Agents in the financial services sector play a crucial role in sustaining the business. Financial services encompass broad sub verticals like – banking, insurance, and investment funds companies where their crucial role like building relationships and getting business volumes cannot be underestimated.

Personalized sales are the approach set by agents and brokers for decades. They carry a lot of information on products, markets, and prices. But after the IoT, big data and analytics came to the center stage, it became imperative for agents and brokers to stay relevant. The mobile customers supported by mobile workforce of businesses are posing 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 eliminating the role of agents attracting new prospects with reduced premium or discounts. But wait a bit more before you send the execution order as they have the firepower still. It is into this area focused study is required.

Can Agents Stay Relevant?

Now the question before us is, are agents and brokers relevant? First of all they have time tested relationship with a large number of accounts whom they assiduously nurtured. Today, the brokers themselves are mobile and know the IT tools to nurture their audience. With the help of IT apps on their mobile they go for client acquisition faster. In this process, they:

• Contact their prospects and educate them about the products.
• Provide valuable pieces of advice on most feasible product for them.
• Evaluate the performance of securities.
• Build relationship after gaining an understanding on every aspect of customer relationships.

We are coming to the important aspect. Today technology obsolescence is making the role of agents irrelevant. To some extent it is true if the mobile customers make a total shift from agents and have direct interaction with the company. But the question is how feasible is that idea. We all know in our busy schedules, giving priority be it paying premium or buying stocks may not be appealing to all with a few exceptions. The reason behind this is people are not that self motivated and agents step into this gap with their relationship nurturing skills.

In areas like spending money people are little scary as well as slow decision makers. This cannot be construed as weakness but in fact it is wisdom as sensible ones do lot of research and thinking before they take the plunge. What does this mean for the financial services sector? Financial sector services may be enthusiastic about IT tools which helps the customers to take informed decisions. But what is the exact scenario? People will do all research with the tools on mobile but many will be unlikely to take the final purchase decision because there is a need for a resource person to give relevant and contextual information on products and services. This should be followed by the ability to close the deal once the curiosity level is raised to the highest. Who can replace agents or brokers who had been doing this for decades?

So, now the readers might have understood the value of agents in clinching the deal. Getting business is not an ordinary deal. It requires a lot of effort, constant follow up on clients to arrive at a decision. Just SMS alerts won’t do the trick. Having said this, let us consider how the agents can be used creatively with technology in this era of technology disruption. We also need to consider how agents can be empowered with technology and how.

Agents Can Be on Survival Mode with IT Tools

To survive in today’s volatile markets, what is most needed is actionable information. Agents who are working overtime in building relationships and closing deals definitely require latest IT tools, to be specific BI, big data and analytics tools to take key decisions. In the case of insurance, BI tools can help the agents and brokers to derive key insights on customers and understand their inclination to offer customized products or solutions. BI dashboards will help them to manage relationships effectively. So is the case with banking and investment companies who hire third parties for business development.

Application of analytics comes in different areas like content analytics, context analytics and business analytics. In content analytics unstructured data like call center logs, sensor data, audio, video data can be analyzed to track trends, customer responses, etc. In context analytics data is analyzed to understand the context which is vital to take context based decisions. In business analytics patterns, behaviors or trends are discovered through statistical analysis. Last but not least is predictive analytics where application of techniques like statistical analysis, regression analysis, correlation analysis, cluster analysis, social media analytics etc., are applied for new product development.

Agents are catalysts in information gathering as they move with people and trigger discussions on products and services. Because of this stronger reason, one cannot conclude that agents are on their way out in the disruptive technology era. But at the same time agents should take recourse to IT for their survival as well as the survival of financial services businesses. Let time tell the rest.