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The price is right: insurance quoting software helps carriers grow market share, speed up processing and gain a competitive edge.

Carriers continually search for ways to differentiate themselves in the competitive insurance marketplace. Can their quoting systems be one of those tactics to help them stand out among the pack?

"Insurers am struggling to differentiate themselves in terms of geeing their quoting capabilities up to snuff or ahead of the competition," said John Vale, a senior executive at Accenture, the global management and consulting firm. "They're looking for solutions that offer more rich Interact applications on the front end"

And, they're trying to jazz up their quoting capabilities, he added. "Whether it's agent-facing or direct-to-consumers, they're trying to make capabilities a client service opportunity to improve what quoting looks like."

Vale said a gap remains in the market when it comes to insurance quoting software. "The challenge with some products is getting many third-party data sources and rationalizing them against what a carrier already has."

Carriers also continue to struggle with aging infrastructure and ways to better interact with their distribution channels. "That opens the door for quoting software vendors to help improve carriers' performance by offering more open solutions," he said.

The key to successful quoting software packages is "to make transactions flow better and faster," Vale said. "Producers don't want to re-key information multiple times. They need ways to improve their flow. And if that helps the broker secure the business, it significantly improves the relationship."

Here is a look at several insurance quoting software products that are helping carriers and producers today.

Product: Ratabase

Company: CGI, Montreal

More than two decades ago, information technology and business process services provider CGI introduced Ratabase, its externalized rating engine and rate management solution, to help business users maintain rating tables, rules and business logic and deploy them to applications on any platform.

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Originally designed to facilitate the offering of Massachusetts auto processing to carriers, "the concept was to externalize that logic outside of the application and create a product configuration workbench that allows carriers to develop and maintain rating algorithms and tables," said David Squibb, vice president of CGI's Rata-base practice.

For years, larger carriers externalized logic outside of their legacy applications to "expose it to other applications, including Web portals, policy administration systems, actuarial modeling and third-party comparative providers," he said. "That allows them to capsulate the rating or quoting logic and expose it to multiple applications."

Not only does that lower costs but it also improves accuracy across systems and applications, Squibb added.

Ratabase provides direct Internet information and quotes to agents, brokers and consumers. It's used across all market segments globally, and connects users with more than 100 carriers.

The payoff? Squibb said carriers are drastically lowering their product development costs while significantly improving time-to-market. One carrier decreased its average turnaround on rate changes from six weeks to just three hours.

"We have a robust rate table and formula configuration tool that also allows call-outs from within the algorithms to execute external routines or access external data services and bring that information back into the calculation," he said. "This allows a carrier to do any kind of logic they want."

In 2009, CGI released Ratabase V6.0, which includes "the state-of-the-art Product Builder re-architected under .NET, and robust enhancements to both the Product Builder configuration tool and the Calculator rating engine component," Squibb said.

Product: QuotetoClose.com

Company: Quadrant Information Services Inc., Reno, Nev.

Quadrant Information Services Inc.'s sponsorship of QuotetoClose.com offers clients the power of choice, said Chief Executive Officer Michael Macauley.

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The Web-based software tool allows agents to rate and track their business. "Now agents can get the client through the entire process of sale, trying to get non-closed deals and maintain the current account basis fairly aggressively--a different scheme from past raters," he said.

The online rating engine for auto and homeowners coverage includes a national platform of more than 20,000 rate sets. It offers real-time rates and allows companies to convert books of business to quotes, create new quotes or update existing ones, Macauley said. "It provides real-time evaluation of market position, increasing profitability and stability for existing business."

It also includes an intuitive user interface that sorts leads by status, sales rep, office location and more.

In combination with Quadrant's patented Interpreter technology--a Web-based middleware that resides between QuotetoClose.com and a personal lines carrier's Web site--QuotetoClose. corn enforces the input of questions related to discounts and surcharges to ensure accurate rates and encourage minimal discrepancies with a carrier's point-of-sale Web site. Users also can merge data from quote to letters and ACORD forms.

And, there are key behind-the-scenes technology enablements such as .NET and C#, Macauley said.

"Since the Yellow Pages are out and the Internet is driving business to insurance, things have definitely changed, both good and bad, for agents," he said. "Before, when a call came in, they got quotes if they called back. It's important now to get out that information because someone took the time to notice you and make the call. And just because they didn't buy auto coverage doesn't mean they won't buy other insurance. Without QuotetoClose.com, agents are stuck with old tools like simpler raters, where there's no way to track or monitor information."

Product: EZLynx

Company: Webcetera LP, Flower Mound, Texas

When Webcetera LP created EZLynx six years ago to offer real-time auto and home quoting insurance software, it relied on feedback from independent agents to see what was lacking in their quoting solutions.

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"Agents asked us if it was possible to input risk information just once and have it transmitted to multiple carriers' proprietary systems simultaneously. That would leave premium calculations to carriers but relieve them of entering risk information multiple times," said Director Peter Holcomb.

And, once carriers began implementing credit scoring into the quoting process, he said, "There was no way for comparative vendors to accurately replicate a carrier's pricing model."

Thus, EZLynx was born.

Rather than quotes combined with manufactured rates, Webcetera exclusively provides real-time comparative quoting.

Holcomb said EZLynx works by facilitating sales using recent developments in social networking, for instance. "Agents have the ability to launch e-mails to prospects directly out of our comparative tool to more quickly consummate the close of a sale. And they continue to make greater use of integration of their agency management systems and the EZLynx tool."

The Web-based solution provides agents with a record of when results are sent out and viewed, Holcomb said. "This new feature allows agents to decide which quotes they would like customers or prospects to see at the click of a button and select which ones they want included, along with a personalized message to the customer. Customers are then directed to a personalized page with the agent's information and the quotes, allowing for a more interactive experience with the agent."

Real-time quotes are offered from more than 130 carriers in 47 states. Holcomb said EZLynx's fully browser-based software has data prefill to eliminate multiple entries, pin-point quoting accuracy, and it returns live quotes or collects data with online forms to a user's Web site.

"The benefit to users is in time savings and giving each of their carriers a look at the risk," he said. "With EZLynx, it's no longer necessary to 'seat-of-the-pants underwrite' the risk."

Product: FirstBest UMS

Company: FirstBest, Bedford, Mass.

FirstBest UMS allows commercial carriers to quickly deploy products, keep up with market shifts and consumer demand and streamline underwriting processes.

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It combines a next-generation underwriting workstation and a business analyst workstation with a Web 2.0 agent portal. Underwriters can match price to risk on an individual basis and employ predictive/loss development models.

"The process of quoting commercial business has always been a collaborative one,' said founder and Chief Technology Officer Julian Pelenur. "Underwriters rely on agents to provide data, and agents turn to underwriters to understand their needs and produce a quote"

In the past, "software used by carriers to produce quotes helped target premiums and were manually produced. However, that only provided functionality for the underwriter, and any information from the agent had to be manually obtained and then re-keyed by the carrier," he said.

Agent portals and online surveying tools were designed to change that.

"Online software allows agents to be part of the process. Agent portals allow agents to do some work on their own, which is especially important for smaller risks and for providing better automation to the process."

FirstBest UMS offers a single system for underwriters and agents but with different interfaces. "A single platform allows carriers to work with agents and provide quotes for a range of risks, and then generate a bindable quote by connecting to carriers' production rating systems," Pelenur said. Real-time quoting criteria are based on carrier-defined business rules.

Via the FirstBest Agent Web 2.0 agent portal, agents can quickly submit business and secure and bind quotes. It supports new business submissions, renewals, endorsements and straight-through-processing. "What once took up to two or three weeks to underwrite now can be in an agent's hands the next day or two," Pelenur said.

"Our software allows them to work together to underwrite risks. But now it's much faster and more efficient because the system is managing the process and providing capabilities to help with the job," he said. "Carriers are offered increased scalability to do more with the resources they already have, so they can service agents faster, produce more quotes to grow their market share and expand into new markets."

Product: Norvax Quote Engine

Company: Norvax Inc., Chicago

Norvax Inc. was founded by two college graduates searching for health insurance quotes online.

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The lack of easy solutions to accomplish that task, along with seeing the frustration of having to enter personal data into multiple carrier sites, led to a way to compile several carriers' rates into one spreadsheet format, on a single site.

The Norvax Quote Engine Web based software application manages everything from leads and proposals to customers and lead nurturing. Brokers log into the system's back-end customer relationship management interface called Broker Office. There they can run a customized health insurance proposal for prospects or get side-by-side plan comparisons that a customer can receive in a PDF or HTML format, said Jeremiah Desmarais, vice president of marketing. "That results in up to 96% reduction in users' quoting time."

The Norvax Quote Engine also can be used to improve marketing campaigns and generate exclusive leads.

The tool has a built-in screen-sharing technology that allows consumers and brokers to connect online to review quotes and complete the close of a sale, he said. "That significantly shortens brokers' cost-per-application because the whole process can be completed over the phone In less than 45 minutes."

For carriers, it offers an expanded sales force to sell their products.

Today, the company offers automated quoting to 15,000 customers and has 80 carrier partners.

Norvax recently added several enhancements to its application "to allow more data to be entered by the broker," Desmarais said. "We also pioneered the concept of automated quoting inside drip marketing, which allows agents to send prospects a steady stream of sales messages at predefined intervals with embedded health insurance quotes."

Desmarais said it's critical for brokers to harness automated quoting and sales automation solutions. "It's difficult to be selling health insurance and [be] successful without it."

* State of the Market: More carriers are moving to online, real-time quoting capabilities.

* What's Happening: Industry experts say a gap remains in the insurance quoting software marketplace.

* What's to Come: Vendors have an opportunity to improve carriers' performance with more open solutions.
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Title Annotation:Technology: Quoting Software
Comment:The price is right: insurance quoting software helps carriers grow market share, speed up processing and gain a competitive edge.(Technology: Quoting Software)
Author:Chordas, Lori
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
Words:1933
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