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Straight-Through Service

Western Reserve Group makes a long-term commitment to straight-through processing, starting with enabling online business submission for agents.

With more and more insurance carriers offering agents electronic business submission capabilities and moving toward straight-through processing, Wooster, Ohio-based Western Reserve Group ($353 million in total assets) decided to expand the Web capabilities for agents of its legacy mainframe systems throughout a four-year process. "We knew we had to go down the path that every other company was going down," says Dan Pitcher, vice president of information technology for the insurer.

In 2001, Western Reserve Group, a P&C carrier that distributes through 400 independent agents, was manually processing quotes and applications through a diskette-based rating system. All data from the paper applications generated as part of the rating diskette had to be rekeyed into the carrier's mainframe system, leaving room for human error. Also, updating the diskettes and redistributing the new diskette copies to agents was costly.

In late 2001, the insurer conducted pilots with two vendor products, including OpenConnect Solution's (Dallas) Configure, which creates a J2EE interface between mainframe systems and Web applications, allowing Web applications to read and write information to mainframe systems. "Since we had J2EE architecture, we were looking for a provider who could work on that platform," relates Pitcher.

Configure provides real-time access to accurate rate information, according to Pitcher. It allows agents to easily enter information to obtain quotes for customers and then convert the quotes into applications without rekeying data, he adds.

Western Reserve Group signed on with OpenConnect in October 2002. To implement the Configure solution, the carrier added an IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) Web application server and WebSphere software to its IBM z890 mainframe and ZVSE operating system. Implementation started in the personal and automotive lines, but the system was rolled out gradually over four years to all of the company's product portfolio lines, says Pitcher.

To further enhance business processing, Western Reserve Group currently is testing OpenConnect's soaSolution suite, including soaComprehend, which enables the carrier to observe all interactions with the mainframe and understand usage patterns; soaConfigure, an upgrade to Configure that leverages business knowledge to build better services; and soaConnect, a security program, according to Pitcher. SoaSolution offers the insurer straight-through processing features such as VIN lookup, digital image downloads, credit checks and protection class validation for homeowners that were layered into each existing Web rating application. "We wanted straight-through processing to make sure the agent got ease-of-use benefits, and we would also get the benefit of having captured all of that information and all of that data electronically," Pitcher explains.

With the OpenConnect solution, Western Reserve Group no longer has to rekey data, ensuring better accuracy, and the carrier saves the cost of diskette maintenance. The insurer's agents have taken to the new online application system, with 97 percent of agents submitting applications through the Web, even though agent submission through the Web is voluntary, Pitcher relates. "With straight-through processing ... it's a fast and easy process -- which is essential in a competitively priced market," he says.



Western Reserve Group (Wooster, Ohio; $353 million in total assets).

lines of business

Personal, automotive, homeowners, farm and commercial insurance.


OpenConnect System's (Dallas) soaSolution and Configure.


Provide electronic business submission and processing for agents.

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