Amid widespread discussion about digital disruption, its easy to forget that 95% of life insurance relies on offline sales channels. Of these, the agency channel remains the key driver, accounting for 42% of new premium value and is four times more profitable than bancassurance. However, despite its vital role in distribution, the agency channel is currently caught in a cycle of high churn, low agent productivity, and a low activation rate.
The math and the impact that agent productivity tools could have on the industry can be dizzying. China’s agency force consists of almost 8 million agents distributing 60% of life insurance policies across China annually. While the U.S. has 10 cities with 1 million or more people, China has 165.
Amid this, several life insurers and startups have turned to app and WeChat based use cases to recruit, train and manage the agency force, while the first to equip its agency force with tablets was CNinsure, this was soon followed by Huize and Beijing-based broker Datong.
Beijing-based Bihubao has been the only life insurance startup able to overcome systemic issues of agent retention and attrition, which not only undermines distribution but also affect the servicing of existing policies.
Specifically, Bihubao and its technology unit Bihu Tech has developed a range of O2O features for agency management that include:
- Agent benchmarking tools
- Use of WeChat ID tracking codes
- Agent benchmarking for promotion (ongoing guidance)
- What content did they share
- Agents can check time stamp and ID of the recipient
- Remote fulfilment by agent and digital signature from policyholder
Additionally, Bihu Tech is partnering with established digital insurers including Zhong An and sunning.com who are keen to move upstream to long term life/health products.
Bihu Tech also works collaboratively with healthcare data platforms and insurance companies to set up online underwriting platforms. Customers can select insurance products online, fill out basic personal information and inform about their health conditions, completing the underwriting process. Bihu Tech break the manual underwriting process, shorten the underwriting time and enhance the customer service experience as a result.
Agency management startups are few and far between due to a reluctance to rely on offline sales teams. However, the continuing dominance of the agency model in the distribution of life insurance means the marriage of online agent management tools with offline agents, such as those provided by Bihubao, have become the template for life insurers seeking to upgrade their agency force.