Some agents who were burned when they were early adopters oftechnology in the past are now reluctant to embrace more maturetech products because of that experience, the newly-electedpresident of the AMS Users' Group contends.

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In an exclusive interview with National Underwriter, KayBarrett–who is also vice president of economic development at TheIMA Financial Group in Wichita, Kan.–said the biggest challenge theusers' group faces is that “there's a lot of caution in agentswanting to take on new technology developments.” The interview tookplace here during AMSUG's 30th National Conference earlier thismonth.

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Some of those agents, Ms. Barrett explained, were early adoptersof agency technology products that didn't work as advertised. “Wedon't have time to do [research and development] on these products[for vendors],” she noted. “Some things were introducedprematurely.”

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As an example, Ms. Barrett said commercial lines downloadcapability on her agency's AMS platform had been “attempted tooearly,” before all the “kinks” had been worked out. “Now, we needto do a sales job to convince [agents who were burned] that wewon't have a recurrence.”

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Ms. Barrett added that AMS, as well as agents, can play a rolein restoring agents' confidence in the technology. “AMS has to helpus get through those carrier issues–the proprietary workflows,” shesaid. “And as agents, we need to embrace [new AMS] technology. [AMSis] ready for prime time, but as an agent, I'm still going to haveproblems internally.”

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Yet another obstacle, according to Ms. Barrett, is that “somecarriers are reluctant to work with us. When we have to dosomething special just for [the insurer], there has to be a betterway.

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“Insurers just get a mindset of how they want to do systems andthey forget what it's like on the other side,” she continued. “Idon't think the carrier operational people and the carriertechnology people talk to each other.”

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Agents, according to Ms. Barrett, need to take responsibility byusing the technology AMS is providing. “We have to get in there andrefine it,” she asserted. “We have to help them. This has to be acollaborative effort.”

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Ms. Barrett also said the AMS Users' Group has not given up onthe Holy Grail of insurance technology–SEMCI. “In some ways,[single-entry, multiple-company interface] is already areality–it's just coming to us in a different way,” throughtechnologies such as AMS' TransactNow, a software product thatenables communications among carriers, agents and AMS agencymanagement system users.

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“I don't think the industry should give up on SEMCI or real-timetransactions,” she said. “I want to have all the information fromthe carrier at my fingertips, but in some cases, the carriers won'tlet me have the information.”

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For example, she said, some carriers will not provide a loss runelectronically to agents. “Having to know the idiosyncrasies ofeach [carrier] is a lot to know,” she noted. “It has to besimpler.”

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Ms. Barrett said her goal for this year as president of AMSUG isto encourage agents “to embrace the technology that is available tothem today. If we use what we have today, the carriers are more aptto spend money and discover what we actually need. That will helpthe collaborative effort.”

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She added that education will be the user group's primary toolin trying to persuade agents to get on board with AMStechnologies.

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Asked what she would like to convey to carriers, Ms. Barrettsaid: “Expand what is available to us. The things I do most areendorsements, but [carriers are] too busy focusing on new businessofferings. Endorsements are the number-one transaction in an agencyand they need to be automated.”

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Ms. Barrett noted that AMS needs to work on enabling suchautomation as well. “They're doing it, but it's never fast enough,”she concluded.

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