January 07, 2008

Over the past several years, Chubb Group's claims IT department has undergone a transformation -- from essentially a utility to a strategic business partner and a transformative force for the company as a whole, according to Chubb senior vice president and claims CIO Jim Knight. At the heart of that transformation, Knight relates, was the Warren, N.J.-based P&C carrier's adoption and development of technology to power an industry-leading claims experience.

Central to that experience, Knight suggests, is Chubb's ($14 billion in 2006 revenue) Claim Vision processing system, which leverages Accenture's (Chicago) Claim Components technology and comprises a first-notice-of-loss (FNOL) system, a claim workstation and a claim financial system. The FNOL system and workstation went live in 2001; the financial system went live with the first line of business in 2002 and was supporting all lines of business by 2005, he says.

According to Knight, the carrier has built upon this technology core in pursuit of a long-term claims automation blueprint, which has included equipping claims adjusters with mobile technology and extending the system to Chubb's Canadian operation in July 2007. The automation blueprint also has driven major development advances, such as the creation of a business intelligence system that saw its first release in 2006 and a predictive modeling initiative due to go live in its first line of business -- workers' comp -- in 2008. Technological advances, particularly in the realm of Web-based capabilities, Knight notes, have enabled Chubb to develop the technology apparatus that powers the claims experience that it provides to its customers.

But the reason Chubb has focused so diligently on creating that experience comes down to a very simple reason, in Knight's view. With apologies to what he describes as the carrier's superb underwriters and other insurance professionals, Knight says, "Claims is the franchise. Our reputation is really how we handle claims, and the better we make the claim department with technology, the better and more sustainable that reputation is."

Anytime, Anywhere

Though Knight is not at liberty to discuss specifics, he says the capability improvements attributable to the Claim Vision implementation and its satellite initiatives have resulted in faster claim cycle times and more-effective claim handling. "We also know that there's value in the anywhere/anytime and the virtualization of claim processing that the system provides," he notes. Across the array of associated initiatives, Knight adds, "The ROI has been positive."

That success is due in part to the effectiveness of Knight's IT organization. "All of the projects have been on-time and on- or under-budget," he points out. "I call the claim IT department the 'Domino's Pizza' of IT -- they deliver."

Knight implies that his group's success, however, would be inconceivable in the absence of what he characterizes as a remarkable degree of alignment between claims IT and its business colleagues. "They are technologically astute and understand the challenges of technology as few business people do, and I have many long-tenured people [in IT] who really understand the business," he says. "We don't need liaisons between us to manage the relationship; we do it directly ourselves, and it has just been phenomenal."

Bill Turnbull, Chubb's SVP, property claims, seconds his IT colleague's sentiments. But he adds that the partnership's success also owes to a more fundamental alignment on Chubb's institutional values and claims philosophy. "It is driven in large part," he insists, "by a commitment to empathy, fairness, promptness, technical expertise and integrity."

Carriers that merely pay lip service to such ideals are unlikely to impress their customers when it matters most, implies Gartner (Stamford, Conn.) principal research analyst Stephen Forte. "The minute something goes wrong in a claim, you're pretty much done," Forte cautions. "You don't get a second chance to redeem yourself -- your customer is going to switch to somebody else."

But a focus on efficiency and pure technological advancement is no substitute for effectiveness, Forte points out. For example, simply equipping adjusters with the latest mobile technology is insufficient for service success, and speed at getting them off the phone and through the system may irritate rather than please customers. "These may be interesting metrics to tout, but at the end of the day, if someone still has a lousy claims experience, none of that stuff matters," says Forte.

Forte prescribes a high-tech/high-touch approach that uses technology to improve the human interaction of call center reps and field adjusters. "Technology is there to help with capabilities such as giving you the specific questions to ask. But if you're a claims rep, your job is to be a people person," he advises. "What comes first is recognition that you have a client that you need to help back to their state prior to whatever has happened to them -- that's why people buy insurance."