Mobile for Insurance

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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Spreading ACORD Love: Making Standards a Little Sweeter One Day at a Time

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agencyport-loves-acordDuring this heartfelt season, we can’t think of a better way to show our love for agents and carriers than through our support of ACORD standards and helping make them even better for everyone. Romantic, or what?

From the day our founders set design pencils to paper, our solutions have been based on ACORD standards. They sit at the center of everything we do. Beyond that, our people are nothing short of ACORD evangelists. Not only do we have several ACORD Certified Expert (ACE) team members and several more on their to certification, we are also heavily involved in ACORD Working Groups. Recently, our very own Jamie Steward was named the Chair of the ACORD XML 2.0 Working Group. This group will be taking the current standard and evolving it to a major new edition. The goal is not to rewrite the current XML, but to make it easier for carriers to use. Jamie and his team plan to do this with smaller, more focused messages increasing the communication between disparate systems while providing greater flexibility for product definitions and carrier appetites.

Another Agencyport ACORD junkie, Caleen Alexanderson, does her cupid part by helping ACORD with ACE Boot Camps, training carriers and vendors around the country on the implementation and benefits of the standards. Caleen is also Chair of the ACORD Coverage Implementation Working Group, and participates in several other Working Groups for both AL3 and XML standards.

Agencyport also participates in the ACORD User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE), focusing on agency/carrier automation improvements.  An unabashed plug here: if you haven’t already, please take a couple minutes to provide input into setting the 2015 priorities for AUGIE.  Your opinion matters!  Take the AUGIE survey and in question 6, use the code AGENCYPORT.

ACORD is the standards standard bearer, and standards make our industry better. Please, help us spread the love.

Tara DurheimSpreading ACORD Love: Making Standards a Little Sweeter One Day at a Time
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In Search of the Elusive 10

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Norm Baker, AP’s Chief Architect, clearly excited about making our customers happy

Come on, admit it. Deep down we all want the perfect 10… the recognition that we did the best work possible. At Agencyport, this drive comes into play every time we interact with a customer. It’s a daily goal for each of us to provide as flawless an experience as possible—to provide a product that wows and service to match.

Though we have always kept a close eye on our customers’ experiences with us, two years ago, we decided to institute formal monitoring—leaving nothing to chance. Using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) customer loyalty metric we began to measure our performance through our customers’ eyes by having them focus on a simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend Agencyport/Agencyport products/Agencyport service to a friend or colleague?  The premise is self-evident: if our customers like our products and/or doing business with us, they’ll share that experience with others.

Since day one, customer feedback has directly influenced important changes and developments at Agencyport. In the last year alone, we completely revamped our Developer Zone, introduced additional Integration Kits, restructured our sales organization and enhanced our process of staffing projects in professional services all based on survey feedback.

So, while we continue to stalk those perfect 10s, let us know what you think. What are the biggest issues that you’re going to face this year? Where is P&C headed? What should we be working on? How can we make your lives easier? What simple product feature have we overlooked? Your open, honest, critical thinking can help fuel big industry change.
White Paper on Next-Gen Portals

Colleen Anne WellsIn Search of the Elusive 10
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ACORD 20/20: Standards Future Thinking

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ACORD_logoEarlier this month, Mike Albert, Agencyport’s SVP of Product Strategy and R&D, and I were invited to attend a roundtable as part of the ACORD 20/20 strategic planning process. ACORD 20/20 is a community of forward-thinking executives and thought leaders that represent agents, insurers, reinsurers, and solution providers. The mission is to identify the challenges encountered in standardization—both today and tomorrow—and shape a shared future view. Parts of the forum gave us the opportunity to network and listen to carriers and agents (which we love to do) discuss some of their biggest challenges today and, more importantly, what they envision as their biggest business challenges on the horizon.

We also spent a half-day solely with other solution providers. In addition to Agencyport on the portal side of the house, there were representatives from a leading Policy Administration Systems provider, a leading Agency Management System provider, and a leading integration technology vendor. The workshop was facilitated by industry legends Frank Sentner and Bill Hartnett.

As a group, we agreed that the following would be heavy influences on our industry in the near future:

  • Disruption via technology is coming (and in some cases, it’s here): Telematics and the internet-of-things are changing underwriting in a significant way. Self-driving cars will essentially eliminate the need for traditional auto insurance.
  • Changing demographics are making omni-channel strategies a necessity. Social media and gamification are becoming must-have channel tactics and can no longer be ignored.
  • New “outside” entrants into underwriting and selling continue to be of interest. We’ve already seen and Walmart enter the space. Does anyone think Google has access to enough data to do a pretty good job at underwriting and predictive analytics? (My personal prediction is that we will see an announcement soon from Google on this…)
  • Demand for consumer self-service is growing extremely fast. Even when we broadened the discussion to include the agents and carriers, we all acknowledged it is coming. Carriers and agents have some commercial lines issues to work out, but there was no question that we all need to support self-service.

Like the entire industry, ACORD needs to evolve to define relevant standards for this next chapter. I commend the organization on taking a proactive stance to stay ahead of the industry through the 20/20 initiative. Agencyport is honored to be a part of it.

Curt StevensonACORD 20/20: Standards Future Thinking
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True Portal Success Requires Alignment

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As you may remember, I recently hosted a roundtable discussion about Agent and Consumer portals at the Guidewire Connections conference. During the conversation, I discussed a diagram that Agencyport uses to illustrate the extreme value that a modern, decoupled agent or consumer portal can provide if Carriers align key elements behind it.

PortalAlignmentDiagram_AgencyportTo achieve optimum portal adoption and success, Carriers must carefully consider and align:

  • Clear business strategies and goals
  • Different end user expectations
  • Latest technologies, both inside and outside of the industry

The participants at the roundtable all agreed that understanding and employing these elements were critical—whether they were working with a vendor or not. While the elements can be challenging to define, doing so is well worth the effort.

Creating clear business goals and associated strategies for a portal initiative is imperative. Carriers should be addressing questions like the following and prioritizing efforts to answer them:

  • Which lines of business would benefit the most from automation? Why?
  • How can efficiency be improved?
  • Growth achieved?
  • How do we compare with our competition in commercial lines? What’s behind the differences?
  • What specifically are our agents and brokers complaining about when it comes to applications and quoting?

Another important area to consider is user expectations. Does your agent portal behave anything like a shopping experience on Amazon? Do you know what top three things matter most to Agents in their online experience with you? How about CSRs? Your underwriters? Do you think they all value the same things in a web experience? You might be surprised. If you’re unsure on this one, I recommend digging into it. Even a small workflow detail can make a big difference.

Finally, are you still supporting people using versions of Internet Explorer 8 or below? Are your Agents scanning and faxing forms to you? Technology is advancing every day. Those who embrace and employ it smartly are leaving their competition in the dust. While it’s an enormous task to stay on top of all of the advancements being made, Carriers can make significant strides by leveraging one or two new advances that make the most sense for their business.

At Agencyport, we think about this stuff all the time. In fact, it’s all we think about. What specific benefits are Carriers looking for from an Agent portal and how can they be measured? What do Agents love and hate about Carrier portals? What Technologies are making the greatest impact in this space? The best part for our 66 customers? Because we worry about this stuff around the clock, they don’t have to.

White Paper on Next-Gen Portals

Curt StevensonTrue Portal Success Requires Alignment
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Guidewire Roundtable: Stand-Alone Portal or Extend Policy System?

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Illustration by noted polish artist Piotr Lesniak for Guidewire Connections

Illustration by noted Polish artist Piotr Lesniak for Guidewire Connections

I had the honor of hosting a roundtable about Agent and Consumer Portals yesterday at Guidewire’s Connections conference. About 30 people from roughly 15 insurance carriers attended the session. The carriers represented a good cross-section of personal and commercial lines insurers.

Most of the carriers had some kind of portal in place, mainly serving their agent channels. Many were considering a consumer portal—especially to provide self-service capabilities to their insureds—either policy endorsements or basic policy, billing and/or claims inquiry. Only a few actually had a consumer portal in production today.

Of the carriers with a portal in place, roughly two-thirds were using a vendor portal.  The remaining third had home-grown solutions. Notably, most of this latter group had plans to replace these in-house portals with vendor offerings at some point, citing that keeping up with rapidly evolving user experience demands and the technologies to support those experiences was not a core competency for most of them. They also noted that the costs of modifying a home-grown portal every time the carrier needed to make a product change was cost prohibitive.

Another hot topic (throughout the Guidewire conference) was whether carriers were opting for “stand alone” portal vendors or using the agent-facing capabilities of their policy administration system vendors. There were two schools of thought on this one: the majority felt that a best-of-breed approach was critical.  They wanted the best policy administration system for their back offices, and the easiest, most intuitive system for agents and consumers to use in their front office. A smaller group believed they lower their TCO with a one-platform solution and/or that they had relatively captive agent channels so ease-of-doing-business was not as high a priority as it is might be for carriers distributing through independent agents.

Obviously, Agencyport sides with the best-of-breed philosophy. Modern, well-designed policy administration systems like Guidewire’s PolicyCenter are built to support internal carrier users and are architected from that internal perspective.  And they are amazing at what they do—administering policies. When it comes to serving external users—the agents, brokers, MGAs and consumers trying to do business with carriers—it is their perspective that is important in a solution.  Agencyport’s extensive, focused experience and insight with hundreds of agents, brokers and other external users over the years has proven that those users prefer a web experience designed expressly from their perspective and with their needs, goals and workflows in mind—not those of the carriers.

Guidewire solutions are unsurpassed for P&C policy-centric requirements and tasks.  They’re modern, flexible, scalable and highly intuitive. It is why we are extremely proud to partner with them to transform some of the leading carriers in the industry—carriers with complex distribution requirements and an understanding that the coupling of systems designed from an internal perspective and those designed with external users in mind is a match made in heaven.  Thank you to our friends at Guidewire for another great Connections event!

Curt StevensonGuidewire Roundtable: Stand-Alone Portal or Extend Policy System?
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Our Challenge: Share What You Know

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dev-zone-at-the-lake-blogAfter unveiling our new Developer Zone to our customers at our recent conference in Stowe, Vermont, we are now proud to officially announce its availability to everyone.  That’s right, everyone.  No usernames or passwords. Open access to our entire volume of technical content. Because that’s the way we think it should be, and we’re urging other vendors to do the same.  Learn more about our challenge from Mike Albert, SVP of Product Strategy at Agencyport and other steps that Agencyport is taking to try to move our historically closed industry to one that thrives on openness.

Tara DurheimOur Challenge: Share What You Know
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Nothing to Hide

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A common criticism of the insurance technology industry is that vendors and carriers are reticent to open up and share information. At Agencyport, we are working to change that—operating as openly and collaboratively as possible, and encouraging others to do the same.

whatyousee-whatyougetAt our recent Annual Conference, Agencyport hosted a session called “Solution Speed Dating for Prospective Customers.” It offered our future customers in attendance completely candid, one-on-one conversations with insurance carriers currently using Agencyport solutions. The goal was to give newcomers an opportunity to pick the collective brains of our customers on what it’s like working with us, ask about lessons learned, and get honest recommendations on how best to solve complex insurance technology challenges.

Some of the topics that were addressed included using an independent web portal to shield agents and other end-users from the chaos of a policy system migration; how our ACORD form-to-XML conversion tool, Turnstile, can support any number of agent workflows; and ways to use our data mapping and workflow tools for integration.

Are we crazy for letting prospective customers have these honest conversations with current users without our direct involvement? Some would say yes. In our book, though, if you’re confident in your products and have provided the best service possible, your customers should be your biggest advocates. And if they raise imperfections, they’re nothing but learning opportunities.

Interested in having a conversation with one of our carrier customers? Please let us know. To see the carriers we’ve worked with, visit our client page.

Tara DurheimNothing to Hide
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There’s No I in Team

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pradeep+patrick-01The business of P&C insurance and the technologies that it runs on have made huge strides in recent years. But there are many more to make before anyone calls what we do the most efficient business process on earth. To get there requires concerted teamwork. No company, vendor, organization or individual can single-handedly produce a silver bullet.

As one small step toward Agencyport’s full commitment to that teamwork and collaboration, we invite you to enjoy the sessions and presentations that were recently made during our Annual Conference in Vermont. Vendors, carriers, agents, analysts, they were all there, and each one provided an important perspective on the best way forward. Let us know what you think. Join us.

Julie HoweThere’s No I in Team
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