By Mark E. Ruquet
There is an ongoing war within every insurance agency to control and store the reams of paperwork that flow into its offices. With the advent of technology, however, more than a few have envisioned the paperless office.
In this vision, faxes are ferried directly into the agencys computer system and forms are filled out, signed and e-mailed through the computer with the aid of the Internet. Gone would be the visits to the post office and metal cabinets filled with papers for all the client files. Instead, filing is kept neatly in electronic folders that do not take up valuable office space.
In reality, the march to the paperless office has had mixed results.
In Ontario, Canada, the embrace of a computerized document solution by a broker means better tracking and quicker access to clients files. However, the countrys insurance regulations have kept the broker from creating a paperless office. Instead, the firm finds it must rent storage space for the volumes of paper documents it is still required to keep for years.
Algoma Insurance Group in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, is a full service property-casualty, life, health and employee benefits regional insurance broker that generates $16 million Canadian (about $10 million U.S.) in premium volume per year, says Ross Weatherby, technical administrator for the firm.
When James Horbatuk, president of Algoma, took over from his father six years ago, Weatherby says, he began the process of turning to technology to find answers to improve efficiency.
About three years ago, he says, the firms commercial department found itself lost in paper, and it was determined then that something needed to be done to keep better track of documents. The most efficient system, Algoma determined, was a digital imaging system that would electronically image and store its growing stock of documents.
Algoma soon discovered that the price for such a system was prohibitive, about $16,000 Canadian (about $10,000 U.S.) for 10 workstations, Weatherby says.
It was then that Algoma invited Xerox to demonstrate its DocuShare technology.
“It did all we needed it to do,” states Weatherby.
The agency found it could do the imaging, document retrieval and access to the documents it needed, he says. It also easily integrated with Microsoft Office.
“Painless integration,” notes Weatherby.
And the price was right at $10,000 Canadian (less than $7,000 U.S.) for 50 workstations.