Steven Aronson believes there are two levels of productivity that the use of a single sign-on solution can bring to independent insurance agencies such as Aronson Insurance, where he serves as president.
“One is it is going to save between a half hour to an hour a week to set or look up staff passwords because single sign-on includes the self-resetting of passwords,” says Aronson. “In addition, while there is no new tool for productivity, it’s allowing the staff to feel more comfortable and make it easier to use Transact Now, the real-time inquiry tool, than it ever was before.”
The Vertafore Single Sign-on solution has quickly demonstrated advantages for Aronson and other agencies, according to Bruce Winterburn, vice president of industry relations for Vertafore.
“It’s really just the first step in Vertafore’s contribution to what will be a much larger initiative with the ID Federation.” He says. “The Vertafore mechanism is to have a single sign-on within the Vertafore suite, but that password is intended and built to the specs of the federation.”
The ID Federation is an insurance and financial services organization designed to solve the problems many insurance agencies face with multiple sign-ins and passwords.
“This allows [Vertafore] to participate in the ID Federation,” says Winterburn. “There are several carriers participating and we have side projects going on with them. Once you are logged on to that carrier and they are federated we will be able to recognize that password within our system. Not only would you have a common password within that Vertafore suite of products, but that password eventually opens the door for the other carriers that part of the federation as well.”
Insurance carriers have to retool the way they handle passwords and the method of validation and identification of users, according to Winterburn, and they are still in the early stages of the project.
“For that to work, all the participants have to adopt a federated ID platform,” he says. “The federation has set a standard of security we all can live by and these are trusted partners within our enterprise. As long as they are a registered partner we are going to be able to use that information to log them into the system.”
Winterburn reports that approximately 75 percent of the relevant carriers are either participating or are in the process of joining the federation, but he points out, “You don’t just sign up, they have to build a product to create a federated ID.”
Karen Love, bookkeeper for Aronson Insurance, agrees with that estimate. Of the 20 carriers that Aronson normally works with, 15 are supporting single sign-on.
“”Those that aren’t participating yet are the assigned risk pools and the state fair plans for purchasing homeowners,” she says. “Their budget constraints are such that they aren’t likely to invest in something like this just yet.”
Winterburn claims he has been preaching for years that the more insurers tighten security and the more onerous they make the passwords, the less secure the industry actually is.
“We got to the point where you can’t do without posted notes,” he says. “More than likely, the passwords are written on a piece of paper and that’s not acceptable. With agencies managing 20 or 30 passwords and the passwords expire within 30 or 60 days there is no way to keep track of that.”
Aronson agrees that agencies need to realize security is still extremely important so in is incumbent on them that network passwords expire and they need to be complex enough so they are not too simple for anyone to figure out.
“Any account manager in most good agencies can at least remember their Windows password and once they are in the system we need trading partners that trust we have done the right job to allow them into our systems,” he says. “If they make it too difficult there will be more cheating [with post-it notes. Single sign-on is a reasonable balance.”
Winterburn believes what will spur single sign-on is the emerging technology such as mobile capabilities, particularly for consumers.
“If you don’t have something like single sign-on and the ability to manage passwords, you have to be able to move seamlessly carrier to carrier and step by step to enable the consumer to service some of their own policies or have a better look into their policy information,” he says. “All of that is contingent on the password to get into the system.”
Aronson jumped on the Vertafore solution because his agency leans toward being an early adopter of technology.
“Not only do we get the benefit of new technology earlier, but we also get a chance to verbalize our frustrations and that often end in tweaks and design changes that make for better tools for the end users,” he says. “We also get a little more hand holding on installation time.”