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Smooth Sailing with ’Blackbeard’

Agent-centric policy management system will help R&SA's yacht insurance division grow its book by 50 percent without staff increases over next three years.

Having functionality spread around disparate systems not only undermines internal efficiencies, but also hurts competition for the business of independent agents. Of Royal & SunAlliance's (R&SA, Charlotte, NC, $9.2 billion in assets) yacht insurance division's systems, Gina Farley, systems manager, says, "for the data processing alone, we had two mainframe systems, through which there was redundant entry."Many rating transactions had to be processed manually, and "because our mainframe systems weren't available to everyone externally, agents were faxing handwritten forms for our underwriting staff to enter into our mainframes." Given the obstacles this presented agents, "we were struggling to stay competitive," Farley says.

Speed and Reliability

R&SA decided the best solution would involve its distribution force. "We got our top agents together and met with them for a whole day to drive out from them what would best serve their needs," Farley relates.

Farley's team got the go-ahead to seek a solution for a single, Web-enabled, full policy management system in May 2001, she says, which they proceeded to seek in the market. "We were looking for the ability to go to one place to do all policy management-everything from quoting to issuing, cancellation, reinstatement, back-out reissue, endorsements and renewal processing," Farley says. "Web-enabled products were very few." None had the functionality the division sought, so the decision was made to build rather than buy-and to name the system after a notorious figure associated with North Carolina: Blackbeard the pirate.

Work on Blackbeard began with an allocated staff of four developers, two full-time IT employees, and a business analyst and project manager, according to Kim Kaufman, lead developer. "We went through analysis and started coding the first iteration, new business, in late July 2001," he says.

The solution was implemented using an n-tier architecture, with a Web interface written in Redmond, WA-based Microsoft's Active Server Pages. It runs on Microsoft IIS4 (Internet Information Server), says Kaufman. "For the business logic we used VisualBasic as our programming language and we ran VisualBasic components under MTS (Microsoft Transaction Server). We stored our data with SQL Server 2000," he says.

The team faced some tough going with the second iteration, for the endorsement transaction. "We knew it would be a challenge from a business perspective, and then to code and test properly," Kaufman says. "It required a lot of time and testing."

The Blackbeard system went live in October 2001, on-time and about 30 percent under budget, at a total cost of about $600,000. The solution has met functional expectations, as well. "Our turnaround had been working against us. It was taking us three to five days to get a policy out the door, whereas now with Blackbeard we're looking at minutes," Farley says. "We've heard repeatedly how agents look forward to using the system in comparison to others they use."

The yacht division plans to build on Blackbeard by "adding some reporting functionality to be able to help with underwriting decisions," Farley says. "It's the first time they have all the information gathered in one place, so they can get some good information off of hit ratios." Other lines of business may also be added to the solution.

Blackbeard offers unique functionality to agents, and, says Farley, has become the yacht division's primary marketing tool. With the help of Blackbeard, "they expect to be able to grow the book by 50 percent with no staff increases over the next three years," she says. "To our knowledge, no one else provides this," Farley adds. "It has certainly set us apart in the market."


Case Study Closeup


Royal & SunAlliance, Charlotte, NC, $9.2 billion in assets.


Personal and commercial lines P&C.


Rational Software's (Cupertino, CA) Rational Rose; Microsoft (Redmond, WA) SQL 2000; Data Dynamics' (Columbus, OH) Active Reports.


Replace multiple mainframe policy management system.

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

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