Sales Illustration Migrates To The Web
Sales illustration software is becoming more than just a tool to help life insurance agents meet National Association of Insurance Commissioners truth-in-selling rules.
Illustration software available from insurance carriers, for example, often integrates with other software to assist the producer in needs analysis, asset allocation, product training and even in developing entire sales presentations.
From the point of view of insurance carriers and agency principals, the systems also help them control the sales process. Illustration software often has built-in capability to assure that agents not only include accurate illustrations in their presentations, but also that they meet state suitability standards.
The most basic sales illustration systems are Windows-based. They are distributed by carriers to their agents and brokers on CD-ROM discs.
Web-enabled systems are accessed online, along with customer information, rather than installed on the sales reps hard drive.
The advantages of a Web-based illustration system are seen in a new program introduced at the end of January by John Hancock Life Insurance Company in Boston.
Hancock introduced its agents to what it says is the industrys first online sales and in-force illustration system, known as e-Hansel.
It is a real-time version of its older Hansel illustration software, which is still available to sales reps as a resident Windows-based system.
Like Hansel, e-Hansel helps Hancocks producers make new business proposals and keep detailed information on their policyholders. Unlike the older desktop system, however, e-Hansel runs directly off Hancocks server. No downloading is required.
All client data housed on John Hancocks servers is kept updated by the home office, the company says.
With the agents working directly off Hancocks servers, theres no need to worry about their using an outdated version of the software, notes John Analambidakis, executive director of advanced marketing development for Hancock.
“Other illustration applications are on the Web, but are not fully Web-enabled,” maintains Analambidakis. “Theyre just running Windows on the Web.”
Most carriers, however, are using illustration systems developed by outside vendors, rather than in-house systems.
One such system is WebStory. More than an illustration system, it is actually a Web-based sales presentation system used by many carriers to integrate not just illustration systems, but also software from a variety of vendors, into a comprehensive sales presentation tool.
WebStory is available from Pteradac.com, Eagan, Minn., formerly known as LogicPlus.
“The typical sales illustration system puts a whole lot of numbers on paper for you, but it doesnt necessarily tell a story,” explains Robert Macey, senior software engineer for Pteradac.
WebStory takes policy values from the illustration system and presents them in a graphically interesting format, ready within only a few hours, if need be, for a client meeting, says Macey.
Macey declined to quote pricing for WebStory.
COSS Development Corporation, Milwaukee, offers COSS Total Solutions, a suite of PC- and Web-based sales software tools used by 70 carriers, says Joe Herrmann, chief operating officer of COSS. A sales illustration system is part of the package.
“We provide a full system-user interface for just about every product sold by an insurance company,” states Herrmann.
The system can also do reproposals on variable universal life or universal life policies, where values must be recalculated for clients annually, he notes.
“We have to be in position to handle every insurance companys needs for meeting National Association of Insurance Commissioners and NASD guidelines,” says Herrmann. “We also provide a needs analysis component, including asset allocation, suitability and risk tolerance.”
A subsidiary of COSS, Philibert Software Group, Roswell, Ga., offers another resident Windows-based product, Philibert Policy Illustrations. Not to be outdone by its larger competitors, Philibert also introduced a Web-enabled version last year.
Rocky Philibert, company president, says the new Internet version is being used by large mutual insurers, whose identity he declines to disclose.
Both companies declined to quote price for their products.
Another Windows-based system favored by many smaller carriers is the Life and Annuity Illustration System from Allen Bailey & Associates, Austin, Texas.
For the most part, its system is delivered to carriers the old-fashioned way–on CD-ROM.
But here, too, Allen Bailey is in the early stages of introducing an Internet-based version of its illustration software. Susan Abbott, a company spokesperson, says the Internet version is being used by one insurance carrier at first, to provide its agents with updates.
For the most part, however, Allen Bailey does most of its business with about 20 small to medium-sized carriers.
Allen Bailey declined to quote price for their products.
WinFlex is a resident Windows-based application that is the only single-entry, multiple carrier interface for insurance sales illustrations, says Craig Earnshaw, president and owner of LifeLink, the Park City, Utah company that produces WinFlex.
“Were every carriers second system,” boasts Earnshaw. “They have a home office system and they have us.”
WinFlex customers include 11 of the top 15 life insurance companies in total assets, says Earnshaw, plus approximately 25 smaller carriers. He estimates roughly that the system is used by 25,000 to 30,000 brokers and agents.
WinFlex allows agents with multiple carriers to enter information for a client with one insurance company and rerun the same client profile for another carrier without reentering the data, Earnshaw explains.
“It allows them to spreadsheet up to four carriers on a single sheet,” he notes. “That makes us popular with brokers.”
He adds that a Web-based system also gives carriers and brokers control over who uses the software. Since its on a secure, password-protected server, they can also terminate an agent at any time.
WinFlex, too, recently became available as a Web-based offering. Only MassMutual and GE currently use this capability, although Earnshaw expects all of his customers will eventually get on board.
WinFlexs Earnshaw says his companys desktop system is available for $125,000 for an unlimited license, plus a maintenance fee of $138,000 annually. The Web-based system offers an unlimited license for $350,000.
One cost factor in favor of Web-based systems, he notes, is that they involve no annual maintenance fees. For that reason, they ultimately may make sense for many more companies.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.