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Austin Mutual's Agent Portal Helps Get New Product to Market Fast

When bringing a revamped commercial product to market, the carrier was able to lean on its robust, proprietary Austin Rating Tool.

Austin Mutual Insurance Company (Maple Grove, Minn.; $175 million in direct written premium) recently launched new businessowners coverage based on updated guidelines from ISO (Jersey City, N.J.). When bringing the new product to market, one of the carrier's main goals was preparing its rating tool for agents to deliver the new coverage as soon as possible.

"One of the things we pride ourselves on is service," says Stacy Olson, VP of business development and marketing for Austin. "It's about building strong relationships with that agent in mind — making it easy for them to do business with us and making Austin one of their first choices."

The enhancements included class-specific endorsements, equipment breakdown coverage, employment practice liability coverage, professional liability coverage and directors' and officers' liability coverage, Cathy Harper, SVP of underwriting, says.

Austin has had a businessowners product since 2002. But with the expanded coverage going to into effect at the beginning of this year, the carrier "wanted to make sure agents could quote it at least 30 days in advance," Harper adds.

When preparing for this launch, Austin's IT department looked at the company's proprietary Austin Rating Tool (ART), a proprietary, Microsoft .NET-based agent portal.

"We went through a very iterative process in this development. There's going to be some regular IT blocking and tackling — rules and rates and coverages, some that they follow from ISO, but some that we do differently," says James Vettel, assistant VP of IT for Austin. "We pride ourselves on working closely with the business."

The IT department checked in often while gathering requirements and incorporating them both into the rating tool and into its policy processing system, Austin, Texas-based CSC's POINT IN. The carrier also uses a system from Stamford, Conn.-based IVANS to download updated policy information from POINT IN to agents so they always have an up-to-date view of their customers' coverage.

"We had to have all the new coverages and rates loaded onto our POINT system so ART comes through and does that real-time quoting," Vettel adds. "There were multiple projects going to make sure that when we got this to delivery, it was something that our agents really trusted that we could deliver."

Mohammad Ayub, development manager for the carrier who works closely on ART, noted that while all these new rules were being developed, the company still needed to support its existing coverage. The company adhered to its agile development strategy to make sure these potential snags were anticipated and addressed.

"We had to keep the old version alive and we had to simultaneously give agents the ability to write the new business," he explains. "With agile principles, what it means to us is that the developers and the decision makers can get together to identify the risks up front."

The carrier, which offers personal lines as well as commercial products, is using its mounting experience in developing agent-facing portals to improve customer-facing web services as well.

"We're going to keep making tweaks here and there to make the user experience better, on our public website as well," Vettel says. "We need to be ready for the nest three, four, five years with market and technology changes dictating needs."

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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