Rock sculpture on the beach with unstable top / aisimonov

This article appears in the Oct. 2022 issue of Investment Executive. Subscribe to the print edition, read the digital edition or read the articles online.

The three back-office categories in Investment Executive’s 2022 Insurance Advisors’ Report Card have long been areas in which agency performance lags advisor expectations — and this year was no different.

“In-force policy owner services,” for example, was rated 9.1 for importance, but received an average performance rating of just 7.7. That resulted in a satisfaction gap (the difference between a category’s performance and importance ratings) of 1.4, up from 1.1 in 2021. Further, that performance rating represents a significant drop (by 0.5 or more) from last year’s rating of 8.2.

The other two back-office categories, “new business (application processing)” and “commissions support,” fared better.

New business and commissions support were rated 8.0 and 8.5 for performance, respectively, compared with 8.0 and 8.6 in 2021. Their satisfaction gaps of 1.5 and 0.5 each decreased by only 0.1 year over year, but both gaps have shrunk over the past five years.

For 2022, managing general agents (MGAs) tended to perform better in the back-office categories than the dedicated sales agencies (DSAs).

For example, the MGAs’ combined performance average for the in-force policy category was 8.7, while the DSA-specific performance average for that category was 6.8. The collective MGA averages for both new business and commissions support in 2022 were 8.9; the DSA-specific averages for those categories were 7.1 and 8.2, respectively.

IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN) was rated highest in each of the back-office categories.

Regarding new business support, an IDC WIN advisor in Atlantic Canada said, “They do a really good job and they get back to me quickly.”

“Everything I need, they get involved and fix [it], no problem. They’re the best,” said an IDC WIN advisor in Ontario.

In the area of facilitating new business, IDC WIN has put effort into promoting e-applications, said Phil Marsillo, president and CEO.

Working with advisors to show them how to complete the applications and go through the processes is key, he added.

Marsillo highlighted IDC WIN’s December 2019 acquisition of Aurrea Signature Inc., a Quebec-based MGA, which has helped the MGA with lead generation and application selling across Canada.

Regarding back-office issues generally, another IDC WIN advisor in Ontario said, “They’re always improving, which is very important to me.”

PPI Management Inc. also was rated well for its back-office support, coming in second in each of the three categories.

“If I have a [back-office] query, they listen to me, they respond and get it resolved,” said a PPI advisor in Ontario.

“They’re really accurate and accountable; no mistakes,” said a PPI advisor in British Columbia.

Canada Life Assurance Co. had the lowest cumulative performance average for back-office support. Across the three areas, its joint performance result was 7.0, a significant decrease from 7.6 in 2021. The firm also had the lowest IE rating in this year’s Report Card: 7.3. (An IE rating is the average of an agency’s category ratings.)

On the topic of in-force policy support, a Canada Life advisor in Ontario said, “They should hire more individuals to service the call centre.”

“They need to ensure we have accurate and on-time information,” said a Canada Life advisor in Alberta.

“There’s not a dedicated person to answer any queries” about commissions support, said a Canada Life advisor in Ontario.

Rob DeMott, senior vice president, Advisor Solutions, with Canada Life, said the agency introduced Relay Chat in July 2020. That service assists Canada Life advisors with questions about wealth and insurance forms, processes and who to contact for support, he said.

DeMott said also that this year, the agency rolled out My Canada Life, an online, self-serve interface that provides clients with a “360-degree view” of their Canada Life insurance and investment products.

The Report Card results suggest that advisors who are satisfied work for firms whose back office runs well.

As one IDC WIN advisor in B.C. summed it up: “The back office is the most important for [an] MGA, and IDC has done a great job, especially for taking the workload off of our backs.”