The insurance industry is transforming, turning to technology to create new business and services models: Applied Systems

Taylor Rhodes, Chief Executive Officer, leads Team Applied and is responsible for the company’s overall strategy and operational execution. Rhodes joined Applied in 2019 after serving as chief executive officer of SMS Assist, the leading cloud-based software platform for multi-site property management. Previously, he was CEO of Rackspace, where he led the Company’s growth from a cloud pioneer to an industry leader with more than two billion dollars in revenue, while establishing the company as a mainstay on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®. Prior to Rackspace, he served as a leader in enterprise, financial and corporate strategy roles at Electronic Data Systems Corporation. Mr. Rhodes is a former United States Marine Corps infantry officer and holds a MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves on the board of directors for Applied, Zenoss and Liquid Web, LLC.

In Conversation with Taylor Rhodes, Founder of Applied Systems

Why was the Applied Systems started? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?

For more than 35 years, Applied Systems has led an industry we helped to create with a mission to continuously improve the business of insurance. Insurance agencies and brokerages have faced new challenges and demands on their businesses over time, and we have been there to guide them. Beginning with our first agency management system, Applied led the way through innovation and expanded the product offering to what it is today – the Digital Agency solution. The Applied Digital Agency includes a foundational management system, customer service technology and insurer connectivity, enabling agents to do what they do best – serve and help protect what matters most in people’s lives.

What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?

Our customers are at the core of everything we do. Customer feedback is essential when creating and evolving our product set. Applied is proud to have a 9.3 Net Promoter Score because of the attention we give to customer feedback. Compared to other players in our industry, Applied and its products are consistently rated high by its users. For example, G2’s Grid for Insurance Agency Management Software, ranked by customer satisfaction on user reviews and market presence, shows that Applied Epic is a stand-out leader in the market. According to G2’s research on the users of Applied Epic:

  • 91% of reviewers said it was easy to do business using Applied Epic
  • 90% of reviewers would recommend Applied Epic
  • 95% of reviewers think Applied Epic is headed in the right direction
  • 92% of reviewers are satisfied with the quality of support offered for Applied Epic

These scores motivate Applied to continue innovating to make the global business of insurance more efficient and profitable. One of our core values is to exceed expectations, so it is a core promise to deliver the solutions that will enable our customers to reach their goals.

Fostering culture is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?

Company culture is a key initiative for Applied. We recently hired a Chief People Officer who has worked to create a culture around transparency and innovation, putting together a team to support Applied employees in building on the best of our past, elevating our culture by living out our values, celebrating our unique differences, and empowering Team Applied to innovate and lead at every level.

As part of this initiative, Applied laid out five goals:

  • Drive Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging
    • For Example: Putting on events, having speakers and using Slack channels to provide a space for all of Team Applied to learn more and appreciate our differences
  • Launch a clear set of “Values in Action” that bring our Vision and Values to life
    • For Example: Taking those core values and defining ‘how’ to put them to work
  • Design a culture charter that captures Applied competencies, vision and values for Team Applied to rally around
  • Ignite a culture of continuous learning and transparent communications
    • For Example: Giving Team Applied easier access to education. Applied recently provided access to LinkedIn Learning for the entire organization.
  • Celebrate culture champions via a variety of recognition programs
    • For Example: Applied All-Stars, a new Applied recognition program, has been put in place where any Applied employee can nominate another employee. Those nominations are announced monthly.

About the adaptability, how do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this high volatile market?

Staying relevant happens when you deliver on what your customers need. Our customers need reliable technology and support which we have delivered for more than 35 years. A few years ago, Applied launched Follow-the-Sun Support in which clients can always connect with a live support technician from one of our global or local offices. Follow-the-Sun Support provides our customers technical knowledge and first-level support – anytime, anywhere and at no additional charge.

Ongoing training is also essential for keeping customers engaged and making sure they are optimizing their technology investments. As an education partner, Applied University is available to train all new users of our software. From instructor-led classes to online tutorials, we provide the continual education our customer’s business needs to gain the most value from their Applied technology investment.

If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest asset to your organization, what would they be and why?

  1. Applied’s customers – Our customers drive Applied and all that we do. We work hand-in-hand to create the industry’s most innovative technology that works best for each agency’s unique challenges and goals.
  2. Team Applied – Applied would be nothing without its team. Team Applied shows up every day living our core values, pushing to always innovate, leading our industry, exceeding expectations, doing the right thing, working with great people, and being results-oriented, all with the mission to enable agents and insurers to safeguard and protect what matters most in people’s lives.
  3. Support and professional services – Applied’s Support and Professional Services teams are second to none in the insurance industry. We are the only agent vendor in insurance to have 24/7 support and our 95.5% customer retention rate reflects that.
  4. Innovative technology – Applied is at the forefront of insurance technology, leading the way through innovation. As the insurance industry becomes increasingly global, we are delivering new technology and expanded multinational capabilities for this changing marketplace.
  5. Google partnership – In 2018, Google, through its growth investment fund, CapitalG, made a sizable minority investment in Applied. This investment supports Applied’s focus on accelerated growth through innovative technology for the global insurance market and brings Applied access to Google’s people, expertise and culture.

Customer service varies, but companies can still be successful. How do you maintain the quality of your services?

Customer service is crucial for Applied. Along with Follow-the-Sun Support and Applied University, Applied offers customized consulting solutions driven by industry best practices to meet insurance agencies’ and brokerages’ changing business goals and strategies. Applied Data Services allow insurance agencies and brokerages to realize greater value from their data with secure, efficient data conversion when moving to an Applied agency management system and efficient methodologies to minimize business disruption.

In 2020, Applied achieved:

  • Customer retention rates of more than 95%; high customer satisfaction across the entire product portfolio
  • 44,000 hours of educational course work for all Applied agency management systems
  • 58,000 hours of customer experience consulting
  • 93% of issues handled in the first customer call

What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?

Over the last 35 years, Applied has led the insurance industry in innovation, enabling agents, brokers and insurers to work better together through the use of digital technology. To highlight recent years, Applied has shown its commitment to the industry, investing in its technology and services to deliver greater value and connectivity to its customers and the industry at large. Applied invested a record amount into research and development – more than $35 million – in 2020. New product launches and ongoing software updates with hundreds of enhancements ensure agencies and brokerages have access to new and greater capabilities for their business, including enhanced mobility, online customer self-service and connectivity.

Applied is also one of the most acquisitive companies in the insurance software industry, signifying its commitment to incorporating the most innovative and effective capabilities into its product portfolio while also delivering seamless integrations to industry-agnostic solutions for its customers.

How do you and your company contribute to the society at large?

Applied encourages its employees to give back to their communities in both time and donations. Applied gives its employees time off to work with charities, as well as provides opportunities for Team Applied to give donations, such as:

  • The International Red Cross – During COVID-19, Team Applied donated $50,000 from their paychecks, which Applied matched to donate a total of $100,000 to the suffering families and communities in India.
  • Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) – Applied promotes the IICF’s regional organizations
  • Local charities – Applied matches donations each December for:
    • S. – Toys for Tots
    • Canada/Mississauga and Montreal offices – The Salvation Army
    • Canada/Windsor, ON – Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society
    • UK/Brighton – Sussex Homeless Support
    • Ireland/Belfast – Simon Community
    • Ireland/Dublin & Galway – Mental Health Ireland

Do you have any new products or services ready to be/getting ready to be launched?

Applied will be launching Applied Epic Quotes for commercial lines during Applied Net, its annual user conference in August. The solution is seamlessly integrated into Applied Epic, the world’s most widely used and fastest growing agency management system, to automate the appetite and quoting process for agents. Rather than having to manage quotes across multiple, individual insurers that require data re-entry in each portal, agents can collect data, find in-appetite markets and submit all in a single system to create a simpler and connected commercial lines quoting experience.

About your plans, where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

Applied will be continuing to transform its technology with the help of Google, creating technology for the entire insurance ecosystem that creates greater productivity, intelligence, simplicity and value.