Producing tailored business information on demand is easier said than done, as U.S. Financial Life (USFL; Cincinnati; $200 million in annual premium) discovered when its parent company, The MONY Group (as of July 2004, a wholly owned subsidiary of AXA Financial), required USFL to produce commission data for MONY professionals who sell USFL's policies in the ACORD XML for Life (XMLife) format. USFL, which had different agent payment schedules, processes and systems, didn't have the capability to provide the information in the requested format.
"The MONY Group has a totally different compensation system for their career field professionals than we do for our writing agents, who are not captive agents," says Erik Simmons, vice president, new business and management information systems, USFL. "Our writing agents work at general agencies and brokerage agencies and sell our policies. We pay commissions to those writing agents twice a month."
For a number of years, USFL didn't even provide The MONY Group with a data feed - it simply paid MONY's field professionals just like it paid all of USFL's other writing agents. But, because The MONY Group's field professionals were receiving perks based on their production, in late 2002 the carrier decided it didn't want to credit these producers for USFL business unless Simmons could get that sales information into The MONY Group system.
No Time Like the Present
USFL had never worked with XMLife-formatted files and did not have a system in place to create that kind of a file. The immediate goal, then, was to find a software program that would allow the company to feed data to The MONY Group in a format that its systems would understand, Simmons says.
In the first quarter of 2003, Simmons, who was charged with finding a solution, considered USFL's options. The carrier could contract a programmer to do the work, or it could purchase a vendor's product.
Because The MONY Group insisted that USFL provide an XMLife file as soon as possible, Simmons sought a solution that could be implemented quickly. Since he was already familiar with Whitehill Technologies' (Moncton, New Brunswick) offerings, Simmons contacted the vendor for a product demonstration. After Whitehill demonstrated its solution's capabilities, USFL signed a contract with the vendor in May 2003 to install and configure its < xml > Transport product.
Based on a subset of the ACORD XMLife specifications relevant for commission transactions, Whitehill's < xml > Transport application converts data coming from USFL's AS/400 into XML. USFL produces text reports in EBCDIC format and converts these files to ASCII data, which then is delivered to Whitehill < xml > Transport. A single Whitehill < xml > Transport template converts the ASCII data into XML, and the output file is stored on USFL's file server. The data is then encrypted before it eventually is delivered to The MONY Group.
USFL purchased a separate desktop server for the Windows-based solution. Within 30 days of contracting Whitehill, the software was installed, USFL's employees completed training and XML documents were being generated. The on-site implementation was completed in just four days.
The installation of the XMLife capability took less than 5 percent of the company's IT budget, which Simmons declines to enumerate. He believes, however, that it would have cost much more for an independent contractor to complete the project, and the tool would have been unusable for future projects. Since USFL first engaged Whitehill Technologies, the carrier has saved a total of 2.5 months in IT programming hours, according to Simmons.
USFL is currently leveraging its new capability to create an XML file that contains all of the company's pending cases at any given time, allowing the insurer to disseminate the information to agents in a single format. According to Simmons, "This would amount to approximately 10,000 case files once a day."
Case Study Closeup
Company Name: U.S. Financial Life (Cincinnati; $200 million in annual premium).
Lines of Business: Life insurance.
Vendor/Technology: Whitehill Technologies' (Moncton, New Brunswick) < xml > Transport production solution.
The Challenge: Provide parent company The MONY Group with a commission extract in XMLife format.