Independent insurance agents can find sifting through the many InsurTech products to pinpoint ones suited to their needs is a daunting assignment.
But it’s an assignment they must tackle, according to agency consultant Chris Burand, founder of Chris Burand & Associates, who says that agencies themselves, not their carriers, must decide which InsurTechs are best for them.
Burand last month convened a two-day Insurance Agency Showcase Summit (see Insurance Journal report: Why Agencies Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Insurtech and Need to Adopt It – Now) where several InsurTech companies spoke to agency owners on the agency-specific options they offer, and the ease of deploying those different options in an agency.
Burand said that while there is no one-size-fits-all InsurTech for agencies, the many different products can be integrated and tailored by agencies to their needs. “There is no single solution, is there? It’s going to take different people, different parts, different organizations to make it happen,” Burand said.
Five of the InsurTechs at the summit are profiled here:
The company was formed in 2014 by insurance and technology experts who wanted to improve the independent agency system’s workflows. It currently offers ways to streamline processes and agency operations. Avyst connects with all industry stakeholders — including agents, brokers, carriers, MGAs, wholesalers and other tech vendors — through the secure sharing of data. Its first product – eForms Wizard – was designed to speed up the submission process by giving insurance professionals the ability to collect data at any time, even while offline. It also partners with other InsurTech firms to help enable efficiency for agents. It currently has about 8,000 users and works with around 200 agencies.
The firm said it plans to release a new service called Avyst Interview that offers a guided interview process for agents to talk with applicants about products that are less common or have complex underwriting guidelines.
The company is always looking at agency-focused opportunities that enable the efficiency of independent agent channels, according to Kitty Ambers, chief growth officer for Avyst. “We position ourselves as what we call enablers. We want to enable you to be successful by just helping you transform your digital world. Nothing dramatic, a lot of times the things that we implement in our customer’s businesses are pretty simple things,” Ambers said.
As a young agent running his own insurance agency, Keagan Henson thought there had to be a better way for agents to market themselves and attract the business they want to write. So he built the BriteBee online directory that helps agents increase their digital exposure both locally and across the country and match them with customers in the niches they want to write. Henson has since sold his agency and is now completely focused on helping agents use technology and optimize their use of data.
“BriteBee is building technology to help insurance agents and carriers increase their exposure online,” Henson said.
He compared BriteBee to Yelp or Google My Business for agencies and agents. “We want you to shine bright to people when they’re searching online so that people can find you when they’re searching for a problem and a solution to their problem,” he said.
Customers searching for insurance can be directed to the BriteBee site, where agents and agencies can market themselves, complete with customer reviews and testimonials. “Once they land on the BriteBee site, we then use better connection tools to get each visitor quickly pointed to agencies and agents better equipped to meet their needs,” BriteBee says. He said that means agents are able to focus on accounts that best fit their expertise and product lines and, ultimately, better meet their customers needs while utilizing fewer resources.
This InsurTech markets itself as a “complete digital storefront” for insurance agencies. It offers industry-specific mobile, web and search engine optimization tools and data analytics for agents. Its strategy includes helping agencies become more visible with potential customers and creating a good experience for customers through relevant content, chat integration, content management systems and directory listings, for example. It currently has about 1,100 insurance agency customers with more than 900 carriers represented.
According to Jason Walker, managing partner of Smart Harbor, the company automates portions of communications on behalf of its agencies to make it consumable by an individual that might be introduced to their site.
Its products include: Smart Strategy, which provides agencies a team that manages websites and answers digital questions; Smart Digital, which drives interactions through websites, chat, SEO, compliant content, and mobile and desktop designs; Smart Producer, a simplified mobile insurance buying platform; and Smart Social, which are tools for agencies to engage with their customers via social media and analytics to track those interactions.
“To make sure that your [agency is] visible is important piece number one, and then to automate and create experiences for those consumers coming is where you want to double down,” Walker told attendees.
[Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, Insurance Technologies Corp. (ITC), a provider of websites, marketing, comparative rating and management software and services, acquired Smart Harbor.]
This InsurTech, built by agents, offers retail agents a single-entry access platform for commercial lines insurance. It connects agents to excess and surplus lines insurance carriers, offering the ability to quote and bind policies with multiple carriers.
The xagent Exchange platform/Universal Submission App is available on-demand and cloud-based with no user fees or annual commitment for agents. The company maintains that agents can earn more commission than what they would with a direct carrier appointment because it offers a fully-automated quoting system that eliminates labor costs, paperwork and overhead.
The RiskGenius platform was designed to improve underwriting workflows and help agents better disseminate policy language by applying artificial intelligence to insurance policies.
Chris Cheatham, CEO and co-founder, said insurance policy checking/reviews is important work, but often doesn’t get done by agencies because it can be so tedious. “It’s key work, but nobody has the time to do it,” he said. “That’s why we created RiskGenius because we thought that is a problem.”
RiskGenius helps simplify policy reviews through algorithms designed to improve insurance processes.
Ultimately, Burand says agencies cannot afford to wait – the successful agencies will be those who get it done.
“Let’s figure out how we can deliver better quality to our clients and at lower costs. If we do that, we save money and grow simultaneously. Not everybody is going to be able to figure out how to make that happen,” he said.
*This story ran previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.