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Penn National Empowers Agents With Easily Customized Documents

Penn National Insurance has extended its relationship with HP Exstream to deliver documents to agents in real time via the carrier's agent self-service portal.

Penn National Insurance (more than $1.4 billion in assets) first identified in 2007 a need to deliver increased document creation capabilities directly to its independent agents, allowing them to better customize documents and print them locally, according to Timothy Caskey, Penn National senior systems analyst. The capabilities, he notes, were to be a part of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based carrier's larger effort to establish an agent self-service portal.

Penn National already provided agents with upload/download capabilities via their agency management systems, but the insurer did not have its own direct portal for agents, which was becoming something of a competitive pain point, Caskey says. "[Agents] had no direct entry to do quoting from us," he recalls. "Our competitors were doing it, so we needed to get on board with a direct quoting system for our agents for personal lines -- homeowner and auto."

In developing its self-service portal, Penn National also sought to drive straight-through processing by automating much of its document processing environment. "We felt that, with the automation that we were going to put in place and with the underwriting edits in a rules engine, we could automate and put new business at 70 percent straight-through processing," Caskey says of an STP goal that the company has since met.

One Solution to Rule Them All

At first, the carrier assumed that a .NET programmer-developed PDF tool was the best option for delivering relevant forms and documents to its producers in real time and looked in-house for a solution, according to Caskey. Four years prior, though, Penn National had consolidated three document composition tools for high-volume batch printing on a single solution from HP Exstream (Palo Alto, Calif.), he adds.

The carrier already used the HP Exstream system to submit documents to its storage facility, Caskey continues. So when Penn National determined that the agent-facing documents in the new portal also would need to be delivered to its back-end archives, the insurer realized that it already had a solution that could address both issues. "Why should we create one document one way and one document the other?" Caskey says of the IT team's thinking at the time. "We could use Exstream and its Web service technology to ... create one document and have one solution for both the real-time presentation to the agent as well as our back-end solution for [sending] documents to our archiving system."

After successfully completing a proof of concept in fall 2007, Penn National decided to implement HP Exstream's Engine as a Web Service (EWS) and XML Input solutions in order to expose its batch engine to a real-time environment, enabling the high-volume system to handle single, on-demand requests from the self-service agent portal, recalls Brandon Danner, programmer analyst, Penn National. "By using Exstream in both areas, we basically cut our development time in half," he relates.

The carrier kicked off a full implementation of the EWS solution in January 2008. Penn National went live with the technology in its first state four months later and then rolled out additional states in consecutive two-month intervals.

In total, the insurer now runs about 12 documents directly through the HP Exstream solution, Danner reports. Among the most accessed documents, according to Danner, is a proposal document for agents that offers pricing information on the different coverages that have been selected for a given customer. The document now is produced directly to the agent's desktop so it can be printed and provided to the insured, he says.

Behind the scenes, the HP Exstream solution is accompanied by a workflow management tool, which has proven useful in managing changes or additions to coverage, Danner notes. "One of the largest initiatives since we went live with the portal was the introduction of a policy change request (PCR) document," he says. "[It] provides a history of what was changed during a particular transaction. The document is also ... placed into our workflow system for an underwriter [to make] the specific requested changes on the policy generated by a task management system."

With the real-time document delivery capability rolled out for nearly all of its states for its auto line of business, the carrier is now shifting focus to its homeowner line, Caskey reveals. In addition, Danner and Caskey suggest, the solution could be extended further as Penn National develops an agent portal for commercial lines and considers building an enterprise forms communication library.

"It's a big extension," Caskey relates. "It's not what we bought the product for, but we found this capability and we ran with it. It's been very useful."

Case Study Snapshot

Company: Penn National Insurance (Harrisburg, Pa.; more than $1.4 billion in assets).
Lines of Business: Auto, homeowners and commercial lines.
Vendor/Technology: HP Exstream (Palo Alto, Calif.) Engine as a Web Service (EWS) and XML Input.
Challenge: Create one solution for real-time document delivery to agent self-service portal and back-end archiving system.

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