The Donegal Insurance story: How to offer eSignatures to independent insurance agents
This is the story of Donegal Insurance. As an insurance carrier, they were challenged by a strong dependency on paperwork, and found that chasing signatures could be expensive, time-consuming and frustrating.
In the “document or die” world of insurance, it was easy for Donegal to see the advantages of electronic signatures over traditional ink signatures.
But while the why is well understood in this paper-intensive industry, the how remains elusive. In an environment that involves a complex mix of customer segments, distribution channels, and legacy systems and processes, how can insurers put electronic signatures to work?
Let's answer the question through Donegal's experience. Donegal Insurance is a mid-sized carrier that offers personal, commercial and farm policies in 22 states, through affiliations with approximately 2,500 independent agents (IAs).
The company was eager to eliminate paper from its new business processes. Electronic workflows reduce the risk of missing or incomplete documents. Digital platforms increase efficiency, reducing time spent chasing trailing documents -- an important advantage to busy insurance agents. By creating a digital portal, Donegal reduced friction at the point of sale, placing itself top of mind among its agents. For Donegal, adding e-signatures to the agent portal made good sense.
But to implement e-signatures, they had to address key questions about ownership, requirements, rollout, and adoption. One of the first questions they had to answer was, who should take the lead with e-signatures: the carrier or its independent insurance agents?
WHO SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD AND “OWN” THE E-SIGNATURE SOLUTION?
With more than 125 years in the insurance business, Donegal provides full lines of personal, farm and commercial insurance products across multiple regions of the U.S.
Brian Donovan, manager of agency automation at Donegal, recognized the power of e-signatures early on.
“We were heavily involved with the use of technology and we automated many processes that were traditionally manual,” he says. “We saw e-signatures as another opportunity to free up internal resources and give the agent and the customer a better experience when they choose Donegal.”
But who should assume the responsibility for implementation, the IAs or the insurer? Independent agents value their independence. Yet Donegal chose to take a leadership position on the issue, confident that IAs would see the new convenience as a welcome alternative to the current way of doing business. By taking the lead, Donegal would be taking control of its digital destiny, ultimately accelerating the adoption of e-signatures—an adoption that would be delayed if left to each individual IA.
In addition, by owning the e-signature platform, Donegal gained visibility and control over the workflow and the documentation of their new business. By selecting and adopting a single e-signature solution, Donegal also avoided the need to conduct due diligence on the many e-signature technologies their agents might have chosen.
Once committed to taking command, Donegal faced another decision, whether to implement its chosen e-signature solution, OneSpan Sign, in the cloud or on-premises. The cloud option would have meant no additional IT hardware or software burden on the firm; responsibility for security would have shifted to the cloud provider. But Donegal had compelling reasons for choosing an on-premises implementation. They wanted maximum control over customer data and the systems that run the company’s critical business processes. Sanjay Pandey, Donegal CIO, puts it succinctly: “We have cautious underwriters and attorneys who want to control their own destiny.”
BUILDING E-SIGNATURES INTO THE AGENT PORTAL
Across the industry, as carrier adoption of electronic signatures grows, it is becoming increasingly important to establish a corporate standard across all channels to ensure security and enforceability, and minimize implementation efforts.
However, when it comes to the independent agent channel, all too often the approach has been a siloed one. The desire to ensure a consistent, trusted approach to electronic transactions and records is the top reason for carriers to offer e-signature capability, but the benefits don’t stop there. E-Signatures remove the blind spot that exists when a paper document goes out in the mail for signing, and instead provides control over how each step of the transaction is completed as well as visibility into every action taken by transaction participants. It also eliminates the risk of missing, misfiled or incomplete paperwork, which can compromise your ability to demonstrate compliance or defend against disputes.
An e-signature solution integrated with web-based or mobile e-apps mitigates this through comprehensive document and process audit trails, as well as process design best practices. Offering e-signatures to agents is a competitive differentiator. A well-planned implementation, designed to meet the real needs of the agent community, demonstrates a commitment to making it easy to do business with you. Agents will be able to go beyond entering the customer’s data and getting a quote – they will be able to close business immediately.
It is no secret that the more convenient a carrier is to do business with, the more business an independent agent will close with that particular insurer.
DONEGAL INSURANCE: ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
- E-Signature Implementation Options for Insurance Companies: In this webcast, Sanjay Pandey, SVP & CIO at Donegal, explains the approach the carrier has taken with their 2,250 independent agents in 11 states and counting.
- In this ITAPro Article, Opportunity for Innovation with Donegal Insurance, Donegal Insurance talks about adopting e-signature technology to save time for agents, policyholders and underwriters.