In pursuit of its aspiration to be the most technically advanced small business carrier in the marketplace, CNA's (Chicago; $9.2 billion in annual revenue) Small Business division has worked with SeaPass (New York) to implement the vendor's Insurance Portal 3.0 and co-developed capabilities for agents who use both traditional agency management upload and ACORD XML-based systems that enable bi-directional integration, according to Belen Tokarski, Assistant VP, technology and agency solutions, who shared details of CNA's next-generation agency integration initiative in an exclusive interview with Insurance & Technology. Tokarski and SeaPass are discussing the initiative at the 2011 ACORD LOMA Systems Forum held in San Diego, Calif.
"We understand that our agents span the spectrum in terms of the technical capabilities of their business models," Tokarski comments. "So we have to provide multiple ways for them to do business with us."
Agents are increasingly demanding more sophisticated integration with their insurance carrier partners, and CNA's small business solutions didn't meet all agents needs, Tokarski acknowledges. Some of those agents use standard agency management systems, but some are building proprietary systems with the ability to interact bi-directionally with ACORD XML.
"Agents want speed and accuracy and full, bindable quotes with the least amount of duplicate data entry," Tokarski notes. "So we saw a tremendous opportunity to create an XML-based, real-time quoting platform that met the needs of any agency."
CNA sought feedback from agents to understand their requirements and sought a partner with proven success that also understood CNA's business goals, according to Tokarski.
"SeaPass met both of these criteria," Tokarski says. In addition to the vendor's established expertise, she adds, "due to our participation on SeaPass's multi-carrier hub for a number of years, SeaPass had prior knowledge of our products and business rules."
CNA wanted to make use of a service-oriented solution that could support straight-through processing for its most technically advanced agents, according to Tokarski. The carrier also wanted to provide a next-generation user experience for agents that may need to supplement data that isn't automatically uploaded from their agency management systems.
"We wanted to capitalize on current thinking about user experience, and SeaPass provided that to us," Tokarski says.
CNA decided to begin work with SeaPass in fall 2010 on what Tokarski calls two distinct projects — one, the XML based straight-through processing, and the other an improved interface for agents conducting business through standard agency management system interaction. The carrier was live with its first implementation by Dec. 2010, allowing gents with ACORD XML capabilities to interact with the carrier for business owner's policy (BOP) and workers' compensation insurance business. Testing of the standard interface began in April and is now also available for BOP and workers' comp.
Before the end of the second quarter of 2011 the carrier will enable commercial auto for both XML and the standard, agency management system-based interface. Within the same timeframe, CNA will provide the ability for agents to request issuance.
Tokarski declines to say how much CNA invested in the initiative but says that it represents one of the largest current projects within Small Business, and that CNA anticipates a significant return on investment.
It's still early to talk about results with the standard interface user experience improvements, but initial reactions have been positive, Tokarski reports. Response to the XML-based capabilities has been very positive, according to Tokarski, with one agent responding to a survey saying, "CNA has nailed it with this."
"The market door had been closing for us because we didn't have a solution that met some of our agents needs," Tokarski comments. "We've now opened that door back up and we are starting to see a significant increase in the number of transactions from those agents."
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