Marketing & Distribution | Read Time: 5 Minutes

For the Win: A Game-Changing Solution to Solve a Broken Industry Problem

August 20, 2020

By: Thad Bauer

Clearly, the vowels “E” and “A” are in “team.” But when it comes to the team that’s solving the industry’s broken end-to-end commercial lines process, there’s definitely an “I” – in fact there’s two of them.

Together with Indio, IVANS has teamed up with carriers and agencies from across the industry – like Acuity, Travelers, Hanover, Gallagher, M3, Silverstone Group and more – to form a working group chartered to tackle once and for all the challenge of managing submissions, which is currently weighed down by:

  • Lengthy paper-based application and supplemental forms
  • Time intensive back-and-forth between insureds, agents and underwriters
  • The increased potential for errors and missing data

The result of this initiative is a game-changing industry solution that simplifies submissions management, reducing churn while maintaining the “secret sauce” of the process that makes each market unique.

Coming this September, the solution will enable insurers to automate submissions data exchange between their systems.

In anticipation of the big reveal coming soon, we sat down with this working group’s team leaders from both IVANS and Indio to find out:

  • Why they undertook this project
  • What agents and carriers want fixed
  • How changing the process will impact the end client’s experience
  • What they learned from working with this team
  • Why this solution is truly a game-changer

So let’s jump right into the conversation with product experts Kathy Hrach, Senior Director of Product Management at IVANS; Josh Peterson, VP of Data Products at IVANS; and Sean McLeary, VP of Product and Design at Indio.

Kathy Hrach
Kathy Hrach
Senior Director of Product Management at IVANS
Josh Peterson
Josh Peterson
VP of Data Products at IVANS
Sean McLeary
Sean McLeary
VP of Product and Design at Indio

Why tackle the problem of fixing the commercial lines submissions process?

Kathy Hrach: From an IVANS standpoint, we’ve had IVANS Markets, which has been in the marketplace for a number of years now and allows agencies to see which carriers have appetite for their risks. However, in talking to agencies and carriers, they’ve been asking us to provide that next step, e.g. continue the automated process and turn that market appetite into a submission, making it easier for the agent to get it to the carrier, and easier for the carrier to get that information back to agents much faster.  

Josh Peterson: For both agencies and insurers, the heavy lift of data collection and transmission is one of the largest challenges in the customer experience. Today the interaction takes days and weeks. In a digital world, this exchange could be minutes and hours. The result is speeding up the entire channel by having a more efficient powerful digital workflow.

Sean McLeary: We recognize that commercial insurance is a relationship business, and taking a lot of the workload off agents’ plates by automating it and making it easier to do allows them to spend more time working with their customers and creating a great customer experience.

“We recognize that commercial insurance is a relationship business, and taking a lot of the workload off agents’ plates by automating it and making it easier to do allows them to spend more time working with their customers and creating a great customer experience.”

Did you learn anything from this team of internal and external contributors that you didn’t know going in to the Working Group?

KH: Yes, I’ll share two: Going in, we had an idea that there was a lot of back and forth between the agency and carrier for more complex risks. But as we started talking to carriers and diving deeper into their teams, what we didn’t realize was just how much back-and-forth had to go on at the carrier side too, just to be routing and triaging and trying to get the information they needed in their systems. I wasn’t aware of all the manual work that happens on the carrier side.

The other thing that came out of our conversations was how carriers don’t really have a good automated way to refer agencies from a portal-based workflow to one that requires an underwriter due to the complexity of the risk. Many carriers admitted that there isn’t a great way to handle that today, which is obviously an opportunity.

JP: I think we’ve always been told that it’s a complex area and that there’s no standard set of things that you can prescribe up front, and the biggest learning to me is that we call it a submission but it’s more of a conversation. So it’s not they’re going to fill it out and send it over to a carrier and it’s done. The initial submission is the opening conversation, a series of iterations and refinement. Solving for that is going to be a lot more elegant than finding a one-point-in-time submission.

SM: The biggest learning I’ve had is just how important the management system is to recording and keeping track of all the things that go on throughout the lifecycle of a renewal. We had an understanding of that but it was really reinforced through this process. It made us truly think about the whole ecosystem of what we’re doing and all of the different pieces and what roles they play.

What are agents saying they want the carriers to fix about the submission process?

KH: One thing we’ve heard from agents is that the frustration with submissions is that they go into a black hole. Once it’s sent over to a carrier, not knowing where it’s at, having to make phone calls, send emails or keep checking up on the status is frustrating. Even before we dove deep into this project, agents were asking us for a better way to have automatic updates come back to them from the carriers into their systems so they know where it’s at and can keep their clients informed. Definitely getting status updates on the progress of the submission is something that we’ve heard for a while from agents.

JP: We hear from agencies all of the time that they only have a finite number of times and amount of minutes that they get to talk to their client about capturing that information. Knowing what you need from the underwriter upfront, early in the process, is critically important to the agent’s client relationships.

“Knowing what you need from the underwriter upfront, early in the process, is critically important to the agent’s client relationships.”

SM: The thing we’re hearing most at Indio is just how difficult it is to assemble the information for the submission. The act of gathering all the information from the insured and recording it is manual and time consuming. The act of gathering all the different documents and things that are sent to the carrier is very manual and time consuming. Once they actually send it, especially when going to multiple markets, there’s so much to keep on top of. Consider an agent who has 50 customers renewing on September 1, whose risks have been sent to three or four markets each. The agent has to keep track of where all the different markets are, if they’ve responded, did they ask for more information, etc. Just keeping track of and managing all of that is extremely manual. So how can Indio provide tools to help make some of that automated and much easier to share so that everybody knows what they need to do and when.  

What are carriers looking to change about the process; how do they want to make the process better?

KH: They all acknowledged that there’s friction today with the submission process. On the more complex risks, we know there are a lot of steps that carriers have to take. They want to eliminate as much of the manual data entry points as possible and the work that it takes to process and route these submissions because all of that adds to the length of time it takes to get back to the agent, which then takes time to get back to the insured. So streamlining the process for getting a quote back faster is critical for carriers for them to compete and provide the best possible service.

On the simpler risks, we heard from many carriers that even though they’ve built out a lot of capabilities on their portals and built APIs, they want to make it easier for agencies to quote and bind with them. However, a key thing they kept saying was that agencies want to start from their management systems.

Why do you think what IVANS and Indio are building is an industry game-changer?

KH: The fact that we are providing a solution that tackles the friction that exists right now on the more complex risks, mid-market side of things, but also reducing friction on the small commercial, more automated side of things. Having an industry solution to support all submissions is unique and will be a big benefit to both carriers and agencies.

JP: On the carrier side, every single one of them that I’ve talked to know that the opportunity is to provide a better experience for their agents. Anything they can do to be easier and better to work with, they want to do it. To provide that on an industry level scale is a huge opportunity and carriers are excited to work on things agents are excited about. That’s why this is a real differentiated game-changer.

SM: Rather than creating something that’s extremely rigid and trying to get the industry to adopt it, we’re trying to understand how carriers, agents and insureds truly operate today, and make it easier, faster and more efficient and effective.

So there you have it. The level of excitement about this initiative is undeniable. In fact, one of the largest national carriers will be launching this new offering to agents in a few weeks. And IVANS and Indio are not stopping there; we are working on the design of additional submissions capabilities to increase risk data capture, exchange, and insights to minimize friction and manual touchpoints throughout the submissions process.

Watch this video to see how the solution is addressing both mid-market and small commercial lines submissions challenge.

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.