ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 27 - The Agents Council for Technology (ACT) Download Work Group affiliated with the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) has issued a report to encourage carriers, vendors, and agents and brokers to make refinements in their downloading procedures and processes in order to resolve ongoing agency concerns, particularly in the commercial lines area.
The ACT Download Work Group was formed in response to the findings of the 2002 ACORD/AUGIE survey in which download emerged as a continuing issue for many agents. Agents generally noted wide variations from company to company in download procedures and results, and found that companies do not download data as accurately or thoroughly as can be accomplished through agencies’ own data entry. Companies are blaming vendors and vendors are blaming companies for these problems, agents said.
Agents share the blame when they do not fully understand or implement the complete procedures for download provided by their vendors and particular companies. Therefore, the work group pulled together representatives from downloading carriers, automation vendors and their user groups to research and identify the key problems and explore potential solutions, drawing upon the successes that have been achieved with personal lines downloads over the last decade.
“Our single overarching recommendation is to increase education awareness of what data is processed, how it is processed and how that affects the agency’s data,” says SAFECO’s Mele Fuller, the chair of the work group. “Better documentation and education will help everyone better understand download issues.
“When dealing with a process as broadly implemented as download, everyone must keep in mind that that every agency, vendor or carrier has widely varying business strategies and capabilities,” Fuller continues. “It is vital that each party increase its communication with the others in order to facilitate specific solutions to download problems. Furthermore, better promotion of the benefits of download will encourage increased implementations as the industry continues to move toward a paperless environment.”
The ACT report identifies nine problem areas involving current downloads and makes recommendations for each of these problems. In addition, it outlines nine additional general recommendations to assist all stakeholders in improving the download process. The report notes that adoption of download has been especially slow in the commercial lines area. The work group’s major recommendations include:
- Carriers should send in download all the data they have available.
- Carriers should follow standard procedures to protect agents’ data.
- Carriers and vendors must document and share details on data they can process, and how they process it.
- Carriers and vendors should take advantage of standards to update transaction/activity logs on the agency management systems.
- Agents and their management system user groups must take responsibility for educating themselves on the process of download.
“This report provides a useful framework for discussion of needed refinements and improvements in downloading,” says ACT Executive Director Jeffrey M. Yates. “However, this report will only serve its purpose if the industry uses it to make current downloading more effective and extensive, especially in the commercial lines area. User groups have been a successful catalyst in the past and need to be so again in order to bring carriers, vendors and agents together to address a specific action plan to improve downloading for their particular systems.”
The entire ACT download report is available under the “Agents Council for Technology” link on the IIABA home page at www.independentagent.com.
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.