At the annual NAILBA conference in Hollywood, Florida, I got the chance to sit down with Jim Ferrell, vice president of FireLight product management. FireLight is an electronic application platform for insurance and financial services professionals. Though Insurance Technologies has been around for approximately 20 years, it was four years ago when they got into the e-application software market.
“We came up with a platform that leverages the existing application forms,” said Ferrell. “We actually have one client that is seeing 90 percent adoption. In this specific space, it’s my opinion that it’s made up of 1,000 mom and pop shops. You don’t have the big conglomerates. The automation has stopped or stalled. There’s no appetite for pricing concerns.”
As Ferrell put it, BGAs and IMOs are offering a service. They’re saying, “You hitch your wagon to my horses.” Essentially, the tech companies offer all this back-end processing power and take a haircut. “But when BGAs and IMOs look at tech and automation, it has to provide additional value and not additional process.”
“It’s our belief that e-signature technology is a commodity and will eventually be with everyone’s product,” Ferrell added. “In 10 years everyone will have it imbedded. It’s not that complicated. We built ours in-house after getting the certification from the Insured Retirement Institute.”
According to Ferrell, e-signature is the key to actual ROI. It allows BGAs and IMOs to process without human interaction.
Ferrell turns to Sagicor Life Insurance as an example. The company just implemented an automation process, which was integrated with their underwriting process.
“A large percentage of this industry’s profits is from simplified products,” Ferrell said. “If a large majority of this industry can fall under the simplified space, it will be profitable for all. Sagicor is a good example of that.
“If someone says, ‘We can’t have a computer make this kind of decision.’ Well, they’re just in fear of their jobs,” he said.
And what about the future of automation within the insurance and financial services field?
“It’s my focus as a product manager that we have to make tech ‘stupid simple,’” Ferrell said. “It must be intuitive. It must be easy to adapt, adopt and to utilize.”
Ferrell also sees the insurance market becoming more and more crowded, with consumers needs for life insurance, annuities, LTCI, etc.
“We believe these products are going to morph over time,” Ferrell said. “Mutual fund IRAs, combo products with LTC riders. I think it’s inevitable.”
“It’s always said insurance is sold, not bought. I think in the future it could definitely be bought, not sold. I don’t know how, but I can see it.”