When insurance industry observers think of the channel strategies for personal lines, the picture can appear to be fairly simple. More of the business is moving to direct distribution, whether that is through call centers or the web. Furthermore, there is a clear movement to digital, straight-through processing. Comparative raters continue to exert significant influence on submissions flow. And, finally, the rich get richer – with tier one direct carriers continuing to gain share. These have been the trends for the last few years. But a closer look reveals that the evolution of distribution in personal lines is more complicated.
New research by SMA reveals several developments that must be added into the channel evolution picture.
- Relationships with affinity groups are a growing distribution choice: A significant percentage of personal lines insurers plan to increase their emphasis on business with affinity groups or establish partnerships with new affinity groups or companies outside of insurance.
- Insurtech distribution partnerships are vital: There is already substantial partnership activity underway between carriers and insurtech digital agents or distribution platforms. The new distribution platforms are more than comparative raters, providing increased capabilities to support fully digital, straight-through processing operations.
- MGAs are a growing part of the landscape: MGAs play a major role for commercial lines distribution but are not always considered to be a significant channel for personal lines. That may be changing as insurers create more new/customized products for consumers and seek access to preferred segments.
Last, but definitely not least, independent agent distribution continues to flourish. The IA market landscape is shifting dramatically through M&A and the role of platform agencies. Insurers are adjusting to the new realities of partnering with sophisticated distribution partners that have scale and advanced tech. At the same time, many insurers are deploying very focused appointment strategies. Rather than scaling back on appointing new IA partners, in many cases, the opposite is occurring. Couple that with the enhanced tech capabilities being provided to distribution partners and the increased connections with intermediary distribution platforms, and it is clear that the independent channel will still be a critical part of personal lines distribution for years to come.
See also: The Digital Journey in Personal Lines
The result of all this activity in channel strategies is a move toward more omni-channel capabilities, with carriers offering prospects, producers and policyholders a variety of ways to interact. And in five years, the channel environment is likely to be even more complicated than it is today. But it is unlikely that any one channel will dominate.
For more information on commercial lines distribution expansion strategies, see our recent research report, “Channel Strategies and Plans for P&C Personal Lines: A View of Today’s Environment and What’s to Come.”