Technology never rests; it is ever
changing. So when insurance
carriers study the possibility of
investing in a new technology
platform, the decision often comes
down to two key areas: Will the
new platform improve ease of
doing business with independent
agents; and will the technology
enable them to make important
improvements in the processes
performed by internal users to
make them more efficient.
Carriers also have to look closely
at their own IT department and how the staff is prepared to deal
with both the new technology being proposed and the older
less-efficient technology that calls for programming skills that
younger IT workers either don’t have or don’t want to learn.
With its legacy system running on the COBOL programming language, Union Mutual of Vermont Companies, a personal lines carrier that operates in the Northeast, felt strategic
planning in those compelling areas was more than enough
reason to invest in the solution it ultimately selected: SurePower
Innovation System from ISCS.
Union Mutual had no preconceived notions of where this
project would lead them, so the carrier brought in an outside
consultant from IPA to help guide them on the path, according to Gary H. Ouellette, senior vice president, operations for
Union Mutual of Vermont.
“[The consultant] helped us define our needs, the products
that were available on the market, and identified 15 vendors with
products that had the potential to meet our needs,” says Ouellette.
Union Mutual put together a project team that included,
among others, the company’s CFO, CIO, and the head of the
project management office as well as leaders from the business
side. The search for the right partner took six months, according to Ouellette, and in the end ISCS won the contract by a
“Their technology was the driver,” he says. “We didn’t feel
the other vendors were quite there yet. We also were looking for
a partner, not just a vendor. Partnership was important to ISCS
as much as it was to us.”
Having the PMO in place helped accelerate the imple-
mentation and was critical to the success of the project, which
Ouellette explains took just five months.
“We were well prepared for this, plus ISCS uses an agile
development process to move things quickly,” he says.
Ouellette reports that Union Mutual was so pleased with the
agile development that it has adopted the strategy for all of its
projects moving forward.
“I feel that agile development kept the business side more
engaged in the project because we were implementing parts of
the system as we moved forward,” he says. “The daily meetings
and regular testing during the project, which are integral parts
of the agile approach, kept us on track toward our goal. I look
forward to continuing to use the agile approach.”
The project was launched in two phases, according to Ouel-
lette. Ninety-six percent of Union Mutual’s business is done in
three lines—auto, home, and business. That made up phase one
of the project. The remaining four percent of the business was
part of phase two, which the carrier wrapped up in 2013.
The ISCS platform is built on Linux with Java-based programming, according to Ouellette.
“It’s good to go for the future with regular updates,” he says.
“ISCS has an active research and development department and
they understand the needs of their client base.”
For his part, ISCS president Andy Scurto appreciates the
value of Union Mutual as a partner.
“Union Mutual of Vermont is an important part of the New
England insurance community, with a strong history of inde-
pendent agent and local support,” says Scurto. “We are proud
to be a partner in their use of new technology to provide their
personal service to policyholders and agents and to grow an
even stronger presence in these evolving competitive markets.”
With any technology implementation, the proof of success
comes from the performance and in Union Mutual’s case, its
approval rating in the area of ease of doing business has been
loud and clear.
“We have record new business,” says Ouellette. “When
independent agents saw that we have new interfaces and that
we were easier to do business with, it caused a swell in our
business. This definitely is a platform to launch our company
into the future.” ITA
Inside and Outside
Union Mutual of Vermont wants what most carriers seek: improvements in the
way they deal with agents and internal business users.