fter nearly three decades of operating off of spreadsheets, CEM Insurance Co. (CEMIC) reached a crossroads in late 2007. "Functioning manually was too time consuming and error-prone," admits Christopher DuCharme, the specialty P&C carrier's director of program operations. "Plus, it was inhibiting our ability to grow into jurisdictions where we were admitted but weren't yet writing any business."
CEMIC ($7 million in premium income) not only wanted a solution for underwriting, policy administration, claims, billing, document imaging and reporting, it also sought a robust agent portal compatible with its managing general agent model, DuCharme reports. And CEMIC needed to leverage the cloud. "We operate exceptionally lean, so we needed a hosted system that didn't require much intervention," explains DuCharme.
By May 2008 five prospective vendors were whittled to three. Following six months of due diligence, CEMIC selected the SurePower Innovation Policy Administration Suite by ISCS (San Jose, Calif.) for the solution's comparatively seamless delivery of an all-inclusive package, according to DuCharme. "In addition," he notes, "ISCS had prior experience customizing their solution for our lines of business."
The design, blueprinting and road-mapping phases ran from January 2009 through May 2009. "ISCS dedicated an analyst to our account full-time, and he was instrumental to our ultimate success," recalls DuCharme.
Deer Park, Ill.-based CEMIC then began a multi-participant deployment strategy. "We wanted to involve all affected entities, which included our managing agents and third-party claims administrators," DuCharme relates. "Having so much feedback added nearly three months to the implementation process. However, it was worth it because our end users really helped with creating efficient and effective workflows." In fact, when CEMIC rolled out the platform to handle new and renewing policies in April 2010, the only task was "ensuring everyone's firewall would accept the web-based portal," DuCharme adds.
To call the implementation "transformative" would be an understatement. "For example, policies are written accurately from the start because we set the underwriting criteria at our headquarters," reports DuCharme. "Consequently, we've not only reduced organizational risk but also can close out a month in one day; in the past, it took 30 days."
In addition, the ability to produce dozens of new reports provides visibility that was unavailable using the manual system, DuCharme continues. And costs associated with administering distant policies are nearly eliminated. "Previously, all formal policy files were in our agents' offices," DuCharme says. "This required traveling to various locations when we needed to perform an audit. Today, with policies centrally located, we just log in."
Next up: penetrating new markets. "We expect it will only require 60 to 90 days to be up and running in a new state, without the need of adding additional staff," according to DuCharme. "And we're equipping agents with cutting-edge technology, which makes them more profitable. In short, our new system has certainly helped level the playing field." n
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio