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Turning Off the Paper to Agents Phase Two Report

Overview & Major Recommendations
This report supplements ACT’s original report, “Turning off the Paper to Agents; The Key Responsibilities of the Parties,” which is included as Appendix A to this report.  ACT believes that both reports should be read together and that the recommendations contained in both continue to be important as carriers consider turning off the paper provided to their agents.
 
This report specifically focuses on recommendations for: (1) agent and broker workflows where the paper documents they had been receiving from their carriers have been replaced with electronic information; and (2) the most efficient electronic carrier-to-agency transactions in this new “paperless” environment.  The report addresses only paper and electronic information that relate to transactions involving specific customers.
 
It is important to note that this report is designed to address the reality that many agents face today, as well as how they can structure the most effective workflows to operate in the current environment.  The paper also addresses some real-time technologies that should be vigorously pursued to further improve the ability of agents to operate in an increasingly paperless world.  These real-time technologies include the capability for data within the agency management systems to automatically populate the carrier’s systems and web sites, without the need for re-entry.  This technology will greatly improve the quality of the data that is downloaded.  In addition, real-time “alerts” technology has great promise to permit carriers to update the policy records in agency management systems directly and to send documents and links to documents directly to agency management system mailboxes, without creating the extra steps involved when this information is sent by email.
 
The ACT work group has divided this report into two major sections: (1) those “paperless” transactions where the information is downloaded; and (2) those “paperless” transactions where the information is not downloaded.  The group felt strongly that carriers and agents need to treat these two situations differently in some ways, and similarly in others.  First let’s look at some of the differences: 
  • Implementing effective download should be a prerequisite before “turning off the paper” becomes a requirement.  Where the carrier does not provide a download for the transactional information, or the agency has not turned on the download because it is inadequate, it should be optional for the agent to turn off the paper. Note this applies to either personal or commercial lines information.
  • As a general rule, the agency will want to check each transaction against the original request when download is not in place.  Where download is in place, then the agency generally should “spot check” or “audit” the downloaded items.
  • Where download is not in place, the agent should have the choice as to whether the paper is turned off.  If the agent elects to have it turned off, then the agent generally should receive the electronic information as an e-mail attachment from the carrier and store it locally given the current state of real-time functionality.
  • Where effective downloads are in place, the agent should be able to rely on viewing the electronic documents on the carrier’s site, when needed.  It is critical that the carriers revise their current contracts to provide the agency with the commitment that they will continue to make this information available even if there is an agent of record change or the agent’s relationship with the carrier changes, such as with an agency termination.  (See Appendix A, ACT’s original report, for a detailed discussion of this critical point.)  This electronic information maintained by the carrier should include the exact form used and its edition date.
Now let’s look at a number of carrier practices that should be in place whenever the paper is turned off-- whether or not there is an effective download in place:
  • ALL PAPER turned off by the carrier to the agency should be available via the carrier web site along with the carrier’s commitment to provide the agency with continued access as outlined above.
  • Carriers should “push” links to the electronic information to the agent, rather than expecting the agent to go to the web sites of their many carriers each day to see if there have been transactions posted on the site.
  • Agents should have the choice to receive electronic documents and/or the links to those documents.  If the documents are accessed via web links, carriers should make sure the agent has the ability to print them, if desired.
  • Carriers should permit their agents to customize which links and documents they want to receive, as some carriers are doing today. 
  • Agents should have the flexibility to decide where particular links are sent in the agency.  The work group believes it is a best practice for agents to have a carrier’s electronic transaction information, and links to such information, routed to a central mailbox at the agency for distribution by the agency as appropriate.  New real-time “alerts” interfaces should open up opportunities for even more improved workflows, where the carrier’s transmittal can update the agency management system’s policy record automatically, and electronic documents and links to those documents can be pushed directly to the appropriate agency management system mailbox(es).
  • The lists that carriers maintain containing the agency’s various electronic transactions should have the capability to flag those that have previously been acquired by the agency.
The two sections that follow treat the issue of “turning off the paper” in greater detail, first, in the situation where there is an effective download of the information in place, and then, where the carrier does not provide a download of the information.  Note once again that each section is likely to apply to some aspects of both personal and commercial lines.

Going “Paperless” Where Download is in Place
The work group participants agreed that turning off as much paper as possible from our insurance carriers, in both the personal lines and commercial lines departments, can have a significant positive impact on the agency workflow.  Staff hours spent opening, sorting and distributing mail prior to "processing" and then filing, scanning or in some other way storing the paper "post - processing" can immediately be re-directed into more productive activities such as client coverage reviews or new business sales.  
 
The work group recommends that agencies generally accept the download as accurate and only "spot check" or "audit" the downloaded transactions rather than checking each and every item.  Exceptions to the audit approach should be evaluated in situations where the carrier rather than the agent has done the data entry; where there are large, complex accounts with multiple schedules in personal or commercial lines; and in situations where the agent has experienced a pattern of download inaccuracies from the carrier.  In those areas where "auditing,” rather than transaction by transaction review can be implemented, the agency frees up valuable customer service staff time to focus on premium generating activities.
 
The work group felt there should be no distinction between personal and commercial lines in terms of “auditing” downloads versus “checking” each transaction, provided the agent is receiving clean downloads where the “bugs” have been worked out. Agencies need to keep in mind they are doing a great majority of the data entry for the download transactions - via carrier web sites or various interface systems.   This alone has greatly improved the accuracy of the information received through download.  The industry needs to continue to move to real-time interfaces through the agency management systems where agency data is automatically entered into the carrier’s systems or web site, thereby assuring greater accuracy of the information.
 
Downloading in commercial lines is more complex because of the higher degree of variations.  Agents have had problems with commercial lines downloads in the past, but it is time for agents to take another look at these processes. Many carriers, working with the vendors, have improved their commercial lines downloads considerably, and now have many of their agencies downloading their small commercial lines business.  The major user groups are also engaged in improving the quality of these commercial lines downloads by working with their vendor and the individual carriers to resolve any continuing problems.
 
When checking/reviewing transactions in a paperless environment-- whether it be every transaction or only an audit of a select number of transactions-- most of the work group members are using a single monitor and are not printing out paper copies.     Some other agencies are using a second monitor and find this extremely valuable.  We will see more discussion in the industry of the merits of using a second monitor, and this discussion should be helpful to agencies as they decide whether such a change is right for their particular agency.
 
Some carriers make available electronically to their agents daily transaction reports with links that agents find very useful in managing their download review process.  These are particularly helpful with regard to pending cancellations and other transactions that most carriers do not download.  Agents prefer that carriers that provide such reports “push” them to the agency.  Some carriers can push out, via e-mail, a list of all daily transactions with links.   They may also customize what they send to the agency based upon what the agency wants to receive.    For example, if all the agency wants to see are the cancellation notices sent out to clients each day, they can set up the tool this way.  Other carriers can push transaction information with links to agents via download with a daily report of transactions and customer notifications, in addition to making these reports available on their web site. 
 
Where the carrier does not provide a report of downloaded transactions, agents should use the reports provided by their agency management systems to review the daily transactions and take action on those that require additional handling.  An example of this might be final cancellations.
 
With regard to transactions where download is in place and the electronic document is available on the carrier web site, the work group did not feel it was needed for the carrier to send the agent an e-mail notification with the document attached or a link to the electronic document (other than the electronic daily transaction reports recommended above).
 
Even where download is in place for a line of business, there are likely to be some transactions relating to that business which are not downloaded.  Examples might include notices of cancellation, audits, property valuations, and correspondence regarding underwriting issues sent directly from the carrier to the insured, etc.  It would be very helpful for the carrier to push this information or links to it to the agent using the daily transaction reports, e-mail, or the new “alerts” technology.
 
New real-time “alerts” messages, in time, may enhance these processes further by enabling the transmission of links to documents, or the documents themselves (depending upon agency preference), directly into agency management systems. 
 
Monthly download of direct bill commissions and/or daily automated download invoicing (where the transaction premium is automatically posted) are additional download tools that can greatly enhance agency efficiency and should be implemented wherever possible.  In addition, when the paper is turned off, it is important for vendors and carriers to implement the capability to send and receive daily commission data (percentage and amount) using the ACORD 6PAL record, because otherwise the agent will no longer receive this information.
 
New ACORD standards also will facilitate the ability of carriers to download claims updates and claims reports directly into agency systems which also will be very beneficial to agency workflows.
It is critical that ALL PAPER turned off by the carrier to the agency be available via the carrier web site along with the carrier’s commitment to provide the agency with continued access as outlined above and in the work group’s phase one report (Appendix A).  
 
The work group concluded that agencies generally do not need to maintain an electronic copy of documents in their agency management systems where the data has been downloaded into those systems, provided the electronic document is available from the carrier.  In those limited situations where the agent needs to access the documents themselves, they can be quickly retrieved through the agency management system using real-time interface tools or directly from the carrier’s web site.  These real-time interface tools accessed through the agency management systems can provide significant time savings to agencies and should be implemented where available.
 
Recommended Workflow Where Download is in Place  
Receipt of Transactions
  1. Agency receives and imports the download transactions from carrier.  Download transaction updates the agency management system database and records that a download has taken place.  Some systems also close any related open diary (activity) items.
  2. Agency prints and reviews download report from agency management system.
  3.  Agency audits a predetermined # of transactions.
    Service Request from Client
  4. Client contacts agency with request for information.
  5. CSR looks to agency management system for data to resolve the question or issue.  If additional information is necessary to provide response, CSR would then use the real-time interface incorporated in the agency management system to move directly out to the carrier web site to review the complete copy of the policy on-line or to receive the needed information back into the agency management system instantly from the carrier.
Going “Paperless” Where Download is not in Place
The work group agreed that “turning off the paper” for carrier-to-agency transactions has the greatest chance for success when download is available and generally used by agents.  Acquiring and processing electronic transactions that require verification and data input/update is challenging.  Implementing download should be a prerequisite before “turning off the paper.”

However, the reality is that carriers are aggressively working to minimize cost.  Transmitting documents electronically represents huge cost savings to the carrier.  Agency owners and principals should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of implementing electronic document processing without download.  The agency and carrier should agree on an acceptable workflow before the paper is turned off.  If agreement cannot be obtained, continuing to receive the paper should be an option for the agency.

To fully assess going paperless where download is not in place, we focused on three areas of electronic document processing:
  • Acquisition and Routing
  • Verification and Processing
  • Permanent Storage and Retrieval

Acquisition and Routing
The biggest challenge in acquiring the agency copy of electronic documents is that each carrier is developing its own method of delivery.  This makes it difficult for the agency to establish consistent workflows.  There are currently two methods of acquiring documents:

  1. Carrier-to-agency e-mail notification with the attachment or a link to the electronic document.  Acquiring documents as an e-mail attachment from the carrier is currently the best method. The agency can then process the transaction.  Another method carriers are implementing is sending an e-mail with a link to the online document.  This method requires the agent to go get the document via a link and sometimes also to enter the agent’s logon id and password.  Using links requires an extra step(s) for the agency.
    Routing documents to the agency provides yet another challenge.  Some carriers e-mail the CSR directly, and some carriers send an e-mail to a general mailbox like <carrier>@agencywebsite.com.  The work group agreed that the agency should have the choice as to where it would like to have these e-mails sent.  The group felt that the best method of routing was to have the email sent to a central mailbox.  This ensures that all transactions are received in a consistent manner.  Otherwise, each carrier will have to be notified of the assigned CSR for each new policy or every time there is a staff change.  As documents are received electronically, the agency mailroom distributes (preferably not by e-mailing, but by routing to an inbound document queue set up for a particular individual or department). 
  2. No notification.  Some carriers today have eliminated paper copies to the agent and are not forwarding any notification of processed documents to the agency.  The agency must rely on its own follow up system to go to the carrier site and retrieve the document.  Some carriers provide a list of documents that the agency needs to acquire.  As documents are acquired by the agency, the documents disappear from the list.  Some carriers provide a list of documents that need to be acquired, and flag the documents as they are acquired.  Some carriers provide a list of documents that need to be acquired, but do not flag acquired items.  In this case, the agency has to search for a specific policy to acquire.
  3. The work group agreed option #1 is best where the agent is pro-actively notified of the document.  The work group agreed that option #2—no notification-- does not work for an agency.  It is also important that carrier lists of transactions flag those items that the agency has retrieved.
    Currently, carriers still provide paper copies of documents to the client in most cases.  However, it is safe to assume, the electronic documents will be available for the client in the future, and this transition should be made without imposing an obligation on the agent to print policies for insureds when they request a paper copy.

Verification and Processing
Receiving electronic documents without the benefit of download creates a big challenge for the agency.  Although not perfect, with download, many agencies report they can successfully toggle back-and-forth between an electronic document and the agency management system database for verification.  However, without download, receiving electronic documents and processing online with the agency management system is very difficult.  Most CSRs have to resort to printing the documents – especially policy declaration pages, so they can update the agency management system database and verify the policy for accuracy.  The work group agreed that printing these documents for verification and processing was the least desirable method.  It is inefficient and costly to the agency.

The workgroup had a lively debate about the accuracy of carrier documents.  The underlying problem with electronic documents without download is the high instance of errors.  We should encourage agencies to demand greater quality from the carrier.  This problem is minimized (not eliminated) when the agent or the agent’s system has entered the information into the carrier’s web site or system, and through the download process, the carrier and agency databases are synchronized. 

As discussed in the previous section, some agencies are experimenting with dual screens as a means of enhancing efficiency. The challenge with dual screens is that the typical CSR workstation is not currently set up for the dual screens.

Recommended Workflow Where Download Is Not In Place
Recommended Workflow:

  1. Agency notifies carrier of a transaction
    a) CSR orders/communicates policy transaction via e-mail, on-line or over the phone according to agency guidelines
    b) CSR sets diary pending receipt of transaction
  2. Carrier sends document or link to document to agency centralized mailbox
    a) Designated person (mailroom) distributes the document as appropriate within the agency (preferably not by e-mailing, but by using some sort of inbound document queue set up for a particular individual or department). 
    b) Designated person (supervisor, quality control) manages queue to ensure transactions are processed in a timely manner.
  3. CSR processes the transaction
    a) Verifies accuracy of the transaction against original request
    b) Updates agency management system database
    c) Closes activity/diary pending receipt of transaction
  4. CSR determines method of storage for transaction and/or document
    a) CSR stores locally (preferred) or stores link to carrier web site
    b) CSR decides not to store

Permanent Storage and Retrieval of Documents
Documents should be stored locally at the agency where download is not in place.  The insurance client is much more to an agency than just the policy document (or endorsement, or cancellation, etc.).  The insurance client file contains risk analysis and questionnaires, applications and quotes, proposals and binders, certificates and binders, conversations and inquiries and e-mails.  The policy documents are part of a bigger file and should be stored together.

An agency with good document management guidelines will put retrieval of documents as its top priority.  Local storage of non-downloaded documents ensures timely and efficient retrieval of these documents given the current state of agent and carrier technology and interfacing.  In time, real-time interfacing between agent and carrier should permit a seamless integration between the agency’s and carrier’s systems, thereby allowing new, even more efficient workflows to emerge to handle this electronic information.

Recommended Future Steps for the Industry
The work group recommends that agents, carriers, and vendors implement the ACT recommendations contained in the above sections as well as in our phase one report found at Appendix A.
 
Download reports available from our agency management systems are an important tool in the “paperless environment.”  These reports need to include a brief summary of endorsement changes, in addition to the other transaction detail.    Agents should be able to sort them by carrier, by transaction, etc.  Vendors should review these reports and work with their users to make them as valuable as possible.
 
Carriers and agency management system vendors MUST continue to refine both personal lines and commercial lines download!    This capability is A LONG way from being as robust as it should be. A full analysis by line of business to determine areas requiring improvement would be extremely beneficial. Agencies have had to implement too many work-arounds.  Bottom line, ALL of the data on carrier printed policies-- even data that carriers consider as "standard coverages"-- along with any other data in the carrier system, should be sent down via download.
 
User groups, by vendor, need to be strong advocates for their members in this area.    Carriers must “tweak” download for each of the agency management systems, so while organizations like ACT or AUGIE can work to bring a focus on the download issue – specific problems must be addressed on a system by system basis.
 
User groups and agent associations, as well as individual agents, carriers, and vendors, all need to encourage agencies and brokers continuously to use download and real-time functionality when it becomes available.  This is the surest way to encourage additional positive investments by carriers and vendors to add new transactions and lines of business.
 
ACORD’s new standards procedures hold great promise to accelerate the ability of ACORD to develop needed standards that facilitate effective downloading and real-time interfaces between agents and carriers.  Carriers and vendors need to adopt these standards as they become available.
 
More carriers, including the smaller regional companies, must begin to get involved with download and real-time solutions that operate through the agency management systems which will greatly reduce the need for re-entry of the data and, as a result, the number of errors in the data. Otherwise, agents will have to continue to use multiple workflows for the same transactions and face needless inefficiencies.
 
Vendors should consider adding the capability to handle logon ids and passwords automatically when the agent clicks on a carrier’s link to a particular document and the carrier’s system prompts for such information.
 
Agents would prefer to receive links to documents, or the documents themselves, depending upon their preference, directly into their agency management systems using downloads or new real-time “alerts” interfaces.  These technologies eliminate the agent’s extra steps to access a separate e-mail application and its attachment and then to move the e-mail message and attachment into the agency management system.  These alerts should also be able to deliver a great benefit in the claims area, by pushing claims updates and claims reports directly to agency management systems.
 
The agent should have the option to receive such electronic information in a centralized, managed mailbox on the agency management system, so that the agency can properly track all of these links and electronic documents.  The centralized mailbox also greatly assists carriers, because they don’t have to track which CSR gets which particular document.
 
This report was prepared by the ACT “Paperless to the Agent” Work Group
Bob Slocum, Slocum Insurance Agency, Work Group Chairman
Brad Allen, Selective
Steve Aronson, Aronson Insurance
Chris Ball, Insource
Donna Barr, Marsh
Virginia Bates, VMB Associates
Linda Dodson, Chubb
Cal Durland, ACORD
Ann Feuerstein, MetLife Auto & Home
Steven Finch, Computers by Design
Bruce Fiori, Travelers
Barbara Flanigan, CNA
Mele Fuller, SAFECO
Mark Galante, Chubb
Teri Good, EHD Insurance
Ed Higgins, Thousand Islands Agency
Christine Kozaczka, MetLife Auto & Home
Rozalyn Murphy, The Hartford
Laura Nettles, Nettles Consulting
Sherri Rarey, Grange Insurance
Jonathan Samel, Samel Insurance
Cyndy Smith, Haylor Freyer & Coon
Diane Smith, Arlington Roe & Company
Angelyn Treutel, Treutel Insurance Agency
Jeff Yates, ACT Executive Director

Appendix A
July 1, 2003
         
Turning off the Paper to Agents
The Key Responsibilities for Each of the Parties
By Agents Council for Technology
 
There is a major trend among carriers to turn off much of the paper that has traditionally been sent to agents and to replace it with electronic information.  Many agencies are supportive of this trend, and in fact have pushed it, because they too are trying to save cost by eliminating paper and relying instead on the electronic information found primarily in their computers.
 
Agents, however, who have not implemented download in their agencies, tend to have more concern about their companies turning off the paper.  In addition, agents have concerns about carriers not sending written policy information in commercial lines because download is not working as effectively for this business.
ACT believes the overall efficiency of the Independent Agency System will benefit from the elimination of paper being sent to the agent, provided carriers follow certain procedures in implementing this change and continue to provide this information to the agent in an electronic format in a manner that is convenient and efficient for the agent.
In addition to the specific recommendations that ACT outlines for the carriers in this report, ACT believes agencies should take the steps necessary to be positioned to conduct business electronically, without the need for paper.  Further, vendors need to supply technology that will accommodate the electronic documentation.
 
The Types of Paper Being Turned Off
Several carriers have started with personal lines policy paper, but some have also moved into some types of commercial lines.  Additionally, reference manuals, policy forms, rates, rules, and product bulletins are often available only electronically.
 
Many carriers have stopped sending agents new policies, renewals, and endorsements as well as some related information, such as underwriting correspondence or home appraisals. They also have ceased sending agents written billing notices such as for nonpayment, cancellation, and reinstatement.  Some carriers also are looking at turning off written direct bill commission statements.
 
In addition, carriers have eliminated sending written claims notifications to agents whether it is the First Notice of Loss or notice of a claims payment. 
 
Carrier Responsibilities in Going “Paperless” with the Agent
  • The carrier should give all of its agents considerable advance notice of its intention to eliminate the sending of particular paper.  ACT suggests that the carrier advise its agents of its intent to move in this direction at least one year in advance.  Additionally, the carrier should advise its agents to implement the appropriate download, real-time information inquiry transactions, and electronic information management within their agency systems to be able to handle the electronic information effectively.
ACT recommends that 180 days before the carrier goes paperless, it advise its agents of the exact date and encourage them to begin testing the paperless workflow by relying on the electronic information as though the agency were not receiving paper.  This testing period allows agents to discover any inadequacies in the carrier’s electronic approach, so that the carrier can fix these problems before the paper is actually turned off.  It also provides the agency time to adjust its workflow and procedures manuals. This period also allows carriers to fully test the capabilities of their system with increasing agency traffic.
 
Carriers typically rely on local field people to provide this agency notice and to implement these changes.  It is critical that these individuals be trained on these workflow changes and convey to the agents the importance of their taking these preparatory steps on a timely basis.
 
Carriers are also encouraged to provide their agents with web casts or other training to help them understand the exact nature of the changes the company will be making and the recommended steps agents should be taking now to prepare themselves properly for the changes.  Agents would find it helpful if carriers were to provide field trainers, as well as qualified help desk personnel, to assist agents in learning how to implement the changes.
  • Carriers should involve their agency advisory councils, including individuals who regularly perform this work with the carrier, in their strategy and planning to go paperless with their agents, so that these plans can benefit from agency thinking before they are finalized.
  • Before turning off paper to the agent, the carrier should provide access to that information on the web site in a manner that the agent can download, print, and store locally.  The carrier should commit to make the information available to the agent for the length of time that state law requires the agency or the carrier to retain such information. The carrier should strive to provide this information to the agent on its web site for at least a seven year period—the length of time most states require the parties to retain such information.  However, in some cases, carriers may archive the information or retain it in different formats after a period of time.  In these cases, the carrier should commit to produce the information for the agent within three business days.  These commitments to provide the agent with the information generated while the agent was the agent on the account should continue, even if the agent ceases to write the risk with the carrier, another agent secures an Agent of Record letter for the account, or the relationship with the agent terminates for whatever reason (agency termination, carrier withdrawal from the line of business or state, carrier acquisition or other change in carrier status).
Technology has opened up a new world where agents are increasingly relying on electronic policy information kept at the company level. This reliance will increase substantially when carriers turn off the paper to their agents.  For this new workflow to work for the agents, however, they need to be able to count on the continued accessibility of this information as provided in the preceding paragraph.  ACT encourages carriers to give their agents this commitment in writing and to incorporate it into the agency agreement.
 
It is also important for the carrier to provide the agent, using this electronic policy view, access in unalterable form to the actual policy forms and endorsements which were in effect when the risk was written. These documents will be required should the agent be called upon to produce the documents for a legal proceeding.
 
Many carriers will need to introduce new capabilities for restricted access to their websites, or set up new websites, for those agents who fall into one of the situations above where they are no longer writing the risk with the carrier, or are no longer representing the carrier.
  • The carrier should implement real-time inquiry functions with the agency management systems to permit the agent’s management system to access information from the company’s system without having to physically logon to the carrier web site, enter a user id, password, and policy number, and then navigate to the proper place on the company site.  Wherever possible, machine to machine authentication should be utilized.
  • Carriers should offer the capability to “push” certain electronic documents from the carrier to the appropriate person in the agency by e-mail with a link back to the company system for the full document.  Examples where these “push” capabilities are important include: first notice of loss, nonpayment, cancellation, and reinstatement notices, underwriting correspondence, and product, underwriting, and authority changes.  Carriers should work with their agents to determine the documents that can best take advantage of “push” technology.
  • Download of basic customer and policy information remains of primary importance to the agent, even though the carrier has made the policy information available electronically on its web site. Agents need the information downloaded into their systems to prevent duplicate entry as they use the data in their agency management systems to provide client services, generate management reports, and engage in marketing efforts.  It is very important for carriers to work with their agents and the agency management system vendors to improve the effectiveness of these downloads where necessary.  While of primary importance, download by itself will not accomplish all of the agent’s needs in a paperless world.  This is why real-time policy view and inquiry capabilities and the use of e-mail “push” technology are also critical for the agent.  
  • In order to facilitate an orderly and effective implementation of a paperless process, it is recommended that carriers implement the changes on a per agency (or producer code) level and on a line of business/market basis.  This reflects the reality that neither all agencies, nor all lines of business, will be prepared for this change simultaneously. 
  • Carriers should make sure the data provided is timely and accurate and that they prioritize and fix glitches in their systems quickly.
  • Reference manuals, policy forms, rates, rules, and product bulletins are good examples of information which can be maintained most effectively in an electronic format on the carrier web site, permitting the agent to use electronic indexing and “key word” search.
Agent Responsibilities in the “Paperless” Movement
  • Agents should continue to move to an agency environment where the agency management system is the primary source of information for all agency employees.
  • As outlined in ACT’s “A Vision of the Future for Agency Technology including the Essential Next Steps for Independent Agents”, agents should commit to installing high speed internet access at every desktop, budgeting for automation, upgrading systems to keep the agency current, and training their staff members so they are prepared to utilize the technology advances as they become available.
  • Agents should review their company contracts with specific regard to the provisions and guarantees concerning their ability to access their policies and other documents following a termination, or if their carrier is acquired, exits the state, or the line of business.  Particular attention should be paid to making sure that all critical documents will continue to be available in a format that the agency can use in their daily operations and as required by law.
  • Agents should implement policy as well as direct bill commission statement download wherever available in personal and commercial lines.  Agents should have a clear understanding of the vendor and carrier procedures and rules to implement download.  Where downloads are not working properly, the agency should work with its carrier, vendor and user group to correct inadequacies or errors in the data and process.  Agents should obtain additional training as necessary.
  • Agents should implement real-time inquiry functions through their agency management systems with as many of their carriers as possible.  This capability will enhance the ability of agency employees to use electronic information stored at the carrier efficiently. Agents should provide internet access to company web sites to all staff members.
  • When an agent learns that a carrier will “turn off the paper” to the agent, the agent should immediately begin testing its reliance on the electronic information from the company, as though it were not receiving the paper.  In this way, the agent will be able to point out any inadequacies to the carrier before the paper is actually turned off.  This also allows time to update agency procedure manuals and workflow processes.
  • Agents need to become familiar with the features and functionality of the carrier web sites and consult the company’s customer care staff for assistance and guidance.
  • Agents should get involved in their agency management system user groups for both general information and individual help in dealing with their systems and this new environment.
  • Agents should provide fast accurate feedback to their companies when they encounter problems.
  • Agents need to keep in mind as they determine their electronic information policies that if one of their insureds is sued, they may be subpoenaed to produce the complete policies (not just the Declarations Page) covering those insureds from decades before.  Agents also should assure themselves that they can continue to read this electronic information as they upgrade or change their systems.
ACT and the Council for Best Practices has developed a guide for agency management of electronic information which became available in September, 2003.  As covered in more detail in this guide, some of the issues agencies should address regarding the management of electronic information include:
  • Office document practices to avoid E&O
  • Auditing of management system data to ensure it is accurate, complete and entered on a timely basis
  • Standardization of the documenting of policy transactions (such as the consistent use of diaries and notes
  • Agency responsibilities to maintain records based on specific state laws
  • Agency responsibilities in keeping records that are not sent to the carrier  (an example is the uninsured motorist waiver)

Vendor Responsibilities in this Paperless World

  • Agency management system vendors should work with their user groups and the carriers to make download as effective as possible.  These download capabilities should include both personal and commercial lines, direct bill commission statements, and claims status and payment.
  • Vendors should keep current versions of all ACORD forms on their systems at all times.  If the form is outdated, the agent’s ability to submit electronically is severely impaired.
  • Vendors should implement real-time billing, claims, and policy inquiry transactions with as many carriers as possible.
  • Agency management systems should have the capability to attach electronic documents in multiple formats (such as PDF, jpg, Word, Excel, html, tif) to the client file.
  • Vendors should work with their agents, user groups and companies to resolve problems quickly. 
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