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12:25 PM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Do Agents Really Prefer Portals?

Novarica research we blogged yesterday indicates that agents prefer using carrier portals to their own agency management systems. But we received dissenting opinions immediately.

I was surprised when our Anthony O'Donnell posted a blog on Novarica's agent survey with the big, bold, headline, "Agents Prefer Carrier Portals to Their Own Agency Management Systems." This was because I interviewed Kathy Weinheimer of the Independent Agents and Brokers of New York Tuesday and she shared a very different view:

Our agents would like to see any transaction between themselves and the company begin and end in the agency management system. Right now, with all these different portals, they have to go in and do things in a proprietary system, then turn around and do them again in the agency system. We'd like to see a beginning to end process.

Doug Johnston, VP of partner relations & product innovation for Applied Systems, a company that specializes agency management systems, had a strong reaction to the survey on Twitter. While you might expect that based on his employer's line of business, he echoed a point that Novarica actually made itself: Ease of use is the most important driver in agent preference.

"Given a choice between a really bad interface between the agency management system and the insurer, or the carrier portal, I might say that [I prefer the portal]," Johnston says. "But if I had a preference between a good AMS interface and the portal, things would be different."

In fact, Novarica noted in its study, "Integration with an Agency Management System can generate high rewards" before once again asserting that portals were preferred. Johnston says that's the problem — some insurers aren't investing as much in their integration with agency management systems as they are in their portals.

"It's hard for some carriers to look at that as a way of lowering their cost of doing business," he says. "But we just finished an AUGIE survey, where we interviewed 3,000 agents, and they want carriers to do a better job of those interfaces."

There's a lot of friction around this topic, with several stakeholders holding deeply rooted positions. Ultimately, however, it has to come down to what is easier for agents. Certain insurers may prefer to do business through a portal, but why alienate distribution partners if they would rather see investment in AMS integration? Conversely, it is possible that insurers could come up with a portal that's so easy to use that it might actually be preferable to just deal with dozens of them as opposed to one system.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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