In April 2007, Metairie, La.-based Adriatic Insurance ($65 million in total assets), an excess and surplus lines commercial truck and cargo carrier, went live with Maple Technologies' (Manalapan, N.J.) Aspire Web-based P&C policy and claim management system. The rollout strategy anticipated problems. Entirely unforeseen when the implementation plan was devised, however, was Hurricane Katrina.
Adriatic's CTO, Steve Harris, has run the IT department since 1980 and wrote most of Adriatic's computer code. In early 2005, the carrier went shopping for a system less dependent on his expertise to lessen the chance of business interruption no matter what happened to Harris or to Adriatic's IBM RS/6000 mainframe, in use since 1991. "Only I knew the legacy software," Harris says. "The hardware was old, too. ... I recommended replacing both, and that's what we decided to do."
Harris received many calls from vendors. Almost without exception, he recalls, the products offered were simple policy rating and issuance systems. "We'd ask, 'What about claims?' or 'What about accounting?'" Harris relates. "They'd say, 'We'll work that out later.' We wanted a system that does everything. Maple Tech was the first to answer Adriatic's questions with, 'Our system does that.'"
Compared to the up-front costs that some competitors wanted -- as much as $1 million, according to Harris -- Maple's advance fee was "minimal," he says. The companies signed a contract in mid-2005 -- without a demonstration, pilot or proof of concept. "Everything looks easy in a demonstration," Harris explains. "I don't trust them."
Then, in August 2005, Katrina hit. Harris was in Virginia the day the hurricane drowned New Orleans. For two weeks he waited to go home. "All I could do was sit and watch TV in shock," he says.
Adriatic's president, Joseph Taylor, picked up the carrier's computer backup tapes ahead of the storm; in its wake he moved operations to Shreveport, La., 325 miles away. Once the water receded, staff retrieved the RS/6000, a few PCs and the most important files.
The period after the deluge was "a nightmare," says Harris. He recalls reconnecting Adriatic's E-mail only to find hundreds of policy cancellations. "When faxes started coming in, everything got duplicated," Harris says. "We had to ask for a faxed declaration page every time, dozens to hundreds of times a day."
Adriatic revived the Aspire project in early 2006. Installation went smoothly, except for delays due to creating and revising forms. Because Adriatic is in the business of covering exceptions to standard policies, "There was no way to cover all possibilities," Harris relates. "Idiosyncrasies caused a lot of back and forth with Maple."
Now live at Adriatic, Aspire's front-end capabilities include application processing, rating, quoting and risk binding, as well as accounting and claims, according to Harris. For now, Adriatic keeps two databases, one for policies written before the Aspire deployment and one for new policies and endorsements, he says. When the old policies expire, the legacy system will be retired, Harris adds.
Within 18 months, Harris notes, Adriatic's agents will be able to submit new policies and endorsements electronically. But the No. 1 benefit of the new Aspire system, he says, is business continuity. "If Aspire had been in place [during Katrina], we could have just bought some PCs and plugged into the Internet," Harris explains. "It would have been a piece of cake instead of a nightmare."
Adriatic Insurance (Metairie, La.; $65 million in total assets).
Lines of Business:
Surplus lines and commercial automobile physical damage coverage, primarily for trucking and livery; and motor truck cargo.
Maple Technologies' (Manalapan, N.J.) Aspire Web-based policy and claims management system.
Replace legacy system to reduce dependence on CTO's expertise and improve business continuity.