Tech Shabby

By | May 3, 2004

The more things change, the more they … you guessed it—the more they stay the same. See? Even that saying has remained the same after all these years.

This banal truism is particularly—er—truistic when it comes to the state of independent agency automation. For too long, the insurance industry has been more tech shabby than tech savvy. We could probably sit around for a long time and debate whether it’s carriers or agents who are more to blame for the status quo (Who’s up for it? My place, Saturday night!), but in the end the simple fact is that what makes the independent agency system strong—its diversity—is precisely what has impeded its march toward the El Dorado of a single-entry, multiple-carrier interface (SEMCI).

After all, we don’t see captive agents complaining about having to re-key the same data 10 times a day, but then again their systems—Allstate’s, notoriously—have fallen behind the curve. One agent technology consultant quoted in our feature on agency management systems says that when he started out as a producer 20 years ago, he had to learn the mainframe, green-screen proprietary systems of several carriers. In light of today’s whiz-bang proprietary carrier Web sites, he says, the difference today is that the colors are a lot prettier.

Perhaps this is not quite true, though it makes for a cute story. XML really is making a dent in the amount of re-keying agents have to do and helping seamlessly bridge data from the agency management system to the carrier’s Web site database. Not every element is there yet for every carrier and every agent, but the people in the know say that real progress is being made, slowly but surely.

I wonder whether being tech savvy is a common denominator among our inaugural top 100 property/casualty agencies. It’s probably a key component, given that today’s insurance customer is more demanding than ever before. Check to see if your agency—or someone you know—made the list. If we missed you, make sure to submit your agency’s information next year. We want placement on this list to be an accomplishment an agency can be proud of—not just a clip in a dusty frame in shabby back office supply closet. You need to save that space for the soon-to-be-obsolete technology you just paid for!

By the way, with this issue Insurance Journal unveils a new department called Web Mail which, as you’ve probably guessed, features comments and e-mails left with IJ in responses to stories on the Web from our online and print versions. This first bag o’ mail was a little light on commentary from our Midwest readers, but I expect you’ll rectify that tragic oversight soon. So if there’s something you need to get off your chest (and into the heads of other IJ readers, just point, write and click.

Thanks for reading!

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Insurance Journal West May 3, 2004
May 3, 2004
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