Barnstable County Mutual Insurance Co. decided it could better serve its 26 independent agents scattered around Cape Cod by Web-enabling distribution of declaration ("dec") pages. And with three of its only 10 employees managing administrative functions such as policy and claims processing, the old way of doing things was a drain on resources.
"Every time we do a new piece of business or a renewal, we print out four copies of the dec page and all of its endorsements," says John DeMello, vice president and treasurer. "We'd keep one for ourselves, print one off for the agent and mail the agent the insured's copy, along with a copy for the lien-holder/mortgagee."
The dec page application evolved out of the carrier's Web site, launched about two years ago through local ISPCape.com, DeMello says. The site attracted the attention of Wakefield, MA-based Edgewater Technologies, resulting in persistent pitches. "They eventually got my ear and made a proposal," to give agents the ability to view, print and e-mail dec pages online, at any time.
The implementation required two distinct efforts, the first being transmitting data from the carrier's legacy system to a MySQL (Uppsala, Sweden) database located at the ISP. A VisualBasic program receives a flat-file ASCII extract from the legacy system, which is converted into an XML file format designed by Edgewater, then validated against an XML schema, according to Jeff McKenzie, the Edgewater project leader. The file is then encrypted and sent via FTP to a server located at Cape.com. The file transfer process is monitored by a status Web site built for the purpose, he adds. Following the legacy system's existing batch schedule, the file transfer/import process runs every night.
"The reason we did the file conversion within the ISP was simply that our enterprise vendor (ICS, Freeport, ME) recommended we not go directly into their system tables," says DeMello. "The data dictionaries weren't all updated so that they could be communicated to a third party."
The second part of the project was to create dynamic Web pages allowing agency users to securely access policy information over the Internet and download the dec pages either individually or in batches as PDF files, Edgewater's McKenzie reports. Search screens allow users to locate policies, which they can view in HTML format, along with claims related to them. They can then request PDF versions of the policy declaration page.
ASCII to XML
One of the project's biggest challenges was converting the dec page content from ASCII to XML format--a task that drove the project two weeks over its six-week target. "It was very time consuming, making sure that on this particular policy form we had the right piece of information inserted on the right line," says DeMello. Development and testing lasted through December, followed by a soft roll-out to a small number of agents. In late February 2002, the application went live.
The cost of the solution was about $100,000, plus an ongoing ISP hosting cost increase of about $300 a month. "We'll be saving money in just a few years," DeMello notes.
The Barnstable hopes to wean all its business partners from the paper-bound process. "We're saving money internally because we're not doing paper filing, or printing our own copies, and we only have three staff members that support a book of business for about $12 million to $13 million and about 23,000 policies," says DeMello. "It has saved a lot of time and it's been a real value-added service to the agents in terms of saving them time."
Case Study Closeup
Barnstable County Mutual Insurance Co., Yarmouth Port, MA, $57 million total assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Homeowners and umbrella liability.
Edgewater Technologies (Wakefield, MA) consulting and development services, Cape.com ISP services (Mashpee, MA).
Web-enable distribution of declaration pages.
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