If one is concerned about keeping producers happy, it's a good idea to be alert to their preferred ways of doing business.
That ethic guided Newport, CA-based Pacific Life's decision to make annual and quarterly statements available to agents and policy owners within 24 hours from the time they were created in the carrier's policy administration system, according to Douglas Maxwell, IT strategic planner, Pacific Life. "We surveyed our agents and some of the feedback was an interest in getting data to them quicker," he says.
Until the firm could implement such a solution, documents had to be printed and mailed, delaying availability by five to seven days. "We wanted to provide these documents in real time over our secure agent and policy owner extranets," Maxwell relates. Agent and policy owner customers would benefit not only from prompt receipt of time-sensitive documents, but would also be relieved of the need to keep paper copies of documents, he adds.
Narrowing the Field
The answer was what the carrier calls a secure electronic document delivery system. The system consists of a chain of events starting with document production on the mainframe, to transformation of Xerox (Stamford, CT) Metacode print stream to PDF format, and indexing and storing of documents in an internal database, Maxwell relates.
In researching transformation solutions, Pacific Life undertook high-level review of several vendors and narrowed down the field to do a more detailed analysis of their capabilities, according to Maxwell. "In addition to several on-site demonstrations, an RFP was prepared asking specific questions about system requirements, training, references and ongoing support," he says. "The project team evaluated vendor responses and selected Xenos Toronto based on its comprehensive software package and the fact that its product integrated into the architecture we were building.
"The technical considerations were, 'Are you able to run in a Microsoft environment and can you transform Metacode to PDF?'" Maxwell adds.
Toward the end of January 2001 three Pacific Life developers attended off-site training at a Xenos facility in Dallas. As part of the development process, the Pacific Life staff had to conduct a "mapping" process to identify particular print streams corresponding to policy documents to be transformed. Training consisted of learning to implement a Xenos tool for receiving a print stream, Maxwell notes. "It was basically being able to receive the input stream and how to recognize data on the document, how to select data," and determine the content of fields, such as policy number, insured's name, etc.
After training, the Pacific Life developers were available to begin programming for the carrier's first Metacode print stream transformation, Maxwell says. That effort began mid-February 2001 and the solution went live to agents by the end of March. "The only challenge that surfaced was ensuring that all document format changes on the mainframe were coordinated with the Xenos development team to prevent document transformation errors," Maxwell notes. Ongoing maintenance is managed by the man-hour equivalent of a part-time employee.
Policy Owners Next
Agentswho are able to access documents securely on Pacific Life's extranethave reacted favorably to the solution. "The feedback I've received has all been positive," Maxwell says. The carrier plans to roll the capability out to policy owners by year's end, he adds.
Pacific Life plans to make more documents available via the secure electronic document delivery system, according to Maxwell. "However, the timing for delivery of additional documents has not been determined yet," he says. Decisions on further documents "will all be based on internal priorities and requests from agents," Maxwell adds. "We're at the point where we will evaluate that on an as-needed basis."
In the long run, delivering critical documents online may foster a move to a paperless environment, allowing for considerable savings for Pacific Life. "That's in the back of our minds," Maxwell says. "In the future we may offer the paperless option, but we won't do it unless the producers want it." For the time being, he adds, "we're satisfied that we were able to provide our agents this requested functionality."
CASE STUDY CLOSEUP
Pacific Life, Newport Beach, CA,
$335 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Life, health, annuities, group employee benefits and investment products.
Xenos (Toronto) d2e Platform software, part of secure electronic document delivery system.
Faster delivery of policy documents to agents and policy owners.
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