Finding a single solution to satisfy the needs of business users as well as meeting corporate initiatives can be tricky–particularly in the case of the potentially time-consuming process of producer appointments.
Dave Jones, assistant vice president, producer compensation and licensing services, for OneAmerica Financial Partners, found himself in that type of squeeze play.
(For more on how carriers are handling producer relations, click on this Tech Decisions article.)
For some at OneAmerica, the speed of appointments was an issue that needed to be addressed, but for Jones, the biggest problems were what he refers to as “the black holes.” Those challenges included lost applications, extensive delays in the appointment process, the perception of poor service to producers, and errors due to manual entry and attempting to read barely legible information, he says.
In 2005, when OneAmerica decided to address the issue, a 10- to 15-day turnaround for appointments was fairly standard in the industry, Jones points out,.
“Our president read an article about [another insurer] that said it could do appointments in one day,” relates Jones. “He sent me a note asking why we couldn’t do that.”
Jones informed his boss OneAmerica could do quicker appointments, but in order to do so, the carrier had to bypass the initial background investigation process, among other things.
“We can do appointments in 20 minutes if you have the forms and accept a faxed note instead of a signature,” he says. “Even today, with our 48- to 72-hour turnaround, we don’t do the background checks first. We appoint [producers], and if they don’t qualify, we terminate them. There’s a little bit of a risk, but we find we turn down only one percent of producers and the favorable information we get from the field is worth that risk.”
The hitch was OneAmerica was unable to find a software solution that met the carrier’s desired degree of automation from producer to insurer to state department of insurance back to the insurer and finally back to the producer.
“We asked three organizations to provide quotes on creating such a workflow,” says Jones. “One provider did not reply, another offered less than we preferred, which left us with Sircon as a sole source.”
What made this project special for OneAmerica was this system was the first of its kind, according to Jones. “No one in the industry had such a process in place at that time,” he says. “Sircon listened, understood our needs, and fashioned a system specifically designed to solve the problem. I don’t think any of the technology people or even the business people had looked at taking [the licensing process] from the hands of the producer all the way to the state and then back to the carrier. I found nothing that did the full circle.”
Development of the system took approximately nine months, which was longer then what was quoted or anticipated, indicates Jones. The snag involved system testing.
“Sircon’s testing was inadequate for us, as we kept finding major issues in user acceptance testing,” says Jones.
However, installation and training went well. “Producer Exchange was accepted readily by one business channel, which made the product its only way to do business,” says Jones.
While the product fits well into OneAmerica’s philosophy of being easy to do business with, according to Jones, it remains an option for just some business channels.
“It fits well as an option but will not be, for the foreseeable future, relied on as the only source, which was our initial desire,” says Jones. “Banks and broker/dealers continually require paper on their ends and reject the use of electronics. Fax is the only electronics some of them will use.”
Jones explains the process as starting with an e-vite to the prospective producer. The producer signs on, applies for a password, and brings up the application. The producer provides answers to several questions, signs the application using a PIN process, and submits it to the carrier. By hitting submit, he continues, a notification is sent to the producer via e-mail of the receipt of the application.
The application is opened in the home office and submitted to Sircon, which appoints the producer with the state DOI and informs the carrier through an electronic feed that generates a pending record, with all the data, in the carrier’s producer file.
The file is attached with an endorsed contract, and producers are notified of their assigned producer number and access to print off the contract, adds Jones. The commissions department then is notified to release the producer’s commissions.
“The total process takes two or three days,” says Jones. “Sircon can order the criminal, financial, and NIPR backgrounds, but we have opted to maintain that separately.”
One benefit to the carrier is all design and platform work lies with Sircon, remarks Jones. “We are not tying up internal resources except for interfacing with our producer file,” he says. “We neither bought nor installed additional software or hardware.”