Insurers: Improving Distribution Still Key

Continued slow economic growth places a new priority on servicing distribution channels and improving service to agents, according to a new report.

In a business environment marked by increased customer demands, insurers have been forced to continuously monitor and revise their distribution strategies.  One of those strategies is to provide excellent service to the producer as a way to retain and grow business. According to a new report issued this morning by Celent, from January 2010 to March 2012, more than 50 insurers across the life, annuities, health, or property/casualty industries licensed new systems that contained commission and producer management functionality.

The report, which profiles 10 distribution management systems, updates one issued by Celent in 2009 that noted an active distribution marketplace. In its vendor analysis, Celent applied its “ABCD Vendor View” to highlight the relative positions of solution providers in four categories: advanced technology, breadth of functionality, customer base and depth of client services.

According to Celent’s discussion with insurers, the economic environment of continued slow growth places a new priority on servicing distribution channels and improving service to agents. To do so, insurers are turning to a wide spectrum of vendors that offer expanded functionality and improved technology to improve distribution management.

As insurers shop for the best possible distribution management option, Celent notes the importance of developing a clear understanding of their needs in these key areas:

1) Level of insurer control maintaining the system: How important is it to be self-sufficient in making updates to the application, and how much does the insurer want to rely on the chosen vendor for services?

2) Level of IT control maintaining the system: How important is it to transfer system maintenance from a technical (IT) area to business users / business analysts?

3) Enterprise or division scope: Will the system be used for multiple lines of business across the enterprise, or will it be applied to divisional and/or targeted, monoline organizations?

4) Level of agent self-service: To what degree will the agent/producer force be involved with the system?

5) Use of BPO services: Insurers are encouraged to determine if selected activities involved with distribution management can be outsourced. For example, the administration of licensing, first level call center support for agents, and onboarding assistance are candidate processes for placement with a vendor.

6) Number/depth of prebuilt components: Vendors vary in the number and sophistication of insurance-specific frameworks that are delivered with the base system.

Mike Fitzgerald, Celent senior analyst and author of the report, says that Celent believes there is an opportunity for insurers to gain market share through the execution of a strategic approach to producer lifecycle management. “Carriers can gain competitive advantage in their distribution efforts if they bring together and consolidate these various processes to create an integrated approach that delivers higher quality service, more reliable information, and lower costs. Accomplishing this goal will require process optimization and integrated automation, both of which are highly dependent on technology,” says Fitzgerald in the report.

Insurance Networking News, June 4, 2012  by Pat Speer

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