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Apogee Helps Merastar Transform

Merastar, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based marketer of personal auto and homeowners insurance, saw a transformational opportunity in Steel Card's Web-based Apogee point-of-sale and policy administration solution.

The potential of Web-based systems represented a compelling opportunity for Merastar (about $58 million in written premium), a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based niche marketer of employer-sponsored personal lines insurance. And as the time had come for what Ken Lytle, vice president of systems, calls a "technology leap," the carrier chose Steel Card's (San Francisco) Apogee point-of-sale and policy administration solution for auto insurance across 47 states.

Owing to its workplace marketing strategy, nearly 40 percent of the insurer's customers make initial contact via the Internet. Despite that fact, Merastar's site's functionality was limited to quoting, accompanied by directions for interacting with its service center. "Being an affinity-oriented direct writer, everything comes in to our sales or service call center here," says Lytle. "We wanted to push more functionality out to both our customers and distribution channels."

The carrier chose the Steel Card solution for its range of functionality, including rating, rules, forms and full policy processing. Merastar judged the Apogee solution to be best-in-class in several areas, including flexibility, dynamic quoting, user interface and total cost of ownership. The Apogee solution also provides tools to support Merastar's existing environment and enable quick product development, according to Lytle.

Commenting on speed-to-market concerns, Lytle says that, "With this product, we will be able to have a certain amount of things done by users such as those in our underwriting and actuarial departments; they can actually write rules based on their filings, etc., requiring no programmer coding." Once the system is up and running, Lytle adds, "The only thing that will hold us up will be getting the state insurance departments to sign off on rules changes and business decisions we want to make."

In terms of service capability, Apogee -- which will go live for the first few states in August -- will allow Merastar to offer its employer customers the value proposition that, "We can provide you something that virtually nobody else has," Lytle relates. And by doing so the carrier also will gain efficiency advantages that will favorably affect its bottom line. "With the Apogee product, by October, customers will be able to do all the quoting he likes and actually bind the policy online," Lytle says. Through Apogees online functionality, he adds, "We can take tons of time out of the sales and service process, so we're looking for a big payback [from Apogee] just in terms of human resources."

The Steel Card implementation builds upon recent claims-related moves, including the implementation of Guidewire's (San Mateo, Calif.) ClaimCenter end-to-end claims handling solution for the entire Merastar enterprise, and the carrier's selection of First Notice Systems' (Boston) software and services for multichannel capture of first notice of loss, customer connection with body shops and automatic police reports.

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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