At the same time that coalition forces made final preparations in March for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the insurance industry began a mobilization of its ownone that was both high-touch and high-tech-to deal with war-related concerns, ranging from the need to accommodate reservists called up to duty (on both the industry professional and customer side) to those relating to security and business continuity.
For example, the NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City) and NAILBA (National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies, Fairfax, VA) waived continuing education requirements for producers on active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Seattle-based SAFECO ($32.5 billion in assets) announced service enhancements for active duty military customers, such as pro-rating calculations of premium returned to customers upon request of temporary cancellation of coverage, and reinstating coverage without cancellation penalties.
Business As Usual
One carrier that might be expected to be under an extra degree of pressure is USAA ($64 billion in assets, San Antonio), with its clientele (as well as a significant portionof its workforce) of active and retired military personnel. But addressing the needs of mobilized customers was business as usual, according to Jim Moon, deployment assistance program manager. Given that about 265,000 members deploy annually, "we're mobilized 24/7, every day of the year, and are ready to respond to day-to-day deployment and upswings based on world events," he says.
When service members call USAA's contact center, their use of deployment-related vocabulary triggers a response from the service representative. "Our reps will key in on that language," Moon explains.
Among the information available to USAA customers is a deployment guide that can be sent in paper copy or PDF through USAA.com. A deployment microsite contains "advice, information and checklists and is linked to some of the business transactions," Moon says. Customers are able to interact through a secure online e-mail-like application.
USAA.com also provides an online power-of-attorney form, which customers can use before or after they deploy, Moon notes.
The prospect of war in Iraq also served to concentrate the attention of insurance companies' IT organizations, according to Vincent Oliva, research director, insurance industry, Gartner (Stamford, CT). "On the technology side, what the war has done is re-heighten the awareness of what companies should be doing anyway on the security and disaster recovery planning side," he says.
Preparing for potential disasters is "an evergreen process that you need to be working on at all times," insists David MacLeod, director of information security, The Regence Group (Portland, OR, $6 billion in annual premium revenue). Nevertheless, prudence required that a variety of security measures be taken with the prospect of war on the horizon. "We called together our incident management team the afternoon that the 48-hour deadline period" for Iraq to comply with UN resolution 1441 was announced, MacLeod recalls.
The team focused largely on physical security concerns, such as those that could spring from a chemical or biological attack, MacLeod says.
Regence also stepped up monitoring of attempts to hack into its systems. While not related directly to enemy activity, hackers typically see an event such as war as an excuse to mount electronic attacks, according to MacLeod. "And we did indeed see a rise in the number of attempts," he says.
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