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Crossing the Bridge

Elizabeth Haar's technology-driven business strategy led to Accident Fund Insurance's e-business model solution and national expansion.

Acting as a bridge between the past and the future wasn't in the job description when Elizabeth Haar was hired as a chief actuary for Accident Fund Insurance Company of America ($2 billion in total assets) in 1996. However, her ability to link the visionary big picture with reality has helped Haar successfully push the boundaries of the Lansing, Mich.-based carrier from its origins as a state workers' compensation fund to a workers' compensation insurer that operates in 43 states. "Being a bridge is extremely important in trying to implement any ideas because you can have the greatest business strategy in the world, but if you don't have the technology, it is meaningless, or vice versa," says Haar, who climbed the company ladder from chief actuary in 1996, to vice president and chief business development officer and was eventually promoted to the role of CEO in 2005.

Seeing the Potential

Although Haar has never held a technology-specific position, she spent enough time as a business analyst working on data warehouses and policy processing systems to understand the importance of technology as a business tool. "A CEO has to have an appreciation for what technology can do for an organization," says Haar. "It has really helped us move ahead in the market at a much faster rate than we would have without it."

Because workers' compensation is a specialized market focused on the employer as the consumer, it is very competitive. Accident Fund saw an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by using technology to provide agents with ease of use and more-efficient policy processing.

In 2000, the carrier's policy processing system required manual interactions with agents -- which were primarily through fax, phone and e-mail. "It could take up to four weeks to issue a policy. We wanted to change how we do business for the betterment of our customers and make it more efficient for our employers and our agents," says Haar. By creating an e-business platform alongside a plan for national expansion, agents could directly submit policies and spend more time focused on selling. "Technology has helped us make ourselves an easy company to do business with," she says.

Spreading Out

By pursuing both the national expansion and the e-business solution concurrently, Accident Fund could renovate core systems for future expansion of the entire business process. Among the initiatives undertaken were automating portions of document management, replacing the in-house policy processing system with Computer Science Corporation's (CSC; El Segundo, Calif.) Point System and connecting the in-house health claims system with Insurity's (Hartford) Pyramid solution. Once the core components were in place, Accident Fund Insurance implemented CSC's i-Solutions, an e-business system customized for the carrier.

Owing to the benefits afforded within the e-business model, issuing policies now only takes three days, and the business has been able to grow. "We implemented e-business into our 11th core state in March, but we are also now in 32 accommodation states -- so we have had a significant expansion -- and by 2010 we are looking at being in close to 20 core states," says Haar.

Haar is again focused on bridging the company's latest success with future goals. Due to the expansion, Accident Fund Insurance will enhance the document management system it deployed in 2000 by enabling storage and processing of electronic versions of documents, including bills and policies. "It only has solved part of our needs, and now that we are growing we need to bring it into the next generation," says Haar. Currently in research mode, Accident Fund's goal is to begin implementation of a new document management system by the end of this year.

Elizabeth Haar

Accident Fund Insurance Company of America

"A CEO has to have an appreciation for what technology can do for an organization. It has really helped us move ahead in the market."

Career: Haar has held positions at Citizens Insurance (Tallahassee, Fla.), as an associate actuary, and at Michigan Millers Mutual (Lansing), as a pricing analyst. She joined Accident Fund Insurance Company of America in 1996 as chief actuary, and was promoted to vice president and chief business development officer before she became CEO in 2005.

Education: Bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

Hobbies: Haar enjoys traveling and tries to experience her destinations like a local. Haar says the history and friendly faces of a favorite destination, Savannah, Ga., frequently draw her to that town. She is also involved with the United Way.

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