New digital and especially mobile technologies continue to alter the way clients are buying insurance. The shift can prove dizzying for benefit advisers, leaving them no choice but to scramble to keep up.

“[Given] the speed at which these trends are developing, this group has to be continuously [reacting] to them,” says Ron Berg, Executive Director of the Agents Council for Technology.

Last month ACT, which is part of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (The Big “I”), issued a report on these technologies and their impact. It determined that “although these technological developments often present challenges,” in Berg’s words, “they’re also blooming with opportunities for agencies to build their business and provide better service.”

The biggest takeaway from the ACT research is that the industry must develop applications around mobile platforms first. The majority of insurance shoppers begin their searches on a mobile phone, Berg notes, and 66% of them will disengage from a site that’s not mobile-friendly.

To keep clients engaged, he says, advisers should augment their current strategies with a mobile-friendly response mechanism, “whether it’s automatic quoting, Skype [or] chat.”

Mobile engagement for advisers goes beyond policy sales and research, he adds, and covers claim processing and service renewals, among other touchpoints. “Everything that we’re seeing evolving is about relationships,” says Berg. That means “serving the client in the way they want to be served,” at the time and on the platform of their choosing.

Until recently, “Agents and brokers have been able to get by with relationships the old-school way, all the way back to golf courses and the Yellow Pages and face-to-face,” he observes. But now, “We’re at a time where we really have to be nimble.”

Security challenges

New technologies and techniques allow advisers to capture and analyze more data about their clients. They are able to integrate real-time business intelligence into their decision-making process, according to the ACT report, giving them a fuller understanding of both their clients and their own operations.

With greater access to data, however, come greater security challenges.

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"Agents and brokers have been able to get by with relationships the old-school way, all the way back to golf courses and the Yellow Pages and face-to-face."

In addition to federal and state regulations regarding data security and procedures, the ACT report notes that data breaches will continue to become more costly for business.

From a cyber-security standpoint, “What does it mean when hardware and software become more virtualized, and agents can take advantage of them from any platform at any time?” Berg asks. In such a fluid environment, he maintains, “Those with access to personal data are obligated to safeguard it.”

To help advisers adapt to the new online environment, ACT plans to support efforts to create a digital interface that “mirrors the demands of the marketplace,” according to Berg.

In the end, though, mobile platforms, automated quotes and digital interfaces will help advisers better serve their clients, but they won’t replace them, Berg says. Despite all its advantages, technology still can’t anticipate “the width, depth and breadth” of a client’s needs like an adviser can, he concludes.

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