NYL Is Improving Agent Use of Social Media

New York Life’s tag line is “The Company You keep.” New York Life (NYL) recognizes that the “company you keep” has to be involved with social media because that is where a growing number of their clients and prospects inhabit. In particular, NYL continues to build momentum and experience applying social media to strengthen their interactions and relationships with their agents and policyholders. Most recently, NYL has invested their time and resources with two social media initiatives supporting their agents: one involves using a technology start-up company and the second involves LinkedIn.

NYL is working on a Proof-of-Concept with a technology start-up company to ensure that their agents remain compliant regardless of which social media sites they use. This start-up technology company accomplishes this by getting in the middle between NYL’s agents’ dialogue and social media sites the agents want to post information. With the solution from this start-up, NYL agents can use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Is this “Big Brother” in action? NO! The life insurance industry is a heavily regulated industry by the States the insurance company does business in and by various Federal Government agencies (such as SEC or FINRA, formerly NASD). The insurance industry also must comply with industry regulations as well.

Using the solution from the start-up company, NYL is ensuring that their agents can participate in the conversations of the digital marketplace whenever they want and remain compliant to the plethora of never-ending regulations. One other benefit of NYL’s application of this solution was the immediate realization that the Compliance Department had to be brought into the (use of social media) fold from the beginning – just as it should be.

NYL’s second initiative is with LinkedIn. Working with Sales & Distribution management, NYL created a template for their recruiting managers and agents who either are using or want to use LinkedIn. The templates provide NYL agents with a way to go beyond the obvious uses of LinkedIn and get much more out of LinkedIn’s functionality. With these templates, NYL has crafted a set of Best Practices that the company and its agents can improve going forward in time. NYL is driven to facilitate the agent’s ability to put themselves forward into the marketplace in a way they can best explain their personal value proposition to their policyholders and prospects.

Also regarding LinkedIn, NYL is participating in LinkedIn’s Beta Company Profile program. NYL has added several customized features, including video to the standard algorithmically-produced page, to provide a much more robust and richer media experience for their prospective agents and employees, and of course, existing policyholders. In particular, NYL has created a customized view for prospective agent recruiting of the insurance company for anyone whose LinkedIn profile indicates having a sales background or interest in sales.  Eventually NYL wants to feature as many as 72 different sales recruiters over the course of a year.

I was told at the end of our discussion that NYL realizes their agents – social networkers by nature – are using social media. The company wants to direct those activities in a manner that benefits their agents, policyholders, prospects and regulators. They feel (correctly) that the best way to do that is to adhere to the guiding philosophy “let the community live!” But, and here are important lessons for other insurance companies, monitor the community, pay attention to the community, and most importantly, learn from the community to sharpen the company’s strategies and tactics to best meet the expectations of all of the company’s stakeholders.

What is your insurance company doing? How is it applying social media to enable its agents or brokers? What social media software (whether Socialware or others) is your company looking to best engage in the dialogue within the social mediasphere?


Yet Another Insurance Exchange Emerges

Business Insurance published an article  written by Sally Roberts on October 11, 2009 titled “Broker group launching online placement system.”  Yes, this is yet another attempt at an insurance exchange in a long line of such attempts. Unlike natural biological systems where evolution seems to have quite a lot of success optimizing life for existing conditions, the insurance industry hasn’t had much luck with their many attempts at insurance exchanges.

Why don’t insurance exchanges find success? For an outsider, it seems like a great idea. And obviously it also seems like a great idea for producers (the demand side of the supply / demand equation) given all of their attempts to build a lasting exchange.

The goals and attributes of this latest version, which is a partnership between the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB) and LexisNexis, certainly are laudable. Some key points about this latest exchange from the article:

  • Improve the efficiency and transparency of the broker-insurance distribution system while enabling insurers to differentiate their products (hint: this is a key factor to the potential success of any insurance exchange)
  • Intermediaries will be able to submit a proposal for coverage to any of the participating insurers [hint the number and quality of these insurers are also key factors crucial to ongoing success] or wholesalers and collaborate with them on the underwriting, pricing and ultimate insurance placement
  • Aggregate data flowing through the exchange to track marketplace trends including insurance pricing, individual insurer appetites{I wonder if some insurers will be shunned if they are not ‘eating enough’ as decided by ??], and new coverage introductions, in real time

Will this insurance exchange succeed where previous versions of this species quickly became extinct?

I’d be more excited about its future if there were also quotes from insurance companies in the articles that I’ve read. Insurers, after all, are the folks with the capacity – the money – to actually cover the risks.

Insurers have been none to friendly to these exchanges in the past because they do not want to become a ‘cell in a matrix’ and put themselves in a position to be chosen primarily (only) on price. Not that producers would do that, particularly in the general liability middle market where the pilots of this exchange will begin in the third quarter of 2010.

Of course, it might only take one or two insurers to participate in the exchange to break through… or not. BTW: look at the article in Business Insurance to see the costs of participation for both producers and insurers.

So, will this new exchange last longer than its ill-fated ancestors? Time will tell but I would not put much money on it until I:

  • See the names of the participating insurance companies
  • Find that these insurers remain on the exchange for, well, maybe not necessarily as long as Lloyd’s exists
  • Better understand the revenue and profit pools for insurers, producers, LexisNexis and the CIAB
  • Have a better handle on the information-based products and services the exchange will offer the market participants

What do you think? Will this insurance exchange be the one that survives? Why or why not?

Published in: on October 14, 2009 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

Thoughts from the 2009 eInsurance Symposium…..

During one of the panel discussions, one – maybe two – of the panelists suggested that insurers would see the errors of their ways and change their behavior to better assist agents and brokers.

They were specifically referring to agents desire to enter customer data once regardless of how many insurers they sent the data to get a quote. Their point was that it would benefit them – and their clients – if insurers accepted the same data elements needed to get a quote. (Obviously true.)

And one of the panelists told me (during a side conversation after the formal panel discussion) she was on an ACORD committee that determined that 80+% of the data insurers needed – in this case homeowners insurance – was the same.

So, if insurers wouldn’t change their ways … agents and brokers should unite and submit business to those insurers who accepted the same data elements enabling the producers to only enter the data once.

I don’t think insurers will change .. at least not as fast as producers want. And certainly not until the insurers find other ways to compete.

What do you think?

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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