They say timing is everything, and no one is hoping that adage is true more than John Pergande,chairman and CEO of INSpire Insurance Solutions, the Ft. Worth-based provider of services for the property/casualty industry. The company is wrapping up a 100-day assessment periodscrutinizing everything from operations to technology to expenses to staffas a result of a rocky recent history and a very bleak 1999 that saw the company lose some of its biggest contracts.
As INSpire has assembled an almost completely new management team, slashed expenses, imposed operational controls and set new reality-based sales targets, Pergande says he has reason to be optimistic. "We've been bidding on and seeing more potential new business in the past few months than in all of 2000," he reports.
There is a renewed interest, according to Pergande, in the potential of outsourcing to help the mid-sized P&C companies that are INSpire's target market reduce their own operating costs and risks. With the current pressure on IT budgets, insurers "are asking, 'Is this my core competency? Should I be in the business of providing service, or is my competitive advantage in creating product?'"
In fact, what Pergande identifies as a $10 billion insurance outsourcing/services market has the potential to doubleif companies such as INSpire do a better, faster job of implementing their systems and managing their client relationships. This is something the company has not done well in recent years, he acknowledges. "We will not buy businesses just because we are going through tough times," Pergande says.
It will be in the second quarter that INSpire starts to accelerate its marketing and sales efforts. "What we wanted to do from January through March was further refine our internal operations and software delivery process."
Those efforts will be led by what is essentially a new management team (three executives from the previous senior management remain). "There's a lot more insurance industry experience than we had before," Pergande says. For example, the new head of business development is David Plate, who had previously worked for ChannelPoint and AIG. Heading sales is Kay Womble, "a long-time seller of outsourced services with both PMSC and IMSG."
And what they will be marketing is technology that Pergande is convinced is as strong as anything out there. "We did a best-of-breed analysis of our technology, compared to what else is available in the marketplace," in terms of policy administration and claims handling, he says. "I think we do have features and functionality that truly are state of the art."
Nevertheless, prudence will be the watchword at INSpire for the foreseeable future. According to Pergande, "From my perspective, as a big shareholder, I don't want to see the company stumble. We've only got one opportunity with each existing and new customer."
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio