Whether it’s homegrown or a vendor solution, most carriers
have agent portals, explains Steven Kaye, researcher and knowledge manager for Novarica. The differences lie in the functionality they offer.
“The one point I’d like to emphasize is with so many carriers
enhancing functionality or straight-up transformation, there’s a
minimum level of functionality you need to be an effective car-
rier,” says Kaye. “There are leading-edge practices, but I’d say a
functional easy-to-use agent portal is table stakes at this point.”
Portals have served as valu-
able tools for insurers, according
to Kay, in part because of their
simplicity and the relative low cost
to put together a basic informa-
tional portal compared to the time
and resources required for major
Larger carriers tend to enhance
their existing functionality;
smaller carriers typically upgrade
or replace portals as part of larger
system transformation, according
For some lines, such as specialty lines, portals are not as
strong in transactional capabilities because there are exceptions or special cases. Specialty lines insurers look for real-time
upload and download, building out quoting and application
submission capabilities, and trying to extend account service
capabilities to brokers.
“Part of the challenge for these insurers is they work with
a large number and wide variety of distributors,” says Kaye.
“Some distributors want rate, quote, and issue capabilities, while
others want to handle rate and issuance themselves and just
Kaye’s report, Business and Technology Trends: Agent Portals,
found there is increased activity with consumer portals and
activity varies among product lines. Some carriers view the dis-
tributor as the end user as opposed to the customer, but at this
point much of the work being done involves enhancing existing
functionality or replacing/upgrading a portal as part of a larger
suite transformation, depending on the size of the carrier.
Kaye believes there is an opportunity for real-time collaboration with underwriters in today’s portals, which is something
agents always value.
Entering the Portal
Portals have become an effective tool to improve the relationship between car-
riers and agencies even in the face of a changing economy.
Corner the Market
“For most carriers it’s more an asynchronous collaboration,
but some leading-edge capabilities include real-time collabo-
ration with underwriters, co-browsing, and chat functionality,”
he says. “It’s part of a larger customer focus, which we’ve seen
in the last few years. It’s true for agents as well as consumers.
People have higher expectations for what they do online.”
Higher expectations are mainly derived from mobile solu-
tions and devices. Mobility is increasingly important—either
via smartphones or tablets—especially on the life and defined
contribution side of the business, according to Kaye.
“There is more expectation that you should be able to access
the same functionality in the field as you do in the office,” he
says. “We’re seeing an uptick in illustrations for the life side, but
there’s work to do in terms of making it commonplace.”
Also on the life side, Kaye believes the main focus is on
online application submission, quick quotes, indirect video
marketing, single sign-on, illustrations, and integrating with
e-applications. For P&C, he points out there are differences
between personal lines and commercial lines.
“For personal lines, multilines, and, to some extent, workers’
compensation, you are seeing more online application sub-
mission, and quick quotes, similar to life insurance because
they both are fairly simple products,” says Kaye. “Commercial
lines can be more challenging because of the complexity of the
products. There are increasing efforts to enable applications for
commercial lines policies online. I expect that will be a moving
target, especially on the small commercial side.”
Kaye believes insurers face a several issues in terms of re-
al-time capabilities in terms of quotes.
“Commercial download can be challenging,” he says.
“Commercial lines carriers have more interest in capturing files
and importing spreadsheets. I’d say there is some commonal-
ity in terms of online applications and single sign-on between
the two sectors and probably more from a policy transaction
perspective going on in personal lines and life; individual life in
In the future, Kaye hopes there is more of a shift to real-time
collaboration, but he is cautious in estimating how long that will
take for insurers to figure out.
“In general, I think there will be continuing emphasis on
how to streamline the process and make their company attractive to agents in terms of basic functionality,” he says. “
Transaction capabilities will only grow for both sectors—P&C and