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How Modernizing Financial Operations Helps Insurance Companies and Brokerages Increase Efficiency and Maximize Profits

Automated payment systems can free up time for insurance professionals, making them a perfect tool for everything from improving efficiency to managing the talent crisis.
By: | October 23, 2023

At a recent CFO event held by the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, Andrew Wynn, cofounder and co-CEO of Ascend, heard a common refrain: Insurance industry CFOs wanted to know how to make their companies more efficient.

“How do we maximize efficiency? That’s one thing that we are hearing more than ever,” Wynn said.

Brokers and carriers want to maximize efficiency in order to improve their bottom line. If they reduce their time spent on operational tasks, they can focus more on revenue-generating activities like developing insurance solutions for their clients and underwriting policies. Investors love to see company growth, and to do that, many insurance companies will need to modernize and reduce their operational hurdles.

Yet despite the need to reduce administrative workloads, many insurance companies are still using dated payment systems that leave much of the administrative burden on their employees. New, automated billing tools can increase operational efficiency and improve growth over the long term.

“All the companies I’ve worked with in the past have been involved with empowering and enabling existing industries with technology,” Wynn said.

“What we aim to do is help both insurance companies and underwriting businesses as well as brokers and independent agents by automating the financial operations of their business.”

An Arduous Billing Process

Andrew Wynn, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Ascend

As it stands, insurance professionals often have to spend large parts of the day managing administrative tasks such as billing. “In a heavy commercial business, account managers can be spending 20 to 25% of their time on non-revenue-generating administrative activities,” Wynn said.

The reasons for this are myriad. Many in the insurance industry are operating with antiquated billing systems and manual processes, creating increased workloads for the industry professionals who manage these tasks.

In recent years, insurance has also struggled with a talent shortage, so underwriters and brokers may be taking on additional administrative responsibilities to fill gaps. Brokers and underwriters aren’t focused on making billing easier, though. They’re focused on the important part of their job, which is crafting and selling insurance policies.

“Insurance companies — they’re incredible at underwriting. They’ve been doing it for literally hundreds of years, and they have all the data in the world. They’re very, very good at it, but what they may not be as good at is all the adjacent things that complement their underwriting skill, because why would they be? They’re an underwriting business,” Wynn said.

“The same is true of distribution. Agents are really good at understanding their clients’ risk profiles and matching insurance policies to those customers and making sure their customers also feel understood, protected and well-matched to their insurance and risk management, but they don’t need to be great at a lot of other things, too.”

While financial operations are a necessary part of any business, for insurance professionals, these tasks can feel tedious. As Wynn explained, “It’s not fun to be a bill collector, to call your clients that you’ve spent months building relationships with and be like, ‘Oh, did you send me that check? I didn’t see it. Oh, you did. Oh, hey, it looks like it was a hundred bucks short. What are we going to do?’ ”

How Improved Financial Infrastructure Can Give Brokers and Carriers a Competitive Advantage

For brokers, automated billing systems and improved financial infrastructure can cut down the amount of time brokers have to spend on administrative tasks related to billing, thereby increasing efficiency.

“Time spent handling billing and administrative tasks at large are non-revenue-generating activities at the end of the day,” Wynn said. “We automate all of that.”

Carriers, too, can benefit from improved billing systems. Right now, specialty carriers often rely on retail broker partners to collect policy payments.

“[Imagine] there’s two equal policies with two equal markets. One of those markets offers insured billing where they’re going to go out, collect from the insured, and net you your commission as a retailer,” Wynn said. “The other one puts the onus on you, the retailer, to collect the premium, net your commission, and then fund the market. Which are you going to choose?”

Tools that automate tasks also help the insurance industry become less vulnerable to talent shortages.

“The less reliant you are on technology, the more reliant you are on people,” Wynn said. “The more reliant you are on people, the more a tight talent market can negatively impact your business. I think you can hedge the talent market with technology.”

By automating administrative tasks, brokers and underwriters can focus on what they love to do: crafting unique insurance solutions and accurately pricing risk. “The best insurance agency doesn’t become the best or biggest insurance agency because they’re the best at billing,” Wynn said. “They become the best because they’re the best at risk management.”

And freeing up brokers and underwriters to focus on the parts of the job they love can help the industry attract new talent. Potential applicants, especially those in younger generations, appreciate employers who automate administrative tasks, reducing their day-to-day workloads.

“This is how we recruit and retain,” Wynn said. “It’s a competitive advantage to say ‘You don’t have to do this. You can do the things you’re good at and that you want to do.’ ”

Modernizing Payments, Maximizing Efficiency

Modernizing the insurance industry’s financial infrastructure is a boon for carriers, brokers and insureds alike. Ascend’s digital payment services can automate any and all billing-related financial operations. The company’s tech tools collect payments from insureds, dole out commissions to brokerages and pay carriers for policies.

Its team of tech leaders have cut their teeth working for other startups that help industries modernize. Wynn did a stint at Instacart before going on to found Ascend. Others have worked at tech and financial services giants ranging from Amazon to American Express.

“What we’re trying to do is automate the post-placement administrative activities associated with placing a policy,” Wynn said. “Our goal is to automate all of those financial operations so that once a policy is placed, there’s no incremental costs or very little incremental costs associated with it.”

The team has extensive knowledge of the antiquated technologies that make up the insurance industry’s existing financial infrastructure, which has placed it in a unique position to develop solutions. Its solution is industry-focused and tailored to the specific financial challenges facing the insurance sector, which has long lagged behind other industries when it comes to adopting cutting-edge technologies.

Ascend’s modern billing system removes much of the administrative burden from insurance professionals, allowing them to focus on their core underwriting or distribution responsibilities.

“Automating a lot of these administrative tasks actually allows them to focus more on what their core competency is, whether it’s distribution or underwriting,” Wynn said.

To learn more, visit: https://www.useascend.com/.


This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Ascend. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

Ascend is the industry-leading provider of financial operations automation software, dedicated to modernizing the insurance industry's financial infrastructure.

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