You Go First
We are seeing a revolution taking place in the insurance industry to resolve the historically inefficient commercial lines submissions process.
The apprehension to be the first mover or first adopter is being overcome by a community process of development that promises a major move forward in reducing roadblocks and inefficiencies in the quote and bind process.
IVANS has brought together insurers and agents from across the industry in a working group that will test IVANS’ new Insurance Procurement Process. The process begins with an online market search integrated into the agency management system. Once the agent has found insurers with an appetite for the particular risk, the agent sends the customer digital forms that are pre-filled by the agency management system and seeks verification and completion.
The completed application and supplemental documents are digitally submitted to the insurers. Data and documents are ingested into insurer systems to begin the underwriting process. Insurers are able to communicate back to agents regarding questions and submission status updates via application programming interface (API), and all submission analytics are tracked in graphical dashboards. Once the policy is issued, the insurer electronically sends the policy and DEC pages directly to the agency management system, and they are pushed to the customer portal.
CalNonprofits Insurance Services is one of the agencies in the working group focused on remedying the commercial lines submissions process. “We’re really excited about the future ability to push our submissions digitally to our insurers,” says Colleen Lazanich, CEO of CalNonprofits Insurance Services. “It will help us get to market faster, improve our agency productivity and reduce our E&O exposure.”
So why hasn’t this been done before?
Joel Katsma, digital sales director at Acuity explains, “Some carriers feel that they already have a competitive advantage, so they don’t necessarily want to push forward because they feel like they don’t need to. They say, ‘We don’t have enough agents who are willing to get on board.’ The agents, however, say, ‘So many of our insurers aren’t involved.’”
Agents say they want this technology but that they haven’t seen the seamless interface across carriers that they need to justify the resource investment needed for adoption.
That is changing with the new Insurance Procurement Process. Insurers are beginning to see that adopting this new automated workflow will help their bottom line. And, as time goes on and consumer expectations continue to change, the unautomated process will become a detriment to the independent insurance channel. “We’re not competing with other insurers anymore, and agents aren’t competing with other agents anymore,” says Katsma. “They’re competing with user experiences. Brands like Zappos and Amazon have created an environment of instant gratification, driving customers to expect the same in all industries they receive service in.”
Creating a digital chain for commercial lines workflow will ultimately provide a better experience for the end insured and the providers.
“We are excited to see that insurers are beginning to take steps to streamline this process for their agency partners,” says Lazanich. “I would like all of my insurers to support digital submissions so that we can submit more business to them. Having to input into so many insurer websites or make individual submissions ultimately decreases the amount of insurers we can go to.”
By working together, the industry can create a seamless flow of information from the insured to the agent to the insurer and back again from the start of the application process through to submission—and then ultimately back again when renewing the bound policy. This will eliminate a lot of unnecessary friction in the chain.
This friction starts as soon as agents get a request from a client and must find a market with the appetite to quote that business. Traditionally, they either find an insurer they’ve worked with before, risking that they may not get the best policy for their customer, or they employ another manual process depending on the size of the risk. For small commercial, the agent must re-enter the same information into multiple carrier portals to receive quotes. For large risks, the agent must have clients complete multiple applications and schedules. This process can take countless emails back and forth with the insurer and the insured to begin the quoting process, and then not all markets will ultimately quote the risk.
Once the submission is received by the insurer, underwriters take possibly unfinished submissions and go back and forth to complete the quote. While the agent and carrier are working on the quote, the potential policyholder is waiting, sometimes for weeks.
This broken commercial lines submissions process is a perfect example of what happens when parties hesitate to innovate. Our new process, created by a group of solution providers, insurers and agents, shows what’s possible when industry participants work together for the common good.
Kathy Hrach is senior director of product management for IVANS Insurance Solutions.