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Taking care of business: E-Fusion 2004: information technology tackles insurers' problems in compliance, regulation and operations.

Information technology can help insurers comply with the recent spate of regulations, achieve better alignment of company businesses, drive innovation, expedite underwriting and enhance agent relations, according to insurers who spoke at "E-Fusion 2004: The Business of Insurance," A.M. Best Co.'s Insurance & Technology Conference Oct. 17-19 in Baltimore.

Speakers described challenges and accomplishments in a variety of companies and areas, such as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey's coordinated approach to complying with industry security mandates; Guardian's initiatives that cut 30% of the company's spending on information technology and Safeco's use of IT to help turn the company around financially.

The E-Fusion Award was expanded this year to include six categories: agent/broker, claims, customer and benefits, office automation, special coverage and underwriting. Award recipients and finalists, as well as highlights of conference sessions, appear on the following pages.

Among the voices of business and IT:

CHUCK JOHNSTON

Callidus Software

ERNST CSISZAR

PCI

CYNTHIA SACCOCIA

TowerGroup

RANDY WHEELER

Valley Oak Systems

KATHLEEN JENSEN

PCI

ALAN RUTKIN

Rivkin Radler LLP

MAKING IT FIT: Larry Robbins, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, left, and Michael Edwards, American Skyline Insurance, described how small and midsized insurers are leveraging new technology to take on large scale challenges.

TAKING THE PULSE: Paul Tinnirello, left, and Lee McDonald of A.M. Best led conference participants in an interactive meeting, discussing information technology issues ranging from compliance to outsourcing. Handheld audience polling devices that provided immediate polling results were popular at the meeting and throughout the conference.

CLARIFY, PLEASE: Brian Lawlor, Sea-Pass Solutions, and other conference attendees had many opportunities to question speakers during the keynote presentations and sessions.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Fred Myatt, Zurich NA, and Joe Monks, SeaPass Solutions, above, and Steve Landberg, InSearch Worldwide, and Matthew Josefowicz, Celent Communications, right, enjoyed networking and the view of the Baltimore Inner Harbor at a reception at the Pisces Restaurant atop the Hyatt Regency.

Marine Auction Site Given Claims-Management Award

Charles Stephens was so frustrated by what he saw as a lack of transparency in the boat salvage and repair business that he decided to do something about it: Create an auction site, putting a vessel's itemized damages before the public to shine a light on the whole process.

Stephens' site and company, MarineBidExchange.com, is so novel that it recently was awarded a U.S. patent. And, it was the E-Fusion award recipient in the Claims Management category.

MarineBidExchange.com could be likened to a marine version of the online auction site eBay. The site, known as MBX, establishes online competitive bids for marine vessels, either for repair or salvage. The site puts out a request-for-proposal or RFP and puts an itemized damage survey--performed by a licensed marine claims adjuster--in front of hundreds of potential repair facilities. That transparency, Stephens said, has resulted in drastically reduced costs. Fifteen such auctions have so far saved insurance companies $1,69%000, he said; the total number of auctions since the site's launch is around 300.

While he was giving his presentation in Baltimore, the auction site was closing five deals. The next day, he pulled a crumpled piece of yellow legal paper out of his pocket and showed the results he'd scribbled down. At the top of the list was a boat that had sold for $4,210.

"This was a boat that the insurance company thought they were going to have to pay to take to the dump," Stephens said. "We just sold it for four thousand." A second boat on the list, also deemed a total loss by an insurer, was auctioned lot about $5,800; that, he said, was because the vessel, a 2004 model just trashed by the recent hurricanes in Florida, still had its windshield intact, the value of which was $7,000 alone.

The site also allows parallel bidding for both repair and salvage. There is no charge as yet to register a vessel with the site, which may also expand to other types of property, he said.

The six finalists in the E-Fusion claims-management category all shared a common thread: Putting their key functions on the Web, rather than sending their clients hardware or software. Rather than having to install software, clients can simply use what they already have in the office--their existing Internet connections. There are no hassles with distributing or installing software or integrating a new program with existing ones.

The other finalists include:

* CaseKnowtedge Litigation Management, a product of Chicago-based CaseKnowledge LLC, allows insurers to track the status of lawsuits. CaseKnowledge President and Chief Executive Officer David Biederman says it is the first product to specifically address litigation management for claims professionals.

The Web site allows a global view of lawsuits, both pending and resolved, including key financial information such as exposure, budgeted expenses vs. actual expenses, and a case rating; document management; contact information; a timeline of the cases and a calendar function; case and discovery notes; witness and exhibit management; and "litigation plan management"--the theory behind the defense.

Customers only pay for the cases they put in the system. Results from the five pilot projects so far under way, Biederman said, have translated into an average savings of $3,000 per year per case, or a return-on-investment of about 18 to 1. Part of that, he said, is because the case-tracking system allows early identification of problem cases and exposure issues.

* BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has established an online claims entry site that in April processed its millionth Internet claim, according to the insurer's Assistant Vice President David Boucher. The site allows both large and small practices to meet new claims entry mandates established by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act without having to make any investments in hardware or software.

The site is free to the South Carolina Blue's medical practices, hospitals and dental offices, and the results have been notable, Boucher said.

* West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. replaced its paper-based claims administration system with its browser-based claims system; the transition has allowed West Bend's claims representatives to handle all the personal lines claims handling independently of any clerical support. Claims processing is now twice as fast as it was, according to West Bend project manager Eric Lapp, allowing the company to turn former clerical positions into claims-handling positions.

The system uses a Web browser on the front end coupled with third-party claims-management software on the back end; implementing the switch required West Bend to integrate its old policy administration system with the new applications, as well as creating a new check-processing and payment-reconciliation system.

* New York-based PA Consulting Group has developed the Claims Predicting Modeling System for auto damage, intended to help plug what the company says is an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion in annual leakage across the auto insurance industry. A large part of those overpayments are due to fraud, errors and significant variations among different adjusters' estimates, the company said.

The CPMS uses predictive modeling to put field inspectors where they're needed most, targeting repair estimates with a high probability of leakage and freeing the inspectors from having to waste time on estimates with a low probability. The system works through a Web-based dispatching and reinspection system.

* California-based Valley Oak Systems started its Web-based claims administration system in 1994; called iVos, the system is wholly browser-based and designed for multiple lines: workers' compensation; general liability; property; auto; professional liability and other lines. The program's Java architecture can be installed on the client's network or hosted by Valley Oak. The system also allows for document imaging, payments and auto-payments, litigation and subrogation tracking, policy administration and a host of other features. The program can also keep all e-mails associated with a claim within the claim file on the system, to allow better tracking of correspondence.

Valley Oak's clients have reported greatly improved efficiency and cost savings, said Valley Oak founder and Chief Executive Officer Randy Wheeler.

--Chris Grier

ProcessClaims Receives 2004 E-Fusion Award In Office Automation Management

ProcessClaims, a 4-year-old provider of information-technology solutions based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has received the E-Fusion Award in the Office Automation Management category.

David Ferrara, a co-founder, accepted the award for ProcessClaims. He said afterward that the strength of his company's product and services--and probably the reason for receiving recognition by judges--"was the ability to deliver a bolt-on solution to our customers via Web Services and our ability to deliver value to a major customer, AIG." A recorded testimonial by American International Group Inc. was part of one of ProcessClaims' presentations at the conference.

Claims management is a big expense for insurers. ProcessClaims seeks to streamline the claims process through its ClaimsPort product. More than two dozen property/casualty insurers, including five in the top 24, use the product, the company said.

According to Wesley Koenen, director of corporate development and marketing, ClaimsPort reduces loss cost, cycle time and severity, and it increases customer satisfaction. Farmers Insurance Group used the product to centralize its entire national claims center, he said. Return on investment runs about 10 to 1, he added. The product requires no special software, hardware or maintenance, but it does require coordination from a company's information-technology group as well as business users. Implementation to production occurs in less than 12 weeks.

ProcessClaims serves clients in four basic areas, according to Ferrara and co-founder David Boden. They are business-process automation, vendor management, data analytics and functional integration.

American International Group, which ranks ninth in personal automobile premiums, turned to ProcessClaims after failing with another vendor. "They succeeded with us because we were able to change as their objectives changed," said Boden. He said AIG wanted to improve appraisals and its reinspection process, and it wanted to reduce the number of user applications. It also sought connectivity to partners, to customize automated work flow and to achieve everything by upgrading its existing claims platform, he added. AIG reported saving $38 million through ClaimsPort.

Receiving honorable mention in the category were:

* Business Risk Technologies Inc. provided American Superior Insurance Co., with an office management system that handles all of the insurer's legacy data, has a high level of customization and personalization and radically reduces hardware and support requirements. The system automated the migration of legacy data from more than 100 individual data sources.

* Eighteen insurance companies in 400 locations around the world have adopted InSys, the first enterprise-resource-planning platform to cover all business and system requirements for both life and property/casualty insurers, according to its developers, San Francisco-based InsurSys. The system handles rating, underwriting, premium collection and commission calculation, policy production and administration, invoicing, customer-relationship management, claim processing, reinsurance, actuarial calculations and realtime management information.

* Companion Property & Casualty Group's objective for its IT project Once and Done was to have at least 24% of all its workers' compensation premium and at least 70% of new workers' compensation transactions processed through the system annually with no increase in loss ratios when compared to business received via traditional methods. So far, it has achieved 28% and 71%, respectively, and loss ratios are slightly better. The system gives independent agents the ability to quote, price and issue policy applications.

* Midland National Life Insurance Co., one of four companies making up the Sammons Financial Group, developed Project+, an extranet Web-based application. Rolled out in February 2004, the application is used by accounting, actuarial, agency, business system support, claims, compliance, corporate, corporate markets, customer service, finance, human resources, IT, legal, new business, marketing, policy services, product development, reinsurance and valuation.

--Ron Panko

BARS Receives Special Coverage Management Award

BARS Holding Inc., Calabasas, Calif., is the recipient of the 2004 E-Fusion award for Special Coverage Management for its Bail Agent Records System. BARS is a Web-based application that allows retail bail bond agents to quickly capture and track essential information including their liability and exposure. Plus, the network ties together agents, securities and insurance companies while reducing data entry and providing greater accuracy in reporting.

There are 20 insurance companies and surety firms writing bail bonds, which am sold through 20,000 agents to 5 million defendants each year, many of which have more than one active bond. "There are so few processing so many," said Sheri Syler Adams, president of BARS Holding Inc. "This has historically been a very paperwork heavy business with decisions often made more on street sense than clam. It's not that street sense is bad, but imagine how much better a combination of both would be."

The facility has grown from processing 51,000 bonds in 2002 to 276,000 so far in 2004 and from 250 agents in 2002 to 1,000 agents today.

Adams said she was delighted to receive the E-Fusion award. "You don't develop new products to win awards, but it's nice when you do," Adams said. She said the company hopes to grow its client base from 10% of the market to "world domination--just kidding."

"We will continue to improve the product and give our agents what they are looking for. We want to help stabilize the bail bond industry. A lot of it is still done on mountains of paperwork;' Adams said.

BARS was funded by a consortium of writers of surety insurance products, including American Surety, Associated Bond, International Fidelity Insurance, and Allegheny Mutual.

Other finalists for the E-Fusion Award for Special Coverages include:

* eReinsure, Salt Lake City, for its reinsurance negotiations platform. The platform allows cedents, reinsurers and brokers to bid on, negotiate for, and manage facultative reinsurance contracts. The platform is accessed through a standard Web browser and provides a trusted, secure environment. Over the past three years, more than 4,000 underwriters and underwriting assistants have been registered on the system and more than 50,000 submissions have been generated.

Igor Best Devereux, chief executive officer of eReinsure, said that while companies such as Chubb, Swiss Re and AIG are now using eReinsure, the company had to convince companies and brokers to try the network. "We had to change attitudes in the reinsurance market," he said. "It's always been viewed as a relationship centered market."

* Individual Assurance Co., Prairie, Kan., for its Simple Issue Term Support Center. The center helps small and regional banks sell term life insurance through a simple, turnkey application process with no medical exam. Coverage can be placed quickly through the Web-based application, located at www.simple-term.com. It also features educational material.

Lee-Ann Hollister, vice president, marketing and client services for Individual Assurance Co., noted many banks didn't want to be in the position of asking clients for medical histories, but are happy to shepherd them to IAC's term support center where they can help the clients attain term coverage. About 70 small and regional banks are currently using the platform to sell term life insurance, and IAC expects to double that in the next six months. IAC has a total of 600 bank customers.

* Scottsdale Insurance Co., Scottsdale, Ariz., for its Internet-based submission and back-office processing for excess and surplus lines coverage. The three-phase project concentrated on replacing paper applications with electronic submissions. The first phase of the project resulted reducing policy production time by 10 to 12 days and eliminated 1.4 million pages of scanning and manual indexing. The second phase eliminated 5.5 million pages and it's anticipated 8 million pages will be eliminated after the third year.

In addition to speeding up the process of submitting policies, the new system allows Scottsdale to extract data from the electronic documents, which has eliminated the need to manually enter and code 120,000 documents annually. Under the new system, Scottsdale collects 30% more information from the applications, which has led to better access to more detailed information. Also, the company has reduced $250,000 in mailing costs for the managing general agents and reduced the transit time from 13 to 15 days to the same day.

--Meg Green

New York Central Mutual Receives E-Fusion Award For Underwriting Management Application

New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Co. has been named recipient of the 2004 A.M.Best Co. E-Fusion Award for Underwriting Management for its proprietary implementation of ISO's HomeValue system. The application allows homeowners underwriters, agents and third-party partners to access residential replacement valuations through a single Web-based interface.

"The E-Fusion Award validates everything we've been doing to pull together all types of technology into underwriting, claims, accounting and other areas," said Albert Pylinski Jr., executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of New York Central Mutual. Entering the award competition was a natural extension of attending the A.M. Best conference, which Pylinski has been doing for the past 15 years, he said. This was the company's first entry, but possibly not the last.

"We hope to expand our use of HomeValue to include other tools and additional types of homes," said Katharine Bell, vice president, underwriting.

The HomeValue system is prefilled with actual property characteristics for individual properties, so entering an address provides an instant estimate of replacement value in most cases. New York Central Mutual users can also automatically access ISO A-Plus reports, providing seamless access to claims data for underwriting decision making. Another important capability is integration of key underwriting information.

The HomeValue system has increased New York Central Mutual's underwriting efficiency and reduced the possibility of inaccurate valuations due to error or data manipulation. By improving the accuracy of residential replacement valuations, the company is able to charge appropriate premiums. "Underwriting revenues are starting to rise without raising rates," Bell said. Policyholders, meanwhile, have the coverage they need to rebuild and avoid actual cash value loss settlements. Bell and George Davis, actuarial consultant for AIR Worldwide, which worked with ISO to develop HomeValue, presented the system at the conference.

The following underwriting technologies and companies were finalists for the award:

* INSpeed: Electronic Application and Automated Underwriting Technology, developed by Baltimore Life Cos. partnering with NaviSys, improves underwriting and issue efficiency by using a call center, electronic application, automated underwriting and voice-recognition signature technology. Baltimore Life uses INSpeed to enroll simplified issue whole life policies for customers between the ages of 40 and 80. A contracted call center completes the application with clients and agents or with clients only when Baltimore Life uses a direct marketing approach.

INSpeed provides a business advantage for Baltimore Life by offering agents and clients an efficient way to enroll, which means faster decisions and quicker commissions. It also reduces policy acquisition costs.

* Bristol West Insurance Group's OneStep is a Web-based point-of-sale underwriting system that allows producers to underwrite, quote, issue and service private-passenger automobile insurance policies. OneStep reduces policy servicing costs by completing the new business transaction at the point of sale. The system accesses the applicant's driving records, additional drivers in the household and other verifiable underwriting data in real time in order to instantly generate a firm quotation. Upon acceptance, it produces all required documents, such as the policy, identification cards and policy declaration page. OneStep also allows "what if" scenarios by rating different limit and deductible combinations before generating the quote.

Bristol West developed OneStep in cooperation with OneShield.

* Businessowners WEB Quote/Issue, developed by Columbia Insurance Group with support from TANNIN Technology Ltd. and Key Management Group, allows an agent to quote and then submit a policy for issue without having to refer to rating or underwriting manuals. The application uses rules-based underwriting and referral intelligence to quote and issue, recommend or refer a risk to underwriting. The initial rollout was for retail business owners policies, to be followed by contractors and garage BOP.

"Turnaround time has gone from five days to one. We've had an 8% increase in our quote-to-issue ratio," said Robert O'Reilly, vice president and branch manager for Columbia. Businessowners WEB Quote/Issue will improve the long-term profitability of Columbia's BOP products by establishing a uniform corporate underwriting approach to this line. It also reduces corporate expends by automating the risk selection process and minimizing underwriting involvement.

* IMT InsRrance Co.'s U-Assist is an automated underwriting system that enables agents to quote and issue new automobile policies as well as changes to existing automobile policies. If applications submitted through IMT Online do not meet initial guidelines, they are sent to the U-Assist system for underwriter review. The review process is typically completed within a few hours and the application is submitted. This allows for all types of auto policy transactions and streamlines the communication process between IMT and the agent. The system is built to dynamically generate additional underwriting questions based on the type of application.

IMT receives 100% of its personal auto new business and amendments via IMT Online, which has had a significant impact on its personal lines underwriting department. The company has increased personal auto direct written premium per employee by 20.5%, while allowing fewer underwriters to handle more premium. "We've reduced our underwriting staff by 12%, reduced overtime and achieved consistent analysis of risk exposures," said Jeff Wilson, operations manager for IMT.

* Developed by RLI Insurance Co., eSubmissions is an intranet application for field underwriters to clear submissions; quote, rate and bind new and renewal business, and perform subsequent policy activity such as endorsements and cancellations for multiple lines of commercial property/casualty business. All of the business coming into the company is processed through this application. Soon after a policy is bound, back-end systems are automatically interfaced and are ready for billing. This translates to immediate cash for the company by collecting the premium earlier than before. The system provides benchmark rates which allow underwriters to target their rates and management to monitor the variance between the benchmark rates and targeted rates.

The company also provides a better correspondence system with brokers, reinsurers and intermediaries via fax or e-mail, which reduces operating costs. Objectives that the application has fulfilled include a single interface, point of entry and source of information; consistency; automated form selection; elimination of redundant entries, and ability to change according to market conditions, said Murali Natarajan, RLI's director of systems development, who presented the system.

--Sally Whitney

American Modern Insurance Group Receives E-Fusion Award for Agent/Broker Management

American Modern Insurance Group has received the A.M. Best Co. E-Fusion Award in the category of agent/broker management for its modernLINK suite of applications that includes online rating, quoting and issuance capabilities.

The modernLINK tool has enabled American Modern Insurance's distribution partners--which include more than 2,000 agents and 17,000 sub-producers--to significantly reduce the time needed to service customers yet boost the quality of that service, the company said. One result has been a 20% improvement in processing time, with additional savings resulting from work flow, the carrier noted. The project also has provided a five-year return on investment of 183%, the company said. Vicki Papas, vice president of application development, said she thought the major strength of the American Modern project was "the benefit case we put together and tracked. It really acted to give us a strong story."

Fellow recipients for the award included colleagues Laura Harris and John Campbell.

American Modern Insurance Group Inc., Amelia, Ohio, is the specialty insurance subsidiary of Midland Co. American Modern derives nearly 50% of its premium volume from the manufactured housing segment. It also operates in other niche markets, including motor home and travel trailer, boats, personal watercraft and classic cars.

The five other finalists were:

* Instant Access by Access Insurance Holdings Inc., a Web-based rating and underwriting system that allows for real-time policy issuance and policy servicing at the point of sale. The system is designed to provide Access' network of more than 2,000 independent agents and brokers immediate access for originating policies, processing endorsements and same-day voids.

The system has boosted agents and brokers' productivity and sell" service, which in turn has increased efficiencies and lowered operating costs for Access companies and their insurance partners, the Atlanta-based company said. Adoption rates for Web self-serve have risen from 40% in 2003 to 75% today, significantly reducing service calls in its call center, Access said.

Based in Atlanta, Access Insurance Holdings was founded in 1994. It offers specialty property and casualty programs through a network of appointed and managed independent brokers.

* GUARDTech, a division of Guard Insurance Group, which submitted its Agency Service Center and a subproduct called GUARD E-Z Rate that were designed and developed internally. The Agency Service Center is a Web-based application and interface that gives independent agents and brokers who represent GUARD the ability to manage their books of business with the company online, submit accounts through GUARD E-Z Rate and engage in around-the-clock self-service. Guard said that deploying the Agency Service Center has meant that fewer employees need to be involved in transactions and the company has realized a 23% increase in productivity.

Guard also reported that submissions are processed twice as fast through GUARD E-Z Rate work flow; interactions with 96% of producers have become paperless, boosting savings on paper and postage; turnaround times on submissions have been reduced from three days to four hours as a result of E-Z Rate; and straight-through processing has been realized on 31% of its policies, a figure that continues to increase.

* Insurance Capital Management, a virtual insurance distributor, has developed an agent-driven site for online, individual major medical insurance and other health and noninsurance products. Known as ALICE the site permits agents to quote and submit new policy applications, monitor application status and view commission details along with a number of other daily functions.

The E-signature-based system is designed to let agents enroll and submit new business in a paperless way and write new appointments without leaving their offices. With electronic data interchange and image transfer, carrier costs to process this new business are at a minimum relative to the traditional, paper-based processes, Insurance Capital said. Also, in a paperless environment, agents can sell policies in any state in which they are licensed, the company said.

* Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. submitted its Hartford Expressway, a tool that allows straight-through processing of standard and nonstandard auto and homeowners quotes as well as new business submissions from a variety of agency technology systems. Hartford said the application leverages agents' existing technology investments and work flows established by agency technology vendors. It also eliminates multiple data entry since log-ons are handled machine to machine in the background, and offers customers real-time responses to their requests, the insurer said.

Hartford's appointed agents and brokers use the tool to process auto and homeowners quotes and submissions. Once the transaction is reviewed by Hartford's underwriting decision support system, the agent receives a real-time response saying whether or not the risk qualifies. Agents can receive a quote in roughly two minutes--an 80% time savings over use of Hartford's proprietary application. Agents then can submit the policy and receive confirmation of its status along with the assigned policy number, Hartford said. The company said the cost of processing these transactions is one-fifth the cost of processing paper submissions by mail or fax.

About 11,000 independent agencies and more than 100,000 registered broker/dealers sell the company's products. The presenter was Barry Sergeant, director of personal lines IT.

* NetTrac, developed by iPipeline, a Web-based portal for insurance product information, quotes, forms and underwriting. This portal allows carriers to publish their content on life, annuity and long-term care products through iPipeline's branded partner sites, making it instantly available to wholesalers and agents, iPipeline said. One of NetTrac's primary goals is to aggregate product information and forms into a single, uniform system that ultimately results in shorter sales cycles and reduced back-office costs.

Before NetTrac was developed, it was nearly impossible for an agent to track the various product changes that occurred with each carrier, iPipeline said. The same held true for all the various forms, quotes and underwriting requirements. These factors, which could increase an agent's administrative work by 50%, have been eliminated by NetTrac, the company said.

This tool allows agents to gather a client's preliminary medical information in the field, then use iPipeline's software to match the carrier that specializes in a particular risk, such as cigars, pilots or cancer. Agents can then quickly convert each carrier's health class into a side-by-side quote comparison, review product information, order exams and download all necessary forms for 100 carriers, all in one place, the company said.

--Barbara Bowers

MetLife Receives E-Fusion Award For Customer Service and Benefits Management

M-etLife is the recipient of the E-Fusion Award in the Customer Service and Benefits Management category for MetLink, its online employee-benefits administration portal.

MetLink gives the insurer's group customers real-time access to benefit plan information and serves as a central reporting location for all plan data from remote or satellite offices. It consolidates and tracks billing and payment information. MetLink also handles claims status inquiries and electronic bill payment. Among the lines of business housed on the MetLink platform are disability, longterm care and life products.

Initially launched in 1997, MetLink has been totally rewritten to add new coverages and to replatform it to modern standards using Java and Web services, Chris Cummings, director of application development, said.

MetLink has been adopted by more than 17,500 corporate customers, who have conducted more than 6 million transactions so far this year, in keeping with MetLife's strategy to make the Internet the preferred customer channel for its institutional products line. "It is great to see greater acceptance of this tool by our customers and, with this award, by the industry," Shaft Gottheim, director of Institutional e-Business, said.

The other finalists in this category were:

* Aon's Affinity Insurance Services online professional liability insurance coverage for nurses. The e-commerce site, www.nso.com supports the direct selling of this coverage. Business activity at the site accounted for about 28% of new business for the program last year, generating 28,000 policies and $2.5 million in premium. So far this year, the site has attracted the purchase of 41,000 policies online, bringing in $3 million in premium, according to John Pogas, vice president, e-Commerce.

* GE Insurance Solutions (formerly Employers Reinsurance Corp.) Customer Service Center. With the June 2003 launch of this center, GE Insurance Solutions has measurably improved its responsiveness to customers, answering the questions of 70% of callers on their initial call, up from 15% before the center was created. All five commercial-insurance lines are standardized on one technology suite, giving the company an enterprisewide view of customer service levels.

Online Benefits Inc. Client Community. Group insurance brokers can use this tool to create customized client service portals offering free research and timely information to their customers. It is a secure environment that allows broker and client to share sensitive documents and messages and offers a safe alternative to sending HIPAA-sensitive files. Introduced in 2003, it is being used by 297 broker partners and 18,042 of their individual clients, including human resources and benefits professionals or business owners. The cost to brokers to provide this service is $2 per client per month, said Andrew Ceccon, chief marketing officer.

* Carroll Enterprises Small Business Service Bureau. SBSBHMO.com is designed to allow small businesses in Massachusetts to provide affordable health insurance for their employees, who can select the health plan of their choice online, apply and enroll within minutes rather than taking the eight days typical of many plans. For example, instant quoting in less than 30 seconds delivers multiple coverage options from multiple health plans that are state leaders among health-care providers. SBSB is a nationally recognized membership organization.

* Zurich Small Business: Customer Services--Risk Engineering, Virtual Consulting. This online tool helps corporate clients see, by location, what their top 10 exposures are, learn what can be done to address those issues and receive help from such tools as sample policies and procedures, computer-based training, technical information and links to online support. The project harnesses the capabilities of a loss-control specialist and puts them in the hands of every customer. For example, in advance of the recent hurricanes that hit Florida, the company's system sent emails to its small-business customers there, telling them what they needed to do to prepare for the storm, said Fred Myatt, who designed the project and presented it at the E-Fusion conference.

--Marilyn Ostermiller

New federal mandates and Old IT: Imperfect Together

* Using modern information technology to comply with new federal regulations can lead to higher profits, lower costs and a better competitive position.

* Modern technology can lead to improvement of processes and better data control, operational stability and reliability.

* Problematic regulations stem from the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 2000, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the Office of Foreign Assets Control Act of 1979 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

* In an anonymous poll at the session, 40% of the audience said insurers are most concerned about the cost of complying; 22.9% were most worried about keeping up with regulations; 20% were most concerned about effects on their brand image if they were found in violation; and 17.1% were most worried about fines and penalties.

Scalable Solutions

* Small and mid-sized insurers are better off buying information-technology products than building their own.

* IT solutions can help standardize procedures, force wise trade-offs, achieve better alignment of companies' businesses and enhance corporate-driven governance.

* Two technologies stand out: Voice Over Internet Protocol can make long-distance telephone service obsolete and is scalable; and independent computing architecture, such as that developed by Citrix, shifts application processing from client to server.

* In the current environment, interoperability standards become crucial.

Web Services--An Insurance Based Approach

* Insurers appear poised to significantly increase spending on integrating their existing computer systems.

* Spending on Web services this year could spike to more than $500 million, up from $49 million in 2003.

* Web services offer a high level of interoperability.

* Nationwide Financial Services has turned to a Web-services approach to make available information in its legacy systems to employees, agents and customers.

Get Smarter: The New Rules of Business Intelligence

* GE Insurance Solutions needed to help some 3,500 employees worldwide to find industry news and research.

* The company solved the problem for less than $100,000 by forming a team and hiring a handful of contractors.

* The solution, the Market Analysis and Research System, is used by underwriters, claims personnel, actuaries and risk managers.

* The system uses a digitized platform and multiple segmentation views. A kind of online, archived research library, it currently holds about 6,000 documents.

Innovation Imperative

* Guardian Life's IT unit was turned into a "business value center," cutting 30% of the company's spending on information technology.

* Callahan instituted enterprise wide IT architecture, which allowed the company to collect information from its legacy systems for better use of data.

* The IT department sought to drive innovation and performance through new technology. Included in Guardian's new technology applications are Linux on the desktop; a voice and data network that allows customers and agents to get realtime information on accounts; and mobile computing and wireless networks.

* To ensure regulatory compliance, e-mails are archived to meet new NASD requirements. To improve the physical security of operations, photo identification and a turnstile-badging system were installed at the company's offices, among other practices.

* Callahan concentrated on empowering customers and financial representatives to take advantage of the company's enterprise innovations.

Compliance Matters

* Availity was formed as a joint venture between rival health insurers Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida and Humana Inc. to provide a secure information exchange between health-care providers and insurers.

* Availity has created an online portal that's now used by 75% of Florida doctors and every hospital in Florida.

* Availity has reduced costs and saved time for insurers, while facilitating compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

* Availity checks the content of doctors' claims to make sure they are HIPAA compliant, then sends the claims on to the payers. There is no charge for doctors to use the service, and insurers pay on a per-transaction or a per-member-per-month basis.

Project Management Boot Camp

* A steering committee created to guide Ohio Casualty Corp.'s IT projects has been so successful that its reach has expanded to include compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other mandates.

* "The key to a successful technology strategy is the organization around technology, not the technology itself," Kellington said.

* Companies need to

stay focused on the right priorities, Kellington said."The squeaky wheel could be important, but it could be a distraction," he said.

* Johnston, who provided the vendor's viewpoint, suggested that offshore out-sourcing firms are expecting a higher level of project management abilities than insurers may be prepared to offer.

The New Risk Segmentation in P/C Underwriting

* The predictive nature of credit-based insurance scores can be enhanced when combined with traditional insurance data.

* Early in 2000, Westfield analyzed data to identify new risk-segmentation opportunities and began using credit-based insurance scores, first in underwriting, then to price its personal-lines products.

* The greatest benefit to insurance companies comes when they integrate credit-based insurance scores within their overall operations.

* In addition to using these scores to write new business, carriers are using them in renewals, the structuring of tiers for placing risks, in acquiring new customers and in managing their books of business for profitability, Boyd said.

One for All

* Information technology helped save an ailing Safeco Corp., and now it is the driving force behind the Seattle-based company's increasing growth.

* Safeco had chalked up six straight years of declining returns on equity and, in 2001 alone, lost nearly $1 billion. New CEO Mike McGavick introduced a strategy that included a tighter focus on core business lines and an elevated role for IT.

* In a crisis mode, the company created an innovative, Web-based underwriting platform that first served Safeco's new multitiered automobile product. Today, it handles all of Safeco's business products.

* The new platform allows agents access to automated pricing and underwriting for multiple lines of business, including business owners, homeowners, commercial, workers' compensation and personal auto.

State and Local Regulatory Hot Spots

* A recently introduced bill in Congress has raised some industry hopes that insurance regulation can remain at the state level, but with uniformity of standards being promoted.

* The legislation, known as the SMART Act, which stands for the State Modernization and Regulatory Transparency Act, has been introduced by Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, and has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

* The proposed legislation would encourage uniformity in a number of areas--including standard market-conduct examinations, agency licensing and form filing. It's among the first efforts to actually put down on paper what a federal role would look like, Mirel said.

* The SMART bill "clearly calls for more and better technology," Harrison said.

Where the Agent/Broker Desktop Is Going

* Nearly every company surveyed by LIMRA uses the Internet to download forms, illustrations, quotes and marketing materials, but fewer than half allow "e-signing" or paperless, online signatures of key documents.

* The IIABA's Agents Council for Technology is pushing for more effective online interfaces between producers and companies, such as real-time endorsement and new business submission. Agents are now frustrated with proprietary insurance company Web sites that force having to deal with multiple log-ins and having to enter the same data many times over.

* Most producers, meanwhile, are happy with the current level of technology provided by their carriers, as only 37% say they aren't offered enough.

Life in the Fast Lane

* Online applications and other technological advances have resulted in "significant cost savings" for insurers.

* E-signatures and electronic fund transfers are likely to become much more common.

* Electronic processing has greatly cut the time it takes to write a life policy, from an average of 90 to 120 days down to around 25 now.

* Sensitive medical and financial questions now can be answered electronically, rather than given to a live person who may travel in the same social circles as the client. The result is that clients are put at ease, while those answers only have to be given once, rather than two or three times.

Heading Off the Process Server

* Insurers and their policyholders can do little to prevent being sued, but they can defend against lawsuits better if they know the kind of claims to expect and the coverage issues involved, Rutkin said.

* It used to be that most lawsuits that involved insurers--those associated with asbestos, pollution and bias issues, for example--came under commercial general liability policies. Computer-related claims affect a wider range of policies.

* From a policyholder standpoint, the biggest problem in fending off litigation is that many companies act as if no technology insurance is available, Chaskin said.

* Two reasons companies aren't purchasing technology insurance are a disconnect between the person who purchases insurance and the person who knows the technology risks, and the fact that the premium budget is allocated to other areas.

Meeting Today's Mandates Without Sacrificing Tomorrow's Opportunities

* The recent increase in regulatory mandates has forced insurers to rethink how they deploy technology resources and time, and a coordinated approach to complying with the most pressing mandates may be the best solution, Emery said.

* In response to an electronic poll of the audience, 76% said they believed their organizations were sacrificing strategic or operational advantage tn meet required mandates.

* For Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, the coordinated approach has worked well in complying with industry security mandates, including SAS 70, Sarbanes-Oxley 404, HIPPA, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and customer requirements.

* An important question for project managers and technology leaders to ask is "are we doing very efficiently things that shouldn't be done at all?" Emery said.

On the Regulatory Horizon

* Many insurers see federal regulation as the best way to accomplish price deregulation, but the strings that may be attached to such an agreement could entangle the industry.

* The biggest argument against federal regulation could be that the real purpose of insurance--underwriting risk--would be morphed by Congress into social-entitlement programs, especially for such lines of business as homeowners, automobile and workers' compensation.

* The State Modernization and Regulatory Transparency Act, under consideration in Congress, represents a middle ground between the current state system of insurance regulation and proposed federal regulation of the industry. But, it doesn't have strong solvency-monitoring provisions or a penalty for noncompliance.

* Some states such as Maryland are working on an individual state level to streamline operations to reduce the cost and burden of regulatory activities.

Securing the Last Mile

* Medium-size health insurers are under the most pressure to find the money and resources to meet HIPAA security rules before the April 21, 2005, compliance deadline for the health information privacy law.

* HIPAA standards are technology neutral and scalable so that health insurers of any size should be able to comply with them, using the technology tools of their choice.

* The ability to measure levels of compliance within the organization is important, because it allows companies to understand where they are succeeding or failing.

* Another health information privacy regulation,The National Provider Identifiers, will take effect May 23, 2005. The compliance deadline is two years later.

About the E-Fusion Award

The E-Fusion Award recognizes outstanding resourceful uses of Internet technology by insurance organizations. Awards are offered in six categories: agent/broker, claims, customer and benefits, office automation, special coverage and underwriting.

Who Can Enter: Insurers, reinsurers, third-party technology providers working with an insurer or brokerage or related financial services engaged in insurance.

Judging Criteria: The criteria were divided into two categories: business and technology. The business category included assessments of return on investment, return on relationship and return on recognition. The technical category assessed technical complexity and technical innovation.

Judging: Judges were Michael Edwards, chief information officer, American Skyline Insurance Co.; William Jenkins, CPCU and insurance technology consultant; Matthew Josefowicz, manager, Insurance Group, Celent Communications; Robert Litt, partner, KPMG LLP Information Risk Management; Chuck Johnston, director, industry marketing, Callidus Software; Thomas A. Meyers, senior vice president and chief financial officer, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co.; and Philip Roeper, chief information officer and senior vice president, American Re-Insurance Co. In addition, the A.M. Best Co. executives who participated in the judging were Paul C. Tinnirello, executive vice president and E-Fusion conference chairman; Lee McDonald, vice president and E-Fusion program chairman; Rita Tedesco, group vice president, and James Snee, vice president.
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Title Annotation:Technology
Comment:Taking care of business: E-Fusion 2004: information technology tackles insurers' problems in compliance, regulation and operations.(Technology)
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:7371
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