Canadian Underwriter

Your first step towards a digital brokerage lies in your BMS

January 19, 2018   by David Gambrill

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How many brokers would be willing to change how their data is organized and housed if it meant a revenue increase of 144% per employee?

The goal is actually within your reach, says Michael Howe, senior vice president of product management at Applied Systems. And it all starts with simplifying your foundational management system.

If you plan to take advantage of heavily-data driven technologies such as chatbots, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and any other technology touted as the way of the future, streamlining your data into one single system is a logical first step, Howe told Canadian Underwriter Friday.

“Having a single system where there can be a single source of truth, and you are not really dealing with all of these difficult [data] integrations, that is a hugely valuable place to start,” said Howe. “Simplify the environment, get everything into one system, and then you have a fighting chance to be successful.”

Once you have all of the data in one place, then you will be able to do some creative things with reporting, analytics and other data-driven activities.

Howe was speaking about the results of Applied’s 2017 Digital Technology Adoption Benchmarks and Trends Report, which shows that digital brokerages have a 144% higher revenue per employee than non-digital brokerages.

The report shows how many Canadian brokers are using digital solutions such as:

  • electronic signatures (48% of Canadian respondents),
  • electronic documents such as eDocs (68%),
  • client self-service portals (25%),
  • mobile apps (27%),
  • cloud software services (49%), and
  • data analytics (16.5% in Canada and the United States).

Related: What you need first, before chatbots and blockchain

Almost all (98 per cent) of Canadian brokerages use a management system, the highest percentage of BMS users in the global survey. (The survey includes broker respondents from the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.)

Applied’s survey shows brokers in Canada are using a BMS primarily for document management (92%), financial reporting and accounting (86%), complete visibility into all departments into one system (75%), and tracking sales opportunities and prospect information (58%).

The advantage of a single foundational management system at the brokerage is that it “enables brokers to standardize workflows and gain a single view of the business,” the report states, “providing the information and agility required to efficiently manage policy and benefits administration, insurer relationships, sales automation, and financial accounting processes across the entire business in one application.”

But when planning for digital transformation at the brokerage, the trouble many brokers experience is that data isn’t always housed in a single place. Brokers often use multiple solutions, each of which handles a specific aspect of broker activities.

“What we tend to see is that brokers will tell us, ‘I have this solution that manages this part of my business, and I have a different solution that manages a different part of my business, I have a CRM system that manages the sales part,’” Howe says. “And then the broker is left to wonder, ‘How in the world do I stitch all of this together?’”

If the data is “all over the place,” if it is conflicting, spotty, or duplicated, then the broker can never really take advantage of the data that lives inside of the brokerage, said Howe. “Really good brokerages invest in analytics and reporting and other capabilities that you need to take advantage of that data that’s there. Having it in the system is the first step. You need to get it out of the system in a way that’s actionable so you can make some good decisions based on it.”

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