By Ken Leibow
Published in Broker World Magazine June 2020
Life insurance and annuity carriers figured out a long time ago that speed to market and reducing operational costs with a combination of outsourcing and technology for new business and claims, for example using third party administrators like SE2, EXL and Infosys-McCamish, was significant in allowing for more product launches and focusing on growing sales. A hybrid of this model offered by firms like Employee Pooling and eNoah has been hugely successful in the BGA space. I had the privilege to learn more about the value proposition these firms bring to the table for a life brokerage general agency (BGA) by talking with Tom Gray, founder and Michelle Anderson, head of marketing, L&C Division, at Employee Pooling, as well as Manoj Sherman, SVP, and Stacey Paulsen, director of insurance services, at eNoah.
A BGA Increases Focus on Sales with a Seamless Extension of their Team Using Employee Pooling
While daily operations for most agencies follow the same basic blueprint in processing, managing, and capturing new business opportunities, there is no one-size-fits-all in meeting a company’s needs to get the job done. The reasons to right-source your agency by seeking support from an offshore firm are diverse, but the expectations are the same–to extend operating hours through the U.S. nighttime and get the job done accurately and on-time without breaking the bank.
Companies like Employee Pooling can certainly position an agency to bring scale and bring stability to daily operations while increasing revenue, especially during these trying times when work volume can erratically ebb and flow. Agencies are also taking advantage of outsourcing options when faced with time restraints, or they simply lack the bandwidth to handle everything piling up on their plates. Why wouldn’t you turn to a BPO who’s seen and done it all, knows the intricacies of every major technology platform like Agency Integrator, SmartOffice, OneHQ, and SureLC, who knows all the rules and nuances of dozens of carriers, and has mapped out processes for every departmental task with care and detail? This level of skill and swiftness almost can’t be matched by any new office member. The bonus is these BPOs cost about the price of an intern.
According to Tom Gray, founder and president of Employee Pooling, LLC (EP), in addition to removing obstacles getting in the way of sales, the most important element for establishing a successful relationship with his customers is trust. “We treat every task that we do as if it were our own, whether it’s seeing an agent appointment through or handling comprehensive case management and commission build outs, we take ownership of the task at hand.” The EP team is literally woven into the fabric of a customer’s operations, and because they already know every component of the software technology that’s used in our industry, along with processes and best practices for every agency department from agent appointments, new business and commissions to inforce policy management, onboarding is swift and seamless. Gray adds that the customer relationship reaches a mutually meaningful level when EP earns their trust by assuming full responsibility for the tasks at hand.
In addition to onboarding customers who are looking to maximize their software performance or get more out of their current workforce, EP has taken on countless cases of “What now?” situations from customers who are faced with an unexpected circumstance that could significantly impact the overall flow of operations and their livelihood.
“These immediate employee departures can impact a company overnight,” says Gray, “And even the most dialed-in companies are not equipped to handle the workflow, do not know the ins and outs of software platforms like Agency Integrator, SmartOffice, OneHQ, or SureLC—or worse, they do not know the details of what’s involved in the process of that particular position that is suddenly vacant.” A recent example of the latter occurred when an EP customer suddenly and tragically lost their one and only case manager. They were at a complete loss and needed a case manager to step in overnight. EP was able to escalate from providing basic support to assuming all new business responsibilities in an instant.
Imagine having to step in and fill that role overnight…but EP rises and shines day in day out because of their expertise in every major technology platform, best in class processes, 24-hour service, and their customers’ trust.
BGAs Faced with Operational Challenges like COVID-19 are Using eNoah
The learning curve to onboard new talent is long, and finding experienced talent is not easy. It’s an extremely competitive space and with each BGA’s unique culture, finding the right person can be challenging not to mention costly. To add to the learning curve, the diversification of products coupled with state and federal regulations and the carrier’s own interpretation of compliance and the requirements that go along with them, have created a spiderweb of different processes. All which the BGA space has to consume and assist their advisors with. This role often falls on case management to be the “expert” for not only their advisors, but internally within their organization. They are also often involved in pre-sale activities to ensure paperwork and compliance is handled properly before the application hits their desk. eNoah has been successful in helping their BGA customers take on certain tasks so they can prioritize what is most important for their internal team members to focus on.
eNoah’s contingency plan ensures there is always an additional resource who knows your business and it’s needs. “We have resources ready with little to no onboarding to support our BGA customers. This also served us well with the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Because of our proactive service model, we were able to support our customers during a transition to work-from-home without a drop in quality or time service,” says Stacey Paulsen, director of insurance services at eNoah.
In this “want it now” environment, providing consistent and timely customer service is table stakes. The ultimate challenge is how one maintains time service commitments with excellent quality, all while still being fiscally responsible. eNoah helps juggle these three pain points for their BGA partners by utilizing industry experts who are knowledgeable in all areas of the life of an application while bringing cost savings. eNoah uses a blended approach with a Stateside account manager who has over 20 years of experience in the BGA space. They understand and appreciate the unique differences each BGA brings to the table and work with them to create their own customized onboarding process to make it as seamless as possible.
“We want to be an extension of your office, supporting your culture and contributing to your goals and mission statement,’” Paulson stated. “It simply cannot be a one-size-fits- all approach. I love developing strategic partnerships with our BGA customers and truly understanding where they are today and where they want to go. We can help whether that is with a specific need, such as application scrub and entry into your AMS, to full end to end case management and beyond. We customize and support to your unique needs with a delivery team who has over 25 years of experience in the insurance services industry.”
Unique Projects for IMOs/FMOs/BGAs
I have been directly or indirectly working on some unique projects to help solve pain-points for IMOs, FMOs and BGAs. As a co-chair of the ACORD Life Inforce Product Working Group, I am helping build out standards for messaging life inforce policies like pre-lapse notifications, policy owner service change requests, term conversions, and inforce illustrations just to name a few. One of the popular inforce policy management platforms is offered by Proformex. As great as the system is in managing an agent’s book of business and discovering new sales opportunities, the critical fuel to function is “data” that gets inputted into the system manually and/or through a data feed. I learned that ePooling plays a key role working with BGAs to manage that data and get it into the inforce policy management system. Another unique project is around commission accounting. The commission accounting systems out in the market today are focused on the BGA commission workflow. These vendors have not directly addressed the needs of commission management for an IMO or FMO. eNoah, with a combination of technology developed internally coupled with using personnel to set up contracts, commission schedules and hierarchies, has been able to remove the commission pain-points and automate what was a very manual process for IMOs and FMOs.
With the need for a scalable professional workforce, a BGA’s back-office is servicing agents for licensing/contracting, new business, commission accounting, inforce policy management, and sales illustrations, while also providing product and underwriting expertise. Typically, BGAs are using just a couple of solution platforms, specifically an agency management system, to manage their business. Partnering with a firm like Employee Pooling or eNoah to reduce operational costs and improve efficiencies with the integration of experienced people and faster processes while leveraging the BGAs existing technology is available today.