The impact of mobility has been most evident, and is furthest advanced, inside the enterprise, where it is changing work styles forever. Insurance is a clear beneficiary of this trend.

One could argue that the steady growth of the online channel in insurance has the potential to eliminate insurance agents and brokers as intermediaries. Back in 2010, for example, Accenture research was already showing that individual customers preferred to use the Internet for managing their accounts and searching for information and that the digital channel would progressively take away business from traditional channels as regards new business.

I believe that the growing sophistication in the way that agents and brokers are using mobile technology may help to slow or even reverse that trend. In particular, it is helping them to position themselves much better as trusted advisors in certain market segments where advice is very important—for example, small to medium-sized businesses that might lack sophisticated risk management capabilities, or the investment strategy for a life policy.

Already we are seeing that some carriers are equipping agents with accurate, real-time client information accessible via their tablets. Tablets also enable them to use graphical tools to transform the way they sell products and provide advice to customers, particularly self-employed and small businesses. After all, insurance is all about risk, and getting advice from a person is much more satisfactory than filling in a website form, which has no capacity for registering nuance. When it comes to insurance, one size does not fit all and there are other factors besides price to consider. Mobility may just make it easier for customers to understand the full value proposition—and to make the agent or broker a real advisor.

In emerging economies, where many people and companies do not have bank accounts but almost all have a mobile device, insurers are using the mobile and mobile money channel to offer and accept payment for micro-insurance. Small, immediate transactions are a new value proposition tailored to the customer—and an opportunity for insurers to help the unbanked mitigate their risks. This approach is also gaining traction for small ticket insurance in the developed world in specific areas such as, for example, warranties and ski insurance.

Even if I am correct, of course digital channels will continue to grow in importance, particularly for certain tasks (such as updating personal details, looking for information or, increasingly, requesting a quote). But I am willing to bet that a sales and agent force empowered by the right mobile technology—predominantly delivered via well-designed mobile apps—will be able to gain a position in the value chain that is secure because it is founded on value and built on trust.

Next week, let’s have some fun with a scenario of how mobility could actually help an agent out on the road to work smarter.

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