“Consumer-Grade” Digital Experiences for Agents and Brokers
As digital capabilities began filtering into consumer markets, most industries unknowingly placed their functions into two buckets. There were the applications where “consumerized” digital experiences and services made sense. And there were those areas where digital service would just “never make sense.” Except that most executives hadn’t fully wrapped their heads around what consumerization would do to the buckets they had written off as not applicable.
Pick any industry and you’ll be surprised at what has been packaged into a set of retail-like, consumer-friendly digital services. Concrete makes a great example. Any contractor knows that you order concrete with a phone call. You tell the dispatcher how many yards of concrete you need and what kind of mix you need and where you are going to be located. It is a process that has worked the same way for 80 years or more. The industry was a dinosaur, slow to move.
Until someone developed Truckast — SaaS software for concrete suppliers which is now linked to mobile phone and tablet apps for contractors. Truckast handles truck logistics, site management and real-time data feedback during the pour. Now concrete contractors enjoy a consumer-style ability to control their business and learn from it. Truckast helps suppliers improve their relationships, sell more concrete, lower waste and streamline communication, which lowers operational cost. Which begs the question, if concrete can be flexible enough to “go digital,” are there any areas of the insurance industry that are outside of the scope of innovation?
In Majesco’s February 27, 2020 webinar, A New Digital Experience for Agents and Brokers, we looked at digital transformation activities among some of insurance’s most complex and deeply entrenched distribution channels. These channels are proving that there is no area that is outside of the realm of innovation.
Our webinar panel included myself, Martina Conlon, P&C Practice Analyst at Novarica, Brian Seanor, Senior Director of Digital Operations, Burns & Wilcox, and Nishit Shukla, Director of Digital Business, Majesco. We considered digital agency experience from three angles:
- The high-level, industry-wide view
- The internal innovation struggle and success perspective from a broker/MGA
- The perspective from a solution developer familiar with how new technologies and practices fit experience needs
Together, we answered the question, “How are insurers, brokers and technology providers working together to innovate around the future of agency and broker channels?”
Novarica’s Three Levers of Value
While insurers are beset by a host of trends, constraints and strategies, Novarica has distilled transformation down to what is truly important to the business. Martina Conlon explained it this way.
“We believe there are only three ways to create value in insurance:
- You can sell more by expanding your market, by offering better products and delivering better service.
- You can manage risk better, by improving your pricing, improving risk selection, reducing claims losses, or reducing operational risk, through security, availability, redundancy, and related measures.
- You can reduce expenses or increase productivity and cost less to operate.
“Technology is a key enabler of all of these three. But as we look at digital distribution…digital capabilities exposed to agents generates big value by helping insurers to sell more and cost less to operate.”
In Majesco’s latest thought-leadership report, Strategic Priorities: Insurance Transformation Gains Momentum, we discuss the two-speed model for growth, acknowledging that many insurers are probably tackling their digital agency experiences from two sides: optimization of the existing business and systems, or potentially launching a new business model, products and processes on platform technologies to build the business of the future. Either side of the equation can improve digital service to agents and brokers, and either can apply pressure to the levers of value.
Digital Optimization Pays Off
Two recent winners of the Novarica Research Council Impact Award, for example, found real dividends by investing in digital channel optimization. In one case, the insurer improved turnaround time for quotes by 40%. In another case, the launch of a customized agent portal resulted in 25% premium growth through a consolidation of quote and issuance processes.
Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
Martina also spoke about the up-and-coming technologies that will be game-changers for customer, agent and broker interaction. These include: robotic process automation (RPA), voice computing — servicing agents through Alexa, Siri and Google by placing agent capabilities within the voice platform — and recommendation engines, which give guidance to agents about which product to position and which coverages make sense for prospects and clients. Martina also mentioned the rising use of APIs to assist in streamlining and improving processes such as comparative rating.
One of the most exciting, non-consumer facing applications of digital experience platforms is collaborative pipeline management.
“More and more we are seeing in the middle-market and commercial insurance space…underwriters and marketing reps are working with agents on pipeline management using a shared digital platform in order to manage the mission through the pipeline, talk about which (accounts) they want and what they can do in order to acquire the business.”
Building the Business of the Future
The second component of two-speed optimization is building the future business. In some cases, such as with start-up businesses or greenfield developments, these business processes, products and technologies are completely new and fresh, designed “from the ground up” to reach new heights of digital experience for agents and brokers. We expect his kind of cutting-edge insurance experience from new industries, such as the gig economy represented by Uber. But can these experiences also grow within the older, more entrenched corners of the industry?
When we look at Excess and Surplus (E&S) lines, we find a great example of an industry that looks a bit like the Concrete industry, from the outside. It is high touch, very manual, takes lots of communication and sometimes, guesswork. Most insurers wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that acquiring and underwriting E&S business is unlike any business in terms of complexity. Can a consumer-like digital experience survive in a world where nearly every policy is somehow unique?
Burns & Wilcox, a broker/MGA for E&S insurers, sees things differently. According to Brian Seanor, there are some advantages to be found in the E&S business. Using those advantages can make it easier to bring the digital experience to a complicated business.
“We’re not connecting to a gargantuan policy admin system,” said Brian, “We’re leveraging multiple connection points from the carrier partners and effectively, just carving out the rating and rules logic across a larger ecosystem. In the E&S market, most of our business is not admitted, so within the non-admitted space, you’ll see a lot of product rule and rating changes a little more frequently, but ideally, we do have the flexibility to quickly adapt to changing markets, without the regulatory restrictions that inhibit you from doing that.”
Digital Experiences Begin with a Digital Vision
Burns & Wilcox conceptualized a digital vision that was contingent on three main points of differentiation:
- Leverage existing product logic from carrier partners in the form of APIs, modular components, and “a lot of hard data.”
- Focus on differentiation with a consumer-grade UX that doesn’t exist currently.
- Create a repeatable framework so that as they wish to adapt to the changing marketplace, new products, changing rules, they don’t have to rebuild the experience from the ground up, every time they want to put a new product out.
“So, as a result of that, after doing extensive due diligence, and exploring different vendors, we ended up choosing Digital1st InsuranceÒ, and that was real the result of four drivers, “ Brian said.
- Speed to Market
- Flexible Presentation Layer
- Low-Code Environment
- Digital1st EcoExchangeTM
Currently, Burns & Wilcox is in a beta launch phase with a small group of retail partners, and they are ready for a full-scale launch in Q2.
Digital Vision is Enabled to Key Digital Components
From the developer vantage point, success means supplying all of the tools and methods that an insurer or broker needs to creatively construct a digital experience like Burns & Wilcox. This means not only providing the technologies necessary in the format that works, but also packaging those components within a scalable framework that fits the needs of the business.
Nishit Shukla, Director of Digital Business, Majesco, explained how these components fit the need.
“To make this strategy successful, it is very essential for the organizations to move away from a stand-alone, single product-based approach, to a whole platform-based economy — an ecosystem of partners serving the customer by leveraging all the modern technology that can provide a solution for customers’ needs.”
The foundation for constructing the digital experience relies on three key components. Majesco Digital1st InsuranceÒ, which Nishit classifies as “a fully cloud-enabled API first, and micro-surfaces-based full-stacked local platform, supporting visual modeling as well as the creation of compelling user experiences, providing end-to-end integration capabilities to connect their hubs and APIs.”
The framework also needs out-of-the-box insurance content, which is offered through Majesco’s ready to use engagement apps. This provides a much-needed “jumpstart and acceleration.”
“And finally,” said Nishit, “the EcoExchangeTM, which is the openness of the platform, focusing on microservices and cloud-enabled ecosystems.” When used together, all of these components answer the need for a digital experience platform in a launch-ready package that fits business requirements for scaled-investment growth strategies.
Are you ready to provide cloud-enabled digital experiences to your agent and broker channels? For a more extensive look at trends and possibilities, be sure to view the Majesco webinar, A New Digital Experience for Agents and Brokers. For a deeper look at the relationship between digital experience and Platform-as-a-Service capabilities, learn more about Majesco Digital1st InsuranceÒ today.