Perhaps the most painstaking part of an agent’s job is gathering all the details required by underwriters for a new policy submission. Or perhaps it’s waiting for a response. Previously, it could take carriers days to parse through the data and follow up with their decision.
The transaction, which is still largely driven by manual processes, begs for more digitalization.
Insurance carriers have begun to shift to a digital format through the development of proprietary carrier platforms designed to ingest, clean and organize data quickly and without the need for human interference.
In the small commercial space, these platforms have offered an advantage to agents and underwriters. In the middle market and larger client space, though, they offer less value to agents simply because client solutions ultimately require more than one carrier.
Agents who work with mid-sized businesses work with a broader number of insurance carriers. Because they’re working in multiple markets, they may have to work in different platforms and duplicate some of their work. That’s why agents created an efficient workflow. So, insurance carriers should work to support these workflows and give agents the best and most efficient approach.
This is what The Hartford did when developing a commercial account setup tool, also known as CAST. It’s a platform that automates and dramatically speeds up the existing submission process for mid- and large-sized companies.
The platform takes in any information that agents send to The Hartford. It takes details from the documents and runs it through a rating platform. That information then gets sent to an underwriter, who understands whether the insurer wants to pursue the opportunity. They can also flag if there’s any details missing.
The old process used to take three to five days. But with CAST, the process now takes less than an hour. The best time The Hartford recorded was 6 minutes and 12 seconds.
How’s this possible in an industry with a reputation for being slow to innovate and often behind the technological curve? Here’s how a change in mindset and culture drove results:
1. Ditching the 'Waterfall' Model for an Agile Approach Catches Problems Early and Solves them Faster
Large insurance companies typically follow the “waterfall” model of project management. This is a linear and sequential model. Out of a natural need to control risk, strict timelines and budgets get enforced.
With a waterfall model, insurers:
- Build a three-year plan
- Set a budget
- Create charts
- Hire consultants
- Implement specialists
- Sign up with one large vendor
The bulk of the work gets done outside of public view. The results are typically seen after the three years. With agile product management, the process becomes more iterative. Solutions get tested continuously and updates made incrementally. There’s no prescribed method for how certain milestones should be achieved.
The Hartford had a vision to cut turnaround time on a new submission from five days to an hour. It put together an expert team to achieve this goal. It took the team 18 months to prove out the new process.
2. Transparency and a 'Top-Down' Culture of Innovation Fosters Collaboration
Even in the early days of the new platform design, senior executives were involved in the process.
Leadership’s interest in the work’s progress and not just the final results helped to reinforce innovation as a company priority.
This trickled down through the organization and supported the true inter-departmental collaboration necessary to build a tool that benefits every stakeholder.
Insurance companies normally aren’t willing to broadly test new solutions if it’s costly or impacts normal operations. But The Hartford’s operations team was integral in the work and were willing to take on the extra expense.
That culture of innovation also helps to attract top technology talent away from Silicon Valley.
3. Acceptance of Failure Allowed Experts to Think 'Outside the Box'
Tech startups operate under the mantra “fail fast, fail often, fail forward.” It’s a motto not often embraced by the necessarily risk-averse insurance industry. But allowing for and even embracing failure had two critical advantages:
It allows experts room for experimentation. The team can attack a problem from a new angle without fear of reprimand, which may produce a better result in the long run.
Failures present learning opportunities. Knowing why and how something failed can benefit future projects.
As The Hartford’s team worked on building CAST, the team was aware that failure was completely acceptable if they learned from it and carried it forward.
Developing CAST required that latitude because it was attempting to do something no other platform has done before, pulling together multiple disparate technologies, such as:
- Optical character recognition (OCR)
- Third-party data hydration
- Data indexing
- Data orchestration
- Predictive modeling
- Artificial intelligence for interpretation
What It Means for Agents and Their Customers
The speed and agility that went into the design and implementation of CAST translates to increased speed and agility for agents. That matters more at a time when people expect convenience and quickness from every service they use.
While agents are waiting for a response from other carriers, The Hartford can tell agents within hours:
- The comfort level with the risk
- What the terms and conditions are
- What the rate is
- Additional information that may be needed
This cuts down the frictional costs and frustration of the continual back-and-forth agents may have with clients. Most importantly, this improved level of service comes at no additional cost to agents.
The Hartford has a track record of providing exceptional experience and increased ease of use for agents in the small commercial space. It spent a focused investment in technology in that area for the past 20 years. With the implementation of CAST, the same streamlined experience is now possible in the more complex world of middle and large commercial risk.
Learn more about The Hartford’s large business insurance expertise and how it offers specialized solutions for many industries.