In the quest to help independent agents improve business, Kingstone Insurance does all it can to stay ahead of the pack. "Our major competitors are large brand-name insurers," says Kinstone CEO and president John Reiersen. "Their online applications make it easy for agents to do business. We need to offer similar tools to keep up."
The long transformation got under way in 2005, when Kingstone, a subsidiary of Hewlett, N.Y.-based Kingstone Companies ($57.8 million in total assets), began exploring agent portal options for its existing IDP (Wyncote, Pa.) underwriting system. When the search appeared as if it would be unsuccessful, Reiersen recalls, the carrier turned to IDP for advice.
IDP ultimately decided to engineer its own portal solution, dubbed AgentXpress, with Kingstone serving as a development site. To support the project, Reiersen notes, Kingstone added a web server, expanding its local area network to a total of three servers; IDP conducted the on-site integration. By late 2006, inquiry-only functionality was rolled out, and a year later, online quote and issuance for homeowners and dwelling fire policies went live.
With enthusiasm for the new portal running strong, Reiersen relates, Kingstone participated in the 2008 Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) annual performance survey. Pitted against the biggest insurance names in New York, Kingstone placed a respectable 17th. "We were very happy with that," Reiersen notes.
Yet Kingstone still lacked online rating for commercial auto policies, so IDP began developing the capability in late 2008. As with previous AgentXpress functionality, Kingstone's underwriters provided insurance and workflow requirements and IDP handled the rest, Reiersen says. While the commercial auto module rolled out seamlessly in late 2009, agents quickly began asking for an estimating tool, he adds. "Rather than fill out an entire application, agents wanted to get a ballpark estimate [to start]," Reiersen explains. "To accommodate, IDP created a quick quote feature."
For Kingstone, the only notable challenge was training. "Our marketing representatives needed to be well trained on AgentXpress -- their ability to train the CSRs in our producers' offices was a key to getting producers to use AgentXpress," comments Reiersen.
Currently, "Only 60 to 70 percent of our agents use the online rater," Reiersen acknowledges, pointing out that commercial auto underwriting nonetheless jumped 15 percent in 2010. "Some agents still prefer to fax or mail. But ... we'll take an application by dog sled, as long as they get it to us." And for the PIA's 2010 Company Performance Survey, Kingstone finished first, Reiersen boasts. "Clearly agents recognize we're doing our best to develop systems that improve their efficiency and effectiveness," he says.
Not surprisingly, Kingstone looks forward to further AgentXpress enhancements, with online cancellation reports, subagent processing and online policy delivery slated for 2011. Integration with agency management systems is expected to kick off in 2012.
"Independent agents place business where human and technology systems are reliable and friendly," observes Reiersen. "IDP has played a significant role in our ability to accommodate producers and fuel our growth."
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio