IVANS’ Vice President of Data Products Group Brian Wood recently sat with IVANS Markets client, Aon Affinity, to discuss:
- Who Aon Affinity is and how they’re different
- What Aon Affinity’s philosophy is around digital initiatives
- How Aon Programs, Aon Affinity’s broker-focused solution, is able to meet agents where they are
- What Aon Programs has gained from working with IVANS
Brian Wood: We’re excited to talk to you today about the changes in our industry, the digital revolution, all of the amazing investments, and the focus of Aon Affinity, especially with the backdrop of everything we are facing personally and professionally during this pandemic. It's an amazing time in our industry’s history so I’m looking forward to understanding what you see happening, what you're hearing from your carriers, your focus on agencies. All the above.
What’s been really fun to see is this whole “putting your money where your mouth is” related to technology investments made by Aon Affinity that support the end customer and your agency base. I would love to find out a little more about your perspective and if you can tell us about Aon Affinity and what makes you all different.
Aon Affinity: The Aon Programs segment is focused around brokers. We have 10 MGUs, ranging from nonprofits to healthcare with many in between. And Aon worked with about 18,000 broker/agent office locations in 2019.
Brian: I remember learning about some of the prestigious programs. K&K and IHG and others that were there, and I realized that was Aon Affinity! I knew those from the traditional names, and they were clearly amazing programs with amazing staff.
Aon Affinity: We are quite large in the market, with 1,700 employees all over the U.S. We have a centralized digital marketing space as well, so it is bringing all of the different components together for agents and brokers.
Brian: One of the areas I know that is a major focus for Aon Affinity is the independent agency channel and brokers. Can you talk a little more about what you look for in an agency relationship?
Aon Affinity: One of the exciting things about Aon Affinity is that we want to work with businesses of every size, no matter how big or small. This is also an incredible challenge because we never want to say no. We have some straight-through processing capabilities and we have opportunities where people work directly with our underwriters. We have every size, shape, all-over-the-country type of broker and they just keep coming.
Brian: At the end of the day, our focus is serving the end insured. Aon Affinity has relationships with agencies and brokers from every walk of life and every size. I love this model. One of the things that Aon Affinity has talked a lot about is meeting the agent where they work. Could you share more about that strategy and why it is so important?
Aon Affinity: In this world, when you’re dealing with all shapes and sizes with different types of solutions, it’s important for us to understand where they are. We are unable to have a one-on-one conversation with every person. We realize there are hundreds of websites out there and thousands of opportunities. It is hard for agents to navigate through everything so that’s where we have landed with the most important information for them inside the agency management systems. How we are able to meet an agent where they are in that system is more important than ever before in today’s world. Understanding the importance of remote working wherever they are and being able to capture your customer’s information and find them solutions, whether you’re in an office or at home.
Brian: Of course, those in our industry who have made major investments in the digital revolution framework and keeping ease of use front and center for their customers, agents or whomever, is really paying off now. You see this across the board in how agents are using their systems and where they’re using them, which today is largely remotely at home. We never could have contemplated how important and critical digital connectivity would become in a blink of an eye.
Aon Affinity: We learned a lot from IVANS. The passion you and your organization have in that space is how we knew we had to be there; we just didn’t know how. The Aon team has really embraced it and we want to keep learning and keep understanding how to be even better in that space.
Brian: I appreciate that very much. Talk to me a little bit about IVANS Markets, one of the products that is near and dear to my heart, because I built and supported it. Can you tell me a little more about how that product has helped support your own distribution strategy?
Aon Affinity: Absolutely. We talked about the importance of being where the agent is and where they will be. We have MGUs with some very complex solutions in place. We have many different types of industries that we are in with different types of solutions in place. Some of our MGUs have 60 or 70 classes for each one. We found that an agent could put exactly what they needed in IVANS Markets and it matched very quickly to the industry and within our appetite. It’s efficient for everyone involved. It allowed us to focus on bringing more independent agents and brokers into our ecosystem, and it allows the agents to bring in more customers. It is highly efficient and applicable in today’s world, especially with how we need to work in the current environment.
Brian: Our industry is incredibly relationship-based. I think the key to any technology that is going to succeed in our industry needs to enable the relationship as opposed to disrupt it. Often, we hear from agencies that have a great opportunity, but can’t take advantage of it. They can’t serve that client because they just don’t have the expertise that Aon teams bring.
Aon Affinity: Exactly, they may want to expand into a whole other industry or interface that we can offer and that’s something we enjoy doing. The relationships we have are great. If we want to help an agent get into a new space, we are able to. We don’t want to say no to an agent. It absolutely enables a relationship.
Brian: If you think about what’s happening with everything, thinking to post COVID, no one will want to hear about COVID. We have some great segments and agency partners in areas that are getting hit hard. Other segments not so much. It is an interesting time and to have all that information at your fingertips is important. When we go back a couple years to 2018, IVANS was leading the industry and had 110,000 searches within IVANS Markets. Now we average about 6.5 million sets of commercial searches and recommendations a month. In January, we surpassed 7 million searches.
Aon Affinity: One of the other things we like about it is the fact that IVANS Markets makes recommendations on the renewal book as well. A difficult part is how to drive new business, but also to be more efficient on the renewal book. You don’t want to assume you’re going to renew with the same market. So having that validation process of knowing you have options, that intelligence, is very important.