For many, the simple mention of the word “portal” conjures up thoughts of technology that didn’t quite deliver as advertised. While portals are relatively common in the insurance industry, their usefulness is limited by poor design, lack of understanding of how portals should be used, a limited view of information that can be shared or accessed, and cumbersome processes. When technology managers as well as agents are asked about portals, often the common refrain is, “Been there, done that.”
Portals Then, Portals Now
Traditionally, carriers have taken a minimalist approach by using a portal to supply primarily view-only information that was nothing new to producers. With this approach, portals are just a different, more convenient way to get the same material and perform common functions like accessing commission statements, ordering supplies, updating certain personal or administrative information, and completing other routine tasks. As with most functions utilizing technology, new stuff is always right around the corner — better, faster, cheaper. That’s the mantra of anyone who touches technology. With portals, especially those currently used in the broad insurance industry, that “better, faster, cheaper” refrain is actually true.
The technology I decided to call Portal 2.0 — the modernized portal of today — contains all the information agents need, anytime, anywhere. Portal 2.0 is mobile-ready. It’s also bidirectional, enabling agents to update records in various systems in addition to accessing information. Portal 2.0 is not only “see” but “do” as well. It introduces a carrier/producer arrangement that says, “We’re in business together”.
The Expanding Insurance Ecosystem
More than 10 years ago, insurance companies were evaluating their efficiencies and began to outsource various functions. Outsourcing and the need to involve a growing number of constituents and stakeholders have resulted in the creation of the insurance ecosystem. As the hub, the carrier connects to various entities in the ecosystem. These key partners include producers, brokers, Third Party Administrators (TPAs), actuaries, risk consultants, loss-control, claims consultants, attorneys, expert witnesses, investigators, engineers, investors, management — and the list goes on.
The growing insurance ecosystem has driven massive changes in how carriers do business. To serve effectively and share information with the myriad of third parties involved, the most efficient architecture is the portal — but the old view-only portal would never support an expanding ecosystem. A key distinguishing characteristic of Portal 2.0 is that it is an application designed with workflow as well as access to underlying administrative systems such as document management, policy administration, billing, claims, agency/agent administration and accounting.
Value of Portal 2.0
While agents represent the ecosystem’s most important entity because they control the business and give carriers critical information, other partners and stakeholders also share equally important information with the carrier. Rather than simply giving agents access and input, the modernized portal also allows others in the ecosystem to interact with carrier systems. Portal 2.0 provides connectivity across the entire ecosystem, speeding information sharing by all stakeholders.
On the horizon is Portal 3.0, which will facilitate real-time collaboration, multi-party case management, analytics and reporting. Right now, a move to Portal 2.0 is essential not only for improved business processing, but also because it is the foundation for Portal 3.0.
Factors to Consider
I recommend that every carrier address these questions:
Are you a carrier of choice? Often the quality of agent services — particularly the portal — determine whether producers use a particular carrier. Producers go where it’s easy to do business.
Is communication open for conducting business? A modernized portal facilitates bidirectional activity as well as two-and three-way conversations.
Do you have the right perspective on security? Properly architected, portal security can be excellent. Role-based, secure sign-on lets you control what producers can see and do.
Here’s the most important question: Is your portal costing you or generating revenue? This blog’s title is a bit counterintuitive. If your portal is not a revenue-generator, it’s limiting you. A portal that is constructed and managed correctly helps optimize revenue by making you easier to do business with.