By Ara C. Trembly
While some reports have information technology spending down in 2003 for the insurance industry, this years ACORD Annual Conference saw more than 20 companies announcing new products or product enhancements, sounding a note of optimism in a dissonant technology economy.
Much of the action was on the transaction side, where vendors rolled out new platforms and process-oriented products, many designed to work with and take advantage of existing and emerging ACORD data technology standards.
MFX introduced Write Now, a Web-based system that allows life insurance agents to qualify, rate, quote, bind, deliver policy documents and collect payment online, in real time.
According to Parsippany, N.J.-based MFX, the system reduces policy issuance time “from weeks to minutes,” allowing significant increase in business volume, efficiency and profitability. “Its efficiency also makes selling even small premium and low limit products, previously too labor-intensive to consider, worthwhile for agents,” the company says.
The system guides users through the application process, and the sequence of questions assures that all data are validated prior to submission, explains MFX. “Rating and qualification information is presented up front and ineligible risks are screened out before reaching the insurer. Approval is immediate and payments are collected online.”
The Application Service Provider (ASP) model of delivery allows users to maintain real-time control of product rates and business rules, and to underwrite cases by exception, says MFX. Software delivered as an ASP comes to the user via the Internet or a companys intranet, rather than residing in house on the firms own computers.
According to MFX, this means that, through WriteNow, the distribution force has real-time access to all account and historical information, including quotes and policies. This reduces the need to maintain paper-based customer files.
In addition to providing operational and support services for WriteNow, the company says the ASP model offers: 24/7 account executive services, repair services, required server hardware and network equipment, an Internet connection providing dual firewalls, capacity planning and research management tools, help desk services, and disaster recover services targeted at restoring downed systems within 48 hours.
MFX adds that, “the entire process is accomplished without the need, for example, for collection of fluids, attending physician statements or tele-medicals.”
Further information is available at www.mfxfairfax.com.
Exigen Group announced the Exigen Insurance Process Backbone, a business process product designed to help insurers achieve straight-through processing (STP), the ability to process transactions via the computer from beginning to end without human intervention at any point in the chain of actions.
According to San Francisco-based Exigen, this is “the only ACORD standard-based product on the market that enables enterprisewide business processes to be supported as a fusion of a customers existing processes, systems, business units and distribution channels.”
While the product is currently only available for pilot implementations, Exigen claims the software could address “over 150 cost leaks which can account for as much as 80% of activity-based costs in insurance business processes.”
Exigen says Insurance Process Backbone enables companies to measure and reduce the impact of “cost leaks” within end-to-end transactions. Reducing and monitoring such leaks helps maintain STP, the company notes, “even when steps of a process are performed by a third-party administrator.”
Further details are available at www.exigengroup.com/insurance.
Fair Isaac Corporation announced XML Manager for Insurance, version 2.1, designed to help carriers and agents more easily capture and exchange data “for faster policy issuance and reconciliation.”
The new release supports the ACORD SPX standards, says San Rafael, Calif.-based Fair Isaac. It allows carriers to define and maintain insurance policy and claims application data requirements in compliance with the ACORD standards. Service Provider eXtensions (SPX) let agents and brokers collect common information once.
According to Fair Isaac, carriers can use XML Manager for Insurance to update data requirements to reflect underwriting changes and to customize forms for new lines of business. The software automatically generates complete Web-based data entry screens based on XML input. “Agents and carriers benefit from reduced re-work while offering their customers faster turnaround on policy decisions,” the company states.
The new release allows more open and flexible integration with external systems via a partnership with Software AG Inc., Reston, Va., that provides message handling and transformation of data in ACORD XML formats, says Fair Isaac.
Additional information is available at www.fairisaac.com.
Microsoft Corp. and ACORD announced that ACORD, based in Pearl River, N.Y., will provide more than 500 insurance forms built using Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003, a new information gathering software product.