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Advisers must add value in digital future

Aggregator sites are set to become a much more important distribution channel for insurance over the coming years as advisers focus on higher-value tasks, a report says.

Tuesday, March 7th 2017, 6:00AM

by Susan Edmunds

The Accenture Distribution and Agency Management Survey, Reimagining Insurance Distribution, found insurance companies had started to accelerate the shift to a different distribution model, in which digital strategies played an increasingly important part.

The survey included insurance executives in Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Just over a quarter were operating life insurance businesses.

Only 19 per cent said they did not have plans to move to a wholly digital sales process, with human interaction reserved only for those needing advice.

The report said that, over the next three years, more than a third of life insurance distribution would be done digitally.

Almost two-thirds of survey respondents said the move to needs-based selling was a high priority.

They wanted advisers to increase their cross-selling and sell more profitable products. "They also place a high value on agents improving their advisory skills with regard to complex products and enhancing their sales interactions with customers across multiple channels," the report said.

Aggregator sites are set to play a bigger part. More than half said they were considering low-cost product sets specifically for the sites, either as part of their main brand or under a sub brand.

More than 60% of life insurers were planning their own aggregator sites to sell their own and other products.

The report said it was a given that advisers' roles would change.

Technology would remove many of their mundane tasks, it said.

"This allows them to focus on higher-value tasks such as deepening their relationships, developing multi-product solutions for customers and advising them on more complex issues," the report said.

"However, there are constraints. Agents with large books of business lack the ability to identify the customers who represent the greatest value to them. The effective implementation of customer analytics at the point of sale could significantly improve these agents’ productivity. Skills are also an issue, and carriers need to seek out sales personnel with the ability to work across multiple channels."

That would necessarily mean a change to the way advisers were paid, it said.

"Most carriers recognise they cannot change their agents’ behaviour without changing their incentive and remuneration structures. Experience has shown there is more to this than simply using a different carrot. It can also take time to confirm that new incentives are failing – or having unintended, perverse consequences. Experience in performance management will help ensure that incentives deliver the desired results, while supporting it with advanced analytics will help quantify the return on investment and enable a ‘test and learn’ approach to agent management."

 

Tags: Life insurance

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