Thanks to wholesale changes to the carrier's IT environment, New York Central Mutual ($475 million in direct written premium) employees now have a brand-new set of tools at their fingertips. One in particular, though, has taken some getting used to: the computer mouse.
Kevin Plows, New York Central Mutual's VP of information technology, explains that the Edmeston, N.Y.-based carrier over the past handful of years completely modernized its technology environment, replacing its policy administration, claims, accounting, print processing, web enablement and quoting systems. NYCM employees, he adds, went from using green screen applications to modern, browser-based systems. As a result, many of them started using a mouse to do their jobs for the first time.
"It wasn't simply replacing one component of the whole insurance process," Plows says. "It was basically a complete revamp of everything."
All those IT changes meant major process changes as well. "We went through some ups and downs with people who were accustomed to using green screens," Plows admits. "They were comfortable with it and they got very familiar with it. To give them a system where they now have to use their mouse [was a big change]."
Empowered and Productive Workers
While it took some time, NYCM's employees did overcome their initial frustration and have found that the new technology environment has made their jobs easier, says Stephen Cembrinski, SVP of IT. "Within six to 12 months [after implementation], we had a very smooth operation running," he relates.
Rolled out in phases, the modernization project is largely finished, and over the past eight to 12 months, Plows says, the carrier is starting to reap the benefits of a more efficient technology operations and, subsequently, a more efficient workforce. "We're making new products and rate changes, and we're able to churn them out much quicker than we have in the past," he reports. "Our average programming days have been cut in half, and our average testing days have been cut in half."
NYCM's technology transformation can be traced to March 2002, when the carrier's business leadership first tasked the IT team with building a new architecture to support the evolving demands of the insurance marketplace. Simply put, the carrier's existing environment was not well equipped to keep up with market changes related to new regulations, customer service expectations, data analysis needs or product development, Plows acknowledges.
"The application architecture that we had was very limited," he recalls. "It was batch-based, and it didn't allow us to 'solution' those things as rapidly and efficiently as we hoped. Things like a simple rate change would take six to 12 months. The business couldn't wait that long."
In addition, NYCM was looking to fundamentally change the way it viewed its own business by becoming more customer-centric, Plows notes. "Previously, our system was based on policies and claims as the centerpiece. In order for us to analyze our book of business and look for other market and cross-selling opportunities, we needed to view our policies at the customer level. One customer could have one or many policies. One customer could have one or many accounts," he explains.
A Little Help From Friends
The project kicked-off by July 2002 with initial research and development work. In those early stages, Plows says, the carrier considered seeking out vendor systems but ultimately decided to do the lion's share of the work internally. "At the time, the packages that we found out there weren't even coming close to the legacy system that we had," he contends. So NYCM turned to IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) and its myriad business partners and consulting firms, including Binghamton, N.Y.-based BlueStorm Technologies.