Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too

Recently I attended the annual event of a large broker dealer.  It was a spectacle that rivaled any industry event I’ve been to in years.   There were easily more than five thousand people in attendance and venue was filled with the outstanding entertainment, speakers and training.

While I was there I had the rare opportunity to have dinner with some senior level executives at the broker dealer and their carrier partners along with a half dozen or so of their top advisors.  Amidst some jovial conversation and the occasional joke, one of the advisors blurted out, “I’ve got a real problem with you guys”.   The table went silent for what seemed to be five minutes until a polite young lady from one of the carriers replied, “well lets see if we can fix that right now”.   He  went on to say that the carrier and broker dealer have shifted the costs of delivering annuity contracts to his office.  Almost immediately another advisor chimed in and asked whether the advisor wanted to be kept in the loop to ensure his client received the contract and completed the process?

The debate surrounding this topic continued for about half an hour where issues like cost, time, compliance and lack of follow up were all discussed.  The waiter must have thought the table needed a little “time out” as he made the rounds twice filling up wine glasses.  The young lady with the carrier sat quietly through the discussion, just listening.  As the dessert arrived, she asked the group “what if you could have your cake and eat it, too”?  She went on to talk about sending annuity contracts electronically to all the PolicyBox Cakeparties in the distribution channel and ultimately the client.   “Other industries have adopted eSignature and eDelivery and some have equally as many regulatory issues as ours”, she said.   “The cost savings can be immense and the time savings dramatic, all while keeping everyone in the loop…in real time”.  This thought seemed to resonate with everyone at the table as the group pondered how this type of process would help their unique situations.

I can assure you, many similar conversations are taking place daily around the water coolers, dinner meetings and conference rooms today.   Electronic policy delivery is a hot topic as more companies are looking to streamline processes, reduce expenses and improve the overall customer experience.  So, lets take a minute to review some the benefits and metrics around the next evolutionary step in the annuity delivery process.

Stay in The Loop.  Everyone, no matter where you sit within the distribution channel wants to know where the annuity contract stands once its issued for delivery.  Has it been sent out, has it been received, has the client completed any necessary outstanding paperwork and has it been sent back to the carrier?  Why?  Because no one gets paid in the distribution channel until its complete.  Electronic delivery satisfies this need by providing each person notifications at key points in the cycle.  With Electronic delivery, everyone is always kept in the loop.

Cost Savings.  There have been many studies conducted over the years on how much it costs to deliver insurance policies and annuity contracts.  Estimates vary, but the average is around $65 for the carrier, $40 for the broker dealer (if it goes to the broker dealer first or it has internal compliance forms required) and anywhere from $30 for the advisor if the contract is mailed and up to $200+ if it’s hand delivered.   That’s a lot of coin adding up to be tens of millions annually for the industry!   Electronic delivery dramatically reduces expenses, in most cases by nearly 85%.  How much could that save your company?

Branding and Relationships.   If you’re an advisor who currently has the carrier directly mail the contract to your clients, you’re truly missing out on a golden opportunity to continue your marketing efforts and brand.   It’s a great time to once again thank your client for doing business with you and promote your services.  Most electronic delivery platforms (worth their salt) allow you to add your flavor of thank you letters, marketing materials and possibly even add your logos to the process.   This ensures that you stay out in front of your client through the entire process.

Time.  We’re all pressed for it these days; with so many things that need to be done, there never seems to be enough of it to go around.   Time is precious and when it comes to the delivery process, it’s critical.  Each day that goes by brings additional risk.  In the paper world, it can take weeks for this process to be completed.  Electronic delivery is showing a completed cycle time of less than 48 hours on average.

Compliance.  In some circles “compliance” can be a dirty word, but lets face it, they play a very important part in ensuring we stay out of trouble.   Additional paperwork means there is more likelihood of missing a step.  Because an electronic delivery system can be rules driven, it can force specific forms and require signatures throughout the process.   This type of platform guarantees compliance requirements are met and provides a detailed history of what took place.

Green Thumb.  Consumers are more than ever expecting companies to provide options other than paper.  They not only see the benefit of eliminating big binders to hold important documents but see it as a way to reduce the damage associated with printing these documents on our environment.   It’s estimated that there are more than 50 million pieces of paper used to print annuity contracts and life insurance policies each year.  Electronic delivery can dramatically reduce this number.

It’s time for our industry to finally “have its cake and eat it, too”.   Electronic delivery can solve a number of issues we currently experience using paper processes.   Each party can reap the benefits of time and cost savings while providing a positive customer experience.   It’s up to us to get organized and implement platforms to make it a reality.  For more information on how you can be more involved in steering the direction of electronic delivery, join one of the many working committees in the industry such as the ones offered by ACORD, LIDMA or the LBTC.

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Garage Door Broke – What Now?

Garage Door Broke – What now?

As I walked out of the house today I was already twenty minutes late.  It was one of those days where the kids weren’t cooperating, they couldn’t decide what they wanted for lunch and one of them couldn’t find their shoes.   As we rush out the door, heading to school, I hit the garage door opener and “SNAP” the spring breaks.  I then spent the next ten minutes figuring out how to prop it open long enough to get the car out and on the road.

Just like my garage door many brokerage agencies today have current eApp platforms that have snapped.  They are being held together with tape and propped up by sticks with a little bit of bubble gum.   Okay, maybe that’s an over exaggeration but that’s what many of your producers are feeling.

In reality it may have little to do with actual software but more to do with the agency and how its supports these tools.  We’ve all heard our mom at one point in our life say “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right”.   Over my career I’ve had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of brokerage agencies -  some small and some very large.   The problem I’ve seen with most, no matter what their size, they want to be everything to everyone.  This causes strains on resources and only the squeakiest wheels gets the grease. Let’s face it, typically that wheel isn’t your eApp process that’s squealing the loudest.

When agencies don’t devote a certain amount of time and commitment to platforms they never fully realize the benefits, and believe me the benefits of an eApp process are a plenty!  This commitment comes from the top down.  The principal of the agency has to help the staff understand the value proposition to the agency first and then that of the producer.   It also takes an ongoing effort to support the platform from a promotional and service standpoint.  It’s important to remember that just because your producer uses the platform once doesn’t mean that they will keep coming back every time.  It’s a day in and day out process that will become second nature after a while.

Here are a few ideas that can help your agency better embrace supporting your eApp platform (or any other piece of technology you want your producers to use):

  • Schedule time in your next monthly staff meeting to discuss the benefits of an eApp has for your agency and to your producers.   In your subsequent meetings discuss increases in usage, promotional ideas, and top submitting producers
  • Get positive quotes from your producers using the tool and stick them on your website and other promotional materials
  • Promote, promote promote.  Again, this isn’t an overnight process.  Your producers in the field need to be constantly reminded of the benefits, how to use the platform better, success stories, etc.
  • Build a small plan around how to get producers engaged into the process better.  Think of it as your own little business plan.  The more they use the platforms the more it becomes engrained into their everyday lives.

Just like my garage door, your broken eAPP process can be fixed.  If not, you can always replace it with a newer model.  There are several vendors out there that can meet your needs, but you will need to ensure you do your part to gain true success.  Look for a solid vendor partner like Aplifi that gives you a great quality product with awesome service.  Aplifi also helps you with the plan and provides you with a turn key marketing program.  Give us a call at 800.861.8908 x 221 for more details.  By the way…. our eApps are also free to brokerage agencies and their producers.

 

About Aplifi:

Aplifi (www.Aplifi.com), based in Pompano Beach, Florida, is a leading technology provider that focuses on the life insurance and financial services markets. Aplifi offers solutions that facilitate more insurance transactions that are compliant and “In Good Order,” driving increased business.   Its suite of flexible and easy to use platforms include AFFIRM for Life, AFFIRM for Annuity, InsureSocket CRM, I-Relay CRM, and PolicyBox (electronic policy delivery). “We Simplify Selling Insurance!”

 

Written by Roy Goodart – Senior Vice President Marketing

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Build It and They Will Come

I’ve been helping build technology solutions for the life insurance industry going on more than fifteen years now… and I still feel like a newbie sometimes. I’ve been fortunate to see the rise of the Internet and how technology has made a significant impact on the way our industry operates.

However, looking back its been a long slow road to where we are today. One of the things that seems slow us down is this never ending debate within the carrier’s walls about if its better for them to build or buy a solution.

Many years ago technology platforms were very expensive and most vendors were not truly educated on what the distributor and carrier really needed. This made the justification to buy a very hard one. Even though building technology was not their core competency, the carrier could design, build and support a system cheaper, and most cases better than vendors.

Fast forward ten to fifteen years to today. Hardware prices have dramatically fallen as the horsepower has increased. Vendors are much more attune with the needs of the market and have proven track records of quality delivery at a fair price. The market has vastly changed and aggregation at the distributor level is now critical. Distribution wants platforms that allow them to manage all of their carrier partners in a single location. Whether it is pending case status, commissions, electronic applications or electronic policy delivery the market is demanding single source platforms.

With that said most insurance companies still go through the same process of a buy versus build strategy as they did ten to fifteen years ago. In a lot of cases carriers are still deciding to build their own systems thinking that if they build it they (distributors and agents) will come.

Don’t get me wrong I think we would all agree that there are times when a carrier’s platform better serves the purpose and that having a duel resource isn’t all bad. However, if you were to ask any distributor that works in a multi-carrier environment I would be willing to bet that nine out of ten would say if they had their choice they would rather use a system that helps aggregate data into single systems.

As carriers reevaluate themselves into today’s economy they should consider the benefits of vendor supported models. Initial cost shouldn’t always be the factor. Consider your distribution and their needs. Also how much is it going to cost to support a platform that is build for one carriers purpose and how fast will it become out date.

 

 

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