Insurance agents are a unique breed, one that is evolving but hardly approaching extinction. When I first started covering the industry at the beginning of the 1990s, I heard many storiessome of them true, some of them apocryphalabout incredible creativity, persistence, brazenness and sales talent. I also heard a lot about stubbornness and resistance to change, whether it involved changes in commission systems, agency structures and product offerings, or the introduction of technology into agents' business practices.
The resistance to automation was real and extensive, and occurred at the same time that the emergence of the Internet (as well as some high-profile market conduct violations) raised serious questions about agent disintermediation. But despite many false starts and even failures on the road to tech-enabling agents, along with a simultaneous reinvention of the entire insurance distribution model, in 2006 there is renewed focus on the agent. Furthermore, it's the agent who is demanding more technology proficiency from carriers, not the other way around.
This issue of I&T's Connected Enterprise examines the transformation and analyzes some of the steps insurance companies are taking (or should be taking) to bring automation, integration and efficiency to the still-very-complex and challenging process of selling insurance. Distribution may be tech-enabled, but this is one area in which the human element will never vanish.
To learn more about how carriers and distributors are partnering to bring automation and innovation to the distribution process, visit www.insurancetech.com/ConnectedEnterprise. Additionally, you can register there for a live webcast on March 28, produced by I&T and SAP, that will analyze how carriers are gaining efficiencies, growth and profits in their multichannel distribution environments.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio