Insurance president, Mike Foy, and the head of our Agent Insight Team, Caleen Alexanderson, got together with ACORD  for the webcast “The Top 10 Things that Drive Agents Nuts Working with Carriers.” And it’s now available on demand!

Louisa RogersOn Demand: 10 Things that Drive Agents Nuts Working with Carriers
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Ease of Quoting Expectations: It Depends on The Line

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I’m not sure what it is about New York, but it seems to have Agents who are eager to share their thoughts.  Last week, I traveled to Syracuse for our Agent Insight Initiative to visit two large agencies, adding a somewhat unusual perspective to our Insight gathering.  As large agencies, they both write business in Personal Lines and across many segments of Commercial Lines—Small, Mid, Large and Specialty.

I talked to Agents in each of the various segments and a theme soon became clear: expectations around how long it should take to quote new business, and how easy it should be vary with each line of business.

For example, the Mid/Large Commercial teams and their heavily manual processes are accustomed to the quoting process taking up to a week. In Syracuse, the process is so manual that the work is divided among producers, account reps and techs. The producers and account reps determine which carriers should see the business (eligibility) and the tech takes on the work of quoting with those carriers.  Ease of doing business is not a driver for these Agents.

And Specialty Lines was worse. Many of the agency employees in this segment log directly into carrier underwriting systems. There’s tons of potential for carriers to make improvements here. (Read an insight paper I wrote last year explaining how.)

At the other end of the spectrum was Small Commercial, where Agents make carrier selections based on ease of doing business. CSRs are key for this line as they manage the selection of which carriers they will quote with and then do all the submission work themselves. Carriers often ask us for time anecdotes around what is “good” for speed when quoting for The Small Commercial CSRs in Syracuse said 5-10 minutes for Workers’ Comp and 15-20 minutes for BOP.  A “bad portal” took 45 minutes to quote Workers’ Comp.

Each line had differing expectations for underwriting turnaround time as well. Small Commercial underwriters should get back to an agency within 24 hours. The expectation for Middle Markets is 72 hours and the Large Commercial Lines Agents were comfortable with it taking a week for an underwriter to get back to them.

With different expectations from Agent groups and lines of business, it’s especially important for carriers to know their audiences well and to assume they are not all the same. What is most important to them, if not speed or ease, and how can carriers help?

All in all, it was a very informative visit to New York.  If you want to learn more about Agent expectations, hear from them directly during our Agent Insight panel at this year’s 10th Annual Conference!

Jenn ParkerEase of Quoting Expectations: It Depends on The Line
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Agent Aggravation: Upload That Doesn’t Work

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google-search-agent-uploadDoing a Google search on “Agent Upload” quickly reveals the pain associated with the process. With auto-completes of the phrase like Agent Upload “fail,” “problems,” and “is locked,” it’s no surprise that Agents continually tell us that Upload is “broken.” But, for us technologists and carriers who’ve dedicated a lot of time to improving Upload, what’s broken exactly?

In this month’s edition of our Agent Aggravation Series, Agencyport’s Insight guru, Jenn Parker, explains what she’s hearing from Agents and offers a few solutions to help fix this nagging issue.

Read up and let us know what you think of Upload and our ongoing Agent research using the hashtag #agentsknow on your favorite social media site.

Tara DurheimAgent Aggravation: Upload That Doesn’t Work
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BookSmart® 2.6: Making book roll analysis even better

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BKS_screenshotThe ability to accurately analyze books of business is core to the success of most insurance carriers. Whether you’ve acquired another carrier (a big shout out to you, ACE and Sentry!), or are looking to sell off a languishing market, carriers need to be able to review policy data confidently and efficiently. Sadly, many carriers still spend countless, onerous hours rekeying and manually building reports as part of the process—wasting time and money, and introducing inevitable human error.

But there’s good news amidst this bleak picture! Our BookSmart® tool not only removes virtually all of the risk that manual processes invite, version 2.6 provides even more reporting capabilities and better 3rd party integration.

Let’s say you’ve acquired a new book of 5000+ policies. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to view that data in different, consumable categories rather than a single lump report? Manually, a reporting project like that could take weeks to complete. With BookSmart, it takes seconds. 2.6’s new report functionality allows you to split a book by lines of business or number of policies, making it easier to separate the analytical work by department or team.

2.6 delivers additional reporting power and data cleansing with improved integration capabilities to third party solutions. With robust integration capabilities with most agency management systems, you can pull books directly from your agent base and quickly analyze the data. BookSmart also easily integrates with systems that validate addresses, automatically perform territory look-ups, verify coverage amounts with e2Value and MSB™ and check insurance scores with CLUE/Choicepoint.

Book rolls are powerful, complex business tools. But they don’t have to be painful. To learn more about how BookSmart greatly reduces risky manual data entry, and gives carriers the robust data processing and reporting they need for confident decision-making (plus, our growing list of the supported lines of business and included reports) check out our Developer Zone.

Tara DurheimBookSmart® 2.6: Making book roll analysis even better
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Agents’ Views On The Good And Bad Around Agent Portals: An At-A-Glance Guide

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QuickGuidePreview_AggravationYou may remember that in our ongoing pursuit of deep understanding of all things Agent and CSR, I recently embedded myself at an independent insurance agency for a full week this past April. To learn all of the details of my adventure, including my newfound love of lunching at Wegmans, read the daily blog posts or download the papers from our Agent Aggravation Series.

In honor of that epic week as a CSR in New York, we’ve created a handy infographic that highlights Agents’ views of the Good and the Bad when it comes to Agent portals. The diagram includes all the best insight nuggets I gathered firsthand—from preferred web–browsers to preferred carrier swag. (Stop sending stress balls!)

Let us know what you think using the #agentsknow on your favorite form of social media.


Jenn ParkerAgents’ Views On The Good And Bad Around Agent Portals: An At-A-Glance Guide
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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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The ACORD Innovation Challenge Up Close and Personal

Caleen at ACORD Innovation Challenge

Agencyport’s Caleen Alexanderson at the Innovation Challenge

Exhibiting true market innovation, ACORD hosted a broad industry Innovation Challenge this week at its headquarters in Pearl River, New York. The best part? I got to be a judge in the Shark Tank-like forum for innovative ideas in Insurance.

The 37 live pitches covered new thinking across a broad range of areas. Some were hardcore, capital intensive projects, like one creating Autonomous Marine Systems (aka water drones) to ultimately replace the NOAA weather buoy system, to more lightweight tech projects like the pitch from Social Intelligence, who developed an algorithm for mining social media to assist with predictive underwriting data. One potential game-changer came from Haven Life, a really cool startup (backed by 150-year-old Mass Mutual), which has developed a life insurance platform that allows people under 45 years old to purchase life insurance completely online. Another one of my personal favorites came from Splice Software, a company that’s already mastered customer engagement in retail. Splice has an insurance solution that can receive alerts from Google Nest and other sensors, alert the homeowner (and carrier), and even dispatch a plumber or other service provider.

The rest of the entries were either innovative evolutions of existing products or technologies, or process improvements. All together, the pitches proved to be thought-provoking and a really positive sign that there are people in the industry who are not only ready for disruption, they’re working on creating it. ACORD will host a “virtual” session on Monday for 11 presenters who were unable to attend the event in person. The winners will be announced around July 1st.

My fellow judges were as diverse a group as the presenters. We had the usual suspects: solution providers, industry analysts, and insurance media members, but also representatives from a new sector that cares about innovation: the insurance accelerators. The accelerators included Brian Hemesath from the Global Insurance Accelerator, an entity backed by seven Iowa-based insurers that is committed to launching innovative insurance startups; and Drew Aldrich from Axa Strategic Ventures, the €200M fund backed by AXA, with an impressive portfolio of startups.

Creativity was palpable throughout the event, and it was expressed with a spirit of collaboration that ACORD encouraged from beginning to end. Not only were accelerators and solution providers able to talk with submitters after their presentations, conversation was encouraged. This meant that if AXA liked an idea, or I saw a partnership or M&A possibility, we all could swap business cards, schedule follow-ups, etc. Major kudos to ACORD both for providing this unique platform for industry disruption and for fostering such an open exchange of ideas. I think we can all agree that it was about time for an event like this.

Curt StevensonThe ACORD Innovation Challenge Up Close and Personal
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Rethinking Millennials

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Drones, driverless cars, and robots, oh my! While exhibiting at the IASA Annual Conference in Las Vegas this week, I had the opportunity to attend the session Disruption/Vision 2030 facilitated by Bill Freitag from Majesco. The objective of the session was to facilitate a discussion about these and other new industry phenomena, and how they could help carriers distinguish themselves from their competition.

During the session, Freitag posed the question, “How do you see the new generation of Millennials disrupting the industry?” (For the record: the term Millennials is competing in the overuse category with Innovation and Configuration.  A real Disruption would be finding a way to avoid the word Millennials!) As “an individual with a birth year between the 1980s and early 2000s,” this questioned piqued my interest. What do carriers think my generation brings to the table?

The answers shocked me. Rather than considering any technological knowledge or fresh outlook we might bring to a relatively slow-moving industry, the focus became the world view that (apparently) all of us possess. The consensus was that Millennials do not like face-to-face conversations, we want to make our own hours, we prefer to work from home, and (my personal favorite) we expect free food in the office. Sitting in the back of the room listening to Baby Boomers stereotype my generation, I decided to try to set a few things straight…

Dear Insurance Veterans,

Millennials are not here to throw a monkey wrench into this venerable industry. Quite the opposite. With your help, we see some great opportunities to make it better. In many important ways, we’re just like you. In fact, a recent survey from IBM Institute for Business Value compares workplace preferences and behavior patterns across multiple generations, and it turns out that most “individuals with a birth year between the 1980s and early 2000s” want the same things that our older colleagues do. For example, the study indicates that despite misconceptions to the contrary, employees from all three of the groups studied—Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials—share the desire to add value to their organization and to work with colleagues from varying age groups and backgrounds. Similarly, though Millennials suffer from a reputation of needing to do everything online, the study indicates that, like other generations, we prefer to learn by attending conferences, receiving training in the classroom, and working alongside colleagues—all face-to-face interactions (IBM Institute for Business Value).

IBM Institute for Business Value's study on The real story behind Millennials in the workplace

Source: IBM Institute for Business Value’s study on The real story behind Millennials in the workplace

We newcomers can’t compete with the years of industry experience of our older colleagues—the trends, the cycles, the nuances, the lessons resulting from failures and successes. But we can offer new ideas and perspectives that might improve things a bit. How might some of the technologies that we have been raised on provide a competitive edge? Could our social- and work-style preferences foster bigger and better ideas? Could we help speed processes?

At Agencyport, I’ve experienced first-hand practices that keep our younger staff engaged, creative and energized around a 350-year old industry. While they might not be perfect fits for all insurance-related companies, surely some elements could breathe fresh life into many business practices:

  • The environment supports applying our fresh outlook to past and current problems. Regular Hackathons and dedicated time within the workweek for special projects and creative ventures help prevent stale thinking.
  • We’re encouraged to work hard and play hard. After-work sports teams, company outings and feisty Pictionary competitions foster strong and trusting relationships between colleagues.
  • A variety of seating options and casual living spaces cultivate collaboration and teamwork.
  • Competitive salaries and benefits help keep us motivated and serious about our work.

The world is changing faster than ever before—technologically, socially, and business-wise. One of the greatest challenges that the Insurance industry faces is keeping pace with that change. Let us be your partner.

Louisa Rogers

Agencyport Software



Louisa RogersRethinking Millennials
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The Lowdown on Download

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A long-term customer was in our Boston office today catching up on all things Agencyport.  We gave them an update on our overall company direction, the latest AgencyPortal 5.1 release, and our Agent Insight Initiative, including the fact that we’re publishing our findings on a dedicated site:  As I was describing my recent week working as an insurance Agent in Rochester, NY, the customer asked what surprised me most during my time embedded in the agency…

While a lot of good insights came out of that week on the front lines—many of which are summarized in daily blog posts—the one that was the most surprising was the importance of Download.  I’ve heard a lot about Download over my years working with Agents and customers.  Before the Rochester visit, my overall impression was that Download was frustrating and not especially functional for Agents.  After a week at an agency that reaps the full benefit of Download, that view has changed dramatically.

Like most aspects of this industry, Download isn’t just about technology, it’s about giving Agents and their customers a differentiating level of customer service—a key element to carriers winning new business. My most recent paper in our Agent Aggravation Series, authored with help from Thad Bauer of IVANS, illustrates how carriers can do more to support their Agents and those Agents’ perception of ease of doing business with carriers.

What are your thoughts on Download? Let us know using #agentsknow

Jenn ParkerThe Lowdown on Download
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Welcome Aboard, Merchants!

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merchants_insurance_group-logoWe’re extremely proud today to announce that Merchants Insurance Group has joined the family of leading P&C carriers using our distribution solutions to power increasingly complex and fluid business strategies.

Opting for a best-of-breed over single-single system architecture, Merchants will use AgencyPortal® and Turnstile® to help advance its commercial lines offering, expand its online presence in the sector and make it easier and faster for independent agents to conduct business with them.

Learn more about how Merchants plans to use today’s and tomorrow’s technologies to protect, steer and grow its business into the future.

Julie HoweWelcome Aboard, Merchants!
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