While the goal of universal adoption of real-time technology for agent-carrier transactions remains elusive, newly-elected ASCnet Chair Mike Montgomery believes much can be achieved if both agents and carriers will exhibit more patience.
Mr. Montgomery, associate development consultant for the Lockton Companies in Kansas City, Mo., was elected to serve as 2009 chair of The Applied Systems Client Network, the user group for Applied Systems’ agency management technology, at ASCnet’s annual conference.
In an interview with National Underwriter, he asserted that the industry continues to “make inroads” in adopting real-time technology that will allow agents to submit customer data once for all carriers (formerly known as SEMCI–single-entry, multiple-company interface).
“Is the adoption as fast as we want it to be? No,” said Mr. Montgomery. “But let’s temper this discussion with a little patience. Let’s monitor [the situation] and see what inroads are made. We are moving in the right direction. The key is patience on both sides of the fence.”
He went on to suggest that “a good goal is a three-year monitoring period. I am very optimistic that [real-time] will grow. It’s a wonderful thing for both sides.”
While some carriers claim their proprietary agent-facing Web sites are getting an increasing numbers of hits, agents say that is happening because they are unable to get all the information they need in a single visit to the site, according to Mr. Montgomery. “Agents have to use real-time where it is available,” he noted. “Continued education and re-education are needed.”
Agents are not adopting real-time in greater numbers “because at this particular time and point, they can’t do business with all of their carriers through Transformation Station,” he said. “The change has to be driven from the top down in agencies. Principals should reward staff for using real-time technology.”
(Transformation Station from University Park, Ill.-based Applied Systems is a technology that provides all players in the insurance distribution process–agents, carriers and agency vendors–with a single communication infrastructure.)
At the same time, carriers don’t always push the use of real-time from their perspective, according to Mr. Montgomery. “The carriers talk to each other. If agents are not using real-time, the word gets around,” he explained. Meanwhile, “smaller, regional carriers are saying, ‘I can’t afford real-time.’ That also holds up the process.”
When it comes to real-time, he observed, “Agents are saying, ‘Show me.’ We need to educate them on the benefits of real-time, especially in terms of quicker turnaround. At the end of the day, agents will get more business. If you’re enabled, you’re in the ballgame.”
Mr. Montgomery acknowledged that some percentage of agents will still insist they “love” insurers’ proprietary Web sites. “But in order to have a true one-touch environment, real-time has to be enabled,” he stressed.
Asked what message he would have for insurers in relation to real-time, he stated: “You’re going to make more money and get more business. I can’t say how soon. Have patience–this is not an overnight thing.”
He added that “insurance companies need to have all the facts about real-time. At times, we don’t do a good job of giving them the facts. We need to give them the studies and the data–provide the proof.”
Mr. Montgomery was also asked about a vision put forth several years ago for cooperative efforts to promote real-time involving both ASCnet and the AMS Users’ Group, a venture that has not materialized.
“They changed their model of real-time, so that affected the joint effort to bring real-time to the forefront,” he said in reference to AMSUG. “They kind of quit pushing it. We’re going to carry the torch going forward. The message is not the same from both groups.”
At Lockton, Mr. Montgomery is responsible for training more than 2,000 associates on the proper use of Applied Systems. He designs, reviews and updates the brokerage’s training curriculum to ensure employees are updated on current software.
His ASCnet volunteer service began at the local level, where he served as president of the Midwest Applied Systems Users Network. On the national level, he served as ASCnet’s Region 7 director.