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Technology Upgrade Makes it All Better

Robert Regis Hyle | August 26, 2014

Paul Zamora has been with ICW group for eight years, but he remembers well the inefficiencies he found when he arrived. Today, with continued improvements via software upgrades, many inefficiencies are a thing of the past.

“When I got here we had technology, but none of the systems spoke to each other,” says Zamora, senior vice president, workers’ compensation underwriting. “You literally entered the same application data several times.”

Most carriers have a log-in or screening system to see if there have been other applications entered by the same person, and if not, the data was logged in. From there, one system rated it, another conducted the modeling, still another issued a quote, and finally, if ICW decided to write the business, another system would issue the policy.

“We had no scalability,” says Zamora. “About 40 percent of the aps that came in went untouched. They would just sit on the desk. The effective date would come and go and we’d close it out. We were not providing any kind of ease of business to our agents and we were missing out on many business opportunities.”

In 2008, ICW launched the Snap underwriting system and agent portal from FirstBest Systems. It sits on top of the ICW platform and allows all facets of the carrier’s systems to communicate with each other so business users enter the data once and it feeds to all the other systems.

FirstBest did not have a workers’ comp background so they needed help from ICW. Zamora concedes there was risk involved in contracting with what was then a new company with an unfinished product and no customers. The upside, though, was the solution was much more affordable and customizable for ICW because FirstBest programmers listened to ICW on what workers’ comp carriers wanted in terms of functionality and workflow.

“We got a customizable product at a significantly lower price,” says Zamora.

A team from within ICW, which included IT and the business unit, worked closely with FirstBest. The fact the solution provider didn’t have another product at that time proved to be beneficial, according to Zamora, because FirstBest had no preconceived notions about workers’ comp.

“FirstBest felt workers’ comp was a line they wanted to get their foot in,” he says. “FirstBest had good listeners, they worked long hours, and they got us up and running in a good timeframe.”

Over the years there have been upgrades and ICW is due for one this year. Upgrades have increased functionality and tweaked areas where ICW offered feedback, explains Zamora.

“We’ve been putting off an upgrade for a while,” he says. “We wanted better functionality than what we were seeing in some of the other improvements. They’ve added functionality now and we want to take advantage of it.”

Because ICW has not taken an upgrade in two years, the process will take longer than normal—six to nine months—according to Zamora. Normal upgrades run approximately three months. A project team will be put together and the majority of the work will involve regression testing.

“The project plan says anywhere from 6 to 9 months, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you start,” says Zamora.

During the upgrade, Zamora explains there will be no changes in processes, but he admits the carrier might tweak some afterward because with the new functionality ICW can eliminate some work-arounds.

The upgrade contains mobile capabilities for ICW and will give the remote workers the ability to access Snap with an iPad. ICW deals with agents, underwriters, and risk managers in the field quite extensively so the new capability will allow those mobile workers to complete their jobs on site.

 “The mobile capability will allow them to get into Snap and see what is going on with the account and access data,” says Zamora. “Before, it was harder to do those tasks on the laptop.”

Another change will allow agents and brokers to upload policies through the Snap and not just the agency management systems of ICW’s customers. Agencies can take a PDF ACORD application and upload it into the system. SNAP will read the characters and plug it into the different fields.

“Before we went live and where we are today, our growth in submission count is up 460 percent,” says Zamora. “Our growth in quoted business is up over 500 percent and our growth in premium is up 440 percent.  We’ve been able to do that while lowering expenses. We’ve become extremely scalable so our expense ratio is low for the industry.”

Zamora believes ICW will continue to achieve a high level of scalability, which means lower expense ratios and lower premiums for customers.

“It will allow us to elevate our brand,” he says. “We can be extremely responsive. There are times when agents really need us and we can help them. Underwriters have access to everything and provide great service to our clients. Even in the small business workers’ comp arena, it will allow us to grow that segment of the business. Before we didn’t look at small companies, but now the process is automated.”

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