The IT Opportunity
The personal computer was just beginning to gain prominence in the business world when John Dunbar graduated from Florida State University in 1984. Though he had majored in finance, Dunbar recognized the opportunity in the IT sphere and went back to school to earn a masters degree in computer information systems. That prepared him to dive into a career utilizing both skill sets.
“I’ve been managing IT teams for almost twenty-five years, and my business background has really helped me because I understand the business as much as I do the IT, and serve as a good liaison between the two,” Dunbar says.
That’s a critical asset for any IT executive, and one that Dunbar has wielded as CIO for insurance parent company Atlantic American Corporation (AAC), which has three subsidiaries in specialty markets of the life, health, property, and casualty insurance industries.
“One of the big things we focus on is our agents, and a big objective is to give them the tools to make their lives better and be more efficient.”
Tools For An Agent
“One of the big things we focus on is our agents, and a big objective is to give them the tools to make their lives better and be more efficient while making our company easier to do business with,” Dunbar says. Here, he highlights some of those tools.
Although AAC implemented its Agent Portal about a decade ago, Dunbar notes it really has evolved and taken off in the last two to three years. “One of the first things we did with this Agent Portal provides access where agents can download information about our products and our company,” he says. “Agents can look at commission statements, access tools for quoting, get electronic applications and find all kinds of info to help them be more effective.” Since the insurance business is highly regulated, the portal is important because it allows the company to deliver the correct information to the field, legally and in compliance.
“It’s really evolved to provide better, faster information, and the response has been very positive,” Dunbar says. “It helps them do their jobs better. One of the key drivers we use to recruit and retain agents is a lead program—we generate leads from all types of sources, and this agent portal is a vehicle in which we distribute those leads out to our field agents. It allows us to track the leads and allows the agents to download the leads and work them.”
Electronic Application (eApp)
The old, traditional method of insurance sales involved an agent going to a home, sitting down with a customer and selling the policy in person. That process has changed quite a bit. “Today, a lot of it is done over the phone, over the web, and on web conferences,” Dunbar says. “We were slow to adapt to some of these technologies partly because of our market. We traditionally sell individual policies to seniors, such as Medicare supplement insurance. By definition, the majority of our policyholders are 65 years and older.” Five years ago, that demographic didn’t have a lot of smartphone activity, and seniors weren’t carrying tablets everywhere—but today they are. That’s why AAC implemented an electronic application called eApp at the beginning of 2014.
“We’re finding our clients want to be online and want to be mobile, so we’ve very quickly gone more to these electronic applications,” Dunbar says. “The application process is still an agent-led event, but now agents can go online and talk to their client on the phone or web conference and complete everything online and submit directly to our system.” Agents love it because transactions are completed faster, meaning they get paid faster, and the new breed of agents seem to want to work this way. Currently, about 20 percent of applications come in electronically, but Dunbar expects that number to increase dramatically and likely rise to more than 50 percent over the course of the next year.
Automated Agent Contracting
One of the challenges of the insurance business is that it’s highly regulated, and companies like AAC have to deal with fifty different state regulators with different rules and regulations. “Getting an agent licensed for your company is a lot of paperwork, and traditionally, that was a slow process,” Dunbar says. “Dealing with state insurance departments was often an arduous task.” Now, thanks to the company’s Automated Agent Contracting tool, which was rolled out in March of this year, agents can get onboarded and contracted much faster. “That’s important because it’s the first impression an agent has of your business,” he says. “If an independent agent is recruited to write business with you and it’s going to take two weeks for them to get contracted and appointed, they will move on to another carrier.”
This tool demonstrates that AAC is easy to work with and allows the agent to go online, complete all the required forms, electronically sign everything, and be appointed in a day or two. “We have a much happier agent and a much more productive agent,” Dunbar says. “About half of our agents who have been contracted in the last six months have gone through this automated process, and that percentage is only going to increase.”