Insurance carriers and independent agents both know how important each
is to the other, but despite that relationship they haven’t always made life
easier for one another.
By Robert Regis Hyle
A Partnership of
Independent insurance agents complain about proprietary technology offered by carriers. Carriers complain about he lack of appreciation shown by agents in the adoption of technology they offer. Like any partnership, making life easy
for the other is supposed to be the goal, but achieving that type
of cooperation hasn’t been easy.
Ron Berg, executive director of the Agency Council on
Technology, can rattle off a list of items that carriers need to
adopt, ranging from single sign-on to e-signatures and electronic applications.
From a carrier perspective, with independent agents, everything is about ease of business, according to Wade Rugenstein,
even when the agents stops doing business with the carrier.
“If you don’t offer a certain endorsement, they move the
business to someone who does,” says Rugenstein, vice presi-
dent, CIO, and chief operations officer for NTA Life. “Making
the agents’ lives as easy as possible and making sure things are
accessible online is critical and if they have a problem they can
call in and get a quick resolution.”
Wayne Umland, who runs his own consulting firm after
retiring as CIO from Glatfelter Insurance Group at the end of 2013,
believes agencies are challenged to keep up with technology trends
because of the expense of investing in new systems.
“Ninety percent of the programs written by MGAs are less
than $15 million a year in annual premium,” explains Umland.
“The vast majority of these agents are getting 25 percent revenue, maybe, and they have to staff an office, pay rent, process
paperwork, and everything else. What do they have left to invest
in technology? Not a lot of money.”
Berg points out single sign-on is not just an agency issue,
“The plethora of IDs and
passwords that are out there for
agencies and the sharing of IDs
and passwords is one part of
the issue,” says Berg. “The high
percentage of password calls that
any carrier gets just for this issue
is something the industry has to
work on as well.”
There are different flavors
of the single sign-on issue and
Berg maintains three entities need to partner on this—carriers,
agencies, and technology providers—to reach an agreement on
what is best for everyone. The best answer thus far, according
to Berg, comes from the ID Federation in the form of a product
called SignOn Once.
“As SignOn Once is adopted and implementations reach
critical mass with the carrier partners and with the vendors,
that is the solution the industry will get to when it comes to
IDs and passwords,” he says. “It creates benefits not only for
the carriers in almost wiping out calls for ID problems, it provides far greater security in that an authenticated user in an
agency cannot take that ID when they leave one agency and go
to another. This is the single highest initiative in our industry. It’s where we’ve needed to be for a while and is a major
pain point with agents. SignOn Once provides a template for
participating carriers and vendors and one process for agents