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The Barnstable Mutual Ins. Co. has succeeded in the Cape Cod P&C market, where many others have failed. But given the limitations of its policy admin system, they've had to work hard as well as smart in order to do it.

The Barnstable Mutual Ins. Co. (Yarmouth Port, Mass.) has succeeded in the Cape Cod P&C market, where many others have failed. But given the limitations of the carrier's policy administration system, they've been working hard as well as working smart.

Currently every policy application sent to the company by its independent agent distribution force must be manually processed. "Typically applications are faxed, so a CSR has to sit in front of a PC and key in all of the information," relates John DeMello, vice president and treasurer. That manual intensiveness extends to the carrier's underwriter as well. "Right now we manually check the distance to the coast on every new piece of business, because we have restrictions and wind deductions based on that metric," DeMello adds. "Our underwriter checks every single policy for silly things - maybe the agent just forgot to write down a certain piece of information; the underwriter has to put that aside and call the agent to clarify.

If these limitations weren't enough, the platform was also unlikely to be supported within the next few years. With all that in mind, the Barnstable researched available options and signed a five-year contract with Wyncote, Pa.-based IDP to implement the vendor's Web-based Acies/one P&C insurance system in July.

One key criterion that the Acies/one system met was that of having an open-source database. "We didn't want something where we couldn't see and manage our own data," DeMello explains. With the new system, he says, "if we're interested in seeing any aspect of our book of business, we can query it with a simple report writer."

It was also critical that IDP could provide its solution on an ASP basis, since the ten-employee Barnstable lacks IT staff.

From a strategic point of view, the Web-based system supports the way the Barnstable wants to work with its agents, and vice versa - at least for a significant number of them. "Over the longer term our business model is for agents to go in and self-service their policies - entering new policies and making changes to existing ones - directly over the Web," DeMello says. "And we also plan to have built in underwriting controls in place so that our underwriters don't have to review everything manually." In that respect, DeMello says the firm will be helped by Acies/one's SURE Underwriting feature, which allows users to build sets of rules to govern how policies are initially underwritten, as well as renewed. Also, the system's Risk Meter automatically validates or questions policies according to parameters such as a property's distance from the ocean.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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