Technology for Agents
Keeping up with technology and how the consumer wants to and will work with the agent is the prime issue for providers going forward to 2012, says Jerry D. Fox, a former agent who is vice president, Agency Operations, for Marshall and Swift/Boeckh (MSB). "I do not believe this is a new issue, but the speed of innovation is ever increasing and the independent agency system is already behind. It will need to make some quantum leaps to catch up."
If that is the case, how will agency budgets play into the technology strategy? "The agency will have to prioritize what they want to do," says Fox. "Fortunately, technology infrastructure (storage, computing power, etc.) is remaining static if not decreasing in price. What the agency will need to do is not worry so much about the hard line items, but more about how they want to be seen by the consumer. It is more about quick, mobile, 24/7/365 support than how fast their PC is. It is a major shift in thinking on how the 'relationship' is made and kept."
Still, according to Fox, "the independent agency system is way behind in almost all areas of technology. They have been worrying about whose data is whose and where it is stored when the whole system should have been thinking about who should have access to what and when.
This article in this week's issue of ACORD Weekly Newsletter is worth a read if you're an agent or broker. Fox is saying that, when making technology choices, agents have tended to focus on themselves and not on their clients. In his view, agents who want to have staying power will have to change their ways. It's a mobile-Facebook-Twitter world; insurance producers will have to join it or become obsolete. Pretty sobering thought.
UPDATE: I was remiss in not mentioning Project CAP, an initiative of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America to help independent agents compete online with the direct writers of the world. There will be a lot of activity surrounding this project in 2012, so stay tuned.