New Ireland Assurance Automated Underwriting

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New Ireland Assurance Raises Market Share, Income, Loyalties, and Efficiency with Allfinanz from Munich Re

“During more than four years, the Allfinanz suite and staff have helped us mesh with an ever-changing landscape of customers and competitors. This software gives us the business and systems agility to quickly adapt to this dynamic marketplace. Whatever tomorrow brings, we know we can flex to accommodate it.”

Andrew Potterton, Chief Medical Underwriter, Unum

The company

Founded in 1918, New Ireland Assurance Company was the first wholly Irish-owned life assurance company to offer policies in Ireland. Today, the firm provides individual and group life assurance, savings plans, pensions, and investment solutions to individual and corporate customers. In 2010 New Ireland booked €1,546,834,000 with total income of €2,460,188,000 and more than 500,000 contracts in force. With more than €10 billion in funds under management, New Ireland is among the largest life and pension companies in its market. In 2011, the company expanded protection by 10 percent to achieve market share of 25.2 percent. New Ireland tasks itself with providing the best customer care in its market by fostering long-term partnerships with customers and advisers. The firm improves service by implementing new technologies and adapting to changing customer needs. New Ireland sells through brokers and its own sales force of financial advisors. In 2012, it will also sell through branch-based Bank of Ireland Financial Advisors.

The challenge

In 2005, New Ireland’s applications and underwriting procedures were paper-based, enabling competitors’ automated applications and faster approvals to gain ground on New Ireland’s product advantages. Noel Finnegan, Chief Underwriter at New Ireland, says “For a while, we were the only large insurance company not offering online applications and underwriting. To meet service goals and regain previous levels of growth, we knew an ambitious online application process would show off our inherent benefits and retain advisers’ loyalty.”

The solution

To automate the customer process from initial application through acceptance, Mr. Finnegan and colleagues evaluated many commercial software and service offerings. Finalists included Munich Re, RGA, and Swiss Re systems. New Ireland’s competitive analyses weighed licensing costs, deliverables, ease of using the rules-designer tool, ease of integration, credibility of delivery schedules, and New Ireland’s available resources. The company selected the Allfinanz Interview Server product from Munich Re to deliver a  framework and rules engine for customer applications and submissions. Mr. Finnegan explains, “Munich Re was our best and safest way to reach system goals  predictably, without detours or dead ends. We needed end-to-end customer software that had proven its track record, as Allfinanz had done in the UK, a very similar market to ours.”

Initial installation

In May 2007, New Ireland launched a solution based on Release 3.6 of the Allfinanz Interview Server, Allfinanz Front Office Solution, and Allfinanz Product Profiler software. “Beyond appreciating Munich Re’s technology, we were very happy that their on-time implementation met contractual agreements,” says Finnegan. From consultation to system launch, implementation took a very satisfactory one year. Results were trouble-free and instantly beneficial. In October 2010, New Ireland completed a major technology upgrade  to Allfinanz Interview Server Release 4.4.

Implementation Flexibility

New Ireland found the Munich Re software easy to adapt to business rules the insurer had already proven successful. It added online functionality to automatically apply ratings and/or exclusions for medical, occupational, family history or avocation/lifestyle disclosures. A new “Cover Sheet” summary sped cases’ arrival into the mainframe. Mr. Finnegan reports, “Last year we added two ways to streamline applications. We now employ tele-interviews wherein qualified nurses input additional risk-related information. And advisors have a free-text option if they lack adequate detail to complete drilldown questions.” Brokers and financial advisors can log directly into the online New Ireland  Broker Centre or connect through quote engines. In 2008, New Ireland broadened its partnership with Munich Re by expanding into  reinsurance. This extended relationship provides New Ireland support from Munich Re’s Centre of Competence to develop more-comprehensive underwriting rules and stronger  data analysis. The partnership leverages the combined knowledge of two insurance giants. Partnering with one provider for a broad range of services helped ensure smooth data  transitions and, seven months later, enabled New Ireland to launch its new Life Choice suite of protection products. Life Choice has become a market leader through unrivalled  flexibility and affordability.

Business benefits

Faster service to customers and advisers has raised income. Simpler and smoother internal procedures have cut expenses. Easy flexibility in evolving new customer screens  and adapting underwriting rules has sped response to dynamic market conditions, thus  paving the way to gaining and retaining revenue.

New income

“The Allfinanz solution has helped us surpass income expectations,” says Finnegan. “During our Allfinanz years, we have seen a steady increase in business, including greater than three percent increase in market share over last year. In this economy, raising share  is extremely difficult, yet our evidence is on the books. Fast response to changing situations lets advisors smoothly upgrade or suggest new products. Every new ability directly or indirectly binds relationships with advisers. “Immediately upon installation, we were able to give instant decisions on 30 percent of applicants. After Life Choice and Munich Re’s new Allfinanz Interview Server release, straight-through processing (STP) rose to 54 percent for applicants who completed drill-down questions.”

Customer satisfaction

“Customers benefit because Munich Re helps us provide best value to customers. Online integration smoothes customer relationships, helps us flex, and keeps us competitive.

“We keep interview questions clear and jargon-free. We adapt the appearance and wording  of screens to the product and its audience. We prioritise vital questions first, so hurried applicants don’t overlook crucial points. We list out certain factors to minimise non-disclosure. We get cleaner, clearer answers than ever before.”

New efficiencies and savings

New Ireland’s cost of medical evidence has dropped. Finnegan says, “Introducing Nurse-Managed Medicals to a significant portion of our business has cut once-costly GP reports. We have cut by 10 percent the number of applications for which we need medical evidence, and have reduced the volume of GP reports by 25 percent.”

Retaining and inspiring advisers

“Everything is designed for the quickest -yet still safe-
turnaround from input to  acceptance to paid commission,” Finnegan explains. “With 95 percent of applications submitted online, advisers can see medical concerns early and respond correctly. They  benefit because customers like the gentle transitions from entering data, to completing questions, to instant decisions.”

Better practices and management visibility

“Underwriting is more consistent because we refreshed procedures to mesh with the needs of online customers. Clarity avoids unpleasant surprises for all parties,” says Finnegan. Automating simpler applications focuses our more experienced underwriters on more  complex and intellectually challenging ones—and they appreciate it. This helped us maintain a stable number of underwriters even though business and market share have increased. We’ve been able to promote Initial Underwriters to Medical Underwriters. “We’re confident in these changes because Munich Re’s Underwriting Development Team constantly analyzes our data to provide detailed management information reports that are  pivotal to maintaining high standards.”

Mr. Finnegan summarises, “During more than four years, the Allfinanz suite and staff have helped us mesh with an ever-changing  landscape of customers and competitors. This software gives us the business and systems agility to quickly adapt to this dynamic marketplace. Whatever tomorrow brings, we know we can flex to accommodate it.”

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