a customer starts using one channel (the web, for instance)
and switches to another channel to continue (an agent, for
instance), the information is available in real-time or passed
on to the second channel. Some companies in multi-channel mode still rely primarily on overnight batch runs for
K Transaction channel pairing: Ideally, any insurance
transaction should be available through any channel. For
example, if a policyholder wants to pay their bill through
the agent or via ACH transaction or mobile payments, those
options should all be available. Multi-channel operations
sometimes align specific types of transactions to specific
channels; perhaps the application can only be submitted
by an agent, or a claim can only be reported via a contact
So, the agent can and should be part of omni-channel. The
rapid evolution to a mobile, digital, connected world means that
the agent channel will change, as will the contribution of agents
as part of an omni-channel scheme.
How is Insurance Distribution Changing?
What are the resulting changes in insurance distribution, and
how rapidly are they likely to occur? Broadly speaking, there are
three specific ways that distribution and the agent role is likely
K Digital broker startups will disrupt: New, technolo-gy-based online agents and brokers are coming out of the
woodwork. Venture capital is flowing into these startups
with the intent of disrupting the industry. The primary
focus is on P&C personal lines and relatively simple life
insurance products (term, low face value). A few digital
brokers are addressing small commercial, but mid-market
commercial, large commercial, specialty lines, workers’
comp, annuities, and permanent life products are mostly left
to intermediaries at this stage. Many of the startups will fail,
but many are also likely to be successful and cause disruption.
K Agencies must increase tech enablement: To collaborate
with insurers and other channels, agencies must be tech
savvy and have modern technology in place for real-time,
mobile operations. The responsibility to establish the right
platforms and tools to accomplish this is shared by insurers
and agencies. Those that remain mired in paper and old
processes will find it increasingly difficult to grow their
agencies and maintain profitability.
K Agency consolidation is likely: Several factors will drive
consolidation. Chief among them are agency demographics
and technology capabilities. Many agency owners/principals
nearing retirement age face the options of cashing out or
passing on the agency to someone. Millennials may be less
interested in taking over an insurance agency, especially if it
has limited automation.
In addition, the in-
creasing tech demands
will favor agencies that
are already leading in
this area. Finally, the
increasing success of
direct and digital dis-
tribution will decrease
the opportunities for
agencies in certain
It is impossible to predict how fast these changes
may occur and to what
degree they will be disruptive. But it is a virtual certainty that insurance distribution will change significantly in the next decade.
How Will Agents Participate in the Future Om-
So back to the original question: Where is the Agent in Omni?
The short answer is that agents, brokers, and other producers
that adapt will have great opportunities to play a central role in
the omni-channel world. Many individuals and businesses will
value the expertise and advice of professionals as they seek to
address their needs for insurance and financial products.
But adapting means change—putting together and implementing a plan to become more tech aware and tech enabled.
Proactively collaborating with insurers on the best ways to
provide value to customers is another must. Being aware of new
customer demands and new opportunities is also vital.
Those agencies that are innovative and take these ap-proaches will position themselves to play an active role in the
insurance environment of the future and experience continued
opportunities to grow their businesses. ITA
Mark Breading is a partner with Strategy Meets Action
and is a recognized expert in advanced technologies and
their implications for the insurance industry. He can be
reached at email@example.com or 614-
the best ways
to provide value
to customers is