February 09, 2012

For regional insurance companies that support independent agencies exclusively to sell their personal and commercial lines products to customers, a positive relationship with those independent agents is critical. And it is becoming increasingly important to incorporate world-class technology to allow our agents be more productive.

At Donegal Insurance Group (more than $600 million in 2011 premium), a Marietta, Pa.-based multiline P&C carrier, we know that ease of doing business is a key factor in determining our value to our independent agencies. That is why Donegal is making the investment to continually develop technology that is equivalent or superior to our competition's technology.

Several years ago, Donegal Insurance Group rolled out WritePRO, a fully automated, proprietary underwriting, policy issuance and change-processing system for personal lines. Donegal also offers WriteBiz, a similar system for business insurance that we customized in partnership with Vertafore. And this year we are rolling out WriteFARM, a new, fully automated underwriting and policy issuance system for farm insurance that also was developed in-house. Agent-tested and improved based on agent feedback, the automated systems make quoting and issuing policies quick and easy.

Today's technology is more advanced and sophisticated than ever, but it is imperative to independent agencies that carriers continue to look for ways to refine and improve on that technology. For Donegal, our agents' input is critical as we enhance what technology can do for them. It's an ongoing process and one that requires Donegal's continual focus and commitment.


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With the implementation of proprietary technologies such as Change Processing in commercial lines and Pre-Fill for personal lines, we provide our agents with best-of-class ease of doing business. The company's long-term direction is to stay committed to the independent agency system, since it believes that this distribution system offers the best value to the consumer.

Agents React

Since each insured's situation is unique, carriers are using technology to enable agents to provide coverage options that work for a client's specific insurance goals. Donegal offers product information that is linked to our commercial and personal lines quoting/processing systems, making it easy to offer unique coverages. Here are some reactions to our capabilities from our agents:

"Donegal has dramatically changed their automation and [has] become incredibly easy to do business with." --Annemarie Engquist, Personal Lines Specialist, Total Insurance Planning (Midlothian, Va.)

"Donegal is absolutely one of my favorite companies to work with. The technology is great." --Robin Lobus, Williamsburg Insurance Associates (Williamsburg, Va.)

The response from our agents illustrates that even with technological advances, being responsive to independent agents should remain a primary focus of a regional insurance carrier. While the time and investment required to continually search for new ways to make the job easier for agents is significant, industry experts say wise companies understand the importance of never being satisfied.

Donegal remains committed to the independent agency system and offering technology, products and service that set us apart. Donegal has focused on its web portal as well as its policy systems. Providing easy access to policy information, a dashboard, policy forms, cooperative advertising, claims information, billing and accounting has enhanced our agents' appreciation of our website.

Internet marketing and social media tools are additional items that come into play, though the impact to the distribution channels is indirect. It's reasonable to assume that if a regional carrier were able to implement successful advertising campaigns online and leverage social media to broaden its market exposure and audience, there should be an increase in quote submissions and written premium. In a nutshell, the Internet has become the great equalizer.

Another aspect of automation is the use of business analytics. Information from company results and external sources of data -- such as credit score, MVR and CLUE reports -- allow a carrier to be proactive in rate modeling.

Sanjay Pandey is VP and CIO of Donegal Insurance Group. A transformational leader, Pandey has successfully coordinated several technology-related enhancements that allow Donegal Insurance Group, a regional P&C insurance carrier, to successfully compete with larger companies.