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Life Health > Life Insurance

Here's how producers rank life insurers on 60-plus attributes

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Claims service, responsiveness of underwriting and clear communications are among the most important attributes that life insurance sales professionals look for in a carrier, according to new research.

Market research firm Celent discloses this finding in a September 2015 online survey of life insurance and annuity producers. Commissioned by Vertafore, the study polled mostly captive and independent insurance agents, as well financial advisors and broker/dealers. Most of the respondents generate between $250,000 and $10 million in revenue annually.

The survey reveals that 46.9 percent of agents go directly to a life insurer’s portal for product information. Nearly as many agents and advisors (41.8 percent) opt to work with multi-insurance solutions (such as an agency management system) that integrate with carriers’ portals.

The responses’ suggest to Celent that insurers’ portals have “improved significantly” in recent years.

Turning to factors that producers consider when deciding to affiliate with one or another insurer, the quality and breadth of “claims service” ranks at the top. More than three-quarters of survey respondents flag this as a “must have” attribute of a life insurer. Claims service is followed by:

  • Technology capabilities (72 percent)

  • Brand reputation (73 percent)

  • Personal relationships with underwriters and managers (49 percent)

  • Marketing/training/practice consulting (48 percent)

  • Mobile tools (34.3 percent); and

  • Social media support (18.2 percent)

Respecting functional capabilities, the overwhelming majority of survey respondents (86.9 percent) rank “responsiveness of underwriting” as a “must-have.” Other capabilities to look for in a life insurer garnered smaller majorities of those polled:

  • Competitive products (79.2 percent)

  • Competitive price (76.2 percent)

  • Fast underwriting decision (68.3 percent)

  • Quick quote (also 68.3 percent)

  • Fast delivery of policy documents (62.4 percent)

  • Online application submission (61.4 percent); and

  • Instant issue (30.7 percent)

Because the underwriting effort is the defining moment of the new business process, it is not surprising that “responsiveness of underwriting leads,” the report states. “[Ninety-nine percent] of the respondents — a combination of ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ — say it is important.”

As to life insurers’ ability to contract, license, and appoint an agent, more than 9 in 10 survey respondents identified 11 of 12 characteristics as either a “must-have” or “nice to have.” Among the top 5 “must have” attributes were:

  • Clear communication on license and appointment renewal status (84.3 percent)

  • Secure producer information (79.2 percent)

  • Simple product training/education on the requirements process and status communication (69.3 percent)

  • Clear point of licensing and credentialing contact (68.6 percent); and

  • Easy on-boarding process (67.6 percent)

See the charts beginning on the next page for additional highlights from the Celent survey (click on the images to enlarge).

See also:

Celent analyst offers window into future of insurance

What’s next for the life insurance industry?

M Financial: a producer group with a unique value proposition

Not surprisingly, competitive commissions are a “must have” for nearly 9 in 10 agents and advisors. Fewer producers flag other characteristics — online tools, incentive bonus programs and preferred agent programs — as must-have attributes.

Most producers rank as “great” or “good” service key functions of a life insurer, from policy delivery to claims management. One area that’s ripe for improvement is market research and planning. Just over 7 in 10 survey respondents place this function in the “great” or “good” categories.

As to areas where insurers can improve, so as to gain more business, large majorities of agents and advisors identify as “most” or “pretty” important pricing, products, commissions and responsiveness of underwriting.

Electronic license verification, claims service and brand reputation are comparatively less important functions for many producers.

Responses are more consistent across functional categories when producers are polled about areas where insurers should invest to earn more business. Various web functions, most notably online application processing, are viewed as “most crucial” or “crucial” by more than 6 in 10 respondents.

Among eight other areas that insurers should consider investing in to garner more business, online commission statements comes out on top:

  • 32 percent of respondents see this as the most crucial area;

  • close behind are investing in a great web portal (31 percent);

  • and integrating with multi-carrier contracting, credentialing and relationship management solutions (30.3 percent).

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