Unfavorable results from an independent industry survey in early 2008 motivated the Western World Insurance Group to re-evaluate its policy admin systems. "Ease of use was the primary driver for wholesale agents," recalls Thad DeBerry, SVP of IT at Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Western World. "However, we learned we were not considered an ease-of-use leader in our marketplace."
An initiative began by fall 2008 to change that. Because few end-to-end solutions offered the flexibility required to write surplus lines policies, "It became clear that we'd need to develop much of the system ourselves," explains DeBerry, who says the required external pieces were the rating engine and document automation.
For rating, Western World evaluated about six vendors, determining that Naperville, Ill.-based Instec's Quicksolver offered the desired features, including "the capability to seamlessly integrate with the interface and workflows we were developing, as well as the ability to modify ratings to meet our customized underwriting needs," says DeBerry. For document automation, a market review demonstrated that the insurer's existing solution, Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.) Documaker Enterprise Edition, continued to be a top option, he adds.
Meanwhile, Western World focused internally on developing rules, designing the interface and establishing workflows. "We involved our [managing general agents] from the start," notes DeBerry. "We didn't assume what it was like to sit at their desk, which proved invaluable."
Homework completed, agile-methodology deployment commenced in mid-2009 for the system the insurer calls WWIP (pronounced "whip"), short for Western World Integrated Platform. By April 2010 the full rollout occurred smoothly. Then, for the balance of the year, Western World integrated WWIP with the most prevalent agency management systems. Next came mobile apps for Apple (Cupertino, Calif.) iPads and iPhones, which launched in spring 2011.
[What Insurers Need to Know About the Next Generation of Tablets.]
"By August 2010, 30 percent of our premium volume was processed through WWIP," reports DeBerry. "At year-end 2010 it was 45 percent and, by June 2011, 65 percent." Today, 85 percent of premium volume is processed through WWIP, and 100 percent of Western World's MGAs utilize the system. Further, where agency management platforms integrate with WWIP, year-to-date written premiums are up more than 20 percent. "Straight-through processing is moving the production needle dramatically," DeBerry observes.
With its business partners now reliant on the system, high availability is a new imperative. "Any kind of downtime could be a potential hit to our production," DeBerry acknowledges. To address this, Western World deployed Vision Solutions' (Irvine, Calif.) Double-Take Availability for continuous data replication. "We replicate between data centers within our building and to a managed colocation at Rackspace [San Antonio, Texas]," he says.
Ironically, WWIP's greatest asset also proved a soft spot. "It's so easy to use that many MGAs jumped in after the initial webinar," explains DeBerry. "This led to missing some of the deeper functionality." As a result, he adds, "over the past nine months, our underwriting teams have taken a more active role in training agents to take them beyond the basics to look at the more powerful features and enhancements in the system."
Regardless, WWIP has been a home run. "It's allowed us to become one of the preferred sources for writing surplus lines business," DeBerry says.
CASE STUDY SNAPSHOT
Company: Western World Insurance Group (Franklin Lakes, N.J.; $1.3 billion in total assets).
Lines of Business: Excess and Surplus.
Vendor/Technology:Instec (Naperville, Ill.) Quicksolver policy administration solution; Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.) Documaker Enterprise Edition document automation solution; and Vision Solutions (Irvine, Calif.) Double-Take Availability replication solution.
Challenge: Replace legacy policy administration system with a solution that attracts managing general agents for its ease-of-use.