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Unitrin Direct Gets Customized

Auto insurer chooses eXstream Software's Dialogue for the management and customization of its correspondence.

Auto insurer chooses eXstream Software's Dialogue for the management and customization of its correspondence.

Less than a year ago, Unitrin Direct Insurance Co. (Vista, CA) was starting from scratch. The direct insurer, a wholly owned subsidiary of holding company Unitrin, Inc. (Chicago, $6 billion in assets), needed to find a product that could manage and customize all the different correspondences the company would eventually send to its customers.

To get the ball rolling, Blake Kennedy, senior vice president of information technology and operations, Unitrin Direct, consulted with Xerox. A team composed of Kennedy, Sue Novelli—Unitrin Direct's director of information technology—and Ben Ashurst, director of planning, along with help from the Xerox professionals, put together a list of requirements.

"We wanted to find an easy-to-use product that would enable Unitrin to manage and quickly bring up all of the hundreds of letters, bills, and declarations, and change them when necessary for state requirements," says Kennedy. Because Unitrin Direct was a brand new company (launched in November 2000), another requirement was scalability to accomodate anticipated growth.

After looking at several companies, the team narrowed its choices down to four: Document Sciences Corp. (Carlsbad, CA), DocuCorp (Dallas), eXstream Software (Lexington, KY) and InSystems (Markham, ON). After further evaluation, which included investigation of features such as flexibility, business rules, track record and hardware and software compatibility, eXstream Software's Dialogue product was chosen.

Extremely Good Product

"The other products could do the work," says Kennedy, but "we felt that eXstream could really come through and give us what we wanted."

Unitrin signed a contract with eXstream Software in the third quarter of 2000. Two months later the company began work on the implementation of the software with customized requirements for the state of Pennsylvania, one of the two states in which Unitrin currently underwrites insurance. Unitrin Direct went live with the system in November, the same month the insurer was launched.

eXstream Software runs in a Windows 2000 environment. Unitrin Direct acquired the hardware for the entire company during the time of implementation. Although the insurer didn't have any existing technology platforms to integrate during the time it made its software buying decision, according to Kennedy, the team steered away from products that were mainframe based.

According to Kennedy, the project represented less than 20 percent of Unitrin Direct's IT budget. Unitrin Direct ran into some small technical difficulties with eXstream Software during implementation. However, Kennedy says, it was nothing major and eXstream was very good about working with Unitrin to fix the problems quickly.

Training Is Simple

Because training of Unitrin Direct's employees was necessary, someone from eXstream trained an individual from Unitrin Direct, who then was responsible for training the direct marketer's employees throughout the company's locations.

Unitrin is currently 11 months into its use of eXstream Software's Dialogue. "We have a flexible system where we can print forms and correspondences as we need to," says Kennedy. "There are big savings to printing in line rather than preprinting, and we are killing less trees."

Kennedy is also pleased with how easy the eXstream technology is to use. "Ease of use and maintenance are key," he says. "With eXstream it's easy to save requirements for what we are printing. The maintainability of the system is very superior." Efficiency has been improved, as well. "It took four people to do the work that is now done by one person," says Kennedy.

Unitrin completed the rollout of the eXstream system with the customization requirements for Florida and went live with it in the second quarter of 2001. The carrier, which currently underwrites in Pennsylvania and Florida, plans to roll out the software with customizations for Michigan, New York and California. According to Kennedy, Unitrin also plans to implement a COLD imaging system.



Unitrin Direct Insurance Co., Vista, CA (subsidiary of Untrin, $6 billion in assets).


eXstream Software's (Lexington, KY) Dialogue, Microsoft(Redmond, WA) Windows 2000.

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