EZLynx and Third-Party Data Exchange Services

A Note from the CEO

We have received much feedback from our customers over the past several months on whether, and to what extent, EZLynx will integrate with various third-party services beyond our current integrations. I understand why our customers are frustrated with the slow progress on this front. I felt it was my personal responsibility to explain why we have moved cautiously thus far and elaborate on some of the implications for EZLynx and our agents when integrating with services like these.

I want to make it clear up front that EZLynx considers any data input into our product as belonging to the agency that put it there, and they have full rights over this data with appropriate permissions from the consumer. They can request a complete data backup for a small fee any time, for any reason. We are simply custodians of this data, and we take this responsibility very seriously. By extension, you are also a custodian of the data of each consumer that you do business with. While you have entrusted us with storing and securing that data, your consumers have likewise entrusted you with their data, oblivious to your relationship with us or any other vendor. As consumers, we all tend to believe that we ultimately own our own data, regardless of whether it is being stored on Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or even EZLynx.

EZLynx is a big proponent of industry standards for the purposes of third-party systems being able to talk to each other. This makes an agent’s life much easier. But we also realize how sensitive some of the data that our agents collect from their customers is, and this data gets stored in our system. This information includes personally identifiable information (PII) for all drivers, family members, and commercial contacts of the applicant, credit scoring information, personal information like financial assets owned to include schedules for jewelry, watches and other valuable items, home security details, and driving incidents, including DUI information. The list goes on and on.

I have no doubt in my mind that when a consumer shares their personal information with an insurance agent, they did not agree to, nor was it their intention, that the agent would turn around and make that information available to a variety of third-party services, some of which are not even part of the insurance industry, and many of whom are not even based in the United States. It is quite possible, even very likely, for this kind of information to fall into the wrong hands. In this age of data breaches and ransomware, I am sure you can imagine countless ways in which a bad actor could monetize this information.

We tried very hard to work with some of these third-party service providers for integration opportunities, but they are not willing to take any responsibility for the data with which they would also be custodians, nor have they been willing to share with us their own vendor vetting process.

As a business owner and decision maker, it feels irresponsible to let our customers share information directly between our system and these third-party services without ourselves being fully confident in the data practices of each vendor and without having received exclusive permission from consumers on how their data will be shared.

This stance does not contradict our view that the data we store in our system on your behalf is your data. You can freely remove your data from our system and share it with any services you choose.  However, while the data is retained in our system, we have an obligation to ensure it is protected and that it is only accessible by its rightful owners.

One of the comments we have received is that Google, Facebook, and other online services have not expressed these same concerns when integrating with similar services. I would direct your attention to the fact that this year alone, Facebook has acknowledged that at least 87 million records were breached. This, just on the heels of their political headaches resulting specifically from their own third-party data integrations. Moreover, these services don’t generally have the same kind of sensitive consumer information that our agents store in EZLynx. More importantly, these vendors have gotten into serious trouble with regulators all over the world in the past year. They are being forced to tighten their controls on data sharing and allow consumers, who many consider to be the ultimate owners of the data, to get their data removed upon request.

Finally, these companies are multi-billion-dollar companies that can, and will, fight huge legal battles to defend their business model. I cannot imagine our agents taking on these kinds of legal battles.

So where does this leave agents who are using EZLynx and wanting to integrate with these third-party services? We are currently preparing an integration with Zapier to allow for contact information export and lead information import, though a more extensive integration has been hampered by Zapier’s unwillingness to work with us on defining data security guidelines. EZLynx development work has already begun for this first version, and we hope to have a beta release by early next year.

For additional data sharing with these other services, I do like some of the suggestions that agents have made on our Facebook group, and we are open to implementing these. If you are interested in working with our product management team on defining the data exchange standards for EZLynx, and hopefully for our entire industry, please let us know. We believe that together we can find a middle ground that serves the best interests of EZLynx, the Agent, and the Consumer.

To continue the conversation, join us on our Customer Forums by logging in to EZLynx, clicking the Need Help link on the Dashboard, and then clicking on Forums.


Changes to our Release Process

A Note from the CEO

As most EZLynx users noticed, our product has experienced poor performance recently. This has been the result of a major product update that we have been working to release over the past month – EZLynx version 4.18.09. We ended up rolling back the release to better understand the issue.

My sincere apologies to our customers for any inconvenience this caused. I want to take this opportunity to explain why we do product updates on weekdays and outline some internal changes we have decided to implement to help us avoid another incident like this.

When we are ready to release a new update, we have already done extensive internal analysis, including load metrics to understand as much as possible how the update might perform in our live environment. It is important to understand that it is extremely difficult to guarantee 100% success with any load testing in a real-time transaction system like EZLynx. When our quality assurance team has signed off on the release, we generally target Thursday or Friday for a release so that we can monitor the system performance at a normal level of usage. These days are typically our slower days but still high enough to give us a good feel for the release. This leaves us all weekend to resolve any quick fix issues that are discovered, ensuring that we minimize the possibility of having to roll back the update.

EZLynx takes pride in innovation and pushing the boundaries of what technology can do. We constantly make improvements to our products so that we can bring new and exciting features to your agency regularly – and we will continue to do so.

However, to ensure our users have a consistent experience when using our product, we will begin implementing a more staggered release plan so that we can be confident in the stability of the update as it is being released. This should avoid major product outages and performance issues because of a new release.

I know many of you have been eagerly anticipating the enhancements that are included in the 4.18.09 release. Our focus is to release those enhancements in smaller batches over the coming weeks and months, and we will do so in a way that does not cause any future outages.

We thank you for your support all these years, and I promise we will try harder to avoid problems like this going forward.


EZLynx Roadmap for 2017

A Note from the CEO

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic 2016! Based on the results of our annual customer survey, it seems you did – and we’re ready to help make 2017 even better.

The biggest highlight of 2016 for EZLynx came in October when we hosted our first AgentLynx User Conference in Dallas. Thank You to everyone that was able to attend! We had good participation from our agents and all our product sessions were extremely well attended. For me personally it was great to meet our customers face-to-face and listen to their feedback about our products. We are looking forward to the next AgentLynx User Conference to be held in San Diego sometime in March/April of 2018. Please be sure to register as soon as we make our announcement because we will be limiting the number of attendees.

EZLynx continues to make big strides in the industry. EZLynx was again acknowledged as the fastest growing management system vendor and is now the third biggest vendor behind Vertafore and Applied, according to the Big “I” and Future One 2016 Agency Universe study. More amazingly, our market share with EZLynx Rating Engine has continued to grow and is now a dominant number one in the market. I want to personally thank all our customers who chose EZLynx over other products and also enthusiastically responded to these industry surveys. I can assure you without your support EZLynx would not be the product it is today. Thanks once again from all of our employees.

We made some big new product announcements at AgentLynx 2016 – EZLynx Sales Center and an Amazon Alexa skill for agency owners. EZLynx Sales Center is an add-on product that lets agents manage their prospects and opportunities during the sales process. Similar to Retention Center, it is a highly optimized tool that helps keep all the information about your prospects at your fingertips. Sales Center has fantastic metrics with sales performance dashboards customized for each user. Sales Center will continue to evolve in 2017 with more features in the pipeline to include support for lead generator integration, EZLynx Consumer Quoting integration, custom fields, and more management reporting options. Please contact our sales team if you are interested in learning more about this innovative product.

Our Amazon Alexa skill started out as a playful experiment amongst our development team but soon turned out to be something bigger. We are fully committed to enhancing this app in the future based on your feedback. Alexa employs state of the art speech processing technology to parse your voice commands and provide meaningful responses. To be honest, Alexa is addictive and full of surprises once you start using it. I encourage our management system users to give our Alexa skill a try by searching for EZLynx from the Alexa app on your mobile device. Please note you do need to purchase an Alexa device from Amazon to be able to use this feature. Keep watching for more Alexa integrations in 2017!

I would like to quickly review what I outlined in my 2016 New Year’s article and update you on our progress. I made a promise to deliver a single platform customer lifecycle solution that can solve the challenges faced by our agents. Sales Center is an outstanding example of this. We realize how challenging the sales process can be, especially if you have multiple employees selling with different customer touch points. Sales Center centralizes all the activities under one screen and keeps all your employees on the same page. If you are an agency owner or a sales manager, it offers great reports and dashboards to monitor the performance of your team.

I also promised to make improvements to EZLynx Management System in 2016. We worked hard to build commercial features like manual policy data entry, quote proposals, applications, and ACORD® form support. We still have a few more commercial lines yet to support, but I expect to complete all lines by the end of 2017’s second quarter.

We made various other management system improvements with agency workspace, document management, and reporting that are too many to list.

EZLynx Accounting was seriously upgraded in 2016. We now have full support for branch accounting with integrated GL support for QuickBooks online.

If you are one of those rating customers waiting for our management system to fully mature, this may be the time. We have a solid data conversion team that will work with you to move your current policy data to EZLynx from more than 25 different management systems in less than 10 weeks. Please contact our sales team for more information. I can assure you that you will not regret your decision to move to EZLynx Management System!

I also promised to improve EZLynx Communication Center in 2016 with enhancements to Email Campaigns. You can now leverage our robust reporting feature by using your saved reports for bulk email blasts. Our reports allow you to create highly targeted upsell/cross-sell campaigns, and in turn, generate more leads from your existing customer data. We also added Custom Domains to help reduce spam blocking and to increase email open rate. Simply validate the domain that you use for email and our system will be able to send emails out on your behalf rather than under our own domain.

EZLynx Client Center was another product that I promised to improve in 2016. We have upgraded the user interface with a clean, modern look that is fully mobile responsive so that it behaves the same on any screen size. We also added support for commercial clients to add their own certificate holders and generate new certificates from within Client Center. This feature will let you offload some of this work to your customers while still allowing you to retain control over who gets access.

Looking Ahead…

Agency profitability, productivity, and serviceability have always been our focus areas. Beginning in 2017, agency automation is our new target area. We believe our users can experience significant gains in all levels of profitability, productivity, and serviceability by using system data to intelligently automate actions. We have exciting plans to make this happen with new EZLynx tools!

One goal of this type of automation is to allow you and your employees to focus more time on revenue-generating tasks. Through data analytics and business intelligence we feel confident that many of these processes can be automated without degrading the customer service experience. To the contrary, we believe this will actually improve the customer experience in the long run.

Our relentless focus on enhancing EZLynx Management System continues in 2017. We are already hard at work on enhancing commercial support, advanced accounting features, and much more. MAPs, or Market Access Providers, are another focus area for us in 2017. EZLynx Rating Engine is already the best rating product for this market with its built-in messaging and private carrier support. We plan to enhance some of these features to add support for policy management and policy servicing.

While I do not want to reveal the full scope of our Roadmap for competitive reasons, make no mistake that we have a vision for 2017 and beyond to make EZLynx the ultimate solution for independent agents.

I hope you have another prosperous year with EZLynx!


Hey Agent, Kill the Music!

As you have probably read by now, we have had yet another private equity transaction in our industry to acquire control of a major agency system vendor. This particular vendor has changed hands three times since Y2K alone, and I don’t foresee this trend stopping anytime soon. I am sure we all can surmise reasonably well as to which vendor is next in line to change hands.

There is a game of musical chairs being played in our industry right now, and it’s happening at the agent’s expense! Agents should be concerned that one result of these ownership changes may be price increases with little or no investment in the vendor’s product. These private equity companies may well be counting on the control these vendors exert over the agent’s data and are making a bet that they can hold or increase their revenue without much pushback. Don’t let yourself be held hostage to your own data!

How do we stop this madness, you ask?

It is hard to point fingers at the private equity companies, since they have the fiduciary responsibility of increasing their ROI. The real blame falls on the independent agent. The agent is in full control of this game of musical chairs, but they just don’t know it. If agents will simply kill the music and walk away, these other vendors will quickly find that their chairs have been taken away.

As the vendor with the fastest growth in market share, EZLynx has demonstrated that changing agency management systems can be a painless process. Don’t let other vendors leave you feeling intimidated at the thought of changing your system. With a dedicated team of migration specialists, many agents have successfully switched to our product in less than 8 weeks! EZLynx is truly dedicated to improving our industry, and we work hard every day to make sure your agency costs remain sustainable. We believe that the cost structure of the independent agency model can be improved for the benefit of our industry. So, I challenge you to put an end to this game of musical chairs that these vendors are playing at your expense. Kill the music and end this game!

Find out how EZLynx can help your agency change systems, save money, and increase your productivity.


EZLynx Roadmap for 2016

A Note from the CEO

Happy New Year! It is that time of the year when we take a look back at the previous year and make plans for this year. EZLynx made fantastic progress in 2015 on several fronts. EZLynx® Management System has made steady progress in the market, and we added a record number of agents. We also added several large agencies with $100M+ book size. This tells me that our product is being taken seriously and agents feel confident with our future strategy and roadmap.

Our strategy for 2016 remains unwavering – deliver a single platform customer lifecycle solution that relies on innovation to solve the challenges that independent agents face.

Retention Center

To that end, our biggest release last year was EZLynx Retention Center, which monitors all the upcoming renewals in an agency and provides a prioritized list for the day. This is both a product and a service that comes with on-going collaboration by our team to help each agency follow the best practices for renewal processing. With Retention Center, EZLynx has once again pushed the boundary of what a management system should do for an agency. Agents who have been using Retention Center and following our process have seen a consistent increase in their retention rate.

Reporting

I made a commitment to make it easier to extract agency performance numbers from our system. We have released a brand new reporting platform integrated into EZLynx, which allows agencies that use EZLynx Management System to extract complicated reports and charts. In addition, agents can define their own reports and make them available to other users within the agency. Coming this year, you will also be able to schedule your custom reports to run automatically and have the results emailed to you. We are also constantly improving our monthly Agency Pulse® report to include even more useful information to help agents with their day to day decisions. I strongly recommend agencies that do not use our management system take a close look at our reporting capabilities.

Workflow

Our Agency Workspace feature is a fantastic workflow tool that lets agents keep track of their tasks and notifications in one place. In addition to upcoming enhancements to Agency Workspace that will add support for team tasks, we also have exciting plans for taking our entire Workflow engine to the next level in 2016. Watch for more details in the coming months.

Mobile

As promised, we made good progress with mobile support for EZLynx in 2015. Our mobile-optimized version now support EZLynx Text Messaging, as well as our enhancements to Notes and Tasks. We plan to add additional mobile support throughout this year as well.

Looking Ahead…

Management System

EZLynx Management System will continue to be our focus in 2016. Our new reporting tool is just the start, and we will continue to add new features to help give you the insight you need to manage your agencies.

Email Campaigns

We have also released an update to our integrated insurance email marketing campaign tool to lay the foundation for the enhancements we plan to make throughout this year. In addition to over 50 email design and 200 email content samples, you can now create multi-step drip campaigns for both individual applicants and bulk segments of your EZLynx data. Over the coming months we will address many of the suggestions that we have received from our users as we work to turn this feature into a powerful and useful part of your daily workflow.

Client Center

EZLynx Client Center will receive quite a bit of our focus this year as we bring enhancements to make both you and your customer’s lives easier. In addition to a new login process, we will also be adding greater support and features for commercial customers, streamlined consumer communication features, improved mobile support, and more.

The EZLynx Way

Finally, I want to reiterate our philosophy at EZLynx. We approach every project with this same simple idea – how can we help agents be more productive in this increasingly competitive industry. Our goal is to build a system that will help your agency for the next 20 years. We try hard to offer the best customer service to our users; likewise, we want to empower our users to offer the best possible customer service to their own customers through the use of our tools and services.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me below for any comment, question or suggestion you might have. Wishing you a prosperous 2016!


The E&O Risks with Non-Downloading Carriers

Nag Rao, EZLynx CEOOur world, whether we like it or not, has become always-on and fully connected. This is especially true for the insurance industry, which is so heavily dependent on accurate and timely information.

When we decided to build an agency management system into EZLynx, it was our goal to build a system that was more than the ‘glorified notepad’ offered by our competition. It was our goal to not only parse and process the policy information that comes from the carrier as part of their daily download, but also to do something useful for the agency with that information.

EZLynx Retention Center® demonstrates this design philosophy. Agents who are subscribed to our patented Retention Center can see an intelligently prioritized list of renewals to work on as part of their daily workflow. The way this product is designed, agents work down their list of renewals in Retention Center from highest priority to lowest priority, with the goal of clearing all the high priority renewals from the Retention Center as quickly as possible using our proven process – ultimately improving their overall agency and carrier retention rates along the way!

This brings us to the problem of carriers who don’t download. EZLynx Retention Center switches to complete manual mode for the policies from those carriers. Although it still displays the upcoming renewal based on the manually entered expiration date[1], it still means the agent is responsible for manually maintaining all the policy information, including renewals and changes, within EZLynx. This imposes a severe burden on agency retention staff, who are already stretched thin by trying to keep up with renewals.

From what we have seen in the real world with Retention Center, agents simply forget or don’t bother to update manual policy information, which pretty much makes it impossible to effectively manage the renewals. We regularly see manual policies slipping through the cracks during renewal time. Not only could this be a serious E&O risk for many agencies if they forget to check on the carrier site for non-renewals, but it’s also a terrible experience for the customer, who often chooses an independent agent for the personal touch!

Another big example of the negative impact of non-downloading carriers within EZLynx is the lack of full policy self-servicing support for these policy holders in EZLynx Client Center. EZLynx Client Center allows the agency customer to go to their agent’s website 24/7 and log in to their account. They can print their proof of insurance, ask their agent a question, request a change to their policies, and more.

The simple fact is that carriers hurt both their agents and themselves when they choose not to download information into an agent’s management system – especially a smart agency management system like EZLynx. If the agents are writing with carriers who don’t download to save money for their customers, they do so at a high financial cost for their business and a watered down level of service for their customers.

This begs the question as to why agents work with carriers who do not download, and what agents can do about it. As is clear from the above examples, if the agents are doing this to help their customers, the opposite may in fact be happening. Next time you want to write a policy with a non-downloading carrier, please think twice. Consider letting carriers know that you’re less likely to present their rate to the consumer due to the increased financial burden of servicing and renewing a manual policy. Carriers rely on independent agents to be their extended sales and customer service arm. At the very least, they could work to make sure you have the most up to date information and resources at your fingertips.

Learn more about EZLynx Management System, EZLynx Client Center, and EZLynx Retention Center

[1] The sentence was amended to point out that Retention Center still alerts agents of expiring manual policies.


Industry Consolidation Brings Uncertainty for Agents

A Note from the CEOAs you may already know, there were two insurance industry company acquisitions announced in the past few weeks. The two major vendors are now once again in the process of consolidating their market positions through acquisition, rather than providing superior products and services. Given the availability of easy liquidity in the market, it was rather surprising that it took so long for this buy-out fever to reach our industry.

The general rule of thumb with these kinds of acquisitions is the weak gets consumed by the strong. If you happen to be the customer of one of these acquired products, it puts you in an extremely precarious situation. You suddenly don’t know what is coming next and where the product you have come to rely on is headed. There is nothing worse to deal with in a business than uncertainty!

That Raises the Question – What about EZLynx?

EZLynx prides itself on being independent (just like you!) and out-of-the-box thinkers. We have always believed that our industry has had too many meaningless players with no long term plans, and simply put, are in it to make a fast buck. These acquisitions are good at cleaning up the industry and increasing the opportunity for the remaining players like EZLynx. In fact, we believe that our entry into the agency management system market has made such a dramatic impact on the marketplace that it has resulted in some of these acquisitions. Either way, if you happen to be our customers, you can rest easy knowing that EZLynx is in it for the long haul.

The EZLynx® Platform, which is a single system for comparative rating, management system, retention tools, and marketing tools, is a very compelling solution that most agencies are finding hard to resist. Our management system is now the third most popular system in the market and the fastest growing system in the last two years as per the latest industry survey.

Our latest groundbreaking solution for policy renewal management, EZLynx Retention Center™, is a revolutionary product that has dramatically changed how agents manage their renewals. Agents who are using this product cannot stop raving about the successes they are experiencing.

We will continue as always to bring more innovative products to market in the coming months and years. That is the fundamental difference between EZLynx and these other companies – We believe that building a superior product and putting the needs of our users first is how to win in this industry.

It is our ultimate goal to streamline and enhance every business function of an agency with our One Platform solution. We feel our industry is under attack from well-funded outsiders, and it is our responsibility to empower our agents with a suite of tools to fight this challenge.

To learn more about EZLynx Retention Center, you can watch a testimonial video from one of our users here.


Introducing EZLynx Retention Center

A New Era in Policy Renewal Management

In the EZLynx Roadmap for 2015, I dropped a hint about a big new product announcement coming later this year. Well, here it is…

I would like to announce the release of a ground breaking product called EZLynx Retention Center for personal lines renewal management, available as an add-on to EZLynx Management System customers only. We are extremely proud of this product because it has taken nearly 24 months of hard work to get from conception to release, and it’s as revolutionary as our original real-time rating tool!

EZLynx strongly believes that personal lines is under direct attack from other industries. One way for small agencies to combat this challenge is to be smart about how you service policies and manage renewals. EZLynx Retention Center addresses the daunting task of renewal management. With Retention Center, you no longer wait for your customer to call and complain about rate hikes at renewal. Instead, our system will identify on a daily basis those customers that you are most at risk of losing so that you can focus your efforts in the right place. As part of our twelve month beta program, several agencies used EZLynx Retention Center and, not surprisingly, noticed a huge increase in retention!

I want to spend some time impressing upon you the importance of retention. I have always been surprised during any one-on-one conversation with agents on the question of what their agency retention rate is. Agents are never sure of what their exact agency retention numbers are, but they always think it’s good. We have identified a solid and obtainable agency retention rate as being in the 90-95% range. However, you may be surprised to hear that the average retention rate across all EZLynx agencies was only around 75%.

Three years ago we made it one of our goals to attack this problem head-on for our customers. As a first step, we started delivering a monthly email report called EZLynx Agency Pulse for all EZLynx Management System customers. In addition to agency retention numbers, Agency Pulse has several key agency performance metrics that we believe every agency owner should be using as a guide to manage their business. As our second step, EZLynx Retention Center removes the drudgery of trying to manually manage your renewals.

During our beta testing, we worked with 5 large agencies to gauge just what kind of results we could see with this tool. To our delight, and to that of our beta agencies, we found that with very little effort agents were able to hit our 90-95% retention target within 3 months! Think about that…

For a book size of $10M, that’s at least $100,000 in additional annual revenue!

We believe that EZLynx Retention Center is a powerful tool that can help your business become more profitable. We have several exciting tools in development that continue our trend of finding innovative ways to help independent agents manage their top and bottom line.

Please remember that in order to enjoy the benefits of our complete customer lifecycle solution, the first step is to switch to EZLynx Management System!


Empowering your Agency – EZLynx Roadmap for 2015

A Note from the CEOGreetings to all EZLynx users! 2014 is coming to end soon, so it’s time to lay out our roadmap for the coming year as we continue to develop impactful tools to help grow your business. This year, we reached our 10 year anniversary! This is a huge milestone considering how we started and where we are today.

Another big highlight of 2014 is our market penetration ranking as per the 2014 Future One and Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s Agency Universe Study. Thanks to our loyal customers, EZLynx Management System is now 3rd in the market with 6% market share, right behind Applied TAM and Vertafore 360. This is an incredible accomplishment considering our management system has only been on the market for two years and began with 1% market penetration at the end of 2012. Thanks again to all of those EZLynx Management System customers – I promise you have made the right decision!

A look back at 2014…

At this time last year I wrote a similar article and I highlighted the following features as priorities for 2014. Below is an update to all our users on the progress in these areas.

  1. Agency Analytics and Agency Metrics
  2. Agency Process Automation
  3. Commercial Support

Our monthly Agency Pulse report that is emailed automatically to all management system agencies has continued to improve with more useful metrics. I can tell how addicted our agents are to this report based on the frequent feedback we receive each month. Our emails and phones light up with questions and feedback as they anxiously await the report and after they receive it. We will continue to enhance this report in 2015 with a companion online portal which will include historical and trend analysis tools.

We made the most progress with Agency Process Automation in 2014 and we are not done yet. EZLynx 4.0 release was a milestone release with respect to agency workflow and agency process automation. EZLynx 4.0 uniquely combines notes, tasks and notifications under the banner of our ‘Agency Workspace’ to allow agents to efficiently manage their day-to-day agency activities. Without divulging a lot of details, suffice it to say that we have some fantastic things in the works for 2015 with regard to Agency Process Automation and Workflow.

EZLynx Management System has made tremendous progress with commercial features. EZLynx has always had good support for downloaded commercial LOB policies with full support for ACORD forms and certificate generation. However we felt that our support for manual commercial policy processing wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be for our agents, and it was set as a priority for 2014. We have made tremendous progress in this area in 2014. We now have a beta feature being tested by some of our agents that allows them to create manual commercial applications and policies with complete support for policy certificates and other policy document generation. Keep an eye out for more updates on this.

Other Enhancements this Year

EZLynx also released fully integrated SMS Text Messaging support in 2014. This is an extremely popular feature that has been adopted by our agents very rapidly. Using this feature an EZLynx user can send and receive short SMS text messages with their clients. We all know how difficult it is to reach consumers via email, especially when they are at their workplace. EZLynx Text Messaging makes this communication a breeze while also documenting everything for E&O purposes.

Looking ahead to 2015…

I am always amazed when I talk to agency owners about how difficult it is for them to extract important agency performance numbers from their current management systems before they come to EZLynx. I have made it our business goal to fix this problem with our management system. We want to build features that will provide all the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for our agency owners with a few clicks of the mouse. We really believe that every agency owner should let their KPI drive the agency decisions.

We will continue to build out our workflow feature so agents can automate their day-to-day agency activities with ease. EZLynx 4.0 was just the first step towards automating this and we will continue to enhance this feature in 2015. Watch for more announcements in this space.

We have also decided to keep EZLynx Mobile in sync with our desktop version going forward. This means an EZLynx user can switch between the mobile and desktop versions without losing a lot of productivity. It is important to note that certain features like agent-facing quoting is just not mobile friendly and is not something that will be available. However, we will continue to enhance the mobile support of all of our consumer-facing products such as quoting and client center in 2015 as well.

Finally, I want to explain the underlying design philosophy with EZLynx Management System. We believe a smart agency management system should drive an agency and not the other way around like all the existing management systems out there. A smart agency management system should act like an employee of the agency and understand what is happening in an agency based on the information coming into the system in order to make automated decisions. Expect more of these kind of features from EZLynx in 2015.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


How the Lack of Innovation Hurts our Industry

In April 2014 we celebrate the 10th anniversary of signing our first customer.  EZLynx has come a long way in that decade and, much against the wishes of some vested industry players, we have established ourselves as a successful, credible vendor in the industry. There is only one reason why EZLynx was able to accomplish this – innovation!

At EZLynx, we have always taken pride in delivering inventive solutions for vexing agency problems. I am proud of the culture of innovation we foster and encourage within the organization.  Unfortunately, looking at the industry as a whole, these 10 years have made clear why innovation in our industry is almost non-existent.

Now one of the easiest ways to encourage progressive thinking in any business is through competition and by encouraging new vendors to enter the marketplace. However, there hasn’t been any new vendor make a significant impact in our industry since EZLynx made headlines. This is a regrettable reflection on the status quo, and it will have a significant long term impact for us collectively.  Encouraging fresh ideas industry-wide is key to improving the situation, and to do this it’s important to understand first what it takes to cultivate innovation. The three fundamental requirements to do this are: open data standards, de-regulated industry and a culture of risk taking which encourages new ideas.

With our industry significantly regulated now and for the near future, it must be understood that we have to accept this as an obstacle towards originality. Indeed most well-known venture capitalists generally shy away from regulated industries because of this difficulty.  It signifies the unpredictable nature of our industry, which leads to an unpredictable ROI.   This has contributed to the lack of innovation, but for certain it has not destroyed it.

This leads us towards our second point, creating a culture of risk taking and fresh thinking.  While the business of risk management is traditionally averse to taking risks, permitting this attitude to prevail often creates apathy toward new technology and shying away from new ideas.  In addition, the depth of domain knowledge needed to create new products plays a huge role in deterring new vendors from entering the industry.  As with regulation, this factor is significant but isn’t fully responsible for the innovation problem.  I still believe that with a compelling product, built on a powerful idea, a new vendor can still establish themselves amongst us.  EZLynx is a good example of this!

With regard to open data standards, I encourage you to take a look at most other industries, especially finance, and you’ll see that the data exchange standards are very well defined. Ours also has defined standards, thanks to ACORD’s efforts, but regrettably most do not seem to follow or respect the standards. When we work with carriers for rating integration, one of their constant complaints is that EZLynx is a stickler to the standards, while other vendors are not, which slows down implementation with us. Our answer is always the same – standards are created to be followed. I do wish other vendors and carriers would make the same commitment to diligently following standards.  Imagine how much farther ahead we would be as an industry by now!

In the short term this non-compliance strengthens the existing big players, which is why the incentive to follow standards will not be spearheaded by them. In the long term this hurts who we all serve, which is the customer through our agency channel.  Standards compliance is, and must be, driven by companies like ours, with important help from Carriers too.

Finally, I want to mention some contributing efforts EZLynx is making to encourage new vendors. We announced a new EZLynx Marketplace concept in 2012, which allows third party vendors to integrate with our product and offer their services to our customers. As part of this architecture we introduced four new products in 2013 – eSignature, Lead Management, Policy Accounting and Bulk Email Campaigns. We will continue to promote this concept in 2014 to bring more vendors to our Marketplace platform. I strongly urge all of you to make a New Year’s commitment to follow the industry standards and encourage innovation – our industry will be better for it.