CSIO was pleased to host a webinar on broker connectivity with panelists Graham Haigh, VP, Broker Distribution with Wawanesa Insurance, Pete Tessier, VP, Sales and Marketing for BSI Insurance in Manitoba and the Host and Producer of the Insurance Podcast, and U.S.-based Sydney Roe, Chief Marketing Officer at b atomic, an insurance technology company.
The conversation was thought-provoking and explored APIs, industry challenges and how brokers and insurers can communicate better. We asked our panelists to continue the conversation by responding to some of the questions from members that we didn’t get to during the session.
If you missed the original webinar, we will be rebroadcasting it on Friday July 17, register now!
Getting business leaders on board with modernizing legacy systems can be complex due to the large resource commitment required. What can brokers say to their leadership team and how can they convince insurer partners to advance broker connectivity?
Graham Haigh: It’s all about the customer experience. Don’t think of it as investing in technology. Customer experience will drive business success in the future. And, if you as an insurer or broker don’t provide it someone else will. Good technology is one of the best tools to deliver on customer experience.
Alternatively, you can just hire more people and try to deliver on an enhanced customer experience that way. But that’s a pretty hard argument to make. Insurers that don’t invest will be surpassed by those that do. And, speaking from a major insurer’s perspective, we’re assessing our broker’s capabilities to operate in the future and only investing effort in the ones that can.
Pete Tessier: Every time you talk to your company representative ask this question. Ask your fellow brokers to ask this question as well. When you interact with your BMS vendor ask them what they are doing with connectivity with insurers and get your fellow brokers using the same BMS to do the same. It sounds simple but if brokers remain persistent with their industry partners to giving the direction of where change should happen then they can shape change. Make it clear with your partners that this is a strategic goal and your desire to work with partners who are aligned in progressive change to improve the customer experience.
Syd Rowe: Show them how your mutual customer is suffering because of the lack of connectivity. Show the data on:
- Time it takes to get a quote to a prospect because of the 50 additional supplemental questions that are emailed
- Number of phone calls to get accurate information about the status of a claim
- Lifetime value of a customer whose experience with Carrier A is X times faster than Carrier B
- Invaluable time spent on insurer portals and entry instead of selling and deepening relationships
The data speaks truth. And if a company does choose the path of ignoring truth, well, then you have your answer.
How do we develop APIs, when commercial lines (CL) data standards have low adoption?
Syd: Data is really just a bunch of fields and objects. The root of data standardization came from a need for companies’ systems to be connected so that data could be passed back and forth automatically.
In the past, when we had to move data, our only option was to do so in large sets often called “data dumps” and the connection bridging two systems required the same labels in each system. So, if a field was “Phone” in System 1 and “Phone Number” in System 2: problem! This setup means we all agree on terminology, aka “data standards.” Otherwise, when we pass large data sets, we’re going to have large problems.
APIs, however, are a different animal as the focus is on the data structure. They are dynamic, real-time and can be tied to singular objects or fields. If one company has Data Structure A and another company has Data Structure B, an API can essentially pass AND translate the data between the two companies’ systems. Think of the difference between taking a bus and driving a vehicle you own. A bus system requires everyone agree upon pre-defined stops before anyone gets on the bus; an individually-owned car does not have these limitations.
This doesn’t mean conversation around data standardization is not advantageous. Working towards a common language is absolutely worthwhile. But moving into an API-driven world means it’s not as necessary for connectivity.
Pete: The challenge is that personal lines has all the efficiencies to streamline underwriting and rating so it’s easier to build efficiencies or APIs. It’s an easier model. With the diversity of commercial risks, companies have to work with business partners to develop niche offerings that require the industry to have some proverbial skin in the game to do this. The hard part is sharing information with others who are committed to streamlining workflows and building solutions to improve the customer experience.
Graham: Without commercial data standards, you can create and integrate APIs, but there’s no scale and ‘brokering’ would be limited. If a broker picked a single company to work with and integrated only with their data needs, you’re all good. It’s once you want more companies to integrate with, then standards become critical. One of the best things we can do as an industry is to work on CL data standards, and we’ve seen progress on this initiative with CSIO. Great start, let’s keep it going.
Are there any API solutions that double as a data exchange gateway and resource to collect market intelligence (like a CRM)?
Syd: Can companies pass data that could be beneficial to a broker’s marketing efforts? Yes. The solutions exist. Are there companies willing to pass data that could be beneficial to a broker’s marketing efforts? Possibly. The mindset has to exist.
Moving into the future, keeping “manufacturing data” (insurer) isolated from “sales and service data” (insurance broker) will result in less accurate, less effective marketing campaigns. The companies that start creating campaigns with the most complete picture of their target audience will win. And the more brokers who demand it, the more persuasive we can be.
Finding technology solutions that allow brokers to properly access valuable data can be daunting. There are so many out there, how do you select one that is future-proof instead of just a temporary fix?
Pete: Basically it’s a question of ‘where do I start?’. Start with your problem, not the solutions that are available. Make a list of all the data issues, ideas, queries that you want to figure out and then prioritize from simple to complex. Choose the first problem you want to solve based on simplicity and then seek out a solution for that. When it comes time to try the second problem, if the first solution worked see if it can be expanded and try it again. Basically, start small, get results, test results, expand and repeat.
No one ever built the perfect all-in-one solution right from the start and neither will you when looking at your data so don’t bother trying.
Graham: Experiment! Run small scale implementations, pilots, or other trials. If it works for you and your brokerage on a small scale then look to go further. Analysis/decision paralysis is the worst thing. There are no guarantees that what you pick will last in the medium and long term regardless of how diligent you are in your technology selection process. What I will say though is if you let the gap between your business and that of the leaders get to a point where it’s so wide it will take years to close, model obsolescence will close in on your business.
Syd: There are only two technology solutions available to brokers.
Solution #1: Loosely stack 26 different marketing, sales, service, operations tech solutions on top of your broker management system. Most likely, none of these will connect to your broker management system or each other. This leaves you to purchase a 27th tech solution that sits on top of your tech stack in order to help you manually aggregate and report on the other 26.
Solution #2: Platform your business. Think prospecting, marketing, sales, service, telephony, operations, analytics, all in one system. Get rid of the duct-taped together tech stack and bring in an open, connected solution.
The reason we feel that technology is just a “temporary fix” is because too much insurance tech today is built to solve a small piece of the puzzle. So, tomorrow, you’ll need to buy this other solution that solves another small piece. When we think more holistically about our tech needs and less narrowly, we may find our solutions are “future-proofed.”
CSIO regularly hosts webinars on digital topics, featuring industry experts and leaders. Visit our Upcoming Events page for the latest webinars at https://csio.com/news-events/events-and-media