Keen to motivate independent P&C agents for its parent company -- Erie Indemnity Co. ($14 billion in total assets) — to write more life policies, Erie Family Life decided to go virtual in late 2009. "We needed to offer more efficient options than paper applications," recalls Mike Plazony, the Erie, Pa.-based life insurer's SVP. "We didn't want to force agents to give up paper, but we wanted to give them the opportunity to streamline with a web-based application process."
Beyond eliminating paper, Erie Family Life also sought to significantly accelerate the policy issuance process. "For policies below a certain dollar amount, our ultimate goal was to get agents a quote and underwriting decision while the customer was still sitting in the office," Plazony reports.
Additionally, Erie Family Life wanted a solution that was compatible with its Dell (Round Rock, Texas) back-office systems. "We'd outsourced most of our non-customer-facing back-office processes to Dell Services in 2007," recounts Plazony. "It was vital that an online application solution integrate with Dell to create straight-through processing on the back end."Early in 2010 the carrier identified four appropriate vendors and quickly narrowed the field to two. Of the finalists, Exton, Pa.-based iPipeline's iGO e-App stood out, according to Plazony. "IPipeline used the agile development approach rather than waterfall," he explains. "We liked the idea of being involved in the entire process."
Divide and Conquer
To deploy the iGO e-App, Plazony relates, Erie Family Life divided the initiative into four phases: solution design, a 20-agent pilot, full rollout and, finally, integration with Dell Services. By April 2010 the carrier-branded solution began taking shape in a series of two-week sprints. Then, from October 2010 through March 2011, the pilot proceeded.
"The pilot revealed some fields that needed to be changed to eliminate 'NIGO' [not-in-good-order] applications," says Plazony. "Also, agent feedback helped home in on the support and training tools our agents needed, which mostly surrounded e-signatures."
By mid-March 2011, e-applications rolled out to all agents while integration with Dell Services began concurrently. By June 2011, straight-through processing was complete. Today, Plazony comments, agents access the online application through a link on Erie Family Life's agent portal, which is provided by Dell Services. Data keyed into the iPipeline solution flows to Dell, as appropriate, without ever interacting with the insurer's internal IT system, he notes.
Other than "triple checking" outputs during testing, Plazony says, the implementation not only proved challenge-free but also an overnight success. "Our goal was 25 percent adoption by March 2012," he observes. "Instead, it was 30 percent within a month of rollout and 40 percent by August 2011." Additionally, NIGOs have plummeted while speed to policy issuance has improved by an average of 10 percent, Plazony reports.
The next steps include migrating Erie Family Life's paper-based "tele-app" onto the platform, according to Plazony. But first, the insurer plans to debut instant-issue life products early this year. "We believe this offering will really appeal to P&C agents because it will feel more like a P&C product," Plazony says.
Overall, the iGO e-App solution is a game-changer, Plazony emphasizes. "It's all about leveraging technology to make it easier for our agents and lower their costs," he says.
CASE STUDY SNAPSHOT
Company: Erie Family Life, a subsidiary of Erie Indemnity Co. (Erie, Pa.; $14 billion in total assets).
Lines of Business: P&C and life.
Vendor/Technology: Exton, Pa.-based iPipeline’s iGO e-App and Dell (Round Rock, Texas) back-office systems.
Challenge: Provide independent agents with an automated, web-enabled life insurance application process.