Agents in the financial services sector play a crucial role in maintaining the business. Financial services include broad subverticals such as banking, insurance and investment fund companies where their crucial role in building relationships and gaining business volumes cannot be underestimated.
Personal selling is the approach that agents and brokers have set for decades. They have a lot of information about products, markets and prices. But after IoT, big data and analytics came to the center, it became imperative and necessary for agents and brokers to be relevant. The mobile customers, supported by the mobile workforce of companies, pose existential threats to agents and brokers. Many may wonder – is this the end of the road for brokers and agents?
Financial services honchos may consider removing the role of agents attracting new prospects with reduced premiums or discounts. But wait a little longer before sending the execution order as they still have the firepower. Focused research is required in this area.
Can agents remain relevant?
Now, the question that is ahead of us is agents and brokers relevant? First of all, they have time-tested relationships with a large number of accounts that they convinced cared. Today, the brokers themselves are mobile and know the IT tools to nurture their audience. Using IT apps on their mobile, they go faster for client adoption. In this process:
• Contact their prospects and teach them about the products.
• Provide valuable advice on the most feasible products for them.
• Evaluate the value of securities.
• Create relationships once you have an understanding of all aspects of customer relationships.
We come to the important aspect. Today, technology obsolescence makes the role of agents irrelevant. To some extent, it is true if mobile customers switch completely from agents and interact directly with the company. But the question is how feasible that idea is. We all know in our busy schedules where we prioritize paying premiums or buying stocks may not be appealing to anyone with a few exceptions. The reason behind this is that people are not that self-motivated, and agents are stepping into this gap with their relationships to nurture skills.
In areas like spending money, people are a little scary as well as slow decision makers. This may not be perceived as weakness, but it is actually wisdom, as sensible ones do a lot of research and thinking before they start. What does this mean for the financial services sector? Services in the financial sector can be excited about IT tools that help clients make informed decisions. But what is the exact scenario? People will research all tools on mobile devices, but many are unlikely to make the final purchase decision because a resource person is needed to provide relevant and contextual information about products and services. This must be followed by the opportunity to close the deal when the curiosity level is raised to the highest. Who can replace agents or brokers who had been doing this for decades?
So now readers may have understood the value of agents in dealing with the deal. Getting business is not a regular deal. It takes a lot of effort, constant follow up of clients to make a decision. Just SMS alerts will not do that. That said, let’s consider how agents can be used creatively with technology in this era of technological disruption. We also need to consider how agents can be empowered with technology and how.
Agents can be in survival mode with IT tools
In order to survive in today’s unstable markets, what is most needed is actionable information. Agents who work overtime in building relationships and closing deals definitely require the latest IT tools, to be specific BI, big data and analytics tools to make key decisions. In the case of insurance, BI tools can help the agents and brokers derive key insights about customers and understand their propensity to offer customized products or solutions. BI dashboards help them manage relationships effectively. This is the case with banking and investment companies that hire third parties for business development.
Use of analytics is found in various areas such as content analysis, contextual analysis and business analysis. In content analysis, unstructured data such as call center logs, sensor data, audio, video data can be analyzed to track trends, customer response, etc. In contextual analysis, data is analyzed to understand the context that is crucial for making context-based decisions. In business analysis patterns, behavior or trends are detected through statistical analysis. Last but not least are predictive analyzes where the use of techniques such as statistical analysis, regression analysis, correlation analysis, cluster analysis, social media analysis etc. are used for new product development.
Agents are catalysts in information gathering as they move with people and trigger discussions about products and services. Because of this stronger reason, one cannot conclude that agents are heading into the disruptive technology era. But at the same time, agents should use IT for their survival as well as the survival of financial services companies. Let time tell the rest.