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Hurricane Sandy Proved A Perfect Storm To Test Insurers' Mobile Capabilities

Wide use of mobile technologies lets insurers engage better with claimants, adjusters and others across a spectrum of communications, business continuity and claims handling activities.

Amica's Long Island office was without power for a week, but the carrier ensured that operations continued in "virtual office" mode through the use of laptops and air cards, St. Onge says.

Mobile technology also helped Stamford, Conn.-based XL Group ($46.0 billion in total assets; world headquarters Dublin, Ireland) to ensure uninterrupted service to customers and business partners during Hurricane Sandy. Eight out of the company's 10 offices in the Northeast, located from Exton, Pa., to Boston, were affected during the first two days of the storm, according to CIO Robin Arendt. "We had zero downtime because all of our colleagues had remote access," she says. "Our New Jersey-based data center went on generator power within eight hours of the storm striking."

XL's first priority was to ensure the safety of its associates, an objective the company helped secure through the use of Dell's (Round Rock, Texas) AlertFind enterprise notification system, according to Marler Beebe, XL's global business continuity/disaster recovery leader. "AlertFind allows us to send a variety of messages, customized by location, through a variety of channels," Beebe explains. "It's also a two-way system, not just pushing out information but receiving as well."

XL also used NC4 Risk Center (El Segundo, Calif.) to inform its communications and operational response to the storm via real-time email and text alerts. "It's a source of situational intelligence that gives us real-time information on hazards that could affect office locations, such as those related to infrastructure, power or other incidents," Beebe says. For example, the vendor issued alerts related to XL's Stamford offices on the day of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., owing to the company's proximity to the school.

[Inside the Sandy Claims Response: From the Front Lines]

To ensure business continuity in the field, XL set up roughly 50 wireless hotspots, according to Arendt. While the provisioning was relatively simple -- requiring only the invocation of the service from wireless providers to mobile devices -- it not only kept claims adjusters on the job but also provided a business continuity capability to business partners. "We aided partners asking us to support renewals, among other services," Arendt recalls. "We did quite a bit of work on behalf of our brokers during what in some cases was a week and a half of downtime. As a result, what could have been a very bad situation ended up being a positive experience."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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Anthony R. O'Donnell
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Anthony R. O'Donnell,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/26/2013 | 1:30:36 PM
re: Hurricane Sandy Proved A Perfect Storm To Test Insurers' Mobile Capabilities
One benefit of this incident was that the mobile system itself stayed up. Thinking back to 9/11, I wonder whether there's the possibility of building new resilience or redundancy into the mobile communication system.
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2013 | 1:25:00 PM
re: Hurricane Sandy Proved A Perfect Storm To Test Insurers' Mobile Capabilities
I think the mobile strategy successes that insurers saw during Hurricane Sandy can only lead to even better planning in the future. Not only were insurers able to take advantage of image capturing capabilities and apps via smartphones, but the most important use of mobile, in my opinion, was the issuance of safety warnings, shelter information, and other support services that helped keep customers safe and informed during the storm and in the aftermath. Insurers who were able to use mobile to direct staff to problem areas were able to show their customers that they were at least doing the best they could to reach them and assess the damage as soon as possible.
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