What are the key technology trends in insurance?

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More precisely, what do you think will be the key technology trends that will have an impact on the insurance industry in 2011?

The reason I am asking is that at the IIABA Agents Council for Technology (ACT) meeting in Tampa on February 19 there will be a Strategic Future Issues panel and breakout sessions discussing this question. I serve as the Chair for the ACT Social Web Workgroup and as such am very interested in the outcome of these discussions.

Over100 representatives from carriers, associations, and agencies, as well as, technology and media consultants will attend the meeting. This is the choir so to speak. While these folks are really smart and have plenty of informed ideas and opinions – here is your chance… I would really like to hear what you think. I encourage you to leave a comment on this post. Tell me what you see as the key technology trends that are and/or will have an impact on your business. How are you coping with the rapid advancement in technology and all the change it is bringing about? Is (or how is) new technology helping you grow your business?

I will make sure your opinion becomes part of the Strategic Future Issues discussion.

30 Comments

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  2. Alicia January 24, 2011 at 3:05 am - Reply

    Rick,

    Great post. I think everyday more agencies are adapting to the changes in technology that have come about in the past few years. Social Media usage is up among the industry and I think will continue to grow as time goes on. This is a great topic and could have many answers.

  3. Ryan Hanley January 24, 2011 at 4:09 am - Reply

    Rich,

    First I love that you are asking your community what their thoughts are on this issue. Great example of the power of the Internet. This level of collaboration was not possible even 5 years ago. Since I could probably write all day on this topic I am going to do a list in order of importance as I see it.

    1) Real-time functionality between carriers and Independent Agencies. If we are going to compete with the Directs moving forward this process needs to be smoother. (Travelers is doing some good things in this area. check out their new Marketing portal.)

    2) Tablets ==> Think the amount of time saved and paper (think cost) if you could sign a Home/Auto/Umbrella client on your Tablet and immediately send binding order to Carrier and print out ID cards and confirmation…

    3) Methods for Taking Social Media Relationships Offline ==> Agencies and Carriers are rapidly growing their online relationships. Now to throw everyone on their head We must learn how to streamline to process of turning Online relationships into offline business…

    Hope this helps… Wish I was going to be in Tampa, its -12 degrees in Albany today.

    Ryan H.

    • Rick Morgan January 29, 2011 at 2:56 am - Reply

      #3 – a very valid point. Sometimes we forget that technology (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) doesn't sell insurance – agents and broker do. Yes, we have some new and very wonderful tools that help create and build relationships. That however, does not replace the need for "offline" interaction. The industry does need to do a much better job of streamlining processes that allow for "real-time" response to the customer. For example, the phrase "I will get back to you" is no longer acceptable.

  4. Ryan Hanley January 24, 2011 at 4:10 am - Reply

    Rick not Rich… sorry. My mind was moving too fast on my response.

  5. Jason Hoeppner January 24, 2011 at 4:14 am - Reply

    Rick,

    Here are four areas that I think agents will be pondering over the next year that the ACT Social Web Workgroup could promote:

    1. Excitement and hype about social media are slowing down into the realities of what it is all about – communication, relationship building, presence and branding. Leads may come but it seems to be something that (as in every other media) is a process of perseverance and cultivation.

    2. Agents will need to pay attention to their prospects, clients, companies and peers a bit more on these media or they may miss some valuable information. E.g., that client who just posted something that has a direct (or indirect) effect on their insurance; the company that makes a new announcement regarding underwriting guidelines or products via a social media channel; publicity about some other local, current event that should pique an agency’s interest that they may not pick up on while their competitors do…

    3. Location-based social media and how agencies can effectively use it. I think this is one of the areas that is lagging as a clearly valuable way to spend an agency’s time and effort. It may prove to not be as worthwhile as some other strategies, but it is worth a bit more research.

    Another area that I have seen firsthand is the integration of social media into the daily operations, through management systems, of an agency. Two of the newer platforms that will be going live within the next 12-18 months are building in functionality that will allow the user to track clients’ and prospects’ social media accounts. This integration of social media into daily workflows may be new to an agency and we should be able to provide some excellent examples (see #2) of how this should evolve the way we service clients.

    4. I think the webinars and sessions at the national events are excellent. I have done several chapter presentations as well and I think the local events are effective, especially when some of the agents in attendance can share some specific examples of the successes they may have had in social media. An agent panel roadshow?! Overall I think the effort to continue to share specific results through articles, and the webinars, will continue to effectively get the word out.

    Regards,

    Jason

  6. Ryan Deeds January 24, 2011 at 4:30 am - Reply

    From the agency side:

    You will see huge shifts to IaaS. Most of us are coming out of some rocky times and dont want to spend money on more hardware and now that their are some very viable alternatives why not go that route?

    Further embracing social media to connect with new clients and prospects.

    Shift to mobile- More producers will start using devices and less full blown computers. Think Netbooks, Ipads/Playbook, BlackBerrys.

    Technology will be used to solve problems for the clients more so than ever as we try and figure out where we are going to fit and how we bring true value to our clients.

    From The carrier side:

    I hope to see open standards continue to be embraced. It would be nice if the API's of the carriers were as easy to write code for as it is for the social media sites.

    Better ways to deliver and asses needs and solutions for their insureds. Faster claim resolution.

  7. Pat Alexander January 24, 2011 at 4:37 am - Reply

    Rick, While the iPad was released as a personal consumer product, I believe the business world has also embraced this tool rapidly. I have seen one Agency Mgt System say that they have apps for a number of tablets. Other AMS vendors and insurance companies need to all be on board with apps as tablet usage will only increase. The 20 somethings use their smart phones and iPads, not laptops unless their work or school require such.

    A AMS vendor asked me 2 yrs ago what I thought they needed to do to stay ahead of the technology curve. At that time touch screen monitors were the big discussion. I asked where they were going with touch screen technology. The rolled their eyes and said it wasn't relevant. REALLY??

    Then we wonder why we can't attract new/younger talent. This is part of it.

  8. Ashley Whitney January 24, 2011 at 4:55 am - Reply

    Hi Rick,

    Great question. My dream quote process (which is actually possible in parts w/ different companies) is to sit down with a prospect with my iPad. Enter their name & address in a quote form which pulls in all of their home & auto information. Review the information, quote and issue using a credit card for the down payment & e-signature for the paperwork. All in all – 5 to 15 minutes with the majority of my time discussing limits and coverages and doing what an agent should be doing … making sure they’re covered correctly.

    Having data entry streamlined so you’re just verifying information not typing in VIN#’s and DL#’s and everything is a huge time saver.

    Also – making sure the technology you have for agents works on multiple platforms.

  9. Katie Herbst January 24, 2011 at 7:56 am - Reply

    The comments above are extremely insightful – should make for great discussion on the 19th! Something I'd like to add, to build on the mention of tablets, is mobile in general … as agents are developing their websites (which as we know many still have work to do in this area, and many are also making great progress in developing effective sites along with a social presence), they also need to think about how people will interact with their agency through mobile devices. As a carrier, we're thinking about this for our customers and our agents. A number of national carriers are getting pretty advanced with this. I think we've moved into action-mode with websites and social media, rather than convince-everyone mode, would you agree? If that is the case, then maybe as we work through the issues mentioned above, we also should look to starting to talk about how mobile will also fit into this. Pat's comment illustrates that this may be the next persuasive argument we take on!

    • Rick Morgan January 29, 2011 at 3:06 am - Reply

      Totally agree with the "action mode" over the "convince mode" comment.

      I see a convergence of Mobil with Social – we need to begin to be able to consolidate, evaluate, and analyze the social graph of prospects and customers – which can be used to strengthen the relationship, present sales opportunities and provide underwriting value, etc.

  10. Patrick Vice January 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Rick … I don't see this much on the Agency side, but I sure do from the carriers' perspective: Business Intelligence and Predictive Analytics. Although insurers live and die by numbers, we (or at least most of us) are behind most other industries in understanding purchasing, servicing and claims behaviour using even rudimentary statistical tools, and have not explored the rich world of predictive analytics.

    The Insurance-Canada.ca Blog, The Intersection, has started to collect postings on this. See, for example, http://tinyurl.com/4kvm6hc.

    Good luck at the meeting!

    • Rick Morgan January 28, 2011 at 2:57 am - Reply

      I just attended the MicroStrategy World 2011 Convention in Las Vegas which was all about Business Intelligence. Most of what we have seen so far is "internal" use of info/analytics. Now need to move into use of Business Intelligence to shape and customize the customer experience. The convergence of Social Media, Mobil and Cloud computing (sort of a perfect storm) will begin to transform the reach and application of Business Intelligence. – Exciting stuff.

      • Patrick Vice February 6, 2011 at 6:19 am - Reply

        Convergence annd collaboration are key elements. SMA and Insurance-Canada.ca are completing a study of how insurers and brokers are collaborating on customer communications, utilizing business intelligence and analytics. see http://bit.ly/gR0fVV. We live in exciting times!

        pav

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Katie Herbst, Life Ins. Selling. Life Ins. Selling said: RT @katieherbst: Discussion: What are the key tech trends in insurance? http://ow.ly/3JlmJ […]

  12. Chris Jordan January 26, 2011 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Rick,

    Great question and I think 2011 will mark many changes. I think the biggest thing we'll see in the insurance industry with regards to agencies is a greater acceptance, and creative application, of social media. I also think that we're going to see a lot of agencies renovating their overall digital presence… new websites, new online tools, etc. And while we've seen a lot of this I think it's going to become much greater this year. I think we're going to see sites like Quora better define social media's place in the industry to position ourselves as experts – beyond what a facebook allows for.

    Obviously mobile will become an even bigger factor and I think 2011 will certainly be the year of the tablet. I think this sets the stage for even greater reliance on web technology to conduct our daily business. I think we're going to see things go from an acceptance of technology to a reliance of it… it's already happening but I don't think we've seen anything yet.

  13. tom greco January 27, 2011 at 1:59 am - Reply

    Rick: some observations to your questions

    I have seen an increase in clients and prospects using our web site to contact us for either new business or service existing. I think this is happening because of using more and more social media such as facebook and LinkedIn and trying to develop a social marketing presence, we even hire an intern to develop this for us. The interesting part of this it is all age levels just not the young.

    We will be doing more and more work on our ipads, iphones with our clients, apps are being developed by both companies and agencies to get new business and service existing clients using this technology and providing superior claims service

    The trend is the usage of more web services from insurance companies and away from software programs that sit on the desktop, I am seeing more and more companies asking if we want to email the policies to our clients

    I see a trend away from traditional desktop computers to tablets and laptops

    I would like to see more my management system develop an app for ipad and for mac itself

    Jeff has done a great job in getting webinars to agents on technology and this is how we need to communicate

    Tom

  14. Cindy Donaldson January 28, 2011 at 2:46 am - Reply

    Hi Rick,

    I think we almost need to have a second level of marketing advice for those agents that have embarked upon social media and now need to learn how to truly capitalize upon its powers. Ie – iPhone apps, measuring analytics, using SM to connect better with customers in our own back yards. These are things that are on my hit list for 2011 and I’ve been doing this stuff for awhile! Yes, my blog is successful and I have a ton of people following me on Twitter and we have a loyal FB fan base and yes we’ve even sold some policies from our social media efforts but what I need to do now is take my solid base and create a new twist to it. Perhaps guest bloggers (clients??), give aways from to our FB fans? Twitter follower of the Day?

    One thing I am working on right now is a QR code mail piece that is directly targeted at specific demographics I want to hit. This of course will be tied into our SM. I’ll keep you posted!

    That being said, we should keep on pushing the need for social media and the “snooze you lose” message. Social media is a fact of life, it’s how people communicate and if agents don’t embrace it they will lose out to those agents (and directs and captives!) that are.

    Cheers!

    CD

    Cindy Donaldson

    Director of Marketing and Personal Lines Sales

  15. Marty Agather January 28, 2011 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Rick,

    I see a lot of commonalities in the responses. First, the move to mobile devices is underway, and there is nothing we can do to change that.

    Social media has gone from an interesting side bar to a key tool to extend the business's reach into the community as a whole.

    The speed at which these changes are happening is unprecedented. Our industry will either get on board or get left behind. The challenge we all face is how to respond to these changes while still having time for our 'day jobs' which for most of us means selling, supporting or underwriting insurance.

    ACT is doing yeoman's work on the frontiers of these issues but as you mentioned, we are the choir – at some level what is common sense to us is seen by much of the industry as black magic or even worse, complete quackery. As leaders, we need to determine how we can eliminate the complexity and communicate the effectiveness of these new tools to those who are willing to try but don't know where to start. Not everybody is ready to virtualize their stack, or do QR mailings, but that shouldn't prevent them from starting a twitter account, posting a response to a blog or playing with a tablet.

    Finally, I had the good fortune to attend the same MicroStrateegy conference that Rick refered to above, and the comments here testify to the growing amplitude of the waves that Rick identifies. It will be an exciting time for all of us in the insurance space.

    Best, Marty

  16. David Berry January 30, 2011 at 6:29 am - Reply

    The number one trend that is going to have an impact on the insurance industry is the fusion of social media and networking in business.

    Agents that figure how to successfully combine these two things together will be able to trim the fat from their marketing budgets and position themselves for the future.

    I could go on and on, but I do not believe that insurance companies are going to make our lives easier just because of technology. Think about the number of times a carrier rep has told you that they're about to make an amazing change in 2 or 3 months? Has an insurance company ever hit their target on time?

    The tools are there to become a paperless, virtual agency with agents all over a different state. So, the agents and agencies that figure out how to combine street marketing with social media will be the true innovators of 2011.

  17. Debbie Russell January 31, 2011 at 4:37 am - Reply

    The next generation will utilize the web to thoroughly research the Plans, Programs, & Services that are available – as well as the Brokers, Advisors, and Providers. The trend is that people conduct a lot of online research themselves. It is no longer "selling" a prospect – they want the information to make an informed decision. Surveys show that people trust information that they find on the internet.

    Agencies and individual producers can use this as an opportunity to connect online via social media and their own websites where they are found as a resource and solution provider. No longer is their marketplace local, but they can use the web for their Target market programs that can gain customers countrywide.

    Additionally, they can help promote their customer's businesses with social media, gaining the respect of their client.

    Social networking is not a direct sales tool, but it is for building a community. Branding yourself as an expert in your field will set an agent apart from the competitors. I already see how this is taking place on Twitter where agents are seeking customers through blog posts about insurance information.

  18. Linda Rey February 1, 2011 at 6:06 am - Reply

    i'm not a technical person and i was racking my brain to figure out how to articulate that insurance companies have to do a better job in developing trust with their consumers. There is a lot of skepticsm about the insurance industry and rightly so. As an agent, there are times i have to defend insurance and it makes my job harder!

    then my friend @bobpulver sent me this article…
    http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtlea

    i'm a huge believer and advocate of social media as a means of information and connection. perhaps somehow, someway insurance companies can leverage that to reach out to the public and mend the skepticism?

    • Rick Morgan February 1, 2011 at 6:30 am - Reply

      Linda – Good points and thanks for the link to the article. Not only can and should our carriers work on building trust and "humanizing" their brand – but I believe our State and National associations can play a critical role here as well.

  19. Dana Johnston February 9, 2011 at 2:20 am - Reply

    Another area to consider for technology trends is E-Learning. This is an excellent way to deliver basic insurance knowledge training to new hires and serves as a great refresher to existing staff. Training can be accessed anytime, anywhere (PC, tablet)and is measurable.

    • Rick Morgan February 9, 2011 at 2:45 am - Reply

      Yes indeed. Also, how would you see this being extended to the insurance consumer? Especially, the mobil aspects?

  20. Brady Polansky February 9, 2011 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Rick,

    I totally agree with the comments here, especially on mobile computing. Years ago laptops were going to allow a producer to work in the field, have access to client files and forms, etc. That never really happened. The demand was there, but the insurance technology didn't follow from the AMS or the carrier side, in my opinion. It seams that only the claims department ran with mobility.

    A huge segment of our population is already using mobile devices for everything from maps, to finding the best price on an item, to researching products or services (Not to mention the whole social media side of it)

    If we want to take back market share from the direct writers we are going to have to compete with them on a 24/7 basis. That means we will need access to data anytime, anywhere. There should be an app for that!

  21. Robbie Wood February 22, 2011 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Hi Rick

    While you're not dealing directly with the Canadian marketplace, I'd like to share an initiative that the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada (IBAC) is leading with respect to SEMCI.

    All projects to achieve this have fallen short because the attempt to translate information from the BMS into formats suitable to each carrier's system has proven unmanageable. IBAC is working on taking this 'translation function' away from the BMS or a 'middle-man' such as Applied Systems' 'Transformation Station', and transferring the responsibility to the individual companies.

    …continued in next post

  22. Robbie Wood February 22, 2011 at 10:04 am - Reply

    …continued from previous post

    The new approach centers on developing a standardized XML-based transaction for new business, policy changes, etc. Each of the Canadian BMS vendors will be able to produce an identical XML file format, leaving each company to adapt their system to accept this one standardized format. Many of the companies have agreed to this, and are currently doing testing.

    The beauty of this is that, as brokers, our workflow will always be identical, no matter which company we're dealing with. The companies have complete flexibility as to the handling of the XMLfile they receive. If the company wants to do a real-time transaction, they can feed the XML data into their system, and generate a standard XML output for transmission back to our system. If the company wants to have the XML data populate a 'change request' that can be processed by their underwriter, they can do that. If the company is so antique that it wants to use the XML data to print out a 'change request' for an underwriter to manually process, they can do that too.

    …continued in next post

  23. Robbie Wood February 22, 2011 at 10:05 am - Reply

    …continued from previous post

    Of course, there has been opposition from Applied Systems, as I believe there is a considerable revenue stream from acting as a 'translator' between BMS and company systems that would largely disappear once the companies are acting as their own translators. The rest of the Canadian BMS vendors so far as I know are actively participating in the development of this new universal communication system.

    Don't know if this is helpful, but thought you might be interested if you haven't heard of this already.

  24. Mike February 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    After attending the meeting in Tampa I would say it was clear to me that the "What" is Mobile (specifically tablets), the "How" was Social applications, and the "Where" was the Cloud. Not necessarily in that order, or working together as one trend, although one could make a good argument for that.
    How that’s going to change the way we work in the insurance industry won’t be all that different than how it will affect any industry. I believe we’re going to be much better connected to our work, our customers, and our prospects. The fact that we now have a portable device that starts-up within seconds and gives us full access to our files and email is just amazing. As you (Rick) quoted Mike Saylor of MicroStrategy (paraphrasing): “We’re getting close to point where it won’t be acceptable, nor necessary to utter the phrase ‘let me get back to you’” The answers to people questions will be at our fingertips regardless of where we are, what we’re doing, or the time of day.
    I think that 2011 will be the “year of being connected” to work as well as to each other.

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