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Editor’s Note: This is the third of a three-part series on producer onboarding by Roger LaVine. The first and second articles are linked below.
We’ve been discussing the changes in how producer onboarding is being carried out by insurance companies, and we’ve previously noted that automating these processes stands to save the industry both time and money. Perhaps most significantly, automating compliance will help avoid inadvertent run-ins with regulators. So what capabilities should an insurance company looking to incorporate when evaluating their shift to automated onboarding? In this final article of the series, we examine these features in more detail, along with the expected return on carriers’ technology investment in automation and other associated benefits. A carrier should evaluate these before making a decision.
Let’s start with the electronic application itself, whereby the information goes directly into the system—creation and submission eliminates time-consuming, error-prone data entry for insurers and more importantly the two- to three-week correction process. The interface should be convenient, and needs to be accessible from any standard web browser. It should allow candidates to apply online, with their information pulled from third-party databases, with the data going directly into system records. Because this type of automated system eliminates data entry, licensing specialists can save valuable time and avoid potential copying errors. Data quality is improved, and the applying producer—who is, after all, the authority on his or her own data—can now take responsibility for its accuracy.
While data security of any online application should be an imperative, it should not be difficult for the producer to fill out the form. Think in terms of how “frictionless” and intuitive consumer interfaces have become. The submission process should be just as easy, so that it doesn’t become a head-scratcher that makes producers to run in the opposite direction. The online application should prompt candidates for basic information using a consistent format. You’d think this would be the first thing a software provider would think to ensure, but it doesn’t always happen. It should also automate lookups and pull, verify, and prefill all pertinent license data from the PDB (Producer Database) for the applicant. In line with this, automated, background checks should automatically be ordered based on business rules. This saves valuable administrative time.
Looking at the cycle of how an automated onboarding system should ideally work, the next item for consideration is third-party integration. Commonly needed information comes from additional third parties such as Vector One, AML, OFAC, LIMRA and AHIP. A comprehensively automated system with configurable business rules should be able to identify these needs and then integrate the interface as required, using workflow and connecting to third parties.
Additionally, carriers want to cast a wide net, so the optimal automated onboarding system should have an excellent agent recruitment funnel that renders the process free of paperwork. Licensing specialists need to have real-time access to a producer’s onboarding progress. A system should provide visibility into what may cause delays, without shuffling through paperwork or rifling through files. It should also send automatic notifications for manual intervention when an exception arises.
On the administrative level, the ability to recruit and sign applications and contracts electronically, using a secure web-based environment, will be a key attribute of a good automated system. It’s also important to have speedy and reliable printing capabilities so that producers can print out a hard copy, if required. Similarly, the electronic tracking provided by an automated system eliminates the need for repeated, time-consuming phone conversations and emails. Licensing specialists and recruits should be able to view their application status online. With details available on their respective online interfaces, licensing specialists and producers save time and have fewer questions to ask—and answer.
Finally, as a validation of the entire process, a comprehensive system should supply an automated way to manage a checklist of all of the compliance requirements for that producer, all in one place, with a built-in compliance engine. Requirement management, whether collecting, verifying, approving or documenting needs to be relevant to stakeholders, and should align with the specific insurer’s preferred business rules. The system should also display the results automatically in the workflow and prompt the licensing specialist to pay attention to those cases and situations that need it.
An automated Producer Onboarding system should give flexibility and control in areas such as the timing and frequency of background checks, training certifications, and questions asked on the producer application. Simplifying the complex onboarding rules and processes should enable licensing specialists to easily set up forms, questionnaires, and contracts electronically.
Return on Investment and Positive Producer Relationships Result from Gained Efficiencies
Onboarding will always be part of the producer-management lifespan. Any producer onboarding approach should yield a return on investment that increases over time, not only by keeping costs to a minimum but also by adding value.
The first rule of efficiency for carriers to consider is that time is money—and slow onboarding is expensive onboarding. Traditional producer onboarding methods often require licensing specialists to be paid for data entry, double or triple entering in multiple systems, paper shuffling, and repeated phone conversations. But there are many real but hard-to-see costs, as well—management time and opportunity cost to intervene, lost relationships, and the time lost while producers wait for responses instead of spending their time initiating business and increasing profits. Efficiencies introduced by these next generation onboarding systems potentially give licensing specialists time to add additional tasks to their job descriptions. Insurers save money because specialists can accomplish much more with the same pay. Ease of use is critical, because producers who find it easy to do business with an insurer also tend to write more business for that insurer.
Making it easy for producers to onboard and do business is the top priority for insurers competing for an effective distribution channel. Any changes in onboarding technology should be directed at minimizing hassles and making onboarding fast, convenient, and easy for producers. Thinking along these lines will make for an excellent start to a good insurer/producer relationship.