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Johannah Rodgers
Johannah Rodgers
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GE Commercial Leaps A Technology Generation

Insurer moves from legacy architecture to an Internet-based product to improve service, business processes.

Insurer moves from legacy architecture to an Internet-based product to improve service, business processes.

GE Commercial Insurance was created in a January 2001 reorganization that realigned GE Employers Reinsurance Corp.'s five commercial insurance business units (Coregis, GE Medical Protective, IRI , P&C Select and Westport Healthcare). The challenge that resulted from the reorg, says Bruce Coates, customer advocacy leader at GE Commercial Insurance (Overland Park, Kan.), was "to figure out how to make the five different information systems and business models work together seamlessly."

With a mandate from the CEO to make the new business unit a "risk analytics powerhouse," and a need to transition from a much older, centralized IT model, Coates and his team sought a solution that would take advantage of newer technology and clean up pain points in existing systems.

Making Life Easy

Through focus groups, Coates and his team were able to ask customers and staff what an ideal system would look like and what wasn't working with current processes. "We found out," says Coates, "that we needed to make it easier for customers to do business with us, to improve our internal access to data and to increase our ability to comply with new reporting standards."

Responding to customer and staff needs, as well as to the positive experience that GE Commercial Insurance had with an Internet-based workers' comp application, the company decided to "leap a generation" in terms of technology and take advantage of the new breed of Internet-based policy applications.

A request for proposal was sent to 20 vendors, a field that was then cut to two.

"We wanted a complete solution and insurance expertise," explains Coates, "and we decided that Insurity [based in Hartford] excelled at both."

While the selection process itself was comprehensive, the post-selection research was even more rigorous.

"We were really betting the farm on this new system," says Coates. "We acted like we were acquiring Insurity, since we needed to make sure that this company was going to be around in five years."

The first three pilot programs of Project Jupiter, the internal name for the Insurity application suite, were launched in January 2003 and have resulted in significant benefits.

"The pilot applications were all related to our commercial auto lines because that was where we were having some real issues," Coates says. "To date, we have made two quarters of ISO reporting, and our error rate has been virtually zero-which is, particularly where we were coming from, hard to believe."

Agents using Project Jupiter log on to the Internet site, where they can apply, bind and issue a policy online. "It is a true end-to-end solution," says Coates. Data is fed back to the home office as soon as policies are issued.

"We have not only improved customer service, but we also have much tighter-almost real-time-accountability for our business," explains Coates.

Installation of Project Jupiter will be complete by the end of this year and will cover all commercial lines in all 50 states. Housed and managed by Insurity, Project Jupiter did not require any additional back-end hardware or software to install, but did require the addition of several printers and high-speed Internet connections. Approximately 100 individuals from Insurity were involved in the design and implementation of the application, with a cross-functional team from GE overseeing the effort.

Increasing Customer Retention

Coates and his team are extremely pleased with the results of Project Jupiter. "We have a system that emphasizes ease of access and ease of use, and that may possibly differentiate us from the competition," says Coates. "We have a much more holistic view of our business as a result of this application. We know where business is originating, what the loss drivers are and what it takes to retain customers."

In the project's next generation, the company hopes to help agents extend the functionality of the application to the insured, meaning that there will be a link between customers and the insurer.

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