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Penn Moves to Phoenix

After initially using only quoting functionality, Penn National decides to move entire policy administration to a client/server system.

In the competitive market of commercial lines property and casualty insurance, providing better service to agents can make a world of difference when it comes to acquiring new business.

Harrisburg, PA-based Penn National Insurance ($1.1 billion in assets) knew its quoting, rating and binding processes were not as efficient as they could be and was getting numerous requests from agents to speed up the entire business. "Agents were expressing a desire to quote and bind smaller commercial accounts in one step," says Melinda Lloyd, director of business operations. "It was not a good use of the agents' time to wait days to get it back."

And because of the lengthy processes at Penn National, Lloyd says it sometimes took as long to quote a small account as it did some of the larger policies. "Most of the processing was done manually," she adds. For instance, with commercial auto, Penn National had separate quoting and issuing systems, forcing data to be re-entered into the issuing system.

Facing competitive pressure, along with the problem that the quoting system was not Y2K compliant, Penn National began a search for a new quoting system in early 1999. The company chose Lowell, MA-based Allenbrook's Phoenix policy administration system for quoting. "We needed to do quoting immediately, but we really liked what we saw on Phoenix," Lloyd recalls. "Phoenix is very user friendly and it practically eliminates the possibility of error, so we decided to move off of our existing PMSC systems."

Shift To Client/Server

Penn National made the decision to move all policy administration functions from the mainframe to a client/server set-up. "We have a lot of applications that are converting information from the mainframe," Lloyd says. "The goal is to scrap the mainframe, but that is a long-term objective."

Penn National is running Phoenix on a Unisys (Blue Bell, PA) ES7000 server, deployed using Citrix (Fort Lauderdale) to internal staff and agents. Because of the number of lines of business on the server, jokes Lloyd, "people refer to it as the mother of all servers."

With all of Penn National's policy administration in one system, Lloyd says the company is gaining many efficiencies. "With Phoenix, some of the simple underwriting functions can be done in the system," without underwriter intervention. "Many common types of policies may eventually bypass the underwriter."

Easy To Learn

The carrier did not have to spend a lot of time on training underwriters how to use Phoenix. For agents, Lloyd says, "The system is intuitive," since it is accessed through agents' existing Applied Systems' (University Park, IL) agency management system. Agents can import data from the agency system to Phoenix, complete a quote and adjust limits. Producers on other systems can access Phoenix over the Net.

In order to get Phoenix running, Penn National did not add additional IT staff. "We outsourced a big portion of the development to Allenbrook," Lloyd says.

Currently, Penn National has commercial auto, workers' comp and four package lines available on Phoenix in two of the nine states in which the company writes insurance. By May of next year, Lloyd says Penn National will also have BOP and umbrella policies available. "Development takes an average of six months per line, but once you have a product template built for one state, development time is much shorter."

According to Lloyd, up until now implementation of Phoenix has gone as planned. "We are hitting some difficulties now," with the firewalls at agencies. "We are on Citrix and we have no problem with the agencies on Citrix," Lloyd says. "We are having a hard time with firewalls that accept HTTP. This has been a surprise."


Case Study Closeup


Penn National Insurance, Harrisburg, PA, $1.1 billion in assets.


Auto, umbrella, BOP, workers' comp.


Allenbrook (Lowell, MA) Phoenix; Unisys (Blue Bell, PA) ES7000 server; Citrix (Fort Lauderdale) portal; Applied Systems (University Park, IL) agency management system.


Move policy admin to client/server.

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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