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Nearly all advisors surveyed for the 2021 Insurance Advisors’ Report Card said they’ve embraced the process of filling out and submitting electronic insurance policy applications: 96.1%.

That percentage was up significantly compared with the previous Report Card conducted in 2019, when only 82.9% of 334 respondents had embraced them. The gap is even wider when compared with 2017, when only 59.1% of 362 respondents had taken up the technology. (In 2021, 283 people responded to the e-application question.)

“This [the use of electronic and smart applications] is here to stay and just makes things so much easier for us,” said a Canada Life advisor in Ontario. “You don’t need to find dates to meet people; you just get it done, fast.”

“It’s way better for us because it saves time and money,” said an advisor in Ontario from IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc.. “It also opened up a chance to get clients from farther away, like Alberta or Ottawa.”

For those resisting e-applications, preference is also a factor. “I’m old school; I’m sure it’s easy, but I don’t use it,” said an advisor in Ontario with Financial Horizons Group Inc.

In 2021, insurance advisors gave a slightly lower overall performance average than in 2019 for firms’ support for the e-application process, noting that firms are trying to adapt. Across the seven Report Card firms this year, the average support rating was 8.7, compared with 8.8 in 2019 (when Canada Life’s two divisions hadn’t yet been merged for the research, and so there were eight firms).

The experience of advisors with RBC Life Insurance Co. (RBCI) showed how the insurance segment at large has pivoted. Advisors with the firm said the majority of their clients’ policy applications were electronic, and that the firm wanted to eliminate its remaining paper-based forms.

Some e-apps could be easier to use and programs could be more consolidated, the advisors said, but as one RBCI respondent in B.C. noted, “We’ve had a lot of glitches throughout, [and] there’s some way to go, but the actual support staff has been fantastic.”

The firm said in an emailed statement that RBCI is committed to its e-application platform, given digital signatures are “key to ease of use.” It confirmed that e-applications are available for most of its products and said, “It’s our priority to continue adding more products to the eApp platform.”

An advisor in Alberta with Canada Life highlighted that advisors, too, have to pull their weight in the shift toward e-applications: “They’ve provided guidance [and templates], but it’s mainly up to us. It’s up to you to use it.”

For advisors working with managing general agents (MGAs), many relied more on insurance carriers than their agencies for support. For example, an advisor in B.C. with Hub Financial Inc. said, “I don’t get support from the MGA because it’s more efficient to go to the carrier.”

Other thoughts on e-applications

  • “I’ve been doing non-face-to-face since 2012. Seventy percent of my business is run on e-apps, but that’s directly through the carrier.” – advisor in Ontario with Financial Horizons
  • “I frequently use e-apps, but I don’t need the support. They have training sessions and workshops, but I personally don’t need to use that because I’m tech-savvy.” – advisor in B.C. with Hub Financial
  • “It was a learning curve [to use e-apps], but now I find it’s the coolest thing.” – advisor in B.C. with Hub Financial
  • “I’m using [e-applications] as much as possible. I’ll meet with clients only if I have to.” – advisor with PPI Management Inc.
  • “This week, I’ve done nothing but e-signatures. I was wanting wet signatures last year, but I’ve adapted and the systems are getting better.” – an advisor in Ontario with PPI Management
  • “We’re not 100% electronic [and] it’s certainly not seamless. But it’s as easy or easier than the paper process.” – advisor in Ontario with Sun Life Financial Distributors (Canada) Inc.