Carrier/Agency Technology: Catch 22 for Most Carriers

If there is one point every insurance carrier is trying to accomplish these days it is to find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. Second on the list is to find ways to be more efficient.

“Margins are slimmer in all businesses these days and everyone is looking for ways to bring more efficiency to the operation yet also have a differentiator for their brokerage partners,” says Jon Siglar, vice president, chief sales & field services officer for Pacific Compensation Insurance Company.

(For more on carrier/agency technology, check out the interview with Nort Salz of Deep Customer Connections and this interview with Dan Driskell of Brower Insurance.)

PacificComp has worked with solution provider FirstBest to improve its ease of business issues.

“The ease of doing business is sometimes an overused term, but we’re serious about it,” says Siglar. “What it comes down to is with the touches we have with our broker we need to be efficient, responsive, and deliver expertise when needed. We needed differentiators and the one that has been positive for us has been our partnership with FirstBest and rolling out the AppReader to our brokers.”

Real-time Download

PacificComp implemented FirstBest AppReader early in 2011, according to Siglar. Most of the account executives in the brokerages PacificComp deals with are seasoned and are hesitant to take on anything new because their workload already is high and they don’t want to go through several different passwords.

“When we implemented the AppReader portion of the underwriting management system they were excited,” says Siglar. “[Brokers] can take a PDF out of their agency management system and download it into our UMS within our portal. With one password they are already in the system. There’s no double entry. It’s automatically populated with an ACORD app and that cuts down on inputting errors and time. As we move forward with the brokers, it greases the skids—the path of least resistance. Brokers want to go to a company that is efficient and can get them a quote right away.”

Siglar believes brokers and their CSRs often are set in their ways so PacificComp needed to do a lot of face-to-face training. Siglar believes it helped that the AppReader solution is an intuitive system, which meant users could be trained quickly.

At this point, more than 60 percent of PacificComp’s submissions are coming straight through the UMS via the AppReader, which brings more efficiency into the back office side of underwriting, concedes Siglar.

Technology or People

With many commercial lines carriers, Siglar believes the technology is holding up real-time download. He points out many carriers are working with legacy systems that were in play through M&A activity.

“We were strapped with an underwriting system that was inefficient,” he says. “Carriers recognize they need to embrace technology.

But brokers do as well.

“If you dump a manual in front of them they won’t use it, but if we can quickly show how the system works they are all over it and using it the same day,” says Siglar. “Change in workers’ compensation and the commercial side are difficult because they can be costly and involve training issues. But at the same time you are trying to deliver a value added service to your brokers.”

Siglar reports he is seeing a new generation of brokers coming into play who are savvier with tablet devices and smartphones. He believes they are looking for ways to be more efficient to counter the soft market and the lower revenues that have accompanied it.

“They are struggling to find ways to be more efficient and working with fewer people,” says Siglar.” If a carrier can bring in a system that is easy to use and can save brokers time, that is going to raise some eyebrows. To be able to do that is a differentiator.”





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