February 8, 2021
4 Connectivity Trends to Watch in 2021
by Dave Acker
In a business defined by relationships, connecting well on a virtual basis will be more than a change — it will be a requirement.
A primary goal of insurtech is to simplify and automate the insurance lifecycle — reducing time-consuming manual tasks, improving the agent experience and addressing potential client risks. One of the best ways is to increase the free flow of information at all points in the distribution channel.
2020 was the catalyst for huge advances in connectivity, largely due to the shift to work-from-home. In 2021, four particular areas will experience accelerated growth:
Real automation of commercial submissions will arrive.
The process of quoting and binding commercial lines has a lot of catching up to do in terms of workflow efficiencies compared with personal lines. Commercial insurance continues to suffer from outdated manual data entry procedures and an abundance of unnecessary paperwork. One-to-one quoting with individual carriers is a labor-intensive process, and high-volume, low-revenue risks typically require the same amount of time and effort as larger, more profitable opportunities.
But there’s good news on the horizon in 2021. This year, the industry can expect general availability of robust, comprehensive insurtech platforms that truly automate commercial submissions. These platforms speed up the process for both agents and clients by pulling end-insured information directly from the AMS and filling as much as 80% of most submission forms without a single click. In turn, these solutions deliver structured, more error-free data to the carrier for accurate, bindable quoting.
Commercial submission automation also allows agents to generate quotes from multiple carriers in near-real time. Consumers have long appreciated quote comparisons as a way to make more informed decisions. By bringing that capability to the commercial side, customers and agents can collaborate on coverage options and reach purchase decisions far more quickly.
Carriers will facilitate better data exchanges.
Look for carriers to expand their data sharing initiatives in 2021. With a more seamless connection among carrier, agency and insured, service will become more immediate, more personal and more competitive.
As connections go deeper into core business platforms, actionable insights grow. For example, if an end-insured makes a change in a policy (like adding a vehicle or a driver), an alert from the carrier could immediately be pushed to the AMS. This alert would not only offer the agent the opportunity to touch base with the customer, but it also eliminates the need for agents to reach out frequently to the carrier for updates.
Integration of third-party data will accelerate, as well, though the industry is in the early stages in the commercial space. The aim is for third-party data to facilitate collaboration across multiple activities such as identifying class codes and linking those to risk, streamlining the underwriting process and optimizing submission flows. The goal is to improve quoting speed and accuracy for commercial lines through third-party data integrations and, eventually, a single application programming interface (API), similar to what is already in place for personal lines.
See also: How COVID Alters Consumer Demands
Single sign-on will make carrier credentialing easier.
For independent agencies, usernames and passwords for carrier websites can be a major concern. The problem is evident when the number of employees is multiplied by the number of carriers; every username and password must be tracked and accounted for.
When an employee leaves, credentials must be removed or changed — a time-consuming process that can also pose security risks if credentials are overlooked. Onboarding new employees requires provisioning dozens of credentials — also a time-consuming task. Over a year’s time, hundreds of hours can be wasted agency-wide simply due to carrier sign-ons.
Single sign-on (SSO) technology is beginning to solve the problem. SSO creates a single, secure agent identity that is acceptable to all carriers. Some AMS and rating systems already offer SSO, but, where the solution isn’t available in an existing platform, users can look to the non-profit organization ID Federation for an alternative. Expect to see SSO gain wider adoption in 2021 as it produces fewer username/password resets, reduces hassle for agents and increases operational efficiencies.
We’ll see an improvement in straight-through processing.
Lastly, this year we expect the independent agency channel for both personal lines and commercial lines to see more functionality on straight-through processing with carrier partners.
In other words, while we’ve been involved over the years with Rate Call 1 and Rate Call 2 (rating and quoting), some carriers are beginning to provide more functionality in their APIs to allow direct binding in the agency’s quoting applications. The benefit to the agency is a single workflow for rate-quote-bind. Carriers benefit from being seen as easy to do business with while providing a major competitive differentiator in the channel. This capability won’t be pervasive through the industry, but there appears to be more acceptance of the process from the carrier side than in the past. As a result, we hope we’ll see more carriers start to think about how they’re approaching this as a potential competitive advantage in the channel as well as the captive and direct markets.
The result: a better-connected insurance distribution channel.
SSO, automated commercial submissions, carrier data-sharing and better straight-through processing will be the most visible connectivity developments in 2021, but not the only ones. In a business defined by personal relationships, connecting well on a virtual basis will be more than a change — it will be a requirement for long-term success. And in a world where connectivity is constantly widening and deepening across industries, insurance workflows, both commercial and personal, have a major opportunity to benefit from modernization and in turn help carriers and agencies increase profitability and better serve their clients.