ACT Releases Comprehensive Technology Study

November 5, 2001

A groundbreaking and indispensable insurance technology study was recently released at the Independent Insurance Agents of America’s (IIAA) Hawaii InfoXchange by the Agents Council of Technology (ACT), announced ACT Executive Director Jeffery M. Yates.

The study, “A Vision of the Future for Agency Technology Including the Essential Next Steps for Independent Agents,” provides agents and industry leaders with a helpful framework to evaluate potential technological decisions. ACT sought input from a wide cross section of technology opinion leaders in the industry to create the most credible product possible.

“The Internet has fundamentally changed our business, and agents and companies need to adapt their technology capabilities accordingly,” Yates said. “Consumers want to interact with our industry electronically and expect immediate service. At the same time, companies and others want to do business with agents in real-time over the Internet.”

“There are no perfect solutions, but investing in technology provides a definite bottom-line payback to the agency,” said Edgar J. Higgins Jr. CPCU, principal of Thousand Islands Agency located in Clayton, N.Y. and chairman of ACT. “It positions the agency for increased profitability, growth, efficiency, and heightened standing with clients, companies, employees, and potential purchasers.”

The vision lays out eight major technology trends that will significantly affect how agents do business in the future. The trends include:

Internet hosting services

Real-time interaction

Integration platforms

Prospects and customers do business electronically

Single-step process

Collaborative computing

Ability to compute, and

Personalized marketing and service

The ACT report recommends several essential steps that independent agents can undertake to position themselves to profit from these emerging technology trends. The critical first step is for agency owners to establish a culture that views technology as a strategic opportunity and an integral part of the process of running an agency. The agency should organize itself so that there is a chief information person or its equivalent focused on maximizing the benefits of technology in the agency. Technology should be implemented to respond to a defined need in the agency, such as improving a particular business process or workflow.

“The ACT vision is for agents to initiate transactions in their agency management systems wherever located, or in other front-end systems, and access multiple company Internet sites to complete processing in real time and on a single-entry basis,” Higgins said.

Yates encouraged agents, “to take advantage of the new opportunities being created, agents need to stay current with their hardware and software, have broadband communications capability to the Internet with an always-on connection, and implement new vendor and carrier technologies when they become available.”

Agents should also use their current agency management systems and other technology more fully and consider adopting digital imaging technology, by exploring the benefits of electronic filing, adopting scanning, eliminating paper and using digital cameras. Agents are urged to adopt 24-7 customer service to increase efficiency and respond to new customer expectations. In addition, the agency website offers an effective method to brand the agency and attract new prospects. Finally, agents need to focus on the security of their systems because the new functionality creates new risks that must be managed.

“IIAA created the Agents Council for Technology to exercise agent leadership on technology issues,” Yates said. “Agents can continue to look to ACT to play an increasing role as their advocate on technology issues and as a source for practical technology information.”

The full ACT report, A Vision of the Future for Agency Technology Including the Essential Next Steps for Independent Agents, as well as several useful technology checklists, is available at the ACT website at www.independentagent.com and by clicking on the Agents Council for Technology.

Founded by IIAA in 1999, ACT is an action-oriented partnership of independent agents, insurance company and technology provider leaders focused on achieving the most effective use of technology in the independent agency system. ACT members include the Independent Insurance Agents of America, Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, Agency Revenue Tools, Allstate/Encompass, ChoicePoint, Chubb, CNA, Ebix.com, First Notice Systems, Grange Insurance, idNet/CSR 24, IVANS, MetLife Auto & Home, National Grange Mutual, Ohio Casualty, Progressive, Prudential Property-Casualty, Royal SunAlliance, SAFECO, Safety Insurance, St. Paul, The Hartford, Travelers, Westfield, Zurich North America Surety and Financial Services and Zurich Small Business.

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