Boston – Until recent years, insurance carriers were not known for their desire to aspire—in a “be like Mike” fashion—to being a best practice industry model. Carriers, prone to keeping their noses to the grindstone and fearful of giving away competitive advantage, tended to their own technologies and business processes. Much to the disdain of technology solution providers hoping to share the limelight when their systems worked properly, carriers were hesitant to share details of how they achieved success.

Luckily, a number of programs have surfaced recently that illustrate a change in this course, namely, carriers’ willingness to be a shining example to their peers.

In one such program, its second annual, Boston-based research firm Celent LLC (recently acquired by global strategy consulting firm Oliver Wyman) recognized 38 insurer technology initiatives as “Model Carrier Components.” These best practices in the use of technology span key areas of the product and policyholder life cycle, including product definition, distribution, underwriting, policy administration, service, billing, claims and reinsurance.

“This report answers the question, ‘What would it look like for an insurance carrier to do everything right with today’s technology?’” says Craig Weber, Celent SVP. “We believe that these Model Carrier Components compose a sweeping vision to which all carriers can aspire.”

Nominations were accepted throughout 2007, and the Celent insurance team selected the 38 winning initiatives based on the business benefits provided. Each Model Carrier Component is described in a brief write-up within the report, including detailed descriptions of business drivers, technology environments and quantitative success metrics.

The 2008 Model Carrier Components are:

•    Accident Compensation Corp. (New Zealand): Distributed Enterprise Claims Management
•    Accident Fund: Agent Portal
•    AIG Direct: Flexible Billing Environment
•    Alfa Insurance: Driving Adoption of E-Apps
•    *Allstate Financial: Online Applications Integrated with Tele-Apps
•    *Allstate Financial: Project Management Office and Center of Excellence
•    *Allstate Financial: Rationalized Data Model
•    AnBang: Rules-Based Automated Underwriting
•    Assumption Life: Straight-Through Processing
•    *Chubb: Common Rating Environment
•    *Chubb: IT Governance
•    *Chubb: Rules-Based Automated Renewals
•    Commerce Insurance: Agency Portal
•    Darwin Professional Underwriters: Straight-Through Processing for Expert Producers
•    DTRIC: Integrated Contact Center/Underwriting/Policy Issue
•    Esurance: Speed to Market through Enhanced Product Management Capabilities
•    FBL Financial: Improved Policy Document Management
•    Grange Insurance: Rich Functionality Agent Portal
•    Groupama Spain: Application and Infrastructure Modernization
•    Horace Mann: Integrated Claims Environment
•    Insurance House: Enterprise Data Model and Warehouse
•    Lincoln Financial: Agile Annuity Illustrations Platform
•    MassMutual: Improved Illustrations
•    MetLife Home & Auto: Improved Subrogation Assignment and Workflow
•    Michigan Millers: Electronic Document Intake
•    Midwest Family Mutual: Leveraging Work-From- ome Capabilities
•    Nationwide: Massive Server Virtualization
•    *Penn National: Integrated GIS
•    Pharmacists Mutual: SaaS BI to Improve Loss Ratios
•    Republic: Straight-Through Processing for Commercial Lines
•    Scottish Friendly Assurance: Consolidated and Modernized Policy Administration System
•    Selective: SEMCI Support
•    Standard Insurance: IT Infrastructure/SOA
•    Sun Life Financial: Policy Document Issuance
•    *Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Company: IT Renewal
•    Unum: Document Automation
•    Westfield: Straight-Through Processing and Automated Underwriting
•    Westfield: Automated Book Transfer for Agents

*Carriers also recognized in 2007’s Model Carrier Program

The Celent Model Carrier program gives solution providers an opportunity to blow their horns, too, and some are doing so by providing details on how their clients earned the Celent nod.

For example, three customers of Skywire Software, Frisco, Texas, were recognized. One such customer, West Des Moines, Iowa-based FBL Financial Group, was recognized in the category of document automation for its policy document management initiative. Using Skywire Software’s Documaker customer communications management (CCM) suite, FBL was able to improve its time to market by 25%, reduce document creation staff by one quarter and cut the load time for new policy documents from months to days, the vendor reports.

Another program designed to bring best practice examples to the forefront is Insurance Networking News’ second annual technology solution provider ranking, the Vanguards in Insurance Practice (VIP) Awards, which reflects an honest and factual assessment of the technology solution provider landscape. Phase I comprises the top solution providers in the insurance industry as determined solely by insurance carriers, brokers, managing general agents and agents. Phase II evokes the necessary discussion of the “why” behind the ranking, namely a critical educational component that includes best practice examples of how technology – and industry standards – are implemented.

Winners of this second annual ranking will be recognized at an exclusive black-tie event held in conjunction with the ACORD/LOMA meeting in Las Vegas in May 2008.

“We believe the carriers behind these initiatives deserve recognition because they’ve invested in technology and made it work,” says Celent senior analyst Chad Hersh, co-author of the report. “At the end of the day, solving business problems effectively is the ultimate sign of success.”

And in the words of the old adage, “the rising tide raises all the boats,” sharing those results benefits the entire industry.

Sources: Celent LLC, INN archives

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