An agency management system is essential in running an independent insurance agency. Many carriers will not provide an agency appointment without some sort of a system. There are well over 15 different vendors who offer well over 20 different insurance agency management systems in the marketplace. The two largest vendors have been around for some time. They are Applied Systems and AMS/Vertafore.
Should a new agency go with one of the larger vendors? First of all, I would say an agency should always plan to get a system it plans to keep indefinitely. Will circumstances change and require change in systems? Yes, but with advance planning, you can minimize this. If an agency is looking to add producers, it should keep that in mind when purchasing a system.
The larger, more expensive systems have huge capabilities and can add all the branch offices an agency may acquire, along with hundreds if not thousands of producers. These systems are flexible and are able meet the extensive needs of these larger agency organizations. They do nearly everything, including:
Premium Finance Company Management
Electronic Document Filing
Real-Time carrier access
Real-Time rating on carrier’s platform
Policy Data Download
Instant and Text Messaging
With the fast-changing and innovative world of technology, the list of capabilities is constantly growing, including integration with other websites, social media, applications and phone systems. You should always inquire about the latest features of a system and evaluate if such features will benefit your agency.
Besides the two major vendors, there are a number of medium-sized to smaller size vendors who have made headway in the marketplace due to the innovative features of their systems, including web-based systems, social media and client access. Some smaller vendors have been around for some time. Their systems are very affordable, but the capabilities and technology may fall short when compared to the newer systems. However, their technology may be more stable and offer lower-cost entry points and monthly fees.
Be aware of the number of carriers and policies that a system can download. Newer vendors often introduce the product before they are able to configure all the possible downloads, while an established vendor has been downloading for years and has been able to add nearly all available carrier download options. Without these downloads, your agency staff will have to manually input all the policy information. While you certainly may have to do this for certain policy types and carriers and on policies secured through a wholesaler, minimizing this function is important for a number of reasons. Inputting the data into your system instantly is very important, especially when serving an account. Also, using staffing for data can be costly, and input errors do happen. Before purchasing a system, make sure to see a current list of the carriers and policy types that the system is set up to download.
Management Systems have trended towards hosted systems in the last 10 years and continue to go in this direction. However, there still systems that sell in-house systems. In more recent years, many of the newly developed hosted systems have been web-based, yet you will still see systems hosted on Citrix or other similar platforms. The best thing about hosted systems is that you can access them from anywhere, not just in your office. You can access them on your laptop while meeting with a client, and some newer systems allow access on a mobile device.
While I feel that a hosted system is truly the way to go in the future, security is a valid concern. Cost is typically not an issue either way. Keep in mind that if you do not get a hosted system, you are responsible for backing up and managing the system, including updates.
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