This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Broker World.

For the first time, we see alignment on a trend in technology with the insurance industry and other segments in the U.S.: An uptick in smartphone usage.

Global mobile usage between 2017–2018 spiked significantly. Midway through 2018, over 77 percent of Americans owned a smartphone — which translates to 230 million people.

Let me pour some more statistics in your lap: 79 percent of smartphone users have made a purchase online and 40 percent of all eCommerce purchases during the 2018 holiday season were made on a smartphone. Of those shoppers that went to a physical store to purchase holiday gifts in 2018, over 80 percent used their smartphones to look up product reviews, shop prices, and search for alternative store locations.

An incredible 10 billion mobile devices are currently active and connected. Those users include insurance agents and financial advisors. 

Connection Demand

We are seeing an increasing demand from producers to conduct business using their smartphones. In the last few years, we thought more agents would move from a laptop to a tablet. Some experts were wrong in their predictions regarding tablets, because tablet usage by agents had some growth but then flattened.

Instead, the demand to use smartphones for production purposes such as sales tools, quoting, eApp, marketing, case status, and even field underwriting is what’s hot now. The 2018 Life Brokerage Technology Committee (LBTC) Survey, for example, shows that agents want more insurance business solutions that work on their smartphones.

Mobile Strategy Critical

Rick Hadsall, chief technology officer at CBLife, says a mobile strategy for agents is critical.

“Mobility has always been desirable for agents and so it makes sense to push more capability into mobile devices that enable mobility and reduce technical barriers,” Hadsall explains. “We want to ensure that all digital products are mobile-enhanced and optimized; we want to support both device independence as well as location independence for agents.

“It makes more sense to use the devices they have already to help them work as opposed to requiring special equipment. For example, to capture a biometric handwritten signature, why not use a smartphone to capture that instead of a signing pad? Down the line, built-in features of smartphones and tablets could be leveraged as part of the overall solution to enhance the mobile experience.”

Coming Soon

Carriers, broker general agents (BGAs), and vendors are seeing this trend as well. Let me share some new innovative solutions that are either in production or coming soon in 2019.

IXN Tech is transforming the insurance industry by developing cutting edge agent tools for needs analysis, term quoting, and integration into third party term e-ticket systems. IXN Tech has a platform that works on both IOS and Android devices. They white label their multi-carrier platform for BGAs.

IXN has published results from a 2018 survey of 8,500 agents and brokers that states that 91 percent of agents are likely to work with a BGA or IMO that offers its agents a mobile quoting solution, and that 87 percent of agents say it is important to quote and submit E-tickets in less than five minutes on their mobile device.

Collaboration in the industry between trading partners and even vendors is starting to sprout, leading to end-user solutions for agents on their smartphones.

Finding Compliance

Ebix and Assurance have begun an initiative to pre-run permanent and term life plans using WinFlex and build the most comprehensive compliant product results library in the industry.

One application for this data will be producers running a pre-quote before they request a full plan comparison from their BGA sales desk using WinFlex and EnsightTM. Input fields will be minimal (age, gender, risk class, state, solve for > premium or face and riders > LTC or other common riders) so the plan can be run from either a desktop/laptop or mobile device. Results can be emailed, texted or shared through social media applications.

The objective is to simplify the user experience and provide compliant-immediate results. This is a good match for mobile. There is an opportunity for Ebix to collaborate with IXN Tech about making this available on their mobile platform for BGAs to offer to agents. 

Mobile Quoting

At the end of January, iPipeline launched a new, innovative solution called “iSolve.” It’s a research and quoting product for permanent life insurance policy sales that can run on a smartphone using a mobile site. The objective is to cut through all the labor involved in the pre-sales process.

Annually there are over 400 million UL illustrations run and only 10 million that are actually used to submit business. There is a lot of wasted time and expense with agents calling a BGA and being sent multiple PDFs of multi-page illustrations and having to figure out what to present to a client.

An agent is not only trying to solve for a death benefit, but needs to do a premium solve, field underwriting, and a case design with multiple scenarios. iSolve generates an NAIC-compliant PDF to send to the client and seamlessly takes the agent into iGO® eApp to submit business.

5 Insurance Sales Tools

There are five ways an agent can access insurance sales tools on their smartphone:

1. Mobile Website – Example: CBLife.com

2. Native Mobile App – Example: Life Happens Needs Calculator

3. AI Voice Assistant – Example: Running a quote talking through Apple Siri or Google Assistant

4. AI Chat – Example: Field Underwriting chatting with a Bot through Facebook Messenger 

5. Text Message – Example: Senior Market Sales, Inc. text-based quoting platform

Senior Market Sales, Inc. (SMS) is a full-service insurance marketing organization (IMO) serving more than 55,000 independent insurance agents. With a mission to help agents leverage time, make more money and put their business in a position of distinction, SMS’ strategy has been to go beyond “off-the-shelf” tools, choosing instead to develop innovative proprietary solutions that solve real-world problems for agents.

They have implemented a text-based quoting platform that allows agents to quote multiple carriers on their smartphones without downloading an app.

You can get Medicare supplement insurance quotes on your smartphone in two ways:

1. Text to a specific number the zip code, age, and gender in that order. Within a few seconds, you’ll receive a text response showing the preferred Plan F rates for all of Senior Markets Sales’ supported Med supp carriers.

2. Visit the SMS mobile-optimized website to run Med supp and other product quotes. The agent doesn’t have to remember the web address; they can just tap “Add to Home Screen” to save an icon on their smartphone.

In addition to the text-based quoting platform, SMS launched an app called “My Medicare Connect” in 2018. MMC contains educational material for both agents and consumers to leverage and helps agents connect with their customers in order to provide additional value.

“In 2019 and beyond, enhancing our mobile offerings will be a key focus,” says Bob Harding, chief technology officer of SMS. “We want to help our partners be more efficient in their business and interact more effectively with their customers. Mobile solutions are a critical piece of that solution.”

Key Takeaway

Like other industry segments across the U.S., agents and financial advisors want to use their smartphones to service their business. We are already seeing new, innovative solutions that carriers, distributors, and vendors are developing so that an agent does not have to carry around a laptop to conduct business in the field.

Bots and artificial intelligence (AI) applications will be woven into the fabric of the next generation insurance solutions for smartphones. Some of the solutions mentioned above are just a small flavor of what is out there for agents to use today on their smartphones, not counting the wave of mobile insurance tools that will be coming in the next six to twelve months — taking agents to the next step forward.