Are life insurance agent-facing mobile apps on the move yet?
Good question — and a question as relevant now as it was in July 2013 when Celent insurance analysts Bill Fearnley Jr. and Karen Monks published their report on mobile insurance technology for the life insurance producer.
A cursory search on Google Play -- the main retail shopping portal for Android mobile devices -- for the phrase “life insurance apps for agents,” and “apps for life insurance and annuity agents,” brings up hundreds of apps which purport to serve insurance agents.
On closer inspection, it’s clear agents would be hard-pressed to give many of these apps the time of day. Many of these digital retail apps amount to little more than sales or marketing logos surrounded by electronic brochures promoting one agency or carrier.
Some are eye catching, if nothing more. The Grant Scheele Insurance Agency, outside of Portland, Ore., shows an avid outdoorsman — Grant Scheele himself, it would appear — holding a huge fish.
Educational and calculator apps designed to help consumers and agents figure out how much life insurance to buy are plentiful, and there is no shortage of apps directing readers to insurance news outlets, InsuranceNewsNet included.
Apps from top-tier public carriers such as MetLife, The Principal, National Life, State Farm and VALIC are also available on a retail site like Google Play or the App Store on iTunes. For example, Farm Bureau Insurance’s Mobile Agent and Pocket Agent from State Farm.
There’s no lack of carrier-issued apps available to producers through digit retail websites, but apps that are most useful to agents are those connected to agents’ agency management systems (AMS). These apps allow agents to execute transactions, call up loss runs and generate commission hierarchies using a tablet.
But you won’t find these apps on iTunes or Google Play.
Search Google Play for an app from Agency Bloc for Health & Life Insurance, an agency management system designed specifically for life and health agencies, for example, and everything except the app from Agency Bloc shows up in your device’s window.
Turn up the volume on iTunes for VUE Software’s Distributor Accelerator Suite, a producer productivity suite that automates recruiting and contracting to setting up commission hierarchies, and just about all you’ll hear is silence.
Troll the digital retail outlets in search of a software platform called Agency Expert sold by the company GBS and you’re going to strike out.
A search on Google Play for NowCerts, an insurance agency management system that outsources insurance certificates, politely invited this “browser” to make sure all my words were spelled correctly, or to try different keywords.
TechCanary’s Agency Management System isn’t singing the praises of its AMS system on iTunes.
Yet on their respective homepages, Vue Software, based in Coconut Creek, Fla.; TechCanary, based in Milwaukee; and NowCerts, based in Salt Lake City, feature their own applications on a tablet.
Certainly, vendors of agency-focused, enterprise-grade software platforms don’t see any reason to make apps available for download through a mass-market outlet. Many of these are linked to Salesforce.com and its “app cloud,” where the app, offered as a service, runs off third-party servers.
If apps from enterprise vendors aren’t available, it’s difficult to tell whether transactional apps designed for professional use among life insurance agents are penetrating the mobile arena, or if they are lagging behind even the simplest digital pamphlets that pass for life insurance agent apps on Google Play or iTunes.
Even if agency management apps and software designed for mobile platforms aren’t available in the mass digital retail, apps are on the move.
In their 2013 report titled “Mobile Insurance Technology for the Life Insurance Producer,” Monks and Fearnley, now research director of compliance, fraud and risk analytics at IDC Financial Insights, found that 27 of the top 100 life insurance companies had apps for producers. That is more than double the number of insurers that offered apps to producers in 2011.
Of the 27 percent of producer-focused apps delivered by carriers, roughly one-third were devoted to marketing apps, one-third to information apps and one-third to transactional apps, the report said. In 2014 and 2015, more carriers were expected to announce producer-focused apps.
“Insurers must catch up if they are to meet the demands of their producers and consumers, who are both increasingly open to a wide variety of contact points,” said Monks in a news release accompanying the 2013 report.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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