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With the insurance regulatory environment changing continually and great agents in short supply, slogging through compliance and credentialing in an ad-hoc way each year can have higher costs than you think. Headlines from last year make the case, with a few insurers paying a heavy toll for inadequate and inaccurate compliance programs. And the most recent DOL ruling isn’t going to make things any simpler.
The fact is, many carriers don’t make compliance a priority because it’s a cost of doing business—not a rainmaking activity. But if you factor in the burdens of staying up to date with complex regulations, the agent time consumed by onboarding and ongoing credentialing, and the risks of potential errors or omissions derailing your business, it’s clear that streamlining compliance can be a very smart business investment. The question is how to make it happen.
From Ad-Hoc to Automated and Auditable
Tools that automate the workflows and processes of compliance activities provide benefits on many levels. With the most up-to-date licensing requirements built into the software or platform, you can be confident that you and your agents are meeting all current requirements, and you won’t be reinventing the wheel every year. Your agents will spend far less time chasing down and entering data so they can be more productive for your business (not to mention less likely to churn.)
Most important, you’ll be clearly, fully and auditably compliant, protecting your business from penalties or worse.
Bottom line: the less time devoted to licensing, the more time your agents have to sell and the less exposure for your business.
Best Practices to Streamline Compliance Reporting
From your company culture to the tools you select, there are certain steps you should consider to make your credentialing processes simple, sound and sustainable.
• Evangelize. You may need to work a little to establish a culture where compliance is seen as a high-priority task within your organization.
• Start at onboarding. The agent onboarding process often bottlenecks because of corporate, regulatory and verification requirements. Delays in bringing agents on board delay time to revenue, so a technology solution that can streamline the process makes sense from a business standpoint.
• Think flexibility. The technology you choose should support multiple territories, states, product lines and agent classifications. Also, be sure it integrates with your background check and learning development systems. Look for a tool with a simple interface instead of a complex website that requires agents to fill out multiple forms.
• Conserve IT resources. You don’t want your compliance system to tax your already-stretched IT resources. Simple configuration and little or no maintenance are vital. Ideally, non-technical staff should be able to manage routine updates and customizations.
• Look to the cloud. Onboarding and compliance solutions are typically either cloud-based or self-hosted. Keep in mind that a cloud-based systems enable you to instantly access feature enhancements without waiting for a patch or update.
• Type less, verify more. Any tools you deploy should be easy to use and not require agents to fill out stacks of forms. The less manual data entry and spreadsheet hassles your agents are responsible for, the better off you’ll all be. Agents should be primarily verifying data, not entering it.
• Stay up-to-date. Tools should also have compliance updates and reminders built in – so you can be confident you are meeting the latest requirements in a timely manner. Some sort of tickler system is a must to help agents remember key dates, deadlines, and documentation so items don’t fall through the cracks. Your system should alert agents by email when it’s time to complete a licensing task, and provide advance notification when current licensing requirements have changed.
• Consolidate. A central repository with access to outside applications will make assembling required compliance data much more streamlined. It should contain past record information on licenses and CEUs, plus metrics on past performance and commission levels. Centralizing this information keeps it accessible to agents and makes it easy to export for auditors.
Your onboarding, credentialing and compliance efforts should set your agents up for success. By reducing the risks, redundancies and drudgery from the process, you’ll not only keep your business in good standing, you’ll be able to compete for the best talent and get a lot more out of them.