Products Enabling E-Commerce Abound For Life Insurance
There is a wealth of products and services available that enable e-commerce in life insurance.
Among ClientSoft Inc.s contributions are ClientBuilder WebPack and ClientBuilder AdvancedServer. These products extend legacy applications to the Web and integrate the legacy applications with other applications, says Brian A. Anderson, product marketing manager, ClientSoft, Alpharetta, Ga.
“Our products are used by insurance companies to implement new Web-based corporate initiatives such as customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, as well as any other solution needing access to mainframe- or AS/400-based information,” Anderson says.
He gives as an example the partnership between ClientSoft and Allstate, Northbrook, Ill., that helped create The Good Hands Network.
“The Good Hands Network serves as the centerpiece of Allstates visionary multi-access strategy, a customer-centric approach that integrates the network of approximately 13,000 Allstate agents with customer call centers and the Internet,” Anderson says.
“Currently available to about 40% of the U.S. population, and expected to reach much more of the U.S. populace by the end of this year, the multi-access strategy allows customers to reach Allstate how, when and where they want to be served.”
Through this strategy, customers can speak directly with a local Allstate agent, contact a call center or sign on to the Internet to get a quote, to buy insurance for their cars, homes, condos or apartments or make policy changes, Anderson says.
The process of arriving at this level of capability was not without its challenges, he adds.
“Allstate in fact had several hurdles to overcome, with the most significant being how to provide its new Web-based network with fast, reliable, and transparent access to the roughly 35 million policies and billions of bits of customer and other data that were stored on its IBM AS/400 legacy systems,” he explains.
“A second major challenge that Allstate faced was the need to implement the link between these diverse systems in a very short timeframe in order to ensure that the company met its publicly announced rollout objectives for the year 2000.”
The Allstate information technology staff evaluated various middleware solutions from a number of software vendors, and ultimately selected ClientSofts ClientBuilder WebPack, Anderson says.
ClientBuilder WebPack is a ClientSoft product focused on the insurance industry, Anderson says. Its a development toolkit that enables host-based applications and databases to be extended and transformed to the Internet, intranet and extranet, providing a path to e-business and e-commerce opportunities, he says.
An advantage of WebPack is that it “allows for the enhancement of legacy applications through the integration of other desktop tools such as Visual Basic, Java, PowerBuilder, ODBC, COM, DCOM, XML, CORBA, and IBMs MQSeries,” Anderson notes.
ClientBuilder AdvancedServer completes the ClientSoft development toolkit that enables host-based applications to be extended and safely transformed to the Internet, intranet and extranet, providing a path to e-business and e-commerce opportunities, Anderson says.
AdvancedServer, he adds, features a new legacy integration transaction server, designed from the ground up as a high performance solution using industry standard data communications, messaging protocols and development tools, such as XML and SOAP.
AdvancedServer bridges the host-to-Web gap, leveraging existing hardware investments and providing the ability to scale to high-performance hardware components, he says.
ClientBuilder solutions begin at $50,000, Anderson says.
NaviSys, Edison, N.J., offers “strategic counsel, pre-built software and ongoing support,” according to John Gorman, executive vice president, sales and marketing.
In 2001, NaviSys launched NaviSys Front Office, a comprehensive solution for selling and servicing multiple lines of life and annuity products, Gorman says.
This technology-neutral suite of integrated solutions provides insurers with a single platform that can span multiple distribution channels and product lines, he says.
Front Office allows producers using a browser to illustrate products, provide quotes and submit applications and underwriting requests electronically, Gorman says. Consumers can access the most current product information, purchase products online and maintain all of their accounts across a financial institution through a single interface, he adds.
Before products can be sold and serviced electronically, insurers need the tools to rapidly develop competitive products, Gorman says. NaviSys Home Office is an integrated solution for developing and administering the latest life and annuity product designs while streamlining back-office underwriting functions, he says.
“Home Offices robust product development functionality helps insurers get life and annuity products to market quickly, supporting the most complex investment-oriented products, including unbundled products,” Gorman says. “Its connectivity with virtually any other front- and back-office system ensures consistency of data and calculations from the point a product is developed to its sale and servicing.”
There are a number of advantages to working with NaviSys Front Office and NaviSys Home Office solutions, Gorman says. One is that they are “platform-neutral”they can operate on virtually any computer platform and interact with almost any external system.
“They support life insurance and technology standards and streamline core processes,” Gorman says.
Although an enterprise solution, various components of the suite may be deployed on a standalone basis or in various combinations to meet each insurers specific objective, Gorman says. While both NaviSys Front and Home Office suites were launched this year, many of the components within each suite have an existing client base.
Costs are estimated either on a fixed price for the overall project or by a license fee plus time and materials, Gorman says. Prices range widely depending on the scope of the assignment and complexity of the solution NaviSys provides.
Sherwood International, Armonk, N.Y., offers three lines of a product that enable e-commerce in life insurance, property & casualty insurance and reinsurance, says marketing manager William Rich: AMARTALife, AMARTALines and AMARTARisk.
AMARTA is a business process development system designed specifically for the insurance industry, Rich says. Insurance companies can use AMARTA to create software systems that mirror the companys business processes. In the AMARTA context, a business process is a group of work-related tasks that an insurance company engages in during the normal course of its business, he explains.
AMARTA should not be confused with a software package, he says. It offers many of the advantages of a package, but also many things that a package cannot provide.
“The power of the AMARTA approach goes beyond a package-software way of thinking, enabling a client company to improve its existing automated processes, develop whole new business systems, and reduce the costs associated with the everyday flow of work,” Rich says.
Unlike a traditional administrative software package, AMARTA does not require companies to modify their business processes to accommodate a preconceived idea of what should and should not be possible. Rather, AMARTA enables a company to design its systems to fit the unique way it conducts business, he says.
AMARTA contains, as a foundation, Sherwoods best practice process models. These models are used as the beginning points of the system implementation, Rich notes. They consist of a core set of office processes that is common to most insurance companies throughout the world.
At the highest level, AMARTA process models view the insurance office as a set of familiar business processes such as claims, commissions, client contact, and so on. For each of these business processes, a set of detailed lifecycle models is defined, composed of tasks to be performed by the office staff or, where possible, entirely by the computer, Rich says.
Experience has shown that an emphasis on process and modeling is the most effective way to achieve the ongoing, continuous improvement of a business system, Rich says. The inevitable business changes dictated by the marketplace can be translated into working software quickly, cheaply, and effectively, he adds.
AMARTA provides a template and methodology for modeling that makes this business-to-technical translation possible in an affordable way, he says.
Sherwood does not publish its price list, Rich says.
Computer Sciences Corporation, Austin, Texas, offers FUTUREfirst, an administration system for the traditional life insurance market.
The platform can be used for the administration of traditional life products on an individual and group basis, according to information from the company.
“It is a comprehensive system designed to handle the complete life cycle of insurance processing including product setup, new business, underwriting, customer service, premium and collection, distribution management and claims,” the company states.
Product features include allowance of death benefit grading on an annual or attained age basis; definition of premiums and benefit periods; support of definition of issue age limits, including variations by state, and definition of volume limits by face amount or number of units.
CSC did not provide specific pricing information.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.