The need for greater operating efficiency knows no internationalboundaries

|

Few things have had such a positive impact on the insurancebusiness–and in particular, on those of us out on the front linesselling policies–as real-time functionality.

|

By eliminating re-keying of customer and risk data, agents–orbrokers, as we call ourselves in Canada–can reduce errors, speedtransaction processing and respond more quickly to client demands.Freeing up time otherwise spent performing these redundant tasksallows agency and brokerage staff to focus more on selling andservicing clients. Reducing expenses and boosting revenue are real,bottom-line outcomes of true real-time functionality.

|

Carriers find similar benefits. When agents and brokers canaccess information–whether it's billing, claims orunderwriting–that means they don't need to call, fax or e-mail. Andthat means someone at the carrier's office can be doing somethingother than responding to a phone call, fax or e-mail inquiry.

|

Real-time functionality makes it easier to do business withcarriers. And that–”easier to do business with”–is how nearly everycarrier I know, whether in the United States, Canada or elsewhere,wants to be described.

|

Plus, real-time can ease underwriter workload as technology doessome of the heavy-lifting. It can provide agents a first indicationof carrier interest and can more quickly identify attractive risksso underwriters focus on them when human attention is needed.

|

Making business easier and more profitable for brokers andcarriers is all well and good. But at the end of the day, let'sremember why we're in this business in the first place. We are hereto serve clients, and when an agency can immediately print ore-mail an auto-identification card, certificate of insurance,evidence of property, loss-payee binder, or any form that needs tobe signed by the customer, directly from the agency managementsystem, the customer is well served. Plus, we all win.

|

These benefits are not country-specific. They are taking placein the United States, to be sure. But the paybacks are starting tobe realized in Canada, the United Kingdom (where our user-groupleadership just met with a vibrant and enthused local chapter) andelsewhere. In addition, while tremendous opportunities exist toincrease usage stateside, the potential for gain is even greater,at least percentage-wise, in other jurisdictions. That'sexciting.

|

I believe the industry has an opportunity to turn what wasfrustration into broader implementation globally. Seizing thisopportunity will require a conscious effort on the part ofcarriers, agents, brokers, vendors and others, but it's an effortthat can deliver positive results.

|

In the United States, agents and brokers have worked together ona number of fronts to drive broader acceptance, both among theirown ranks as well as throughout the carrier and vendorcommunities.

|

For several years, agents, carriers and vendors have workedthrough barriers to broad implementation of real-time technology.More recently, agency management system user groups have bandedtogether to drive consensus around real-time and other tools andtechnologies that can help agents and brokers improve workflows andreduce expenses.

|

It's time for agents to tap into these resources–see what hasbeen accomplished and work to adapt or replicate that locally.Better yet, agents should investigate what opportunities mightexist to open up these efforts to include a global focus.

|

For instance, involve user groups from other countries. Whendocumenting carrier and vendor functionalities, agents shouldinclude non-U.S. offerings, as well. Technology and communicationadvances have made the world in which we live and work smaller.Plus real-time is real-time, regardless of time zone orjurisdiction.

|

Carriers can work to speed adoption and implementation, aswell.

|

In Canada, the first carrier to adopt real-time functionalitywas not a Canadian company, per se, but rather a global carrier.When that firm bought in, others followed, and quickly. Carriersthat offer real-time in one jurisdiction are well suited to expandtheir offering across borders, and realize the same cost-savingsand revenue enhancement abroad that they do in their ownjurisdiction.

|

I suspect that by adopting the standards that drive real-time,carriers can reap the added benefit of better internal,cross-border communication and reporting–another time and moneysaver.

|

For vendors, the chance to incrementally increase profits byexpanding distribution of proven technologies seems, to me, hard toresist. Development initiatives and costs have already beenundertaken. These can be adapted to meet various jurisdictionalrequirements. Research and client feedback efforts are ongoing.

|

It would be easy to replicate them for other audiences, andsales and implementation procedures and activities are in place.Expanding into new markets could be accomplished with less effortthan starting from scratch, and the paybacks could befar-reaching.

|

By making such efforts, the industry has an opportunity to buildon the momentum and successes achieved in some areas and expandthese to include others. By doing so, agents, brokers and carrierswill profit from leading-edge technology and capabilities, not just“good enough” or stopgap measures currently in place in manyareas.

|

Meanwhile, customers–personal and commercial, local andglobal–will reap the benefits of a more efficient and responsiveinsurance community.

|

When you come right down to it, insurance is insurance. Policiesare policies, whether they are called auto or motor, or homeownersor habitational. Carriers are carriers, whether they're global orregional, large or small. Distributors are distributors, whether wecall ourselves agents or brokers, or something else altogether.

|

But most important, customers are customers. At the end of theday, we succeed or fail based on how well we serve these customers.Real-time can help us do that better, no matter where we are.

|

Donna Abramson is vice president, implementation and training ofApplied Systems Client Network (ASCnet), based in AltamonteSprings, Fla., as well as information technology manager forWestern Financial Group in Western Canada.

|

Agents should investigate what opportunities might exist to openup these efforts to include a global focus.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free PropertyCasualty360 Digital Reader

  • All PropertyCasualty360.com news coverage, best practices, and in-depth analysis.
  • Educational webcasts, resources from industry leaders, and informative newsletters.
  • Other award-winning websites including BenefitsPRO.com and ThinkAdvisor.com.
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.