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Insurtech: Finding Its Place In Agency Management

Krista O’Rourke, Vice President, Agency Relations & Safety Services, Pinnacol Assurance

Krista O’Rourke, Vice President, Agency Relations & Safety Services, Pinnacol Assurance

The latest push in the insurtech frontier is agency management. Customers and carriers have driven much of the innovation to date, while agents and their high-touch relationships were initially seen as impervious to technological advancements and automation.

But as insurance ushers in new generations of digital natives and the world of work continues to shift— including the work-from-home demands of this year’s pandemic— insurtech is now a natural complement to agents’ sought-after advisory role.

How can technology help agents improve their operations and better serve customers? That’s a question we obsess about at Pinnacol Assurance as we continue to introduce new technology across our business. Like many carriers, our partnership with agents is critical to our success, so we are understandably committed to supporting theirs. And like many other long-standing carriers, our legacy systems need to be replaced, hence we’re making sure we do that strategically and with agents in mind.

Supporting Agents’ Need for Speed and Customization In our line of business—workers’ compensation—speed is important, and a powerful feature that insurtech delivers. This year, we piloted several new tools that make it significantly easier and faster for agents to quote and bind policies. For example, agents will be able to skip redundant data entry and submit an ACORD application to receive a quote in minutes, rather than days. This kind of speed can be a defining factor when an agent is trying to secure business and the carrier is striving to come out on top. Artificial intelligence (AI) not only allows us to quote faster but also with more accuracy, so there is even more assurance that Pinnacol is delivering the right coverage.

To support the valuable advice agents bring to the buying process, we’ve built new interactive customization tools that agents can use in real time to evaluate and compare different scenarios. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for agents to access and share the information that best helps them educate customers.

Knowing what agents really want and need is a critical part of our product development.

We employ human-centered design that puts the end user at the heart of the entire creative process. At Pinnacol, we have spent years working alongside customers and agents to fully understand their pain points, expectations, and constraints. Our agent partners have shared their opinions with us in workshops and surveys and tested our prototypes, and we continue to glean valuable insights into how technology can help them grow their businesses in this fast-changing marketplace.

Always-on Innovation A key point to remember when investing in major technology projects like this is that it will never be 100 percent done. We started this work at Pinnacol several years ago and have since normalized it as part of our ongoing operations. I personally find it very exciting to carve out space and resources to keep searching for and fulfilling agents’ unmet needs. While many agents have been complimentary of the current system, we still ask ourselves, what else can surprise and delight them? What other features and benefits can we provide?

This type of proactive inquiry is necessary in a world where Amazon and other tech giants are regularly reinventing our digital norm. Today, it is safe to assume that new tech trends or features can become popular almost overnight—and we need to be ready to meet customers’ and partners’ evolving expectations. For this reason, we opted to build a new core system that will give us greater flexibility and control to pivot down the line.

But regardless of whether you build a new system or purchase one out of the box, one fact for carriers remains: You must keep your sights on agents’ needs, which will change over time. It is important to stay close and work alongside the agent community to jointly discover the critical questions and answers that will drive innovation. Because their success is our success, and our futures are all inextricably tied to insurtech.

Krista O’Rourke, CIC is Pinnacol Assurance’s vice president of agency relations and safety services. Before joining Pinnacol in 2013, she spent nearly 20 years as a licensed property and casualty agent.

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