January 02, 2012

Goldsboro, N.C.-based excess and surplus lines insurer Atlantic Casualty distributes its products through 100 managing general agencies. The company was looking to make it easier for those partners to do business, keep costs down and reduce the risk of errors in document and policy preparation. So, the company migrated all of its wholesalers to Web-based issuance using Oracle Documaker. The insurer also enabled MGAs to populate Web-based forms with data from their own agency’s systems, without rekeying data, helping cut total policy creation time by 75% and reduced the critical error ratio to less than 3% for policy documents. We caught up with CIO Greg Ricker to discuss the process.

Insurance & Technology: What was the business problem you were trying to solve by implementing Documaker?

Greg Ricker: The systems we had in place weren't well connected. The integration wasn't seamless and required the user community to make a pretty significant investment in keeping forms and libraries current with the most recent carriers rules and forms. The process needed to be changed, and it had to happen quickly.

I&T: What were some of the brokers' major complaints with the previous system?

GR: Our customers had complaints in three major areas. First, there was the cost of maintaining forms and libraries. If an update failed, there was additional support required to resolve those errors. Second, the forms updates were coming at a very quick pace. No sooner than one update was completed and another one was ready to be applied. This frustrated the user community. Third, the policy issuance process wasn't seamlessly integrated with rating. So there was a lot of duplication of effort. This duplication led to more errors, which drove up expenses.

I&T: What were some of the procedures you had to change in order to implement this web-based system?

GR: The process we used to update and distribute forms to our wholesalers had to be completely re-engineered. Going from a distributed system to a web-based required an entirely new process. Some of our edits we had in the old forms library had to be rewritten. Most importantly, we had to implement the use of web services to push rating data into policy issuance. Having forms pre-populated with data was the key element to reducing steps and the potential for issuance errors. And with a web-based system, there was no longer a need to have our customers upload data. Once a policy was issued - our company system had the data immediately.

I&T: How vocal is your agent/broker population in demanding new technological capabilities? Who is responsible for staying in contact with them and managing that relationship?

GR: The wholesale community has been under extreme expense pressure since about 2007. With pricing and risk exposures going down for several year in a row, this directly impacts agency commissions. The challenge now became how can expense levels be reduced without sacrificing customer service. The wholesalers weren't shy in asking for more efficient ways to do business. We not only met their challenge, but we did it quickly and our solution exceeded their expectations. As a result - the amount of business we write with them has increased. In terms of the relationships we have with our wholesalers, we really work hard to stay in touch with not only the front line underwriters and customer service reps, but also with their IT and management teams. By listening through the various levels within the organization, we get a good handle on the needs throughout the company.

I&T: Because you're an E&S carrier, were there any unique issues that came up in trying to implement policy automation?

GR: In the E&S space there are a number of different systems in use. From rating, to portals, agency management systems, policy issuance systems, and data interface solutions. In addition, there isn't a formally adopted data standard for which data is easily passed from one system to another. So there have been a number of custom interfaces built over the years. In our project we weren't looking to develop another set of standards or build another system. Our goal was to leverage as much as possible from the systems already implemented. We also decided we would open our systems to allow for a greater level of transparency into our solution. We are no longer required to be involved in all the interface efforts. Our customers can now see deeper into the functionality and look for creative ways to improve their internal efficiencies. We've very pleased with how our customers have responded to this.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...