SOURCE: X by 2

March 01, 2011 14:13 ET

Insurers Meeting New Consumer Demands Through New Channels Need Flexible, Agile Scalable Technology, X by 2's Petersmark Writes in Best's Review

FARMINGTON HILLS, MI--(Marketwire - March 1, 2011) - Insurers meeting new consumer demands must build flexibility, agility, and scalability into their processes and technology, Frank Petersmark writes in the February issue of Best's Review.

"Insurers are under increasing pressure to leverage both existing customer relationships and the corresponding business intelligence and analytics needed to create new markets for their products and services," writes Petersmark, CIO advocate at X by 2, a software architecture consultancy in Farmington Hills, Mich.

Consumers today have different expectations and may not desire a face-to-face visit with an agent. They want to be able to get everything they need online, including research and cost comparisons -- just like they do with other financial services, he writes.

Because most existing systems are designed to serve a broad audience with broad products, most insurers are handicapped when trying to serve new-channel customers because they lack the ability to gather and aggregate consumer information in their customer-facing systems.

"Savvy carriers and agencies will work together to strike the right balance between supporting long-time customers who prefer a more traditional sales-channel approach (face-to-face with their agent), and having a well-conceived and modernized channel infrastructure that offers choices to new and more technologically adept consumers," he writes.

Technology will let insurers open new vistas.

"One can even imagine carriers offering agent and/or consumer access to their portals or front-end quoting or inquiry systems via mobile applications that can be accessed through a PDA, smart phone, iPad or other tablet-like device," Petersmark writes.

To do that, insurers will need to create "entirely new architectures and platforms that are web-aware and have the ability to be deployed on a variety of computer, PDA, tablet, and netbook platforms."

Carriers and agencies will need systems that can support multiple distribution channels and consumer devices.

"Imagine the frustration of a young consumer who cannot drill through a carrier's or agency's portal or social-media-based platform to complete a transaction, or to speak to somebody in a chat session, in person or through an Apple Face Time or Skype connection about their potential purchase," he writes. "Today's young insurance consumers will be tomorrow's risk managers, employee benefits professionals and small-business owners who will expect instant access to their carrier's information about their policies, insureds and claims -- and the ability to self-service all of their insurance needs if they so desire."

"Changing the Channel" can be read online at http://xby2.com/x-by-2-in-the-news.aspx.

Founded in 1998, X by 2 (www.xby2.com) is an architecture consultancy primarily to the insurance industry whose motto is "Architecture First." Clients include national and regional life, health and property-casualty insurers -- companies that want to build their business-technology architectures and foundations right the first time. X by 2 provides architecture design, planning, oversight, and turnaround services on transformative enterprise scale business technology initiatives. 

Best's Review magazine is published monthly by the A.M. Best Co. for insurance professionals.

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