- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Mid/Large Commercial Distribution: Digital Capabilities on the Rise

New SMA Blog by Mark Breading, Partner, Strategy Meets Action

Traditionally, success in the middle-market and large commercial segments relied on deep expertise regarding customer risks and deep relationships with a network of distributors with access to those markets. Those capabilities are still fundamental to success, but lately, the carriers’ digital capabilities have become increasingly essential in these markets. Distribution partners – whether retail agencies, brokers, wholesalers, or MGAs – want to do business with carriers that reduce the friction, shorten the quote-to-bind time, and provide a good appetite match for the business they want to submit. Naturally, distributors are also interested in product fit and commission structure, but business tends to gravitate to carriers that feature ease of doing business. And all of these things are taken into account as carriers’ channel strategies evolve in the mid/large commercial segment.

A recent SMA Research report, “Channel Strategies and Plans for P&C Commercial Lines: A View of Small and Mid/Large Commercial Segments,” highlights the aggressive stance that many carriers are taking in expanding their distribution networks over the next few years. To gain a deeper understanding of the digital technology capabilities that will support the existing and expanding channel strategies, SMA recently surveyed carriers focused on the mid/large commercial market. The research assessed the current state of digital capabilities offered to distribution partners, barriers to implementation and adoption, and plans for enhancing or delivering new digital capabilities in the future.

SMA’s research tracked fourteen different digital sales-oriented capabilities and seventeen servicing capabilities, starting with a carrier’s satisfaction with the state of their tech offerings to their distribution partners. In terms of digital sales capabilities, the overarching theme is that anything that improves the ease of doing business and provides more self-service capabilities is a focus. On the servicing side, both agent and policyholder self-service portals top the list of digital projects. New or enhanced capabilities related to policy, billing, and claims are also in the mix.

It is important to note that there are both business and technology roadblocks to success in the distribution technology area. For example, few will be surprised to learn that limited IT resources are the number one barrier on the technology side. However, from a business viewpoint, understanding customer needs and creating the right value propositions can prove to be a challenge.

All the new channel strategies and digital project activities reinforce the notion that there is a real revolution going on in the distribution space. For most insurers, standing still will not be an option. Winning strategies will include strengthening capabilities and relationships with current partners and extending distribution networks into new spaces.

For more information on commercial lines distribution expansion strategies, see our recent research report, “Distribution Technologies for Mid/Large Commercial: Carrier Progress and Plans.” SMA is also introducing a new research series with perspectives from the distributor’s point of view. A regular series of research reports will be published based on surveys and interviews withs agencies, brokers, MGAs, and others in the distribution channel, including insights from ReSource Pro’s large footprint of distribution clients. Contact the author for more information on this new research and advisor services offerings for distribution.

About The Author

Mark is known for his insights on the future of the insurance industry and innovative uses of technology. Mark consults with insurers and technology companies on forward-thinking strategies for success in the digital age. His inventive methodologies, fresh ideas, creative conceptualizations, and ability to incorporate InsurTech and transformational tech in business strategies are unparalleled. He also leads SMA’s research program, publishing 25-30 research reports per year and conducting various custom research projects for insurer and vendor clients. His thought leadership in the areas of InsurTech, transformational technologies, customer experience, and digital strategies has earned him a ranking of one of the “Top Global Influencers in InsurTech” by InsurTech News and Onalytica and a place in the ten finalists for the “Top Global IoT in Insurance Influencer Award.”

Before joining SMA in 2009, Mark spent 25 years with IBM in roles including the Global Insurance Strategist and Director of Global Financial Services Executive Conferences in addition to leadership roles in consulting and marketing. Mark co-developed IBM’s Account Based Marketing program and led the global project office to implement ABM across all industry verticals worldwide. Mark has held both technical and business roles in sales, consulting, marketing, and business strategy and has advised insurers around the world for almost 30 years.

About SMA, a ReSource Pro company

Strategy Meets Action is an industry-leading strategic advisory firm delivering strategic insights, consulting services, and published research to carriers, solution providers, and InsurTech startups. The firm provides insights and guidance on business strategy, digital transformation, core systems and customer experience. Learn more about SMA at

SOURCE: Strategy Meets Action (SMA)