How to grow your book of business

How to grow your book of business
Most carriers in North America work with independent agents. Although the majority of premium for personal lines is written direct, that is largely concentrated in a few large carriers. Carriers who use independent agents know that high production from agents is correlated with strong relationships. However, beyond encouraging a strong personal relationship with an underwriter, what else can a carrier do to systematically build a stronger connection with an agent and grow their book? Celent surveyed a group of agents to understand those areas most likely to make a carrier the agents’ top choice. The report addressed the following key research questions:
  1. When it comes to placing business with carriers, what criteria are most important to an agent?
  2. How are top carriers performing on those criteria?
  3. Where should carriers prioritize their investments in order to drive growth?
Key Findings
  • It is easy to think that price is the most important factor when it comes to where an agency chooses to place business. Competitive products and price certainly are important; however, even more important than products and price is the responsiveness of the underwriter. A fast underwriting decision is also quite important with over 60% of agents stating this is a must-have.
  • Money matters to agents although the specific components are not essential to all agents. The most important component is commissions. Interestingly enough, 40% stated that the commission rate does not necessarily have to be competitive. Only 30% said incentive compensation programs were must-haves – and 40% said they were nice to have or didn’t matter at all
  • Beyond that, agents also look for support in other areas. A strong brand is important, as it is easier to sell a company where the prospect already has an emotional connection. Marketing, training, and consulting support is seen as important by more than half the agents and especially younger agents who may benefit more from these types of services than older established agents may.
  • Mobile tools and social media support are generally not seen as important items to most agents – but there is a significant generational difference here. 25% of younger agents see mobile as a must-have compared to 4% of those over 60. Generational differences will become more important to carriers as baby boomer agents increase their rate of retirement and are replaced by GenX and Millennial agents.
  • Agents want carriers to invest in those tools that are most important in helping them perform their job of writing business and providing customer service to the policyholder. Most important to agents is continuing to build out both the integration with the Agency Management System and expanding the functionality of the Portal. Least important to agents are features such as mobile apps, online certificates of insurance, online commission statements, and access to marketing materials.
Looking ahead, the industry is likely to continue to experience increasing channel complexity and increasing regulation, which means there are opportunities both to improve the agent experience and to reduce costs along the way.  Carriers who are looking to drive growth by improving the agent experience should start by looking at their technology offerings and make sure they are delivering the functionality that is most important to their agents. This report presents the results of an online survey conducted during May 2015 of independent insurance agents. It contains 13 figures and 1 table. You can find it here: Driving Growth by Optimizing the Agent Experience

The first step of customer experience transformation

The first step of customer experience transformation
The easiest way to grow your book of business is to keep your customers happy. Retention goes up, cross sell goes up, and you will get referrals. This isn’t a big revelation. Carriers know this. The key to keeping customers happy is to create a top-notch customer experience. But insurance is complex. Consumers have a greater number of choices today than ever before and consumers are accessing carriers through more channels than were ever available in the past. This complicates the picture at the same time that expectations are increasing. Customers expect that the carrier knows the details of every prior interaction they have had. That is hard to do when customer data is fragmented across multiple systems. Customer experience includes many facets – advertising, the acquisition process, claims and of course, the quality of customer care. Carriers are looking for tools to help them provide a superior customer experience regardless of the channel the customer chooses to use at the time. That is probably why we are seeing a huge increase in the interest in Customer Relationship Management tools especially by small and midsize carriers who haven’t invested in this type of software before. Customer relationship management systems are one of the components in many insurers’ application maps. Although CRM solutions are not unique to the insurance industry like policy administration or claims systems, they are still key technologies used to manage relationships with customers, whether customers are defined as agents/distributors, claimants, end policyholders, or prospects. There are literally hundreds of CRM solutions available today from firms large and small, well-known and obscure. I’ve just published a report focused on enterprise solutions for larger-scale organizations similar to most US insurance firms. The report does not include CRM solutions that are appropriate for small organizations such as independent agencies or advisors. It also does not address horizontal solutions that are not specifically targeting the insurance industry with tailored capabilities. There are a wide range of CRM solutions on the market for insurers to choose from. A wide range of features and functionality are available. These systems are used in various capabilities within insurance carriers — from producer management, to call center support, to managing leads and campaigns. Integration with other systems will be needed to provide the most value to a carrier. There is no single best CRM solution for all insurers. There are a number of good choices for an insurer with almost any set of requirements. The right solution for a carrier depends on how the carrier plans to use the solution. Some carriers use CRM solutions as a front end to all the core applications. It is the entry point for a call center representative to access all data for those who are calling. Other carriers use CRM solutions to manage interactions with the distribution channel. Still others use it primarily to manage outbound marketing campaigns and may extend this capability to the external distributors. System selection also may be driven by how the carrier defines “customer.” Some carriers define the customer as their agency or broker-dealer firms. Others define the customer as the final purchasers of the insurance policies and annuities. Some solutions may be better at handling some business models than others (e.g., 20 million end user clients vs. 200 agencies), though most would claim to be able to handle all levels of “customers.” Therefore, the ability to build and maintain appropriate hierarchies (agency or broker-dealer, agent or advisor, household or individual) within CRM solutions is an important aspect to examine. An insurer seeking a new CRM solution should begin the process by looking inward. Every insurer has its own unique mix of distribution channels, geography, staff capabilities, business objectives, and financial resources. This unique combination, along with the organization’s risk appetite, will influence the list of vendors for consideration. Some vendors are a better fit for an insurance company with a large IT group that is deeply proficient with the most modern platforms and tools. Other vendors are a better fit for an insurance company that has a small IT group and wants a vendor to take a leading role in maintaining and supporting its applications. We recommend that insurers that are looking for a CRM system create narrow their choices by focusing on four areas:
  • The functionality needed and available out of the box for the way the carrier plans to use the system and the customer types desired. Check to see what is actually in production.
  • The technology — both the overall architecture and the configuration tools and environment.
  • The vendor stability, knowledge, and investment in the solution.
  • Implementation and support capabilities and experience.

Seeking Growth Opportunities? Follow The Numbers

Seeking Growth Opportunities? Follow The Numbers

In my previous post: “Latin American Markets Are Hot for a Reason”, we discussed about the significant growth of this region compared to industrialized countries and how GDP of emerging markets was expected to match their industrialize counterparts 10 years from now. For those joining just now, growth expected for the Latin American region in 2011 is 4.5%; the world rate will be 3.2%; and in industrialized countries, growth will only be 1.4%. The trend since 2002 has been more growth from emerging markets than industrialized countries and we expect this to continue this way for the next 10 years.

Has the Insurance Industry in Latin America gained any benefit from this growth?

Equally to the economic growth trends described before, Life insurance in Latin America has been experiencing an average premium growth rate of 8% for the period 2000-2009 while non-life insurance premiums have grown an average of 6.5% in the same time. North America instead has been very steady in the life insurance market and only in non-life has experienced some growth at an average of almost 2.5%. Europe has not done much better with just over 3% increase in premiums in non-life and almost hitting 3% increase in life insurance in the same period.

Last year, Latin American life insurance market experienced a 12% growth in premiums with Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Peru as main contributors and expecting to maintain double digits growth rates next year although some challenges remain. Also as a consequence of the good economic performance of the region, non-life insurance premiums increased 5.5% and we continue to expect growth driven by investments mainly in infrastructure and energy in the short and medium term.

On the other hand and considering 2010 figures, North America and Western Europe count for 60% of the world market share of life insurance and 72% of non-life, Latin American and Caribbean life insurance market represented only a world market share of 2.2% and non-life 4.0%.

So, evidently the opportunity is not in the current size of the market. Where to find it?

I believe that insurers are seizing opportunities of a market that will continue to grow and that has the potential to drive premium to similar ratios than the ones found in industrialized countries.

Consider for example the insurance penetration ratio (premiums as % of GDP). In 2010 Latin American insurance penetration ratio was 2.7% very low compared to 7.9% for North America; 8.4% for Western Europe or even Asia with 6.2%. Emerging markets have a ratio of 3% and industrialized countries 8.6%. The world in average has a ratio of 6.9%.

As for insurance density (premium per capita) in 2010, Latin America shows a low ratio of 219.1 USD per capita when compared with 3724.4 for North America´s; 2890.3 for Western Europe or even Asia with 281.5. The world in average has a ratio of 627.3.

The insurance industry clearly understands the unique opportunities this ratios bring into their business. That is why we have more insurers looking into build or grow capacities in Latin America. What to expect? Looking in the future we should expect a very positive trend overall. Many things have changed in a positive way in the region and those companies taking advantage of it, will be able to produce extraordinary benefits and value for shareholders and stakeholders.

Technology will play a very important role for insurers competing in this market. There is a need to replace legacy systems and continue to incorporate best practices. Rules based underwriting, Straight Through Processing, standardized xml for data interchange, cloud computing, BPO and improved CRM techniques just to mention some. I hope to have some new reports on this subject soon for you, in the mean time I am available for some one-to-one consulting on Latin American issues.

To anyone who is considering doing business in Latin America just have in mind that although the region presents significant and unique perspectives of growth it comes along with some challenges. You should expect some countries to react defensively at the sight of the international crisis. Some protectionism should be also expected along with setbacks for commerce and investment. Companies will need to consider these in their plans and have a management team, processes and technology to overcome them.

Also bear in mind that although Latin America is always seen as a region it has its significant differences between countries not just cultural but social, economic and political as well.

We at Celent can now help you to navigate through the Latin American experience.

Latin American Markets Are Hot for a Reason

Latin American Markets Are Hot for a Reason

Let me tell you this: I love Latin America!

Latin America is often viewed as a travel destination, with good reason. Just consider its amazing beauty, from Antarctica to Mexican Los Cabos. Its history, from the time of the Mayas, Incas, and natives to modern days. It has many locations that provide unique views of history, such as Machu Pichu and Camino del Inca in Peru; Tikal and Antigua in Guatemala; even in thriving Mexico City, where at one corner from “El Zocalo” you can see how civilization evolved with the clash of three cultures. Did I mention tasty wine and food and gorgeous beaches?

But another aspect of Latin America is bringing visitors: the thriving economy. There are some exciting things going on in Latin American business, and insurance is no exception.

In the not-too-distant past, Latin America was an afterthought for many global businesses. This was a rational approach, given the constant economic turmoil, weak democratic governments, and closed economies. But things have changed. Since the early ’80s democracies have become more mature. Economies have opened, and countries have invested in infrastructure. An increasingly skilled labor pool has increased Latin America’s export value.

Consider Brazil, the dominant economy in Latin America. Since 1939, reinsurance in Brazil had been solely the domain of the government, via the Brazilian Institute of Reinsurance (IRB Brazil Re). On January 15, 2007, Complementary Law 126 eliminated the state monopoly. Also, not too many years ago, Brazil had a strict policy toward importing IT, which resulted in most technology being produced locally, both parts and labor. Today in Brazil (or any other Latin American country), you can find most of the new electronic gadgets and technology available in the rest of the world.

In the last few years Brazil and Peru have been awarded an Investment Grade note, attracting a significant inflow of money to their economies.

Brazil and the group of countries from emerging markets known as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) have experienced phenomenal growth since 2002. Brazil drives most of the growth experienced by its partners in Mercosur (the economic treaty that groups most of the South American countries). BRIC countries are also important customers for most of the relevant countries in Latin America.

What we are seeing is that Latin America is experiencing more favorable international commerce than the industrialized world, which is experiencing very low growth rates.

Growth expected for the Latin American region in 2011 is 4.5%; the world rate will be 3.2%; and in industrialized countries, growth will only be 1.4%.

BRIC economies expect growth of 4.0%, 4.5%, 7.8%, and 9.0% respectively, helping emerging markets achieve growth of 5.8% by the end of 2011.

When you compare this growth to the 1.4% average in industrialized countries, you start to understand why many companies are looking into Latin America and emerging countries in general as a place to invest, and not just opportunistically.

To understand the impact this will have, we might want look at global share of GDP. Emerging countries had 35% of global share of GDP 10 years ago. Today they have 40%, and 10 years from now they could have 50%, equal to the developed markets.

The increase in economic activity in the region will create more opportunities for insurers because enterprises will need to protect their assets, properties, and employees. Personal wealth growth will create opportunity for insurance products related to wealth management and protection, investment, savings, and capital accumulation.

Of course there is still room for improvement to make the Latin American market even more attractive. Economies, investment policies, and money flows should be more tightly assembled and coordinated with other countries from inside and outside the region. But in general things are moving in the right direction.

At minimum, most insurers and vendors should be thinking about the potential for Latin America as an expansion market.

Producer Relationship Management (PRM)

Producer Relationship Management (PRM)

The full year results for 2009 are in and they reflect the continued decrease in top line for both Property & Casualty and Life & Annuity insurers. In P&C, net written premiums dropped 3.7% and life premiums and annuity considerations were reduced by slightly less than 5% over 2008 levels (excluding outlier results from two companies).

This underscores the importance of distribution management. The last Celent report on the topic, Distribution Management Systems Review: A Bigger Piece of a Smaller Pie”, November, 2009, noted a convergence in vendor offerings between commission systems and recruiting/training/licensing solutions. The next step in this evolution should be to apply the considerable expertise and process built for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to producers in an integrated approach – Producer Relationship Management (PRM).

For example, some insurers currently track and manage the “once and done” call resolution rate for policyholders. That is, how many times can the company’s service operation leverage process and automation to resolve a customer’s issue at the time of first contact? Why not apply this principle to producers who seek help from field or home office support? Keeping the production resources productive and satisfied will be increasingly important in the next months of lean growth. PRM is a lever that is just waiting to be used.