To keep business flowing from its network of 500 agencies, Arbella Insurance Group recently upgraded to a new version of its Agencyport point-of-sale agent portal in an effort to increase workflow efficiency and ensure uninterrupted, seamless interactions during the consolidation of five policy admin systems down to one, StoneRiver’s PolicyStar.
For nearly 10 years, Arbella, which offers car, home and business insurance in Massachusetts and Connecticut and business insurance in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, has used Agencyport’s AgencyPortal web-based point-of-sale solution as the platform for its e-APP online application initiative. This has enabled agents to upload policy data directly from their management systems to Arbella, where AgencyConnect prepopulated data and launched the e-application in a browser environment. There, agents could make edits and add missing information as necessary to receive a quote and fulfill the submission.
Today, 100 percent of Arbella’s auto and homeowners business is received electronically. Automating the application process enabled Arbella to offer its agents the same capabilities that its competitors could. In addition, straight-through processing (STP) for the bulk of submissions meant the company could process more business more quickly, and its underwriters could focus on the more complex risks.
In 2010, Arbella began work on a multi-year consolidation program for the three legacy policy systems that powered its personal and commercial lines, with the goal of simplifying its infrastructure. StoneRiver’s PolicyStar platform was selected as the new single-destination system.
Arbella also wanted to eliminate a costly third-party rules engine and rating application. The specialized skills and ongoing customized changes each of these required had become burdensome, and the company determined that the AgencyPortal and PolicyStar combination could address both rating and rules functions internally, says Paul Brady, CIO at Arbella.
To help avoid system disruption during the complex back-end changes, Arbella once again turned to AgencyPortal, for strategic shielding for its agent channel, process simplification and cost containment.
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Because AgencyPortal is situated between Arbella’s producers and its core systems, agents are not at all affected and typically unaware of the conversion, Brady says. Agents rate, quote and bind through the Agencyport system, “completely unaware of what’s going on behind the curtain,” he says. “We have multiple policy systems [on the backend] but the portal allows up to provide a single view to the agents, so they don’t even need to know we have multiple policy systems.”
Arbella has also migrated its underwriting rules to AgencyPortal’s internal XARC Rules, doing away with the need for a third-party rules engine. And combined with PolicyStar, AgencyPortal can call rating engines directly, significantly simplifying the rating process.
“We’re not rating in two different locations, as we were before,” Brady says. “From a technology perspective this [implementation] has led to less complexity, which in turn improves quality and speed to market.”
The latest version of AgencyPortal enables the insurer to configure and maintain its products on the Web; communicate with agents in real-time within a quote; standardize security authentication and authorization; and better manage multiple policies and work items for one account.
Any technology change of this kind can bring challenges, and Arbella experienced a few, Brady says. “We were actually increasing the complexity of rules, and simply by moving from [the previous rules platform] to AgencyPortal resulted in challenges” such as learning a news system, he says. “But we worked through it, and that didn’t even delay the project.”
Another challenge involved calling the ratings directly from the StoneRiver system. “It was a challenge to configure the web services; there was a lot of complexity due to different naming conventions,” Brady says. “So changing the ratings platform was more difficult than we expected, and we had to work with StoneRiver quite a bit.”
The updated portal went live at the end of the 2013, and so far the response has been positive. “Our independent agents and business partners have been very pleased with the performance of the portal; the feedback has been quite favorable,” Brady says. Among the key drivers for the technology implementations, and particularly the web portal, were to provide ease of doing business and a consistent experience for agents who rely on the web portal, he says.
With the technology upgrade, the insurer is better able to identify the business it wants to write and has seen a reduction in the amount of time spent on underwriting, Brady says. He says it’s too early in the process to report specific benefits, such as cost savings or increased revenue, but clearly there have been improvements in processes.
“By introducing more sophisticated rules on the front end we’re hoping do a better job of getting the right risk at the right price,” Brady says.
Today, Arbella is one of the most competitive auto writers in New England, and more than 95 percent of its total business is processed
through AgencyPortal. With more of its business processed more efficiently, the company is able to maintain strong relationships with its agency base, and as a result expand its business. In addition, with more business underwritten via straight-through processing, Arbella’s underwriting staff can focus on the policies that require their expertise. This speeds up service and improves the overall quality of the carrier’s book.
The technology upgrades also have helped Arbella meet its goal of making it easier for agents to do business. “The upgrade has added a lot of back-end efficiencies, but more important, it has added new capabilities on the front end for the agents,” Brady says. “It makes their experience much better.”
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