Agent portal improvement mean more features, fewer ordering mistakes and faster transaction capabilities in the individual annuity space, which in turn, have allowed companies to retain more agents and advisors, a new report finds.
Agent portals are Internet entry points through which agents do business with annuity companies. Portals play a vital role in helping agents execute more annuity-related transactions. A poor or mediocre Internet experience can give agents reasons to drop an annuity company’s products.
“Individual annuity carriers are focusing on modernization of policy administration system, as well as improvements to agent portal functionality, business intelligence, and risk management operations,” write consultants Rob McIsaac and Steven Kaye.
McIsaac, senior vice president for research & consulting, and Kaye, associate vice president of research, are with Noverica, a Boston-based insurance consultant that publishes regular technology reports on the industry.
Due to months-long sales cycles, policies that often take decades before companies pay out on a claim and heavy regulation, the annuity industry has lagged other insurance lines in technology adoption. But annuity carriers are gradually upgrading their systems.
Electronic application functions are now considered “table stakes,” and most big annuity companies offer electronic application capability, the report said.
Priorities include integrating components so that agents have access to service, sales, marketing, case management and commission information in one or two places instead of having to log into separate systems.
Improvements at Dozens of Annuity Companies
In the past 12 months, Great American Insurance in Cincinnati refreshed its agent portal and deployed an electronic application system for annuities, the report said.
New annuity business processing time at Great American has improved by 75 percent and 40 percent of annuity applications are already received electronically. Not-in-good-order (NIGO) rates have been cut in half, the report said.
Initiatives announced earlier this year include MassMutual’s launch of AgentOne, a platform developed by the technology vendor iPipeline, which develops cloud-based software for life insurance companies.
AgentOne, which is designed to simplify an agent’s daily activities, runs on Salesforce.com.
In February, Jackson National announced the development of a tax deferral illustrator for advisors and wholesalers.
Last year, Fidelity & Guaranty Life implemented iPipeline’s AFFIRM for Annuities platform in less than four months. The premium target of $300 million was reached in less than three weeks, and the NIGO rate for application fell from 60 percent to 15 percent, the report said.
Other insurance companies rolling out new features to their agent portals include Principal Financial Group, Lincoln Financial Group, the Portuguese Fraternal Society of America, Security Mutual Life Insurance and Gleaner Life Insurance Society, according to Novarica in a separate report published earlier.
Still more technology changes are in store as annuities face changes in the wake of new regulations governing the sale of retirement products.
In 2016-17 annuities will undergo shifts in “product features, compensation elements and the tools required to continue to expand self-service capabilities while also simplifying the solutions to conform to the evolving retirement solution landscape,” the report said.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected]