A coalition of insurance industry interests has launched a marketing campaign to convince independent agents to increase their use of single sign-on software programs.

The effort was announced by Jeffrey M. Yates, executive director of the Agents Council for Technology, at a press conference held during the Independent Agents & Brokers of America’s Legislative Conference and Convention late last month.

Mr. Yates said a coalition of vendor software groups, independent agents and carriers have joined to promote Real Time–agency software program systems aimed at allowing agents to access carrier Web sites using a single sign-on. Through these applications, they can interact with the carrier’s Web site and their agency management system.

Mr. Yates said the aim of the campaign is to double the use of programs’ usage within the next two years from the current 20,000 transactions per business day–a very small percentage of the daily transactions. He said that today’s usage is a 41 percent increase over recent usage. The figure does not include transactions with comparative rating systems.

Mr. Yates was joined at the news conference by Cal Durland, a facilitator of the ACORD-User Group Information Exchange (AUGIE) and a campaign leader; Brady Polansky, agency operations director at Westfield Insurance; and Bob Slocum, principal of the Slocum Agency in Warwick, R.I., and chairman of ACT.

“We are pushing this as a priority,” said Mr. Yates, “but the biggest problem is getting the attention of agency principals to realize that by using Real Time it will free up time to do other things in the agency.”

What agents will gain, said Ms. Durland, is the freedom to work at increasing sales and pursuing customer contacts, instead of spending time navigating proprietary Web sites to do business.

“They should not have to think twice about using Real Time,” she said. “Our aim is to make it part of the normal workflow.”

Using Real Time, agents can realize the efficiency in their workflow that they have always desired, said Mr. Slocum. The software program is there; now agents and their staff need to be trained to use it.

“Needing to input your ID and password continually into proprietary systems is a major pain,” said Mr. Slocum. “With Real Time that goes away.”

Many have lost sight of the fact “that technology is a business process and should not be a differentiator,” noted Mr. Polansky. He said the efficiency in technology is like plumbing–everything should move in one direction with the turn of a handle. In this case, that handle is the Real Time program within the agency management system.

About 200 carriers currently participate in providing Real Time programs, making various degrees of applications available through the program, said Mr. Polansky.

There is no charge to agents for the use of the software.

Another advantage to using Real Time, said Mr. Yates, is that the errors and omissions exposure is reduced because the programs keep a record of transactions that proprietary systems lack.

Ms. Durland explained that all current major agency management systems support Real Time and icons within these systems are available to access the program.

Additional information about the Real Time campaign is available at www.getrealtime.org

Art caption

All current major agency management systems support Real Time, which allows agents to access carrier Web sites using a single sign-on. Icons within these systems are available to access the program.