The Build-Once-Use-Anywhere InsurTech Revolution Is Here
The digital transformation of the life and annuities industry has shifted into high gear in the last two years. This transformation is being fueled by several driving factors. Insurance carriers and distributors are continuing to face increasing regulatory and compliance demands. There is more documentation, legal oversight, and rising compliance costs. Plus, agents and consumers are demanding a faster, more transparent sales process. The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated consumer and agent expectations even more.
The legacy technologies in use were not developed to support the connectivity and customization we need today. These inflexible and disconnected solutions have become a burden for the industry. Customer, product, and business information is scattered across various solutions, creating disjointed sales processes. Carriers and distributors need technology that removes challenges from their processes. Yet, legacy technologies do the exact opposite. The desire is to create a more efficient, well-orchestrated experience for everyone. Thus, the insurtech revolution was born.
Distributors and agents are looking for a streamlined sales process that is part of their platform or agency portal. Control of the agent and consumer experience is essential to distribution to ensure their brand and value are present. They are focusing on enhancing the user experience for agents and consumers alike.
The reality is there is no singular definition of streamlined. Every distributor wants a solution that fits their unique processes per channel. They also need to manage costs and leverage other technologies, such as web portals and CRMs. And, as you can guess, each distributor believes their experience is the best and the right solution for their channel and their agents.
Carriers receive hundreds of requests weekly to have their products and sales components available on distributor platforms. Each request is slightly different yet similar in nature. Carriers must rebuild their existing products, e-applications, and rules to support each unique definition of streamlined and user experience. Isn’t this reinventing the wheel? This is an impossible ask for the carrier. Also, maintaining all those custom builds add up to an ongoing unmanageable amount of time, effort, and cost. All this is unnecessary for everyone. Often, carriers cannot support these requests and it prevents them from launching products to new channels.
There are many downstream effects for distributors as well. With limited time and resources, carriers must decide who and what to prioritize. The large distributors are often the default choice. Leaving smaller or new distributors at a disadvantage. But, even the large distributors have to wait or may not get prioritized at all. This could be the difference in breaking into a new channel, being ahead of the competition, or missing the opportunity completely. Needless to say, this custom build process is not working for anyone.
Build once. Use anywhere.
What if carriers were able to use what they already built for their order entry and leverage it elsewhere? What if they could create their data, wizards, rules, and forms for a sales component once and deploy them to whoever needs them? And, what if distributors could access the carrier’s component from within their platforms? What if there was a cost-effective way to reuse products and components for any channel? What if we could build it once and use it anywhere?
Great news. The future is here. We no longer have to ask what if. Carriers and distributors have started using sophisticated APIs to enable this very thing. Carriers are now able to build their sales components one time and make them available to their distribution.
For example, carriers are reusing their pre-sales, quotes, illustrations, e-application, and post issue components. Distributors then call APIs to embed these product configurations and sales components into their websites and systems. This technology is used in consumer-direct portals, affinity sites, worksite marketing applications, bank sites, IMO advisor portals, and even CRM systems.
The carriers’ products and processes take on the look and feel, branding, and even behaviors of the destination’s user interface. Carriers build their business rules in one place, one time, and deploy them wherever they are needed. Distributors and third-party sites access these products in custom ways to meet their unique sales workflows. The beauty of this technology is that the carrier’s rules and components are inserted into the distributor’s workflow while maintaining the distributor’s look and feel.
Following Uber’s lead
This embedded process for the life and annuity industry is similar to how Uber leverages Google Maps. Uber embeds Google Maps into their user interface for mapping, positioning, and tracking rides. The end-user does not need to know what is happening behind the scenes with APIs. They do not even care, but they do care that they have a connected process with a working map.
In carrier terms, they no longer have to entertain all the requests for custom builds. Carriers can now create and define a single application and use it in multiple user interfaces. The same is true for quotes, illustrations, and other sales components. Carrier products and requirements do not need to be rebuilt and retested reducing the time and cost to support all distribution requests. The products and requirements are simply used in different UIs; thus, moving away from recreating the wheel to a more efficient method.
A popular use case for this technology is with direct marketing sites for insurance products for the quote to e-Submit. Direct marketers no longer have to manage the carriers’ products and rates on their site. Instead, carriers maintain their products and rules and deploy them to direct marketers through embedded APIs.
Another popular use case is with wealth management planning solutions. They are adding annuity and life products into their portfolios with quote, illustrations, and applications. Rebuilding these components would be an insurmountable task for a carrier. And, it would be unlikely that the wealth platform would get all carriers on board which would render the tool useless. Instead, why not reuse what has already been built? These third-party solutions are doing just that. They are reusing the same carrier products and rules in their experience from quote to e-application and beyond. This is a much more efficient way for both parties to get what they need.
Embedded technology enables carriers to stop recreating sales components inside custom user interfaces. Now carriers can provide the keys to the product and the components and let the distributors manage the experience. Using this technology, firms can break into new channels faster.
Carriers can build their products one time and make them available to anyone who wants them reducing cost and maintenance. Distributors also see significant benefits with embedded technology. They now have the products they want where they want them, achieving their custom user experience.
Additionally, more carriers can quickly and efficiently accommodate the distributors’ requests. This makes for a better experience with more product selection. With these robust APIs, the speed-to-market shifts from never happening to as fast as the distributor can implement the APIs. From a sales perspective, carriers are reporting sales in new channels with minimal added effort. Distribution sales are also taking off as they unlock new channels.
Maintaining dozens of distributor sites with custom workflows and interfaces is not sustainable. Luckily, the insurtech revolution is here to help. Carriers no longer have to create one-off solutions for anyone. Distributors no longer have to beg to be on the priority list to get a custom build.
The days of reinventing the wheel for each distributor or sales channel are gone. Instead, carriers and distributors can enjoy the build-once-use-anywhere capabilities that are available today. APIs and embedded technology make creating a true streamlined sales process a reality.
By Katherine Dease
View article in NAILBA Perspectives Magazine here.