For many insurers, agility and profitable growth is hampered by inflexible systems and inefficient processes that create execution gaps in underwriting operations. Even today, a large portion of the underwriting process is still performed using time-consuming and often redundant manual processes. According to Deb Smallwood, founder of Strategy Meets Action, a connected environment is essential for efficient and effective underwriting.

“Moving away from disconnected systems and paper to be able to automate the workforce – whether human or systems – and taking action in context keeps us connected,” she says.

There are five major underwriting pain points, Smallwood explains: Communication delays between agent and underwriter, manual and paper-driven processes; long processes and turnaround times; lack of risk data and analysis; and lack of underwriting discipline and compliance. Insurers need to effect a culture change around underwriting, she says.

“We have to think differently about our customer – policyholders, brokers, agents and even someone internal to our organization. We have to look at our business models and take advantage of technology and data. This gives you a connected view or lens of a next generation underwriting department,” Smallwood points out.

Vermont Mutual’s Underwriting Solution

Vermont Mutual Insurance, a regional P&C insurer is working with Appian to evolve its agency portal to deliver agility in responding to current and future changes, integrate with third party data sources and improve communication between underwriters and agents. Joanne Currier, VP of IT, says the Appian technology also is enabling her organization’s underwriters to better evaluate risk, cut down on clerical tasks and ultimately, support company growth.

“There are many actions that we unify with the Appian tool, connecting people, processes and technology and working to make it easy for underwriters so they can get the information they need to do their jobs,” Currier says. “The time they spend with the agent supports and adds value, rather than spending their time just doing clerical tasks.”

The insurer is now in the early phases of implementing a service-oriented architecture that uses the Appian platform for its user interface and BPM. “Appian is the brains of the operation,” Currier says. “It anticipates and keeps track of whatever is coming in for intel from agents and passes it downstream to the workflow process.”

Vermont Mutual uses Corticon as its business rules engine, which makes it easy for the insurer to change rules and do cross edits. The customer communication channel also uses document management technology from Thunderhead that allows the insurer to replace its policy output and have some scalability and flexibility with customer and agent paper, Currier says.

The new system helps Vermont Mutual by:

Providing scalability. Vermont Mutual set up a scalable agile framework. “Technology is changing at such a rapid clip so the plug-and-playable methodology we have in place with this framework will be a tremendous help as things continue to change,” Currier points out.

Making it easy to for agents and underwriters to conduct business. One of Vermont Mutual’s main objectives was making sure it was easy for agents to do business while maintaining the underwriting discipline. “We don’t want to impose too much hardship on the agent as we’re trying to submit the business, but we want it to be more of a partnership,” Currier says. “Before, our underwriters had to review an entire application to understand the risk. Now, they can be on the phone and talking to the agent and adding value with those exceptions rather than just doing clerical tasks. We try to make the process as easy as possible for the agent but meaningful for us so we can focus on our underwriting discipline.”

Minimizing manual and paper processes. Vermont Mutual is currently trying to make it easy for agents to submit all information electronically. “We have a lot of cross edits and rules built into the rules engines now so that if a risk is ineligible, something Vermont Mutual isn’t going to write, the agents sees that right up front before they submit the business,” Currier explains. “We’re trying to get everything electronically submitted by the agent as we possibly can so our new systems allow them to attach copies of documentation and photos and that feeds into us electronically.”

Integrating with aging technology. Like most insurers, Vermont Mutual must deal with its business partners’ old and new technologies. Says Currier, many third parties aren’t necessarily adapting to the modern systems very quickly either, which is roadblock for many insurers. Similarly, the insurer needs to support a variety of disparate agent systems. The new solution enables Vermont Mutual to support multiple channels and allows data to come in and populate its systems in a clean way to ease doing business with agents. Because Vermont mutual is doing an incremental roll-out, the insurer is still working on its multi-line accounts and books of business. “We just don’t have everything connected for that yet so we can get that 360-degree view of the customer, but that’s certainly on our radar to do,” Currier says.

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