When insurance underwriting cycles turn sour, as they inevitably do, industry experts are quick to criticize the industry for not following strict underwriting guidelines. The easiest solution for insurers to turn a "soft" market around is to raise premium rates, but some carriers, such as Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., are revamping their underwriting systems to improve underwriting consistency and discipline.As part of a broad initiative that includes reorganizing its field force of independent agents and developing an enterprisewide approach to IT systems to support a cohesive distribution strategy, the Novato, Calif.-based carrier will implement the Accenture Underwriting Components Solution. The Web-based platform uses diagnostics and rules-based technology to help improve underwriting efficiencies.

The goal of the underwriting initiative is to streamline the process and make it consistent across all lines of Fireman's book of business, which includes personal, commercial and specialty business. The company intends to complete implementation for commercial lines in mid-2005 before moving on to the other lines.

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