The following patterns surfaced as we discussed the current agency and sales team’s challenges and opportunities:
1. Insurance agency and team leaders report that staffing and recruiting is their top challenge. Agency owners report staffing their offices to be most challenging, in particular regarding producer roles. Insurance sales team leaders, such as self-employed professionals with Primerica, report challenges with recruiting team members who are credible and have the qualities to succeed.
2. Lead generation was another challenging area. One of the sales team leaders indicated that he has found referrals to be the best way to find prospects. He reported that he routinely obtains 10 or more referrals from his customers.
3. Mindset and having the ability to stay the course was mentioned as another area of challenge.
4. Finally, some mentioned retention. The problem of retention surfaced when we discussed new recruits experiencing difficulty in dealing with rejection. Further training on business building and on how to build relationships with prospects was mentioned as a potential solution.
What do you think about these challenges? Do they reflect the challenges that you find in building your business?
Coming from the Insurance Executive Conference earlier this month in New York, I am extremely excited by what I heard regarding where the industry is heading.
I attended both the life insurance and P&C tracks, picking up the following insights about how the industry is disrupting itself before others can:
Insurance carriers are embracing change. Anwar Haneef, partner at IBM Watson, said, “We have not seen much disruption in the insurance industry in the last 100 to 200 years” and acknowledged that new technologies have the potential of changing that. Jeffrey Killian, vice president of in-force service and operations at New York Life, stated, “We could become Blockbuster (Video) if we don’t go through the change.”
Insurance carriers are focusing on their customers in a new way. For example, Gerald Patterson, senior vice president of retirement and investor services at Principal Financial group, spoke of Principal’s move away from thinking about customer service to focus instead on the customer experience. Principal tries to provide value to the customer and understand that young consumers expect the same technology from insurance carriers that they experience with other service providers. He also stressed the importance of embedding experimentation in your customer experience on a regular basis.
Insurance carriers are embracing technology and planning for a different future. At the highest level, for example, Jane Chwick, former partner in charge of global technology at Goldman Sachs, provides technology expertise as a board member of the relatively young company Voya Financial. Patterson mentioned that he has recently spent time visiting Silicon Valley and attending Fintech conferences.
Killian acknowledged that realizing a company’s vision of customer experience requires investment and pointed out that Principal is committed to making the right investments to accomplish this. He remarked “We have invested a lot in Lean Six Sigma. It’s amazing how much energy you can unlock through these processes.”
Joe Beneducci, chairman, president and CEO of Prosight Specialty Insurance, said, “Technology is a catalyst that affords us options.” Life insurance executives discussed their expectation that the analytics movement will affect carriers’ entire value chain. They also saw predictive analytics enable insurance carriers to be learning organizations.
West Hunt, vice president and chief data officer at Nationwide, discussed the capability of scaling human expertise through cognitive computing. At the same time, the rise of robo-advisers and their potential threat to the business was mentioned. Finally, the recent trend toward digital and what it means to the industry was raised. Technology was discussed all over the conference.
Further opportunities to leverage technology were identified. Colleen Risk, senior analyst at Celent, mentioned the opportunity insurance carriers have of enhancing their websites to provide transaction capabilities for consumers, such as changing beneficiaries. Recent research by Celent showed that less than 25% of life insurance carriers are doing e-delivery of contracts. Other opportunities include: making data available throughout the company, producing strategies to sustain customer loyalty, developing a compelling message for life insurance and educating Millennial consumers.
I was happy to participate in the conference and felt energized by the discussion of new topics that position the industry to continue to thrive into the future.