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Insurers Respond to Sandy: Report from Rhode Island

Insurers report being prepared in advance for the catastrophe and remaining busy handling claims and other customer concerns.

Contact with area insurers remains spotty following Hurricane Sandy's impact, and an Upstate New York-based CIO emailed to say that our speculation that higher communications priorities interrupted our contact with insurers was right in the case of his company. The same was true of Amica Mutual Insurance. "Now is not the best time to talk because we're doing so much relative to handling claims of insureds," acknowledged Vince Burke's a spokesman for the Lincoln, R.I.-based personal lines P&C carrier.

[If you think Sandy was a one-off, see Don’t Think Sandy Can’t Happen Again.]

Amica is facing significant challenges owing to power outages, according to Burks. The mutual insurer communicated with policyholders prior to Sandy's landfall. "We proactively sent emails and are now following up, but we're still getting information as to which areas have been hardest hit," he comments.

Mike Anselmo, SVP & CIO, of Pawtucket, R.I.-based Narragansett Bay Insurance Company (NBIC) checked in with us yesterday afternoon to report that he was one of many associates of the company who lost power at home. "Our corporate office remained up and our core applications hosted via multiple private clouds remained available to our agents for claims and policy handling," Anselmo informed I&T. "We are experiencing some call center phone issues, however, our partners servicing center is handling all claims services for us with minimal interruption."

Mike Anselmo
Mike Anselmo, Narragansett Bay Insurance Company

NBIC activated its CAT readiness plan last week so they were sure to be prepared to service their policyholders and agents, Anselmo relates. NBIC also introduced a new web-based FNOL process developed internally and hosted in the cloud that Anselmo says is getting rave reviews by agents. “We will be provisioning this to our consumers this week for added claims servicing capabilities directly from the policyholder during Hurricane Sandy and all future events,” Anselmo says.

The coastal streets of Barrington, R.I. were under about three feet of water, according to Gavin Hunter, president of BenchStrength International, a technology consulting firm serving the insurance and reinsurance industries. "Sandy visited from mid-morning, when our power went out for about an hour, until well into the evening," he says. "We were very fortunate and had little damage to our property, but those neighbors who are a bit closer to the water experienced a good deal of flooding from the combination of the storm surge and the tide."

The silence of the insurance industry that we reported yesterday — when we only got responses from two regional companies, both of them life insurers — is a phenomenon that goes beyond the industry, suggests Amica's Burks. While insurers are clearly busy with higher-priority, claims-related communications, many workers and residents are still without power, according to numerous media reports and our own personal experience. As Amica deals with its customers, it has had confirmation of the psychological impact of the storm's destructiveness: "Many people are comparing this event to 9/11 in terms of the eerie quiet that followed, along with feelings of being disconnected and isolated," says Burks.

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

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