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Profiting By Addressing the IT Needs of the Small Carrier Market

IDP InsuraSphere Agent portal enables small- to mid-size P&C Insurers to offer real-time quoting; Echo Ridge Partners' offers small carriers iCatalyst modular P&C policy administration solution.

The mood at this week's IASA Educational Conference & Business Show in Nashville, as with last month's ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum, has been positive (if not jubilant), with exhibitors reporting a notable upturn in insurance company RFPs and outright IT spending. That reinvestment in growth isn't just being driven by large carriers. Several vendors showcased new solutions that specifically target small and mid-sized carriers, which typically lack the resources (staff and budgets) of larger companies but have comparable needs to strategically deploy technology to drive growth.

For example, Insurance Data Processing, Inc. (IDP, Wyncote, Pa.) introduced the InsuraSphere Agent Portal, a new agent portal that it says "empowers" small- and mid-size property-and-casualty insurance companies to compete with the largest of insurance companies.

InsuraSphere Agent Portal provides users with real-time quoting, 24/7 agent access, a customized portal environment and a host of functions that satisfy the business needs of agents. The SaaS-based portal integrates with virtually any back office, according to IDP. Additionally, it requires no upfront licensing fee and is available on a tiered pricing scale.

System functionality includes real-time quoting for any personal and commercial line of business, policy inquiry and download, claim inquiry and reporting, billing and payment inquiry, payment processing, commission and operational reports. Added features include credit reports, CLUE integration, MVR, policy bill payment, document printing and distribution, electronic funds transfer for commissions and OFAC compliance checking.

IDP President and CEO Bob Blitshtein told I&T that InsuraSphere Agent Portal "allows insurance companies to grow their revenues by giving agents the real-time quoting capabilities they're asking carriers for."

Additionally, IDP offers a tiered pricing model. "So a smaller company gets the same platform that the largest companies have spent years and millions of dollars to develop," Blitshtein says.

The SaaS option is a new aspect of IDP's offering, but in fact "we have hosted the insurance back office for our customers for a long time," Blitshtein notes. "We will be enabling all our products to run as SaaS platforms."

While IDP has been working with smaller carriers for some 60 years, Madison, Wis.-based Echo Ridge Partners has been focused on the segment for a little over one year. At IASA the company showcased its iCatalyst P&C policy management solution, which it describes as a flexible core system with integrated, custom-built modules to reduce expenses and drive revenue. iCatalyst is Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation-based, and, according to the vendor, is a dynamic and extensible application that is adapted to the specific products, rules and workflows of each client. The AGILE/SCRUM process enables iCatalyst to capture those unique requirements and business practices as part of the adaptive, or customization, process.

Along with the technology simplicity of the solution, it also has been designed to give small carriers flexibility in how it is run. "It can be on the cloud, your server, our server, or whatever you want, depending on your security requirements," explains Bill Montei, partner.

Also addressing the financial issues that sometimes impede smaller carriers from investing in state-of-the-art solutions, Echo Ridge offers iCatalyst with a money-back guarantee, Montei reports. Additionally, the vendor essentially prepares the RFP for potential customers in the form of a requirements document. "If our system doesn't do what those requirements say, you get your money back," Montei says. "We've taken the risk out of the process."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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