Head researcher, Savan Shah speaks to managing director of broker solutions at Applied Systems, Joe Sultana on its performance in this year’s Insurance Times eTrading survey

1) You’ve now seen the results of this year’s Insurance Times eTrading survey. What do you make of the results?

We are really pleased, it is great to have a result like we have had. We have invested in the market and this area, really expanding both the number of insurers and breadth of products available on our panels.

Integrated etrading aligns with our brokers using our platform to allow them to support the digital piece of their business, having all the information in one foundational broker management system that allows them to extend their digital presence and service. It’s great to see our brokers using this type of technology, and there remains a great opportunity to continue our heavy investment in this area.

A big thanks to our brokers on continuing to adopt and our insurer partners for placing products with us, there are others we would like to see join but I think having a result like this demonstrates the broader broker and insurer community partnering with Applied!

Joe Sultana

2) Applied Systems performed very well in the area of mobility (mobile/tablet capability), with many comments from brokers on how it has improved its offerings. For those brokers who are not aware could you tell us why it is a popular feature of Applied Epic and Applied TAM?

As we all know, we live in a world where the need of instant gratification and the need to have information at your fingertips is just what everyone expects in their day to day life; whether it’s in their business life or personal life. It is no different for insurance professionals that need information straight away and those mobile applications just allow them to do that. Having that information at their fingertips and being able to be the trusted advisor to serve their customers better.

When customers need their information or to speak to their insurance professional, Applied’s mobile solutions provide them that instant access, the instant gratification of getting their question or query answered quickly. They don’t want to wait, sometimes they don’t want to wait an hour – they want the answer straight away and I think that’s the beauty of the mobile technology that we brought to the market, it really gives that capability back to the broker. It gives our brokers a competitive edge.

3) Also, Applied Systems performed well in the survey in automation, how can brokers extend their value in this service area with Applied Epic?

Automation is all about efficiencies and investing in the right technology to give more automation whether that automation is in the brokerage itself or giving certain automation to customers to allow them to do more when the time is right. Applied Epic as a foundational broker management system allows brokers to build automation in a configurable way for their business.

What we have seen in the past is a kind of one size fits all approach to automation. Applied Epic’s flexibility and configuration is more specific to the needs of the broker and ultimately for the broker’s customer, which is powerful and we will see more and more adoption of automated features.

This year, Insurance Times investigated the broker journey going on a direct insurer portal vs acquiring insurer products via a software house. Could you tell me how involved insurers are when placing their products on the Applied system in terms of directing the broker journey?

We have strong relationships with our insurer partners, and what we see is sometimes a conflicting strategy. There are products on software houses like Applied and also products on extranets, both are being trumpeted as the right route of trading, which I think causes confusion and that doesn’t help us as an industry. With chat where it is, having that conflict slows us down.

Being a former broker, I can attest to the value of having the ability to have a single view of the customer or prospect, with the ability to have all their information within the system and expose that through the digital technology we are already supplying whether that is mobile or online. I think if we want to do more to serve the consumer it has to be in one system, it can’t sit in several extranets sites; the industry can’t move on like that. For me personally it is time that all insurer partners really adopt integrated trading with software houses.

I can go back 20 or 30 years when the first EDI personal lines policies came about. Technology was in a very different place, but it was the right move to push that through the software houses. Now you see where personal lines are, that’s virtually 100% electronically traded in the main. All the information is with the broker, the broker is now distributing products and services online and SME needs to be that way. There is no reason, it is easier with the technology than it was 30 years ago when EDI first started.

We need to drive that way or a new entrant will do it for us, that’s not a good place for the broker if others start doing this in a much more simplified way which is what the consumers expect. Consumers still want advice, for certain products having it online or mobile journeys whether that be for purchasing or servicing – is where we need to get too. We have read reports about aggregators entering the SME space because they are able to provide the journey consumers are looking for even in that sector.

We must have one message to our brokers, they trade within their broker management systems, it gives them much more information, it allows them to give customers more information and access. To have this conflict of where I should go extranets or broker management system? It is slowing us down.

4) In a brokerage, as you will know, there are various roles that will result in certain users becoming more familiar with different parts of the broker management system.

We found in the survey that many brokers are at different stages of their educational journey to get the best of the system, could you tell us more about the training process Applied gives to new brokers?

It depends where the broker is on their journey, whether they are starting on their journey on a new system or on a journey of just using SME trading. There are many different roles in a brokerage and with our products we believe that we can really give each role the right type of functions and features to be successful and automate their own workflows/operations all within one system for all.

From an education perspective, we’ve invested in multiple forms of education. It is not a one size fits all; we have staff that will visit brokers and do side by side work training or workshops; we also hold live webinars with a trainer and we have recorded sessions for brokers to revisit. I think it is great feedback that training and education is needed, and that is where Applied really tries to set itself apart to be that true technology partner with our customers, with them at every step with varying education and support to make sure they are getting the most out of the investment they have made in the technology and that is key.

We are big advocates of insuring that the investment they have made is a good one because they are able to utilise all the functions and features of the application they have invested in. That is on us, that is what we are here to do, and we will carry on doing it, we always take feedback from our user group so if there is any feedback on what we need to do more of or in doing something slightly differently as broker expectations change, broker are our consumers and we will continue to react on broker feedback.

5) One of my first questions to you just over a year ago was your view on digital transformation in the UK market, what is your view now 1 year on?

I think we are still very much in the midst of it, I think the industry and brokers need to go through this change and Applied is one of the suppliers supporting that transformation, by bringing the right type of products to brokers and allowing brokers to take digital capabilities to their customers whom demand it.

Studies show that adoption is still slower relative to other industries, so I’d like to see the industry help brokers move into digital and understand what digital is all about. It can be a confusing arena in terms of what direction you go when we see some brokers going off in directions that are building apps and mobility. That is probably not the right strategy because then you have multiple systems and you never have a single view of the truth, you know exactly where you are with customers at any one time it is all powered by one data source and I think that is key. Simplifying the process is important and where Applied is investing time and resources to help brokers look beyond the buzzwords and understand what digital really means for their business.

6) What are you excited about for the year ahead?

We have brought a lot of modern technology to the market, our next generation system Applied Epic, mobile applications for brokers, employees and their customers. What we are seeing, which is good, is customers are looking to make that change – they are looking for digital.

All the new customers that have chosen Applied in recent months, have selected our digital broker product, which incorporates all the core technologies – management system, mobile applications for staff, customer self-service portals, and the cloud – which is fantastic. That has really made me proud that what we are doing is right, it shows we are giving brokers the right technology that they need. I would like to see more of course to take that journey, as these technologies evolve and we continue to invest in capabilities that will empower tomorrow’s broker.

I am just excited to help brokers through their digital transformation journey.