Amica Mutual Insurance has been a direct writer of insurance since well before the gecko-and-Flo age. With direct, agent and hybrid writers alike all pouring money into advertising, the company has to be adept at identifying its differentiating characteristics, CIO Peter Moreau says. Amica is a longtime pillar of the New England region it calls home, consistently earning top scores in J.D. Power's annual studies on customer satisfaction and maintaining remarkable market penetration in the region.
"In a very competitive space on the auto insurance side from a price perspective, advertising and growth are important," Moreau says. "From our beginnings, Amica was about word of mouth -- people really liking us and then getting their friends to call us. Sometimes those are your best references. From our perspective, we're trying to promote our financial strength and our strong relationships with customers."
During Moreau's tenure at Amica, many of his IT initiatives have revolved around supporting the company's high standards for customer service and satisfaction. But that means more than just exploring new technologies. The IT backbone of Amica's service proposition has its roots in a transformation effort many years in the making.
In 2005, Amica was an early adopter of Guidewire's ClaimCenter platform. It was a risk to go with a relatively new product for such a crucial customer interaction point, but it set the stage for a full migration to the Guidewire suite over the next several years. This initial decision, Moreau says, put Amica ahead of the pack.
[Meet Moreau and hear from other prominent insurance technologists, including keynote speaker Marsh COO Bill Pieroni and 2013 Elite 8 AXA Equitable CIO Michael Healy, at I&T's Elite 8 Executive Forum, Nov. 7 in New York City]
"We needed to make sure the run side of the business was as efficient as possible, and the channels we worked in were becoming more complex," he says. "We knew moving to modern technology was going to position us better. When you looked at our legacy system, it was highly functional but a challenge to integrate with. We wanted our new system to facilitate those interactions instead of just bolting more function onto our legacy environment."
ClaimCenter went live in 2008, helping lay the groundwork for an expectation of user experience and process that revolved around data, not paper, Moreau says. When it came time to look for a new policy administration system, PolicyCenter was the choice -- after a thorough selection process. In late August of this year, Amica rolled out PolicyCenter in some initial states with its auto line.
"It takes years to move away from a legacy policy system, but you're seeing more and more companies go down that road," Moreau says. "You have to take that view if you're in it for the long haul."
After choosing Guidewire for claims and policy, the next step was to complete the suite with BillingCenter. All three were evaluated independently, Moreau says, but a common infrastructure provides value.
"There are tough decisions to make about how much concurrent work we can sustain as a company, and we're right in the middle of it with two key core systems: policy and billing," he says. "It's a large investment in resources and time to make it happen, even with a package. But the system is architected for integration and built for maintenance, and we like that. Guidewire has a keen focus on maintainability, and the cost of running a system has to be factored in going forward."
That's because customer standards for service can change quickly and broadly, Moreau explains. The ability to incorporate new channels is important in an always-on, always-connected world.
"Customers are driving expectations for us in the tech area, along with the online systems they use unrelated to insurance, such as social sites, banks and Amazon," he says. "We have to ask ourselves: How can we match the speed of operations like these and meet customer expectations from a self-service perspective?"
To manage all these projects, Moreau and his team developed a road map of necessary capabilities and the timeline for delivery. This required tight business-IT alignment. Amica's leadership is tuned in to the benefits of modernization and fully supports completing the journey.
"I'm a big road map guy. I know we have a corporate strategic plan that IT has to map to, but we also have to run the business as is. Having a good process and having the business understand its importance is key," he explains. "In some organizations, the leadership might choose a short-term, bolt-it-on solution to react to market pressure. But we are moving away from our mainframe environment, and it takes a broad vision and long-term goals to make it happen."
The early benefits of the move are already obvious on the claims side, he says. But what it comes back to for Moreau, a native of Amica's home state of Rhode Island, is providing his friends and neighbors with the best possible service experience in all interactions.
"When technology works well, it helps our representatives do what they do best: build enduring relationships with policyholders," he says.