Growth is a challenge for any company. Those that choose to stay at
the same level, often find that easier said than done. Those that look
to grow their business are faced
with multiple challenges, often
involving the use of technology.
“As you grow and start to compete with a higher level of insurance
carriers, agencies expect certain
levels of efficiencies and ease-of-use
systems,” says Sukhy Dhillon, CIO
of Stonetrust Commercial Insurance
Stonetrust had an aging management system that was difficult
for front-end users to use and could not accommodate the growth
the company anticipated. In 2010 Stonetrust wrote $24 million in
direct written premium. By 2014, the carrier more than doubled in
size to $65 million, according to Dhillon.
Stonetrust, which operates out of headquarters in Baton Rouge,
La., felt the need to do more with predictive analytics and improve
its straight-through processing to make the company easier to do
“At the back end, we were just collecting the data,” says Dhillon.
“We wanted to put that at the front end. While we were searching,
we came across FirstBest Systems and spoke with (founder and
CEO) John Belizaire. I told him the kinds of things we were trying
to improve and we began a discussion on ways to make that hap-
In October of 2013, Stonetrust brought in the solution pro-
vider to demo the FirstBest Underwriting Management System
and 10 of the carrier’s agency partners also took part. Dhillon
explains the insurer wanted business partners to be part of the
process since they are actual users and their feedback is import-
ant. What resulted from that meeting was a detailed analysis of
“The part the agencies really liked was the application reader,”
says Dhillon. “We were getting a lot of new-business applications
and the underwriters were keying in all this data. We needed to
automate that process so we didn’t have to key in the data as well
as have a process where the underwriter can use the information
without any disruption.”
Stonetrust studied different solution partners, but Dhillon
reports the insurer felt they found what they needed with First-
Best. “It was important to find a partner with the same culture and
values,” says Dhillon. “We wanted a partner to help us upgrade the
technology and we wanted to be able to upgrade ourselves every
year or two with new versions. Some vendors, we dealt with don’t
actively upgrade their platform.”
Tim Dietrich, president of Stonetrust, points out that Dhillon
was brought to Stonetrust to create a new department that would
help determine the future of the carrier.
“We looked at how we would re-apply ourselves to make it as
easy as possible for people to do business with us,” says Dietrich.
“We want our company to be on the cutting edge, but not the
bleeding edge. We wanted to find things that would differentiate
us from others. The only other differentiator—other than price—
is how to improve ease of business and create relationships with
Everything that Stonetrust will change in the future will stay in
the front end, adds Dhillon. The back-end system is one of the easiest parts of the FirstBest product. Within seven months, the insurer
completed all the integration of the data, something Dhillon credits
to collaboration among FirstBest, Ebix, and the Stonetrust team.
“When you have vendors that can work independently and
take ownership of each task no matter how minute it may be, I
think that creates extra time for other stakeholders in the project,
so that they can focus on the details in more depth. Thus, it estab-
lishes the accountability for each team member,” he says. “Nobody
believes you can be on time and on budget. This is the first time in
my life I saw it.”
Stonetrust has completed the first phase of the project and the
next phase involves data integration with Valen Analytics and in-
corporating business rules for straight-through processing. Dhillon
adds the carrier also is bringing endorsements to the front end.
“We have a lot of work to do with the upgrades,” says Dietrich.
“We plan to grow our workers’ compensation business and this will
allow us to look at other lines to see how it integrates with FirstBest
outside of workers’ comp. Our focus is on underwriting profit and
we’ll grow from there. We are licensed in five states and are looking
to add three more states when we complete these IT initiatives,
Dhillon points out there are plenty of great things happening
with Stonetrust, including a significant capital contribution that
will help the insurer move forward and allow the company to invest
in new technology other capital-intensive projects.
“We have a great team that works together and has high expectations of being successful,” says Dhillon. ITA
Weighing Your Options
Companies can no longer afford to stay stagnant, but growth usually requires
better technology solutions.
The Big Fix
By robert regis Hyle