IT Plays Vital Role in Agency Success

Technology has always played a major role in marketing, but a recent report reveals that organizations will seek greater input from IT departments to achieve better sales and customer performance. IBM’s The State of Marketing 2012 indicates that marketing professionals are aware that they’re falling short in reporting and analyzing online visitor data. They’re overwhelmed with the amount of data and systems they have to manage. The vast majority say improved integration and metrics tools would provide a tremendous benefit. They also admit that their social media efforts lack a unified, integrated vision that greater collaboration with the tech side could provide. Ultimately, marketers hope that progress in this area will help them make better decisions about product and service offers and campaigns.

IT department

Don’t make the mistake of thinking these comments only apply to large organizations. Your agency, regardless of its size, should be looking to your IT department for sales and customer service support.

IT’s role has changed

In the past, most insurance organizations looked at their IT department as a necessary expense. IT made sure your computer network was up and running, secured your organization from external security threats, performed software maintenance and updates, and generally became the “fix it” department. In today’s environment that’s no longer enough.

Today, your IT department should be looked at as a profit center for the organization. IT staff should be involved in agency strategic business planning. They need to be viewed as the innovator in the agency, searching for new technologies and processes that will increase revenue. IT needs to work hand-in-hand with the marketing department, providing informed ideas as well as the technical support necessary to maximize the agency’s Internet presence.

Social platforms continue to increase in importance. IT staff should be leading the organization and exploring how you can best use these new platforms to facilitate better relationships with your existing clients, as well as develop new relationships with prospects.

How can your IT department be a profit center? By developing platforms and processes that create revenue for the organization.

For example, the CIO at a medium-size agency in Florida began experimenting last year with a marketing website specifically designed for the agency’s marine insurance niche. It was his pet project. After a year of experimenting and testing search engine optimization and Internet marketing techniques, the website is currently generating over $40,000 a year in commission income. Based on the information learned, the agency is now creating multiple additional niche marketing websites.

It’s time for IT to stop being the fix-it department and become a strategic asset for your agency.

Small Business Owners Dismiss Risk of Data Breach

As the number of data breaches involving smaller businesses continues to grow, a new survey by The Hartford finds 85% of small business owners believe a data breach is unlikely, and many are not implementing simple security measures to help protect their customer or employee data.

data breach

“Most of the business owners surveyed believe they are not at risk, when in fact smaller businesses are increasingly being targeted,” said Lynn LaGram, assistant vice president of small commercial underwriting at The Hartford. “As cyber criminals set their sights on smaller firms, it is important for business owners to take proactive measures to protect data and minimize the likelihood of a breach.”

The Hartford Small Business Data Protection Survey found that business owners varied in their adoption of eight data protection “best practices” to help reduce a business’s risk of a breach:

  • Lock and secure sensitive customer, patient or employee data—48%
  • Restrict employee access to sensitive data—79%
  • Shred and securely dispose of customer, patient or employee data—53%
  • Use password protection and data encryption—48%
  • Have a privacy policy—44%
  • Update systems and software on a regular basis—47%
  • Use firewalls to control access and lock-out hackers—48%
  • Ensure that remote access to their company’s network is secure—41%

The Hartford survey also found that nearly two-thirds of business owners believe a data breach violates trust and would jeopardize their relationships with customers, patients, and employees. More than a third say they have a more negative opinion of companies that have recently experienced a breach, based on the companies’ handling of the breach.

About a third of business owners say they would have difficulty complying with government notification requirements, and nearly half acknowledge it would be impossible for a small business to completely safeguard customer, patient or employee data.

“Given the potential business and reputational costs of a data breach, it’s also important for business owners to have insurance in place to help them respond and recover quickly and effectively in the event of a breach,” said LaGram.

The Hartford Small Business Data Protection Survey of 501 U.S. small business owners with fewer than 50 employees was developed by The Hartford and fielded by the Pert Group in January 2012. Margin of error is +/- 4%.

Electronic Proof of Insurance—The Time Has Come

How many times have your clients received a traffic ticket because they couldn’t find their insurance card in the glove compartment? Or if they did find the card and give it to the police officer, did the officer hand it back, saying it had expired? In this scenario, the client now has to take time off of work to show up for a court appearance with a little piece of paper in hand to prove that they did, in fact, have insurance in force at the time they were pulled over.

The digital consumer—your client—is not going to stand for this antiquated and paper-based process much longer. If they can use their smart phone to get through TSA airport security and board an airplane, why can’t they use that same phone to prove they have auto insurance in force when asked by a police officer?

In a small but growing number of states they can.

Electronic ID cards

State legislators and regulators are beginning to update laws to recognize the increasing use of paperless technology by allowing insurance companies to provide policyholders with electronic ID cards. Converting from the antiquated paper-based system to an electronic display of proof of insurance will save insurance companies the cost of printing and mailing ID cards to all policyholders. It will also save law enforcement and court personnel time and money because they will no longer need to process tickets written for drivers who have coverage but forgot to put proof of insurance in the car.

This is a dynamic issue with state legislatures. Here is a short list of the states that have already made (or are making) this change:

  • Alabama—Alabama will soon publish a first‐of‐its‐kind regulation allowing motorists to electronically display proof both at registration and during traffic stops starting January 1, 2013.
  • Arizona—Gov. Brewer signed HB 2677, authored by Representative Dial, on March 27.
  • California—Assemblyman Gatto introduced AB 1708, legislation allowing insurers to provide proof of insurance to a mobile e lectronic device.
  • Colorado—An existing Colorado regulation allows motorists to show proof of coverage electronically when they register their vehicles, and will consider legislation to expand it to traffic stops.
  • Idaho—Gov. Otter signed SB 1319 into law on March 27, 2012.
  • Louisiana—In April, HB 1130 by Rep. Greg Cromer was unanimously approved by representatives and was sent to the Senate. The original ID card or photocopies of it are currently the only proof insurance state law permits.
  • Minnesota—Minnesota made the change to e-Card in 2012.
  • Mississippi and Maryland may also consider legislation to allow electronic proof of coverage in 2012.
  • [Update] Seventeen states that approved electronic proof of coverage laws in 2013 are: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. This list is likely to grow even longer in 2013 as legislation is awaiting signature by governors in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.
  • In total as of June 18, 2013: The states that allow electronic proof of insurance coverage are: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

State insurance agent associations across the United States have always prided themselves on their lobbying ability and efforts. I can’t think of a better use of those relationships and resources than to encourage every state to submit legislation to allow electronic proof of coverage.

I encourage every agent to approach their state association and ask them to add this lobbying effort to their legislative agenda. Supporting this change will make the lives of every agency client better.

ReSource Pro Receives ISO 27001 Information Security Certification

ReSource Pro provides outsourcing services to independent agents in the United States using a service center in China. They were recently awarded the ISO/IEC 27001 information security management certification from the International Organization for Standardization. This certificate is recognized across data-centric industries as external verification that the business in question has adopted rigid security standards in order to better defend its own operations and all forms of client data from unsanctioned access and use.

certificationMaking sure agency client information is secure is essential so that a data security breach does not create serious liabilities such as E&O liabilities, lawsuits, criminal charges, an immediate loss of business, and long-term damage to an agency’s public profile.

ReSource Pro utilized several consulting firms to confirm its adherence to all ISO 27001 standards over a two-year period. The company will also be subject to annual on-site audits in which an independent risk management firm will work to verify the company’s continued compliance with established guidelines and recommend any relevant system upgrades.

CEO Dan Epstein explained, “ReSource Pro has always maintained a rigorous information security management system, but this certification represents our investment in assuring the safety of our clients’ data in an increasingly strict regulatory environment. We now have a universally accepted third-party certification that places us among the industry’s most reliably secure insurance process outsourcing providers.”

Applied Systems Adds Data Protection, Email Verification Service

Making sure private client information sent to another party over the Internet remains private and secure is a growing concern for insurance agencies.

Agencies that use Applied Systems TAMOnline and VisionOnline agency management systems can now legally prove who emailed what to whom and when using a service from RPost called Registered Email. In addition, RPost helps agents protect insureds’ personal information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and bank and credit card information.

RPostThe HIPAA-compliant service may reduce exposure to errors and omissions by providing security, accountability, and liability protection. An encryption option further enables agents and brokers to protect and prove delivery of confidential and personal information sent via email. This service makes any email document a court-admissible record that will withstand a legal challenge.

Users access the RPost service from an icon in the Microsoft Outlook client within TAMOnline or VisionOnline. A sender uses the RPost service to transmit a Registered Email message, and then receives a Registered Receipt email record. That record can then be attached to customer files.

The RPost service is also available for EpicOnline users and for agents and brokers who host Applied Systems TAM, Epic, and Vision on their own servers.