Organizing Your Data
Making effective use of data to cut down on time spent on every part of the policy pipeline will be crucial for the industry as a whole in the coming years.
But there are obstacles to making use of data this way—and the problem is not the lack of data, says Kabir Syed, founder & CEO of Ennabl, which offers a platform that both assembles data from disparate sources and augments it with additional insights.
“It’s not like agents and brokers don’t have the data; they have the data, but they just can’t get to it,” Syed explains. “The problem is where the data is being stored. You have some data in your email, some data in your systems—your agency management system, or your customer relationship management system. The problem is the fragmentation of data across applications.”
The natural next step is building the centralized infrastructure where that data can be stored and easily accessed by those who need it. Then, he says, brokers can make better use of it.
For example, he says brokers could use their data to pre-fill forms for applications and validate the information on them, reducing the time and cost for clients and carrier partners.
Another benefit of this kind of centralized data, according to Syed, is that it can better position a firm during the M&A process. “The more you have your data together, the better the price you can get. People view you as professional: you already have certain data processes, you have already thought through all of those things, already segmented out your data to answer questions someone might have. You can give a very good picture of yourself to your buyers. Otherwise, they’re going to keep you in due diligence for a longer period than you expect.”
But Syed cautions that brokers should not compromise data security in the name of pulling in as much data as possible through the pipeline they build, even if they are technically less regulated than carriers when it comes to holding data.
“Ultimately, we are getting first-party data, so brokers need to be very careful as data stewards,” he says. “We may not think of ourselves as that, but if that data is leaked, there is no recovery. If you are not secure, you are going to lose trust, and you are going to lose clients.”
“Skip the Landline”
Syed acknowledges that making decisions on where and how to invest in technology like this can be very difficult. “You have to consider—what is the impact for me, for my people, for my clients, and for my partners? You can’t solve all three of their problems at the same time, I can tell you that. It’s too expensive.”
For him, the best way to approach this is by “doing it in batches. For example, you take the most severe problem your clients have, and fix that. Then you take the most severe problem that your placement people have, and fix that.”
He also emphasizes that not every company has to follow the same path up the technological tree, and that one technological solution that worked for one company may not work for another. “One example I use is when countries went from agrarian to industrialization. First, you didn’t have a phone, then you got a landline and after the landline, you got a cell phone. Nowadays, you don’t have to have a landline—countries going from third to first world completely skip the landline, and just go to smartphones,” he explains.
“Likewise, now you can bypass certain steps,” Syed says, pointing to Salesforce as an example—some companies undoubtedly find it useful, but others may not, as inputting information in Salesforce adds another layer of work that producers may not appreciate having to do. “You need to think very carefully as you grow bigger about whether having this or that kind of application is necessary. You have to think about what your user experience will be at the end of it.”