NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 21—The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s (IIABA) Agents Council for Technology (ACT) has released a major new statement on the need for more effective agent-company interfaces that will free agents for more productive client service and sales activities.
The paper, The Need for More Effective Agent-Company Interfaces—A Call to Action, outlines the opportunity the agency system has to make investments in standards and new technology to solidify its competitive position long term. It outlines growing agent concerns with the proliferation of proprietary company Web sites and prescribes specific steps companies, vendors, and agents should take to realize the benefits of real-time processing while eliminating inefficiencies.
ACT works to improve the technology and workflows used within the independent agency system. Its 37 members include IIABA, insurance companies, technology vendors, user groups and industry associations.
“We have an historic opportunity to harness new standards and technologies to realize both the benefits of real-time processing as well as new efficiencies for agents operating in a multiple-company environment,” says ACT Chairman Edgar Higgins Jr., CPCU. “The need today to enter data and logons multiple times and to deal with significant variations in workflow company-by-company simply is inefficient. We ask companies and vendors to set the overall objective to implement the ACT vision.”
The ACT vision outlines how agents can interface in real-time with multiple companies using their agency management system or other integrating platforms where logons, passwords, and data flows between the systems are handled seamlessly in the background with the various systems interacting with each other.
Today, IIABA’s National Board of State Directors overwhelmingly approved a vote in support of the steps set out in the ACT statement and encouraged national and state agent association leaders and agency principals to make improvements of agent-company interfaces a priority in their discussions with company and vendor CEOs and senior executives.
“The commitment to adopt the ACT vision and follow through with steps to realize that vision is critical to achieving greater efficiencies for the independent insurance agent distribution channel,” says Jeffrey M. Yates, ACT executive director. “We have received a very clear message from the industry that the active involvement of agency principals across the country in pressing for these issues is critical to attaining our objective.”
“It also is vital for agency leaders to make the necessary investments in their own technology to be positioned to take advantage of these new interfaces,” Higgins added. “Agents also should work with companies and vendors to help them develop these improved interfaces and then reward companies with growth when they implement them.”
The ACT statement urges companies and vendors to begin implementation of the ACORD XML standards now and to participate in efforts that will permit company systems and Web sites to interact automatically with agency-management systems. In this way, multiple-data entry is eliminated, logons are handled machine-to-machine in the background, and agents can follow the consistent workflow of the agency management system.
ACT recommends that companies, agents and vendors take four specific steps to improve agent-company interfaces:
- Set the clear objective within each organization to participate in industry standards-based initiatives to achieve multiple company, real-time interfaces between agency management systems and companies and other agency partners;
- Place priority on implementing the ACORD XML standards and real-time processing with business partners;
- Improve agency efficiency when using company Web sites by streamlining logins and navigation, bridging as much data as possible from agency systems, and designing sites to be more intuitive; and
- Focus on improving deficiencies with the current downloads of data to agents and improve agency understanding of effective download implementation.
The ACT statement is available at www.independentagent.com by clicking on the Agents Council for Technology tab on the left margin.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com .