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Technological advances are improving broker-buyer relationships

Technological advances are improving broker-buyer relationships

Technology is having a significant effect on relationships between brokers and insurance buyers, making them more efficient and ultimately permitting brokers to focus less on transactions and provide more valuable help as advisers to their clients, say observers.

Of particular benefit is the current focus on mobile technologies, which has been a major driver in the business (see related story).

The trend toward the use of technology is only beginning and will accelerate. But despite the greater reliance on iPhones, iPads, and other technologies in the interaction between the broker and the insurance buyer, technology will enhance insurance as a relationship-driven business, observers say (see related story).

“Technology is clearly the efficiency tool for the future,” said Jackie Hair, executive director of risk management for Ingram Micro Inc. in Santa Ana, Calif.

“The degree and level of accuracy that technology tools are bringing to the risk manager lends a whole greater level of credibility” to the information he or she submits and “minimizes the amount of additional work that broker has to go through,” said Ms. Hair, who works with Kennesaw, Ga.-based consulting firm Riskonnect Inc. as her technology adviser.

Being able to exchange information digitally “is adding some efficiencies to the process,” said Lawrence W. Owens, senior manager of risk advisory, corporate risk management, at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. in Oakland, Calif.

“The insurance industry's been slow to adopt technology, but I see that changing” because of competition, said Wally Bryce, Tulsa, Okla.-based head of sales and business development for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.'s property/casualty division.


“In the retail space, we're just seeing an enormous amount of activity, especially in Europe, through the online insurance services,” said Victoria Davison, Marsh Ltd.'s London-based chief operating officer for the United Kingdom and Ireland.

A major factor in the drive to introduce technology is buyers' desire for self-service. Technology permits the insurance buyer to process insurance certificates “24/7,” said Ryan Headley, chief technology officer for the San Carlos, Calif.-based Stratton Agency.

Instead of having to call their broker to add vehicles to their automobile policies, “they want to be able to do that themselves,” said Bob Schneider, Kansas City, Mo.-based chief financial and administrative officer for brokerage Ascension Insurance Inc.

It also permits the broker to build stronger relationships with clients, “getting ahead of their renewal process,” said Denyce Curtis, Woburn, Mass.-based national director of commercial lines operations for USI Holdings Inc.

We are starting to talk about “seamless integration” rather than “swivel-chair integration,” which involves, in effect, swiveling your chair to re-enter data you have received or to check it off, said Bruce Winterburn, Pulaski, Tenn.-based vice president of industry relations for Vertafore Inc., an insurance software and agent management systems provider.

Many observers also note that the use of technology reflects a generational shift. Baby boomer risk managers are starting to retire, and the incoming Generation X is “very used to technology,” said Deborah Smallwood, president and CEO of Boston-based consultant firm Strategy Meets Action.

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