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02:46 PM
Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
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From the Ground Up

Simplicity and restraint - and established governance processes - guide CIO Robert Asensio in building Darwin's technology infrastructure and integrating applications.

Ties That Bind

With Dragon in place, Asensio and his team turned their attention to creating an underwriting system in-house. Called i-bind, the underwriting system is more than just a Web-enabled application - it allows a producer to complete an end-to-end insurance transaction online. Producers are able to submit and bind new accounts, renew and service existing accounts, and view account and policy details.

I-bind is unique in the traditionally manual specialty lines business, Asensio relates. "We're trying to get people to think differently and that they don't need to spend so much time doing underwriting. We're proving that underwriting can be done very accurately," he relates. "I-bind already is paying off by allowing us to respond to customers more quickly than our competitors can."

Several hundred rules embedded in i-bind facilitate a dynamic interview process between producer and client, and determine how the system handles risk, Asensio explains. Without the help of an underwriter, producers can receive an almost instantaneous quote. Darwin's underwriting team is notified in real time that a quote has been delivered. Today, i-bind is available for management liability insurance transactions for private companies and will be rolled out to other lines of business on a strategic basis, according to Asensio.

I-bind is a good example of how IT and the business are aligned at Darwin, Asensio points out. "Our top people - including the CEO, CIO and CFO - were involved in assigning underwriting rules and guidelines and determining the look of the system. You don't see that in most insurance companies," he says. "Technology decisions typically are delegated down to a level where they become ineffective. We had top people put their stamp on i-bind to make sure it did what we needed it to do."

Darwin also just recently made a decision to purchase an IBM WebSphere integration server. "I'm really excited," says Asensio. "I think it's a great way to go about integrating systems, and it is a great example of learning from the past and trying to approach integration with a singular tool set and similar way of doing things. It will allow us to do integration faster and require less maintenance."

Bottom-Line Challenges

While Asensio acknowledges that he's fortunate to be able to undertake technology initiatives without legacy baggage, he says the freedom can create a challenge to keep the IT staff focused on activities that have a bottom-line impact to the business. But the involvement and contribution of the business helps, he observes.

For example, in addition to being very involved in the development of i-bind, the business units took ownership of selecting Darwin's Valley Oak Systems' (San Ramon, Calif.) claims system. "In IT, we spent most of our time preparing the environment and making some minor system configuration changes," Asensio relates. "The business is responsible for making sure they are happy with the system."

To further keep his IT staff motivated, Asensio says Darwin has created a culture that emphasizes giving people what they need to do their jobs. And, he says, the company is characterized by informality, even at the executive level. "We have lots of laughs and we do lots of hard work," Asensio relates. "Thankfully, we're not hampered by politics or process."

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