ThreeFlow CEO and co-founder Ryan Sachtjen was a panelist on a recent Insurtech Insights webinar titled “How AI and Connectivity are Changing Insurer-Broker Collaboration.” Ryan, along with Craig Hasday, President of National Employee Benefits Practice at EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants, and Josh Weaver, Head of Digital Ecosystem & Partner Management at Guardian Life detailed their thoughts on how technology and analytics can move the employee benefits space forward.
The hour-long panel discussion centered around three primary points: the challenges the employee benefits industry experiences today, how technology and analytics can help, and the eagerness insurers and brokers, or distributors, have for change. Below are some key highlights from the conversation.
Challenges brokers, carriers, and clients experience when placing benefits
As a long-standing industry with many legacy processes and technologies, employee benefits has its fair share of challenges. From agencies and carriers still using Excel spreadsheets to track business to the human error that’s introduced when moving quickly to meet 1/1 and 7/1 deadlines, all friction points can negatively impact client experience.
While legacy technology once aimed to reduce these issues, the single-solution nature of their builds introduced additional challenges to workflows. Many systems don’t talk to one another and require many clicks, flows, and screens to accomplish simple tasks, wasting valuable time.
“It’s not a lack of having systems and tech. It’s the fact that they’re all containerized and siloed,” Ryan said. Right now, many benefits placement workflows lack a singular way to connect things and break down these siloes.
Panelists agreed that the relationships are the most important aspect of benefits placement—and any insurance function. Technology needs to be helpful, not get in the way of person-to-person relationships.
“We want consultants consulting,” Craig said, summarizing that when anyone in the benefits placement process is focused on administrative tasks, they can’t perform their primary duties. This leaves less time to add value to clients.
How technology and analytics help with benefits placement
The primary starting point for technology in benefits placement is enabling a data flow stream.
Ryan said it best: “We believe deeply that this starts with connectivity between information and systems. This starts as a way for information to flow in a more seamless way.”
With the advancements in tech, connectivity will soon be table stakes, allowing all carriers and brokers to work off the same datasets so that they can focus on what’s most important: their clients.
The panel discussed several ways data and analytics have already improved and will continue to improve the industry, including:
- Predictive analytics: forecasting and predicting what a population needs based on previous needs, usage patterns, and industry trends.
- Building new products: for instance, using large models to do more predictive underwriting with less data in less time.
- Giving brokers the room to do their best work: platforms like ThreeFlow get brokers away from manual spreadsheets and into streamlined processes.
- Member decision support: using analytics to improve the benefits offered to clients based on what they need most and use most.
- Driving down costs: leveraging AI can improve processing and decision-making to reduce loss ratios and improve margins.
And while all of this exciting technology can be great for the industry, the question becomes whether the industry is ready for such change.
Are insurers and brokers equally eager for change?
The insurance industry is inherently not risky; in fact, the sheer nature of insurance is risk reduction. While the rapid advancements in insurtech will require carriers and brokers to adapt and dive into uncertainty, not all parties are primed for this.
“There’s a very human aspect to change. It’s not about the technology. It’s about having a growth mindset. Being willing to go out there and do something different,” Josh said. The carriers and brokers willing to embrace change will come out ahead.
While there’s an assumption that because carriers are larger, they have access to more resources and are most prepared for change, this isn’t always the case. Carriers often work in legacy systems that have billions of rows of data, making change management cumbersome, if not nearly impossible. Brokers may be more agile, allowing them to embrace new technologies quickly and start seeing the benefits immediately.
We’re now at a turning point in the industry where carriers benefit by seeing how they can best fit into these new, more evolved systems brokerages have built, not the other way around. With the right technology in place, carriers, brokers, and clients can all benefit.