Looking for new ways to improve communication, streamline processes and reduce time and costs for itsbrokers, Toronto-based Pilot Insurance Company ($1 billion in assets) turned to Internet technologies to achieve these goals. "Our customers are our brokers," says Katherine Roup, manager of e-business, "and we are always looking for ways to improve our relationship with them by making our systems more efficient."
"Our brokers made it clear that having online access to policy applications would help them greatly and the challenge was then to connect them to our internal legacy systems," explains Roup. Realizing the uniqueness and urgency of the project, the president of Pilot created a small e-business group, made up of Roup and Katie Walmsley, vice president of corporate development, to research available solutions, coordinate resources and plan the project.
"We started by turning to our brokers and asking what they needed," says Roup. "Overwhelmingly, they said they needed something as user-friendly as possible." Following this mandate, Roup and Walmsley looked at several different vendors, finally narrowing the field to six providers. "We eventually chose DWL," explains Roup, "because we had a concrete belief that they were able to deliver on what they promised and their strategy and solution suited our business. It was very important to us that they had already developed a similar solution for several other insurance companies."
The solution being implemented, DWL Inc.'s (Toronto) Unifi, is an e-business platform that integrates existing legacy systems and business functions and delivers data through a real-time, personalized interface for browsers. The DWL Unifi e-business platform is packaged into vertical-specific portals called vortals. Included in DWL's Unifi Insurance vortal is a set of browser-based, real-time transactional portals and business applications designed specifically to personalize and Web-enable the day-to-day insurance brokers' business activities such as policy and billing inquiries, amendments and new business.
With a desktop PC, a modem and a standard Internet Explorer or Netscape browser, brokers will be able to accessvia the Unifi vortalthe Pilot policy applications that are now running on DEC/Alpha Unix and AS/400 systems. "There are several different functions that brokers wanted access to in the policy application, including policy and billing inquiry, changing billing and policy information, even submitting new business," says Roup. Pilot has 370 total brokers and Roup expects 70 percent will eventually use the product.
The DWL project was initiated in July. In an interesting and novel move, Toronto-based Royal & SunAlliance Financial ($145.9 billion in assets under management), which had developed a similar broker application with DWL, licensed the technology for use by other P&C insurers. "You would have never seen this in the past," Roup says, "when every technology asset was considered a key differentiator; but brokers made it clear to us and other insurance companies they simply didn't have the resources to learn and use several different systems. Royal & SunAlliance Financial acknowledged that brokers would benefit from this arrangement. It was very forward thinking." As a result of the licensing arrangement, Roup says, "we are saving substantial development timeprobably six to eight months altogether."
Roup estimates the total budget for the project at "approximately $1 million, with the majority of the funds going toward development costs." Two new servers, one test and one production, were purchased for the project.
In terms of the return on investment, Roup cautions that it is still too early to quantify but we know that processing time will be reduced and that will certainly translate into cost savings. There is a lot of pressure in the industry to keep costs down and we feel that this project will aid those efforts."
SOLUTION: WEB-BASED FIELD SUPPORT
COMPANY NAME: Pilot Insurance Company, Toronto, $1 billion in total assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS: Personal lines property & casualty.
VENDOR/TECHNOLOGY: DWL Incorporated's (Toronto) Unifi.
THE CHALLENGE: Deliver access to legacy-based policy data to brokers via the Net.