Redefining How We Work
A Report by the Agents Council for Technology
“Real-time saves our agency time and energy. We have information at our fingertips which assists in providing better customer service tailored to each customer’s needs. Real-time saves steps in our workflows, eliminates backlog, and results in more sales.” – Angelyn Treutel, Treutel Insurance Agency
Table of Contents Page
Introduction & Overview 1
About this Report 3
What is Real-Time Interface? 4
Where is Real-Time Interface Today? 5
The Benefits of Real-Time Processes 6
The Future: The Opportunities for Real-Time 9
Making the Real-Time Revolution Work for the Independent Agency System 11
Getting Started 12
Appendix A (Definitions) 13
Appendix B (Real-Time Opportunities) 17
Introduction & Overview
The term “real-time” is used in many different ways. Increasingly, it is being used within our industry to connote the emerging interfaces which enable independent agents and brokers to receive a prompt electronic response when they request billing or claims information, a policy view, or a quote. As important as these new types of interfaces are, they represent only a very small part of what the real-time revolution is likely to ultimately mean for our distribution system.
“Real-time” in its broadest sense describes a whole variety of electronic communications and transactions, where computers interact with each other and share information to give responses relatively instantaneously.
Real-time processes enable a carrier’s system to pull an insurance score from a third party provider in order to calculate the rate that the agent has just asked for electronically. Real-time technology powers an agency management system to use a phone number that the agent has just entered to populate the rest of the agent’s address screens with information instantly obtained from a third party database. Real-time communications permit a machine to communicate with its manufacturer that a hazardous condition has arisen that needs attention, or a vehicle to transmit to the insurance company that an accident has occurred.
In this paper, we have tried to strike a balance by discussing both the types of real-time interactions that we are seeing today as well as real-time processes that are on the drawing board or are being envisioned for the future.
"Real-time" processes are in their infancy. Yet, as we begin to transact business in real-time, it has already become clear that the insurance industry will be transformed by it. All levels of processing and communication between all parties participating in the insurance process will be affected. Everything from the way independent agents and brokers communicate with their customers and carriers to the way agency management systems are used will change. Real-time will have a dramatic effect on the internal and external workflows of the industry.
Today, in early 2004, we are just learning how effective and efficient real-time processing can be as we begin to implement basic inquiry activity between agency and carrier. For example, it is estimated that the time and effort to answer a billing question in real-time is roughly one tenth of what was required in a traditional phone inquiry. Also, if a process can be completed real-time, the need to diary for follow-up, as well as the follow-up activity itself, is eliminated. Real-time also permits your computer to immediately access information from trading partners’ computers (such as MVRs, insurance scores, customer address or vehicle information), thereby eliminating data entry and workflow steps.
It is important for us not to focus too narrowly on the potential for real-time capabilities to transform how we do our work. Real-time is already permitting agents to give customers answers to their billing, claims, and policy questions while they are still on the telephone. It is starting to permit agents to rate and issue policies through their agency management systems without having to manually logon to a carrier website and re-enter data that is already in the agency’s computers. These are extremely important functions of real-time, but this revolution has the potential to improve virtually every phase of our work.
Like all new technology, maximum effectiveness depends on the creation and implementation of "new work.” That is, new operations, workflows, and processes that leverage the new technology. Failure to build a new operating environment that takes advantage of the benefits made possible by the new technology is akin to putting raw meat on top of a microwave to thaw it out. Thus, as real-time begins so must an effort to identify ways in which "old work" can be eliminated, transformed or replaced by "new work.”
Several of our traditional paradigms as an industry are changing:
Traditional paradigm: Buy data as of a point in time, and save it for later use.
New paradigm: Access data for a particular point in time, whenever it is needed.
Traditional paradigm: All data needs to reside at the agency as well as the carrier.
New paradigm: Data can reside anywhere it is accessible-- provided there is a commitment that it will be accessible in the future when needed.
Traditional paradigm: You have to be able to touch it.
New paradigm: You don’t have to touch it.
Traditional paradigm: You have to be in the middle of all transactions.
New paradigm: You need to be aware of all transactions.
To compete effectively with other distribution systems over the long-term, independent agents and their carriers must keep pace with the efficiencies afforded by technology. Independent agencies have the advantage of being able to offer their customers multiple carrier representation. This is a unique and powerful business model, but it can also become uncompetitive if all the players in our distribution system do not continue to work together to put the standards and technologies in place that allow independent agencies to transact business with multiple carriers efficiently.
About this Report
In the next section, we elaborate on what are real-time interfaces. The report then discusses where we are today with real-time interfaces and stresses the importance of independent agencies and brokers, carriers, and other key business partners getting on board with real-time so that they do not fall too far behind and get swept away as the revolution progresses and accelerates.
Finally, the paper focuses on the enormous potential of real-time in its broader sense to transform our industry and to free up independent agents to provide customers with the type of advice and counsel they truly value and are not likely to find from other distribution systems. The section on Opportunities for Real-Time and the related Appendix B look to the future and discuss a myriad of communications, database, and processing functions that can benefit greatly from the evolution of real-time. Some of these improvements will start to be seen shortly, while others may take several years. But we hope this section will convince independent agents and brokers of the significance of the real-time revolution and of the importance of becoming players in this major transition in how we do our work.
This report is a “work in progress,” and ACT expects it will continue to evolve as real-time developments occur. In our next phase, ACT and ACORD’s AUGIE group will focus on the “Opportunities for Real-Time” section and the related appendix and begin to prioritize the various opportunities from an agent’s point of view.
What is Real-Time Interface?
Real-time interface in its simplest terms means that a user makes a request electronically and promptly receives a response. The transactional request may be a quote, service inquiry, policy view, request for information, etc. The electronic response back to the user can be in the form of a message, direct access to the requested information, or the initiation of an on-line process.
The long-term goal of real-time interface is that the entire business process in response to the request be completed immediately, and that the agency and carrier databases both reflect the change that has been made. In practice, this is not always the case today. For a variety of reasons, today, the response does not necessarily mean the business cycle is fully complete. Some transactions require additional processing by the carrier’s systems before they are truly complete; others require a batch download of data into the agent’s system overnight before the agency system reflects the transaction.
As an example, consider the agent user who, from his agency management system, electronically requests a policy change. The insurer sends an XML response advising that the endorsement has been received and processed. However, if the agent performs an immediate policy inquiry to view the policy at the carrier’s website and confirm the change, the inquiry will not reflect that change. The carrier system, in this example, has a time-lag of hours or days before its inquiry system reflects that change. The agent’s communication is complete, but the carrier’s processing is not. The same situation may apply when the user enters that data directly into the carrier’s proprietary system.
Some agents consider this a completed transaction. They have done their data entry, received acknowledgement and need not perform any other process. However, the agent and carrier databases are not updated with the change virtually immediately—which is an important component of real-time interface in its ultimate form. Thus, the above transaction would be an example of real-time communications, but not a completed transaction in real-time.
Let’s take an example of a completed transaction in real-time. From an agency management system, an XML request to quote a policy is sent to the carrier. The XML response from the carrier acknowledges the request and returns a quote. If the agent immediately enters the carrier site to see the quote (perhaps to request issuance), he or she has immediate access to that original quote. The entire business cycle for quoting is complete. The agent has completed all required communications. The carrier has completed processing of the transaction, and the agent and carrier databases both reflect the transaction.
We have tried to be precise in our definitions of “real-time interface,” “real-time communications,” and “real-time transactions.” The reader should be aware, however, that in common industry parlance, these terms are often used loosely and interchangeably, thus blurring the legitimate distinctions between them.
An agent may be able to interact in real-time with a carrier using the carrier’s web-site or using the agency management system. Real-time interfaces through the agency management system give the agent the advantages of avoiding separate manual logons to the carrier system (in most cases), eliminating multiple data entry, and minimizing the need to learn a distinct workflow for each carrier. Sometimes, the term “real-time interface” is used narrowly to signify interfacing through the agency management system, but real-time interfaces can be much broader than that.
When agents interface with their carriers in real-time through their agency management systems, they do so using either “straight through processing” where the interaction is directly with the carrier’s systems, or “bridging” where the agency system’s data populates the data fields on the carrier’s web-site, provides the agent with direct access to the relevant web site page for the inquiry or transaction, and handles the logon automatically (in most cases).
Examples of real-time technologies offered by particular vendors include BRIDGE-IT™, Ebix Inquiry™, Nexsure eServices™, IVANS Transformation Station™, TransactNOW™, Web Bridge™, Web Link™, and Web Services Wrappers™. These terms, as well as several others associated with real-time, are further defined in Appendix A.
Where is Real-Time Interface Today?
2003 was a year of remarkable progress in the implementation of agent-carrier real-time interfaces through the agency management systems. The number of real-time inquiries and transactions are increasing by as much as 30% a month. It took real-time only one year to reach an activity level that the traditional batch model needed 17 years to achieve. The number of carriers in development to make initial or additional real-time transactions available to their agents in 2004 is truly exciting.
The progress being made is all the more noteworthy because of the amount of work and investment that needs to be put in by the carriers and vendors to create this real-time functionality for agents and brokers. Marrying real-time capability to the expansive legacy systems that carriers use is hard work and is an important reason why we will continue to see carriers moving at different paces and making incremental improvements that continue to move us toward the most efficient agency workflows.
Most of the activity to date has been with billing and claims inquiries and electronic policy view. But some carriers are offering First Notice of Loss, Loss Runs, Quoting, Rating, and Policy Issue. Carriers are introducing bridging to make the endorsement process more efficient. In 2004, ACT, as well as several of the user groups, agent associations, carriers, and vendors, are very interested in seeing an increase in the number of carriers offering real-time quoting, rating, and policy issue through the agency management systems for both personal and commercial lines.
As will be discussed in greater depth in the next section, implementation of real-time functionality brings immediate improvements in workflow to agencies and frees agency staff to sell and to provide customers with more highly valued services. Such implementations also keep agencies up-to-date with the latest technology and workflows which will position them to take advantage of the further improvements that are starting to come from the real-time revolution. Those agencies now doing little to adopt these latest improvements run the serious risk of falling too far behind to be able to catch up. These agencies could also lose customers, employees, and carriers, and will not get the full return from the time and hard dollars they have expended in training and equipment.
There is another reason why agency implementation of these real-time interfaces is critical. Implementation by large numbers of the agency force provides a powerful message to the carriers that these workflow improvements are important to agents. Widespread implementation is the best way for agents to assure that more of their carriers will come onboard or will increase the number of transactions and lines of business where they offer real-time capability through agency management systems.
The Benefits of Real-Time Processes
Consumers are already benefiting greatly from the real-time capabilities that they are experiencing from other financial services companies, as well as from other firms across the entire economy. These positive real-time experiences have changed customer expectations forever. It is no longer satisfactory to consumers to get the answers they seek a day later, or even several hours later. Increasingly, they want to be able to access their companies 24/7 and get immediate answers. The real-time revolution will enable independent agents and their companies to begin to provide these immediate answers. In short, being able to conduct business in real-time is quickly becoming a competitive necessity for our distribution system.
In our industry, the ability to offer customers responses in real-time saves them time, increases the convenience of our services, and reduces the errors they experience since the work is done correctly the first time. Some of the areas where real-time capabilities will particularly benefit consumers include: billing, policy view, claims, certificate generation, loss runs, auto ID card generation, and change initiation. Real-time also opens up the opportunity for agents and carriers to offer customers responses 24/7 when they access the agency or carrier web site, or use the after-hours telephone service provided by the agency (which has access to the agency’s customer information).
Real-time functionality offers independent agencies several workflow enhancements. Agents are able to answer customer inquiries while they are still on the phone, eliminating unproductive call backs. The time to get these answers from the carriers is reduced greatly. For example, in the case of billing inquiries, the time to handle the inquiry is one-tenth of that required to handle it with the traditional phone inquiry (ASCnet Time Study, 2002). Handling the customer’s inquiry in real-time also eliminates the errors that occur when the transaction cannot be handled in a “once and done manner.” Once and done also means there is no need to diary for follow-up and the follow-up activity is eliminated.
Handling transactions in real-time through the agency management system eliminates time-consuming duplicate data entry. Workflows are further streamlined for agents when they can access information from third-party computers in real-time and then use it within their own computers to fill out additional needed information. Examples include reverse phone numbers where these numbers can be used to obtain the rest of the customer’s address; the use of vehicle VIN numbers to access and fill in the rest of the needed vehicle information; the real-time access to Do Not Call lists maintained by the government; and the improved integration of credit scores and MVRs into the rating process.
Real-time access to carriers through the agency management systems reduces the training needed to familiarize the agency staff with the particularities of each carrier’s web site. It often eliminates manual logons to carrier web sites. This real-time capability also makes it easier to initiate and complete transactions at the point of sale and to re-market business when necessary.
Real-time electronic access to policy information at the carrier can result in important savings in agency operations, provided the agency is given assurances by the carrier to continued access to this information even if the agency’s relationship with the carrier is terminated. The reduction in paper and filing reduces required file space as well as paper and mailing costs. This real-time access to policy information from the carriers also greatly improves recovery efforts should a disaster strike.
All of these real-time improvements free up staff time to engage in more productive activities such as sales, cross-selling, and customer counseling. Process training can be reduced in this new environment and training in sales and cross-selling substituted. It is critical for agency managements to redirect staffing to more productive areas as efficiencies are realized from the real-time revolution.
We are just scratching the surface regarding how real-time can streamline the way we do work, if we are willing to think through the possibilities and are willing to change.
Managing General Agents
MGAs will experience many of the same benefits as retail agencies when they implement real-time into their operations. The retail agents dealing with the MGA as well as its carriers will also realize efficiencies. The following steps will position this segment of the industry for the real-time revolution.
If the MGA utilizes ACORD standards where applicable and can accept ACORD applications from agency management systems, or posts ACORD applications on its web site, these steps alone will assist the process greatly. They will help the MGA to receive complete, legible submissions, in contrast to the current situation where the company unique applications or supplements that are submitted are typically handwritten and faxed with a vast amount of information missing. One large midwestern wholesaler has noted that 8 out of 10 risks currently being submitted by retail producers are missing information.
An MGA is a “go between” for agents and E&S markets. The current vendors for MGA’s are embracing ACORD standards, and several of the current E&S carriers do provide their rating information to software vendors which are ACORD based and provide multiple company rating. However, the E&S markets need to continue to plan their e-Business initiatives to include acceptance of ACORD standards and electronic transmissions going forward in order for this segment of the insurance industry to work in real-time in the future.
Being “easy to do business with” is becoming increasingly important for carriers distributing through independent agents, which live in a multiple-carrier environment. Just as with consumers, the expectations of independent agents are rapidly changing as they increasingly experience the efficiencies of the real-time world. Once again, building real-time functionality (that can be accessed through agency management systems) positions the carrier as a competitive player over the long-term.
Real-time capability eliminates carrier headcount in several areas. Billing, claims, and policy inquiries are handled automatically; carrier staff can now focus on handling more complicated agency issues. Carrier staff do not need to process agency submissions or endorsements. Once again these are handled automatically, and the carrier staff can focus on the risks requiring individual underwriting. Real-time eliminates the risks being handed off to several people, each creating the possibility of errors which then must be followed up upon and corrected. Instead, the risk is handled correctly the first time, by the party closest to the risk—the agent. Carriers are saving paper and postage costs by providing agents with electronic access to their policy information, rather than mailing it to them.
Real-time capability also facilitates the ability of carriers to transfer books of business from other carriers electronically into their databases in much the same way as they would interface with an agency system. Real-time enables the carrier’s disparate, internal systems to interact with each other more effectively.
In addition, carriers are finding that once they build this real-time capability they can get multiple uses out of the code to expand its benefits to additional agencies, lines of business, agency management systems, and other vendors.
Real-time allows vendors to provide carriers with a server-based central location for edits. This capability enables the carrier to go to one place to update edits for that vendor, and the agents do not have to maintain the edits on their systems.
Other Key Business Partners
Agency management system vendors are able to incorporate real-time capabilities to enhance the value of the systems they offer to their agency customers. These systems are offering agencies much more efficient ways to interface with their carriers than using proprietary carrier web sites. These vendors are also enhancing the functionality they offer by pulling maps and other needed information from third-party databases to further streamline agency workflows.
Rating vendors aggregate rating data for multiple carriers and then provide their agency customers a common platform to display the results. They are using real-time functionality to pull in real-time rates from carriers as well as to integrate third-party data such as MVRs, insurance scores, and claims loss history into the process. This process would be helped considerably if there were standards for how this third-party data is stored and transferred.
In a real-time world, it is likely that third-party data would be accessed more frequently, whenever needed. Here, too, new business models need to be considered to facilitate the real-time use of this information whenever needed, rather than a business model that contemplates infrequent purchases of the information and retention by the acquiring party.
Agent-carrier interface providers, such as IVANS, are using real-time functionality to broaden the interfacing services provided to their clients. Real-time and ACORD XML allow them to broaden the types of transactions available, such as inquiry and first notice of loss, which had not been previously offered. This functionality also provides the ability for these interface providers to help carriers extend the benefits of real-time transactions to a greater number of their agencies, at a faster rate, by having multiple agency management system vendors and agencies ready for interface.
The Future: The Opportunities for Real-Time
The ACT work group has discussed some of the major areas where the real-time revolution is likely to impact future insurance communications, database sharing, and processing. In this section we highlight some of the major changes and workflow improvements we might see in each of these three areas. Appendix B contains the comprehensive list of real-time opportunities that the work group developed, and this list gives the reader a good gauge of the potential of real-time to change how we do our work over the next several years.
Real-time offers the opportunity for all of the players in the insurance process to keep the others informed about the status of events. For example, the carrier sends the agent notice that a policy is about to cancel for nonpayment of premium, and then sends a Notice of Cancellation to the agent. Or the carrier advises the agent that the insured has filed a claim with the company, or that the claim has been paid. Agents, in turn, can give similar claims progress reports to customers as events occur. These alerts could be sent in a format that appears on the agency management system’s activity log and is retained by that system, triggering follow-up actions by the agency system where appropriate.
As carriers continue to “turn off” the policy paper sent to agents, real-time enables agents to be given the choice whether to receive electronic copies when they request them or to have these copies automatically sent for retention in the agency’s document management system. Important insurance notices would be “pushed” to the agency electronically in real-time so that the agency can follow up on them as it would have done with paper notices.
Real-time downloads of policy data to agency systems would help agencies keep their web site information up-to-date for customer inquiries. Real-time downloads are important for those transactions where the agent must follow up with or on behalf of the customer immediately.
Instant messaging could be used to foster improved communications among agency staff, and it would be especially helpful where there are several office locations. Instant messaging could revolutionize agent communications with carrier underwriters. Proprietary Internet Messaging packages could be used to record the keystrokes (conversation) into a log within the agency’s and/or carrier’s systems for E&O purposes.
Think about how this real-time technology could improve the level of collaboration that needs to take place to hammer out all of the terms and conditions for a complicated commercial risk.
Real-time will also facilitate more effective access to the databases of trading partners. For example, agents could query a carrier for the latest commission statement. Financial institutions might query agents or the carrier for verification of the lienholder’s coverage information when needed. One can envision a fully electronic and real-time process to replace the current paper and labor-intensive Certificate of Insurance process used today. Certificate holders could inquire real-time to verify coverage, and this information would be up-to-date because cancellations and reinstatements would also be handled in real-time.
Real-time enables the agent’s computer to pull information from third-party computers and then to make use of this information to enhance agency efficiency in a multitude of ways. Some examples include:
· Using reverse phone numbers and VIN databases to shortcut data entry;
· Accessing insurance scores, MVRs, and C.L.U.E.™ Reports and then integrating them into the agency’s rating process;
· Mining risk information from various business and insurance sites, such as Dun & Bradstreet, ISO, and NCCI to develop more effective marketing proposals;
· Pulling in maps and driving directions to assist the agency’s producers.
Real-time also has the potential to improve virtually every aspect of insurance processing. Real-time enables policyholders to access the agency or carrier website and get an immediate response, 24/7, whether it be to make a policy or claims inquiry, obtain an auto ID card, or request a policy change.
Similarly, real-time will enable agents to operate largely electronically and to eliminate most paper, because they will be able to access the needed information from several sources upon demand. They will also be able to access this information from any location. Electronic signature pads and other forms of e-signatures are also likely to evolve to authenticate the customer’s agreement to electronic documents. Electronic transfer funds and credit/debit cards will be increasingly used by customers to make their payments to agents and carriers.
Today, most of the implementations of real-time have been focused on making agency-carrier processing more efficient, as outlined in the “Where is Real-Time Today” section above. Real-time also will transform how the agents’ other business partners-- such as rating vendors and premium finance companies-- interface with them.
Real-time should help carriers underwrite risks increasingly on an individual basis because of the ability to track actual instead of predicted usage. Real-time should also streamline the currently cumbersome licensing process for both agents and carriers, especially when they need to obtain licenses from multiple jurisdictions.
Making the Real-Time Revolution Work for the Independent Agency System
Our industry has made good progress with real-time functionality in the past few years, and the pipeline of new carriers and expanded transactions in development for a 2004 roll-out is truly exciting. The momentum is building! And it needs to continue to build because real-time is critical to the competitive positioning of our distribution system over the rest of this decade. It is crucial for agencies, carriers, and vendors alike to embrace this revolution and continue to work together to implement it.
It is also very important for all of those with a stake in this channel to implement the ACORD XML standards to facilitate real-time capabilities-- and to help develop new standards where necessary so that agencies can work efficiently in a multiple-carrier environment. For example, should standards be developed for how third-party data is stored and transferred, since it has become an integral part of the underwriting and rating process?
The industry also needs to work together on the security issues facing us, so that we establish a clear direction as to what is safe and acceptable regarding the transfer of private information over public networks.
ACT will continue to encourage the adoption of new real-time functionality in our business. These improvements will require a lot of work, and the business case will need to be made for each change. Progress will require the active involvement and hard work of all the involved parties—agents, carriers, and vendors. At the end of day, the real-time revolution will transform how we do our work and empower agents, carriers, and vendors to meet-- and hopefully exceed-- the changing expectations of their respective customers.
Both agency management system vendors and carriers have designed their real-time processes to be easy for the agent to implement. Agents should contact their vendor, user group, and/or carrier for the steps they need to take. The ACT web site contains links to the web sites maintained by the various vendors and user groups, which list what types of real-time functionality they have available by carrier and line of business. (Go to: www.independentagent.com or directly to the Agents Council for Technology).
The best way for independent agents and brokers to assure that carriers and vendors continue to develop real-time functionality-- which cuts delays, reduces duplicate data entry, and eliminates other inefficiencies-- is to use these tools when they become available. In this way, vendors and carriers will recognize that this functionality is important to their agents and that their investments in this technology have been worthwhile.
The Agents Council for Technology (ACT) is an association of agents, brokers, users groups, carriers, vendors, and industry associations dedicated to encouraging and facilitating the most effective use of technology and workflow within the Independent Agency System. ACT is affiliated with the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc.
This report was prepared by the ACT Real-Time Work Group
Angelyn Treutel, Treutel Insurance Agency, Chair
Peter van Aartrijk, The van Aartrijk Group
Peter Anderson, Anderson Insurance Services
Roger Barbe, Ohio Casualty
Donna Barr, Marsh, Inc.
Ron Berg, MetLife Auto & Home
Linda Dodson, Chubb
Bruce Fiori, Travelers
Mele Fuller, Safeco
Alan Hedrick, County Wide Insurance Agency
Ed Higgins, Thousand Islands Insurance Agency
Brian Johnson, Allstate
Larry Johnson, UPAC Insurance Finance
Shannon Maher, IVANS
Rick Morgan, Applied Systems
Todd Mundhenke, Mundhenke Insurance Agency
Laura Nettles, Nettles Consulting
Mike Peterson, MI-Assistant
Richard Roy, Afni Insurance Services
Keith Savino, Warwick Resource Group
Janice Sheffield, IVANS
Bob Slocum, Slocum Insurance Agency
Martha Williamson, ONB Insurance Group
Jeff Yates, ACT Executive Director
The electronic sharing of business data between two automated systems. The intent is for the data from one system (the agency management system) to populate the data fields of the receiving system (a carrier web site), thus eliminating the re-keying of data. This eliminates the inefficiencies of double keying, improves agency work flow and reduces time and costs in the agency. Typically, the agency completes the process (request for quote) in the carrier site. This process is also known as data integration or pre-filling.
Bridging differs from the ‘post and response’ interface whereby the agency, using its agency management system, requests a quote (submission or inquiry) and the transaction completes without leaving the agency using the carrier site.
A workflow process describing transactions originating in the management systems and completing on the carrier’s web site. Most hybrid interfaces are real-time communications and/or transactions, and many of them include bridging data from the management system to the carrier’s web site, automated logon, and/or navigational aids.
See What is Real-Time Interface section of report.
Desk Top Interfaces
Messages that originate outside the agency management system can be thought of as Desk Top interfaces. A standard example is an agency using Internet Explorer to log onto a carrier site, keying id and password to then navigate to the desired information. This transaction did not start in the agency management system.
A function whereby one set of software reads the data directly from the screens of another system. Traditionally, any change on the screen being read results in a breakdown of the process, and requires programming changes. This was a method used to read data from carrier 3270 screens (also known as ‘green screens’.) The term is often used today to identify the general process of software reading any data (as in web services) from another system, and current technologies have more capability to find the data on the screen being read.
Single Entry Multi-Company Interface. Since its creation 15+ years ago, this expression has come to mean different things to different people. In its original, purest form, it means the data is entered once in an agency management system and then is electronically shared with multiple companies. It has always been intended to connote a preferred agency workflow, not a particular technology.
Existing Product Definitions
The functionality of the following products differs and is dependent upon the implementation by carriers. Confusion has been generated by similar product names being used by different vendors, which address different management systems. The following definitions are not intended to fully describe the listed products, but rather to give a high-level overview of the product.
DORIS Insurance Systems' integrated product that will auto-logon and access carrier websites for a variety of transactions. Available on The Agents Choice™ and DORIS' ASP FILESERVERonline™.
An Ebix product that provides “seamless” billing, claims and policy inquiry capabilities on any platform, including on Ebix platforms. It provides auto-logon to the carrier systems (web-site) and navigation to the appropriate carrier screen.
XDimensional Technologies, Inc.'s Nexsure eServices™, part of the Nexsure™ agency management system, offers real-time automation for carrier policy inquiry and built-in data exchange and transaction processing capabilities. Services include billing, policy, claims, documents, and carrier unique services across personal, commercial, and specialty lines of business. Features include: Integral, portable, and device independent single-sign-on (SSO) with Nexsure™, complete asynchronous back-end services, document management workflow, look-ahead inquiries and auditing of all activities.
An AMS Services product that utilizes ACORD standards to provide "seamless" connectivity and single-entry real-time transaction workflow between agency and carrier processing systems. It supports personal and commercial lines inquiry capabilities for billing, claims, and policy view, endorsements, bindable rating and issuance, and automated single sign-on to carrier Web sites via its Carrier Passport™ feature. The agent stays within his or her management system and uses the same workflow across carriers, then can choose to be instantly directed and signed on to the carrier Web site when they want. Utilizing Web Services Wrapper™ technology from BCF enables continued rapid development and deployment of multiple real-time transaction workflow options, including bridging and immediate request/response.
An IVANS Internet data exchange, taking full advantage of ACORD XML and web services, is used by a number of carriers to conduct real-time interface with agents using Applied, DORIS, InStar and NASA. Transformation Station™ also provides an option for carriers to reach AMS agents in real-time. It provides "seamless" inquiry capabilities for billing, claims, policy view or loss runs, first notice of loss submissions, and quote and issue for both personal and commercial lines. The agency stays within its agency system and does not see or log-on to the carrier web site unless re-directed there by the carrier. ACORD XML is used (behind the scenes to the agent) to facilitate the quick, reformatted response directly back to the agent's client file, where the agent started his or her request. Transformation Station supports both real-time options, bridge and request/response.
This is an Applied Systems product which provides auto-logon and navigation capability for use in inquiries on carrier sites. This software provides inquiry capability for claims, billing and policy view, and is intended to allow carriers which do not yet have XML capability to offer an inquiry tool.
This is an SIS Product that provides auto-logon and navigation capability for use in inquiries on carrier sites. It can provide access to billing, claims and other services on the carrier site.
Web Services (generic industry term)
In contrast to “screen scraping”, web services denotes the capability for a connectivity architecture to handle secured XML transaction processing, utilizing firewall access directly to carrier server data, not just web pages.
Web Services Wrappers™
A product developed by BCF Technologies that provides auto-logon, inquiry capabilities for billing, claims, and policy view, first notice of loss submissions, endorsements, book transfer, and quoting/issuance for both personal and commercial lines. Using ACORD standards, the Web Services Wrappers are capable of integrating multiple agency and carrier systems in real-time via ACORD XML, Web Services, Web Site, and TN3270 gateways. The product is used today within the AMS Services product, TransactNOW™.
Association for Cooperative Operations, Research & Development – a global, nonprofit insurance association whose mission is to facilitate the development and use of standards for the insurance, reinsurance and related financial services industries. www.acord.org
ACORD XML Standards
A set of standard electronic business messages defined by line of business and/or by business function using ACORD XML. Examples would be: a request for a BOP quote or a request for claims status. The broad implementation of ACORD XML Standards among carriers, agency management system vendors and third party software providers improves the efficiency of the entire distribution system as well as the individual organizations.
Application Service Provider (ASP)
A third-party entity that manages and distributes software-based services and solutions to customers across a wide area network (WAN) from a central data center.
In essence, ASPs are a way for agencies and other businesses to outsource some or almost all aspects of their information technology needs. The service and physical location of the hardware/software/data are handled by the vendor and are located off-site.
A process whereby an agent is not required to key his or her user id and password at a carrier site. Through a selection on their agency management system, the agency employee is automatically logged into an Internet, web-based site-- the carrier’s proprietary site.
Multiple transactions compiled and processed at one time, generally on a nightly basis. An example of a result from batch processing is nightly policy download which is processed and sent to participating agencies.
Meta data or, more simply, a data language. (Not a programming language.) It is a set of rules by which business data is displayed and/or formatted.
<Title> Moby Dick </Title>
<Author> Herman Melville </Author>
<Price> $4.45 </Price>
This is an XML data stream. The XML (the meta data or the data language) is <Book>, <Title>, <Author> and <Price> - and the way they are grouped together. The data is Moby Dick, Herman Melville and $4.45 – and the collection of the data. Data is used based on the tag name (<Title>) of each data element. The tags are describing the data.
We have divided these real-time opportunities based upon their impact on one of the following three major aspects of insurance operations-- communications, database, and processing. Some of these improvements are likely to occur relatively quickly; others will take much longer to occur, if they occur at all. A lot of work must be done to put them in place, and the business case needs to be made for each one. They have great promise, however, to enhance the quality and the responsiveness of the work we perform.
· Carriers, agencies, individual agents, employees, and other interested parties sending "Alerts" to each other. One can imagine virtually all carrier/agency informational types of communications occurring in real-time. These "Alerts" could work much like Outlook reminders do. In addition, they would need to be sent in a standard format in which an agency’s management system could record the fact that it was received and create a memo to follow-up. Examples:
· A carrier could send a CSR a notice in real-time that a policy is about to cancel for non-payment of premium.
· A carrier could send a Notice of Cancellation/Reinstatement.
· A Premium Finance Company could send a Notice of Premium Financing.
· A Carrier could send a transaction to an agency management system for any activity the carrier does on behalf of the agency in a service center arrangement. This includes policy transactions as well as phone calls. The agent could also be notified of claims made in the service center or directly to the carrier.
Notification to Policyholders
· Have an email generated to a policyholder indicating the progress of a claim.
· Example: “Your claim has been approved. A check for X dollars was sent to…” Clearly, a claim status to the agency and from the agency would be enhanced using a real-time model. A final payment alert would also be a great real-time transaction.
Carrier-Agency Data Synchronization
· Real-time download to an agency management system with policy updates. This would be essential to ensure the integrity of the data when customers make real-time inquiries on the agency web-site. Consumers expect real-time results and not a 24-hour or more lag time as occurs with current batch downloads.
Communicating the Initiation of a Process
· First Notice of Loss reporting by the agent using wireless access to a carrier (via Internet), PDA’s, or through current methods. Loss reporting could include digital pictures, and loss estimates.
· Have GPS in the car notify carrier and agent of accident as it happens. This would ensure timely reporting of the claim! This would likely result in higher customer satisfaction and better management of the loss.
· Agents, carriers, and policyholders could communicate “instantly” to resolve issues and communicate information. This technology already is used daily in many of our homes by our children to “chat”. This could be an alternative to leaving voicemail and faxing for businesses as well. An example of this application would be an agency requesting Workers Comp Posting Notices from the carrier. A consideration to using this technology would be to use a proprietary IM (Internet Messaging) package that would record the keystrokes (conversation) to be logged within an agency or carrier’s management system for E&O purposes.
· Agents, carriers, and policyholders could conduct business and keep in touch from anywhere in the world.
· Agencies could query a carrier for the latest commission statement.
· In the processing of Certificates and ID cards, real-time could have a significant impact on the process. Certificate holders could inquire real-time to verify coverage. Cancellations and Reinstatements could be sent real-time. This could lead to a completely different way in which the coverage verification is secured. One can envision a fully "electronic" and real-time process that eliminates the need for paper and the labor-intensive processes required today.
· Financial institutions could query agents or the carrier for lien-holder and coverage verification.
· Police departments could query carriers for insurance verification.
· Real-Time could offer the opportunity for an agency to obtain true CRM (Customer Relationship Management) capability by providing aggregate information about a customer regardless of where that information resides (agency system, carrier, third party, customers system, etc.). This ability to pull information from multiple computers and then to aggregate it—in and of itself-- will have a significant impact on the role of agency management systems in the future.
· Insurance needs could be calculated and recommended based on real-time data accessed from multiple sources—data such as-- income, risk exposures, spending habits, and current debt load. These information sources could also anticipate future needs such as college tuition, exposures associated with new business ventures, or health risks based on age, activities, or health records. Future privacy requirements are likely to provide the limits permitted for these kinds of real-time inquiries.
· The gathering of data to assess a risk could be greatly improved by linking multiple databases to gather all needed information with only a few inputs required.
Agent Licensing and Appointments
· Carriers will be able to access agency information from the state insurance departments’ databases in real-time. Real-time technology also should streamline the current cumbersome licensing process for both agents and carriers seeking licenses from multiple jurisdictions.
· Agencies, carriers, and consumers could search for legal actions from state departments of insurance.
· Agencies, carriers, and consumers could search public records for the history of arrests, crime reports, and reports of recovered property.
· Carriers could link vehicle registration to live policy change.
· Carriers could link the passing of one’s driver’s license test to adding the driver to the vehicle.
· Compliance with such regulatory requirements as OFAC and the Do Not Call list could all be accomplished with real-time processes.
· Carriers and regulatory agencies could retrieve licensing and carrier appointments from the NAIC database.
· Carriers, software providers, and agencies could query many different databases to learn underwriting information—both current information or from any point in time. Information could include:
· MVR History
· Claims History
· Credit/Insurance Score
· On-line Business Information Report
· Dun & Bradstreet
· Standard and Poor’s listings
· SEC 10K Reports
· Inquiry to MapQuest or other vendor for distance to coast, earthquake and flood zones, protection class
· ISO specific rates
· ISO sprinklered or BCEG code
· Experience Mod inquiry to NCCI
· Retrieve data from laboratory or Medical Information Bureaus.
· VIN association with the Make, Model, or Equipment
· Registration and licensing information could be queried from the state.
· Geospatial technology allows for location-based information to be integrated into a variety of functions, allowing agents and carriers to share an added dimension of data which can be critical to enhancing the speed and efficiency of business processes.
· The use of location technology will allow for quick determination of some key determinants for agents as they interface with the carrier. This can allow real-time determination if a proposed insured’s location falls into a category in which basic underwriting guidelines would be in effect.
· Conversely, if a proposed insured’s location, either commercial or personal, falls into specific categories, it could trigger the need for additional evaluation, in real-time. Factors could include location along an earthquake fault, in or near a flood zone, close to a hazardous waste site, or similar location-based issues.
· Looking at a carrier or agency’s book of business as an executive dashboard based on a location perspective allows for evaluation of areas with strong market penetration (or opportunity), locations with heavy risk concentrations, or even an evaluation of possible maximum loss for a given location or region.
· Carriers and agencies can ensure that they do not exceed agreed-upon risk levels and amounts, allowing them to take steps to ensure compliance.
· Evaluate possible future markets area by viewing demographic and data in a geographic view of potential.
· Ensure that levels of business in areas of specific demographic sensitivity are within levels mandated by regulation and carrier policy.
· Location based technology could also help speed basic functions such as verifying addresses. Reducing the number of questions that need to be asked, by calculating distances between home and work for auto policies, distance to coast line, and much more.
· Advanced technologies including routing can enable insureds to be directed to repair or claims centers or help agents find a location when a site visit is needed.
· Location-based intelligence integrated into workflow processes will allow carriers to offer real-time underwriting responses, as well as provide visualization of risk for both company and agents.
· Geospatial mapping will allow agents and carriers to immediately view potential risk by geographic area, allowing them to work together to minimize unacceptable levels in specific areas, and encouraging growth in other areas. This can be done in a single entry real-time evaluation or as batch processing for an agency’s book of business or across the carrier’s lines.
· An analysis of underwriting and risk can allow for early recognition of trends, both positive and negative.
· Location intelligence can also enhance business opportunities, as carriers and agencies can overlay business and demographic data over geographic boundaries to allow for better targeting.
· This can include opportunities in both commercial and personal lines.
· Agency sales territories, as well as an individual agent’s sales book, can be fine-tuned through a location-based evaluation.
· Carriers could be updated on adds/update/deletions of producers licensed to write for their company.
New Business Processes
· Underwriting could be based upon vehicle actual instead of predicted usage. This could include the speed at which a vehicle is driven, where it is driven, frequency of sudden stops or excessive acceleration.
· Risk could be assessed on an individual basis or using the aggregate
data for the combination of vehicles within that territory.
· Wireless access to the agency management system or carrier to complete the application with real-time rating and upload (if applicable) to the carrier from the prospect/policyholder’s site.
· Rate calculation web services. Carriers could provide a web service to authorized parties to perform quotes. This service could include carrier sided MVR, Claims History, and Insurance scoring ordering and calculation.
· Real-time transfer of Premium Finance data for quoting, and the return of premium finance agreement(s) and related documents.
· On-line enrollment and real-time transfer of data from enrollee to third party administrator.
· Agency could be equipped with electronic signature pads so that customer’s confirmation of agreement would be captured electronically for carrier or other third-parties.
· Electronic transfer funds or acceptance of Credit/Debit cards for payment of services including: policies, premium finance, or agency fees.
· Carriers could bind policies in real-time and print or e-mail policy to policyholder.
· A policy would not need to be printed in the agent’s office as real-time access to the e- policy will be available through the carrier’s web-site.
Customer Service Processes
Auto ID Cards
· Policyholders could request an auto id card from the carrier or the agency.
· Policyholder could request changes on the agency or carrier web-site.
Policyholder account query
· Agency personnel could access the agency management system to obtain current billing / policy information.
· Policyholders could access basic policy and billing information 24/7 through the Agency’s website.
· Policyholders could request documents for viewing, printing or emailing (i.e. dec page copies, auto ids, certificates, etc).
· Policyholders could make changes on line through the agent’s web-site.
· Policyholders, MGA’s, or Carriers could query a Premium Finance account to learn current account status or make payment similar to direct bill policies.
Redefining Agency Departments
· As agency organizations are rethought as a result of real-time innovations and efficiencies, one approach might be to set up separate sections to achieve greater specialization and efficiency because each section would be expert in its area.
o A back end or processing section could handle all of the back end paper or paperless downloads such as renewals, endorsements, new business, cancellations, and reinstatements.
o A second section could handle non-pay notices and policies that don’t automatically renew or that require payment upon renewal.
o A third section could handle all of the quoting and endorsements.
· CSR’s would have the direct contact with the client but all back end processing could be handled elsewhere to give them more “quality” time with the customer. CSR’s are generally paid higher salaries than back end processors so this approach could save in expenses.
· The sales unit would be a separate group but would also use the section that handles quoting to generate the quotes in order to achieve the best use of the sales people’s time.
· Reinsurance transactions.
Making Electronic Payments
· Once the agent sets up and approves an amount for payment in the agency management system, that information would be sent in real-time to the bank and automatically activate the electronic payment to the recipient.
Collecting unpaid funds
· Refer case files to collection agency.
· Ability for the agency to send large schedule item to the carrier beyond the property schedules and vehicle schedules already built.
· Ability for consumers to transmit large schedules of personal items from their computers to the agent’s system (or to enter this information on the agent’s web site) without the need for separate agency entry of the information. Real-time would then enable the agent to send these schedules electronically to the carrier’s system or web site without the need to re-enter the information. Many clients have personal schedules containing scores or even hundreds of items which currently take agents hours to enter both on the agency management system and on the carrier’s web site.