Two industry groups are joining forces this year to advance four technology-focused industry priorities that will help brokers by simplifying their workflow while also increasing customer satisfaction. The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America's Agents Council for Technology (ACT) and ACORD's User Group Information Exchange (AUGIE) have determined to work together on the following goals:

1) ID Federation - This is a single login technology so agents can have one password for all computer-based systems. In essence, a broker would sign on to his or her computer in the morning and that would authenticate them on all of the different company and insurer websites they need to work on, says Jim Armitage, VP of Arcadia, Calif.-based Arroyo Insurance and chairman of the ACT group.

"For agents and brokers, especially individual agents, we represent a lot of different companies," he says. "As a result, we are constantly going out and sharing information with these companies. Multiple times we are stopping to have to login and looking up passwords."

2) Real time - To increase the sharing of multiple carrier ratings, policy changes and policy inquires between the agent and the broker in real-time so that agencies will have a consistent experience across their carriers. "It helps make us more efficient," Armitage says. "It makes us more profitable. It allows us to better serve our customers. Somebody comes in - one and done."

3) E-signatures - Armitage says there are a lot of legal documents to be signed in insurance and the industry is historically paper-intensive. The groups want to move toward what banks and real estate are doing to make it "more efficient and quite frankly ... what consumers demand," he says. "They are looking at doing this at their convenience."

4) Self-service capabilities - As independent agents represent many carriers, clients often say, 'X Insurance is my broker,' rather than, say, Aetna. "They identify with their trusted adviser. ... As a consequence, we give them choice," Armitage says.


About the end-user

Armitage says while some of those ideas are about improving the adviser's ability to serve the customer, most are customer-facing and being demanded. "They want to do business in a certain way," he says. "Through a lot of the technology and sharing of information electronically we can take it to the next dimension and meet customer expectations."

He is hopeful that the goals will be completed this year and says ACT and AUGIE are pushing "awful hard" with a lot of the last-minute ideas needing to be minor tweaks.

The groups have previously worked together on accomplishing tasks, and their leaders say that is what helps get their goals accomplished.

"The last five years have brought enormous improvements in agency and carrier efficiency and customer service, because we have all worked together to streamline workflows and incorporate improved technologies," says Lisa Goth, VP of New Bethlehem, Penn.-based Charles P. Leach Agency and an AUGIE member. "It is now time to build on these accomplishments and put our distribution system in an even stronger position for the future."

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