Workflow Tools Can Pay Off Quickly
Software to help agencies and brokers administer the workflow of processing life insurance and annuity applications can significantly reduce costs and raise productivity, say vendors.
Typically, the technology can enable agencies to eliminate one or more full-time support employees by eliminating manual processing of applications and duplicated data entry, according to these vendors. They note that the software can also make an impact on producer productivity by cutting application processing time, thereby reducing the number of policies canceled by customers.
Workflow software is often sold to carriers, who then make it available through the Web to independent or captive agents. But there are also packages designed primarily for use by agencies and brokers.
Some of the widely used packages include the following.
Home Office from NaviSys Inc., Edison, N.J., is sold to carriers, which license the product for fees that may range from $175,000 to $500,000, the company says.
Carriers make its business processing and underwriting applications available to producers, at little or no cost, depending on the producers sales volume, says John Gorman, head of NaviSyss Home Office business unit. Implementation involves only a few hours of training at the agency or broker level, he adds.
Home Office leads the agent through the application process, often cutting policy issuance times to several days from the 30 days or more needed for manual processing, says Gorman. It also enables producers to view an applications status online or to receive periodic e-mails to advise them of the status of clients applications, Gorman adds.
The Administrator, from Life Insurance Data Processing Consulting Inc., Woodridge, Ill., is also purchased by carriers. Mike McCarthy, executive in charge of business development for LIDP, declines to cite prices for the software, noting that fees are based on the volume of data going through the system.
“If you break the costs down per transaction, youre talking about cents, not dollars,” says McCarthy.
In fact, carriers make the Administrator available to agencies and brokers at little or no charge, he says. It is used to help producers and their managers to propose and sell policies, administer claims, calculate commissions and provide other services to agents and policyholders.
Those features give an agency or broker control over many business functions that are traditionally part of the carriers functions, McCarthy says.
“Broker-dealers have discovered handling these functions provides them with a lot more opportunity for prospecting and creating additional opportunities for product sales, to add value and enhance their own brand in the mind of the prospect,” he says.
Agencies like that, McCarthy adds, because it means that if a customer has questions about other financial products, he or she thinks of the agency rather than the carrier.
The Administrator also gives the broker-dealer the ability to track commissions accurately, rather than depending on carriers for this function, he notes.
“The broker can then put in elaborate compensation schemes to motivate the sales force, remit the difference to the carrier and electronically deposit compensation into the producers account almost all simultaneously with the receipt of the application,” McCarthy observes.
Fast App, from AgencyWorks Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, is an Internet-based agency management system used by over 300 agencies, the company says.
Fast App enables an agency to automate the creation of a new application, using case-status reports from a life insurance carrier, thus enabling it to capture the information even if the agent submits the application directly to the carrier.
The software works with applications from 35 different carriers, says Roy Goodart, director of sales for AgencyWorks.
“Typically, we save the agency the equivalent of one to one-and-a-half full-time employees annually, just in automating status reports from carriers,” says Goodart.
The program is part of AgencyWorks Agency Integrator package. Set-up fee for that package is around $4,000 or so, depending on the size of the agency and other particulars, according to the company, which adds that the cost includes two to three days of training.
AcroSofts AS Workflow is designed to automate information and document routing within the agency and between the agency and its carriers.
Tom Poland, an AcroSoft spokesman, says the system is often purchased by agencies on a per-set or site-licensing arrangement, but declines to cite specific prices. Costs depend on number of users and other variables, but he claims the software typically pays for itself within two years.
The software can be implemented between two or three days to one month, depending on the number of users and locations involved, Poland says.
AcroSoft provides service and support for 12 months after installation, explains Poland. Thereafter, it offers annual support and services through an annual license agreement.
Integrated Insurance Technologies Corporation, San Francisco, offers General Agency Management software, designed for use by life insurance carriers and agencies selling life insurance, long term care insurance and annuities.
IIT recently purchased the product lines of ZeBU, a software vendor that has gone out of business.
General Agency Management allows an agency to use information that comes from an insurance carrier or service provider to automate many of the daily administrative functions of a typical life insurance brokerage, explains Steve Stark, vice president of marketing for IIT.
The software automatically updates agents on the progress of policy applications during the underwriting process, advising them when a policy is issued or denied and providing commission accounting, Stark says
“You can improve productivity from 20% to 25% minimum by using our software,” claims Stark.
Typical implementation time is 30 to 60 days, including three to five days of training, he adds.
He declines to give specific prices for the software, noting that the cost is “modest” and based largely on the volume of data the system must handle.
The system runs on a client server, which resides in the agency using the product, he adds.
Farmers Alliance Cos., McPherson, Kan., has been able to turn claims around more quickly and improve service to policyholders and agents by using workflow software, says Lowell Schmidt, executive vice president and chief information officer of Farmers Alliance.
“Its more efficient than the old way, cost effective, and improves service by reducing processing times,” says Schmidt, whose company recently adopted AS Workflow, a program from AcroSoft Corporation, Columbia, S.C.
“Were decreasing the time it takes to handle paper and reducing costs by eliminating the handling of paper,” Schmidt says.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 27, 2003. Copyright 2003 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.