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Competitive Frontiersman

Selective's Greg Murphy wields technology to streamline the independent agent distribution channel.

To those for whom mention of New Jersey conjures up Turnpike jokes—or scenes from "The Sopranos"—a trip to Branchville, in the sparsely populated hills of the northwest corner of the state, might suggest the rugged tranquility of a frontier town. But a visit to Selective Insurance's headquarters there would make a different impression. Despite the rustic quality of the landscape, the frontiers being pushed there are in the use of technology to capture competitive edge.

Leading the regional P&C carrier in its conquest of market share is Gregory E. Murphy, who became president in 1997, added CEO responsibilities in 1999, and assumed the chairman's role in May 2000. Since he took on top leadership duties, Murphy has spearheaded a product and geographical diversification strategy, supported by major automation initiatives aimed at cultivating the carrier's relationship with its field force of approximately 850 independent agents, in 20 states from the East Coast to the Midwest.

Easing Business

Murphy stresses the importance of technology for an insurance carrier dedicated to the independent agentdistribution channel. "Tremendous inefficiencies exist in this model, because the agents have their operations, and the companies have theirs," he says. Murphy's challenge is to ask, "What do I need to do to push technology, and how do I need to be involved in technology initiatives?"

One way of answering those questions was Murphy's founding of Selective's Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO), which identifies, designs and manages all of the carrier's major technology programs. Murphy chairs the body, whose membership includes senior and mid-level business managers and key IT personnel. He has also instituted a project management training program to develop the skills of employees with project management duties.

Under Murphy's direction, Selective has made a series of bold technology improvements. In early 2001, Selective launched its Richmond, VA-based Selective Service Center which connects licensed personnel to small business customers; as well as One & Done, which provides online straight-through processing of small commercial policies; and Mobile Claim System (MCS), which allows claims personnel to work with their laptops at any location.

Commercial Lines Automated System

Coming initiatives include a Claims Service System to complement the existing Richmond Service Center's capabilities, and CLAS, a Web-based commercial lines automated system due for a four-phase roll-out ending April 2003. CLAS, Selective's most ambitious project to date, "will provide our agents the ability to write new business through an expanded small commercial lines program, generate renewals for a substantial portion of their book of business, as well as process endorsements right in their office," Murphy says. "It substantially eliminates the redundancies that exist in a traditional agent/company distribution model."

More ambitious still is a planned investment in excess of $10 million in data warehousing technology. "Looking down the road, the true differentiation for a company will be its knowledge base," Murphy asserts, adding that such an initiative will also take the carrier" much closer to our target platform, where our front-line people's access to information and our ability to make decisions will be substantially improved, providing us with the next level of advantage in the marketplace."



Chairman, President and CEO, Selective Insurance Group, Inc., Branchville, NJ, $2.7 billion in assets.


BS, Boston College; CPA; Harvard Advanced Management Program; MIT Sloan School of Management. Murphy joined Selective in 1980. He became senior vice president, finance in 1994; CFO in 1995 and president and COO in 1997. He served as president and CEO from May '99 to May 2000, when he also took on duties as chairman.




$30 million.


Golf, ice hockey.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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