Industry Trends | Read Time: 6 minutes

The Future of Commercial Lines Submissions: Part 1

December 23, 2019

Thad Bauer. By: Thad Bauer

People looking at something off-screenWhen discussing where we are going to focus our innovation to provide the greatest value for our customers, commercial lines submissions is often top of mind for many. There is palpable energy surrounding commercial lines submissions in the industry. From insurers looking to solve this broken process for agencies to agencies looking to grow their commercial lines book, we at IVANS are in a unique position to drive conversation – and solutions – to solve this industry-wide challenge in a collaborative way and it’s what I’d like to explore today.

So, when I say the process is broken, what do I mean? Let me walk you through the commercial lines submission process and where we see opportunities for improvement and possible future solutions – including those we have plans for here at IVANS in 2020 and beyond.

Before I get going, it’s vital we recognize that this is equally a difficult, time-intensive logistical process as well as an emotional process for all parties – agencies, insurers and insureds. We cover the first half of the process here. The second part of the process is covered in part 2. Let’s dive in!

An Overview of the CL Submissions Process

Step 1: Prospecting

In the first step, an insured meets with an agent and discusses their insurance needs. This is where the best agents shine. For new business, agents get to know the customer and their operation, point out areas of risk and provide expert guidance on the types of insurance the business should seek. At renewal, agents can further strengthen their customer relationship and ensure the client’s business is still covered appropriately by their current policies.

This is also the start of the emotional journey. The agent and insured are both in positive moods here. Agents are happy to have a prospective or renewal customer and the insured is glad to have an agent who’s watching out for them and may be able to solve their problem.

It’s the second half of prospecting – the data capture phase – where we see clear opportunities for improvement. The insured may have left the first meeting leaving behind relevant business information or last year’s declarations page. The agent now has a “choose your own adventure” scenario where they take that information and decide the best path forward to get that data into a form for submission.

Let’s not forget this is likely done manually by agents, taking up a significant portion of their time. They have many options including their management system, directly on ACORD forms, dumping data and attachments into an email or – as is usually the case in small commercial – navigate to their preferred insurer’s portal because, “that insurer will probably want this one.”

If that sounds easier said than done, that’s because it is. At this point, looking at the form for submission, the agent will likely find that they don’t have all the information they need. That means chasing down the customer – playing phone tag, emailing or texting, perhaps - to capture what information remains to complete submission.

The continued back-and-forth between agents and insureds can delay the process from moving forward. Also, once the agent takes partial (or what they believe is complete) information to an insurer, the insurer may expand the question set forcing the agent back a few steps to consult further with the insured. This is our first drop in the emotional experience.

A Solution

Here at IVANS, the first part of the solution path we’ve been exploring revolves around a new tool with a simple concept: Get insurers all the information they need the first time and automate as much of it as possible.

This digital tool would provide agents with a front-end data capture interface allowing agents and their insureds to enter all relevant data easily in the required format. Standardizing it across the industry would be a bonus.  But if not, bring your own data your own way, we can integrate that!

Many insurers have invested further in data enrichment and in simplifying the question set required for a submission or rate. Our goal is to make sure that any data capture solution works for your products and across the industry, leveraging your investments and streamlining the submission process. It’s at this point in the process – automating the exchange of data you need, in the format you require – where we’re best positioned to help.

With that solution in mind, let’s move onto the next step. There might be an opportunity to fold into the prospecting phase and save more time. Let’s find out.

Step 2: Market Identification

Your agents work with thousands of businesses each month. Imagine the variety of agent experience and market knowledge then picture the very real scenario of them not being able to match a business with the right insurance product or find a suitable market. In a perfect world, agents will likely know where to take vanilla risks, but even then, we’ve seen surprises.

Market identification includes legitimate pain, such as:

  • Risks are submitted by agents to markets “to the best of my knowledge” who want the risk rather than what insurers really want.
  • Agents don’t offer all options to the insured because of limitations of up to date appetite information.
  • Agents don’t consider unique requirements of each prospective market.
  • The process can be very manual and time consuming.

Looking at emotional states, insureds are unsure (and sometimes impatient) as they wait to hear from their agents. Agents and insurers are unhappy. The insurer chosen by the agent may be happy, but they may also be getting sent risks they don’t have an appetite for, which is a large waste of time. Meanwhile, other insurers may have the appropriate appetite and are missing out on the opportunity to get in front of the agent and earn new business.

A Solution

To solve this – and materially change the user experience of CL quoting and submissions – we add market appetite information guiding the agent while performing the initial data capture. By extending appetite search into the data capture process, agents can select their markets, and then dynamically adjust the data capture based on the information needs of an insurer’s specific insurance products.

To help us make that solution a reality, we’re investing in new technology and people.

Accelerating the Digitization of Commercial Lines Submissions

Independent agents remain the primary distribution channel for commercial lines with mid-market to large agencies writing a majority of CL premiums. The long-term health of your distribution channel will become increasingly important as we face a shifting insurance ecosystem. That’s why we’re taking important steps today to revolutionize the way CL business happens.

Indio Technologies logoWe are excited that Indio Technologies, the leading solution for the insurance application and renewal process, is joining Applied and IVANS with the goal of accelerating the digitization of commercial lines submissions. Indio’s product enables agencies to deliver a fully digital client risk capture and application experience by automating the data population across each individual, unique insurer application to save time, increase customer satisfaction, and win additional new and renewal business. They’ve built a commanding lead in their segment with a smart, digitized insurance form library that’s growing weekly, and they’ve generated significant traction in the market, signing prominent agency customers in just a few short years.

Additionally, Indio will expand IVANS’ commercial lines solutions and drive our future vision. The strategic acquisition demonstrates our commitment to advancing connectivity across agencies, brokers, insurers and insureds to create greater automation and value for all stakeholders of the insurance lifecycle.

The Indio team will work closely with IVANS to build towards a fully real-time connected agency-insurer-insured transaction experience, incorporating the solutions and end-to-end commercial lines solution vision we’re outlining here. We hope you’re as excited as we are about what’s to come.

Read the press release to learn more about Indio and our vision for the future of commercial lines submissions.


Read the next post in this two-part series where we discuss the second half of the CL submissions process; resuming with quoting for small commercial and submissions, typically thought of for mid-market and up, then ending with submission tracking and policy binding.

Thad Bauer.

Thad Bauer

Thad Bauer, former Vice President and General Manager, led Ivans' Services and Support functions. He has 25 years of property and casualty experience and has played a key role in furthering the adoption of ACORD standards to exchange data within the industry to improve efficiencies. Prior to his current role at Ivans, Thad was president and co-founder of NxTech, a leading provider of agency-MGA-carrier interface and data integration solutions. Prior to NxTech, he spent nine years with BWC Systems and Ivans, Inc. and has worked with more than 350 insurance carriers throughout North America.