Supporting the marketing and client-service activities for a 100,000-strong independent life insurance sales force, Tom Swift, senior VP of field technology with Primerica Life Insurance, is continually looking for ways to increase efficiency and productivity.
"We are always trying to use technology to process and issue more business more efficiently and with fewer mistakes," says Swift. The problem, however, is that with a sales force made up entirely of independent contractors, Swift and his team not only have to develop the right applications, they have to convince the sales force that they need to use and implement the application.
Shifting Agent Demographic
A number of factors have allowed Primerica to ramp up their high-tech efforts in certain application areas and on specific platforms. "We are seeing a younger and more technology-savvy sales force," Swift says. Also, "Congress recently passed an electronic signature law and the cost of handheld computing devices has become low enough to allow for wide adoption."
Leveraging Primerica's existing back-end and communications technology infrastructure, Swift and his team have developed an application for capturing and submitting life insurance applications on hand-held mobile devices. The application called TurboApps, developed using Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) VisualBasic and AppForge (Atlanta) MobileVB tools, will run on standard hand-held devices using the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems. "While our first implementation will be with the Palm OS," says Swift, "it was important to us that we could use the same set of source code for multiple operating systems."
Primerica's sales agents will follow the same three-step process for gathering client information, but with TurboApps, the client will update and sign the application on the mobile device. In addition, TurboApps will check the application for errors before it is submitted electronically. "TurboApps will not only eliminate redundant data entry for the agent and the company, it also prevents the application from being submitted, which saves a lot of time and labor," explains Swift.
Agents will submit the application via the Primerica private network named CallAtlanta. "Using a modem and dial-up connection, our agents can submit the application directly to our back-end processing system," says Swift, who adds that "with 30,000 to 35,000 life insurance applications being processed each month, the potential cost savings are significant." The benefits for agents are also compelling. "Our agents like that there is no mail time...because that means they get paid faster," Swift adds.
The application, comprising both a PDA and a desktop software component, was developed in-house. Swift estimates that the application required 5,000 to 6,000 hours of development time and that another 4,000 hours will be needed to roll it out nationally. "There were several compelling reasons to do the development in-house," says Swift. "First, because we did not find any third-party vendors doing this, second because it was much less expensive, and third, from a maintenance standpoint, we thought it would be easier to manage and upgrade the application."
The first pilot program for TurboApps commenced this past December, with a national launch planned for next year. Swift plans to use the Primerica Web site, as well as the Primerica Dish TV network, to promote the tool to the sales force. Users will pay a fee to use the application and to subscribe to the CallAtlanta service. At press time, Swift was not able to share any results of the pilot.
Wireless Is the Future
Based on the response of sales agents who first saw the tool at the Primerica conference, Swift says there is already significant interest. Moving forward, Primerica plans to roll out TurboApps in other business lines, and to enable wireless transmission of applications.
Case Study Closeup
Company Name: Primerica Life Insurance Co., Duluth, Ga.; 2002 revenue: $2.1 billion.
Lines Of Business: Life and long-term care insurance, mutual funds, debt consolidation loans, variable annuities.
Vendor/Technology: Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) VisualBasic; PocketPC OS; PalmOne, Inc. (Milpitas, CA), OS; AppForge (Atlanta) MobileVB.
The Challenge: Improve accuracy of policy submissions.